Laying out 3D Prints in Cura Slicer

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Laying out 3D Prints in Cura Slicer

When it comes to laying out 3D prints in our slicing program, one of the most important things to consider is how overhangs and bridges will be supported.

Good print and support - laying out 3d prints
How to orient your print to use supports the best.

In all slicer programs, there is a way to control the amount and geometry of the support material used. On the flip side, the support material determines how long you will spend processing your print.
How the support material connects to your print will also determine how rough or stringy the part looks underneath.
Here I look at how they type of support, percentage support, and orientations affect the finishing quality of a 3D print.

laying out 3d prints – Grid V Lines

For this report I’ll look at the settings in Cura 15.02.1-1.03. In this I’m 3D printing a piece of a  fidget for my company. The bar requires a 60 mm long overhang 2 mm off the build plate, so I have to use supports for this. I’ll include the piece as a torture test for your 3D printer
In Cura, you can select a grid or line geometry for your support material.

Cura - laying out 3d prints
Line layout in Cura, 10%
Grid layout - laying out 3d prints
Grid layout in Cura, 10%

In my experience, grid supports are only good if you have prints that require a lot of high supports or compound curves in the overhang.  Grid takes up a lot of material, and if you let them cool on the print I’ve had problems removing them from the print.
For most print, line supports are good for general purpose 3D printing. They require less material, and tend to be easier to remove and process.

laying out 3d prints – Support Percentage % (Fill)

When you select the support geometry you need, you then need to look at what

Cura expert setting - laying out 3d prints
Line support setting in expert config of Cura

percentage fill you need for support. In Cura you select this under the Expert Config option.
The rule of thumb for supports seems to be this: You want just enough to support all the corners of your overhanging part.

Part Orientation

In Cura, the supports are laid out along the y-axis of the build plate. For the first test piece I did, (seen in silver) the piece was oriented along the y-axis.

Parts rotated 45 degrees to better used supports. -laying out 3d prints
Parts rotated 45 degrees to better used supports.

This y oriented support resulted in drooping and bumpy layers in the bottom of the part. The odd support also cause warping in other test pieces.

Cura orientation - laying out 3d prints
How supports are oriented in Cura.

But when I rotated the part 45 degrees, the second test piece turned out much smoother (seen in red). There was no drooping or loose bottom layer using this orientation.

The Silver test piece (top) came out rough when printed with the supports along the y-axis of the build plate, while the red one did better at 45 degrees.


With all of this you should see a difference in the amount of time and effort it takes to process the print.

bad orientation - laying out 3d prints
This test piece was oriented with the supports along the y-axis. The result was drooping and stringy bottom layers

When I oriented the print along the y-axis (Silver) some of the support stuck to the bottom of the print. I was left with a stringy bottom layer on the print that I would have to melt  back into place.
When I rotated the test piece 45 degrees, the supports came of much cleaner, with minimal processing needed afterwards (See the red piece).

Red piece that was smother when oriented 45 degrees. - laying out 3d prints
Red piece that was smother when oriented 45 degrees.

With your individual slicing program and printer, you will have to experiment with the supports, percentage, and part orientation to get the cleanest finish with your 3D print.

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1 Comment
  1. Robbie Pearson says

    Wow I didn’t realise what a difference the supports made, I’ve had some issues with removing Cura’s supports: I’ll give this a go. Thanks for the article.

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