10 Most Important 3D Printing Slicer Settings
Learn more about slicer settings for 3D printing and how each one is important.
A 3D printing slicer is a software package that converts a 3D model into a set of machine-readable instructions to print the part. The success of the 3D printed part depends heavily on selecting the correct 3D printing slicer settings. These settings can mean the difference between a high-quality part or a difficult-to-clean tangled mess of plastic. The most important settings for an optimal 3D print are temperature, location and number of supports, and bed adhesion. Getting these settings wrong will most likely result in a failed print. This article will explore the ten most important settings of FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) printers to keep track of to ensure a successful 3D printed part.
The temperature settings in 3D printer slicer software refer to the temperatures of the build platform and the extruder. The optimal build platform temperature helps keep the first printed layer attached to the build platform while also limiting the potential for warping. The extruder temperature, on the other hand, is the temperature that the plastic is heated to as it is extruded from the print nozzle. Both of these temperatures are selected based on the material being extruded. For example, PLA (Polylactic acid) requires a bed temperature of 50°C and an extruder temperature of 95°C, whereas ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) requires a bed temperature of 70°C and an extruder temperature of 210°C. Many slicers will have predefined temperature settings for specific material classes. These values generally work well without too much tweaking.
Printing speed can be set to a global value in a slicer program. However, it is possible to set specific speeds for specific parts of the print. For example, speeding up the printing of the infill can save significant time as these areas will not be seen, while printing the walls at a slower speed will result in improved print quality. In general, increasing the speed will result in faster prints but this will be at the expense of print quality. The more rigid a 3D printer, the higher the speed it can print at while maintaining good quality.
The flow rate of the 3D printer refers to the rate at which material exits the nozzle. Normally the flow rate is set at a default value depending on the printer. An incorrect flow rate will result in wall thicknesses that are either too thin or too thick. A high flow rate will result in excessive filament usage, whereas a low flow rate may result in structurally weak prints. The flow rate rarely needs to be changed. The flow rate is usually not changed directly but is modified by entering a factor that is multiplied by the default flow rate.
Whenever the printer is not actively printing, i.e., when it is moving from one location to the next, it will slowly ooze plastic from the nozzle. This phenomenon can result in thin strings of plastic draped all over the print. Retraction addresses this issue by reversing the extruder to pull the material back into the nozzle when it is not actively being dispensed, thus preventing oozing. Retraction settings can be further customized by setting the amount of material that is retracted as well as the speed of retraction.
3D printer settings for cooling are primarily linked to the speed of the fan located on the extruder assembly. This fan speed is set on a scale of 0 to 100%. The cooling fan speed is especially important if large unsupported overhangs or bridges are to be printed. This is because the plastic will sag between unsupported areas if not cooled quickly enough. The fan is typically turned off during the printing of the first layer, as this helps produce a better bottom surface and improves the bed adhesion.
Many slicers will have a large number of different infill settings. The most important of these are the infill density and the infill pattern. The higher the infill density, the denser the part, with 0% referring to a part with no infill and 100% referring to a completely solid part. A typical infill density is 20%. The term “infill pattern” refers to the geometric shape of the infill. There are many different infill patterns. The most common is the grid infill. Some patterns optimize print time at the expense of part strength. Others prioritize parts strength at the expense of longer cycle time.
Determining the optimal 3D printing slicer settings for supports is critical to effectively printing parts with overhangs or bridges. Optimizing the cooling rate can assist with printing overhangs without supports, although this is generally not recommended. A 3D printer cannot simply dispense material into thin air. Every layer needs some kind of support beneath it - either the previous layer's print or a designed-in support member that is not a part of the finished product. Figure 1 below is an example of a 3D printed part with support:
3D printed part with support.
Image Credit: Shutterstock.com/Mykola Shvaher
In the case of overhung features, the support material must be built up from the build plate to where the overhang begins. As with infill, the support density and pattern can also be adjusted. The minimum overhang angle can be set to control where supports are placed. This value is typically between 45 and 60% (0% means no supports are placed anywhere, and 90% means that even the slightest overhang is supported).
The slicer software will divide a part into multiple slices along its z-axis (vertical direction). The height of these slices is known as the layer height. A large layer height will result in faster prints since the machine does not have to print as many layers. However, this will be at the expense of dimensional resolution. Small layer heights will take longer but the part will have higher resolution.
The shell thickness of 3D printing slicer settings refer to the characteristics of the outer plastic shell that forms the wall of the 3D printed part. The shell thickness must be a multiple of the nozzle print width, i.e. a shell thickness of 0.8 mm with a 0.4 mm nozzle will mean the nozzle will extrude two lines. The number of layers in the wall can be set to increase the part strength with only a slight increase in print time.
A common challenge with 3D printing is bed adhesion. Parts will sometimes come loose from the print bed. This can cause the printer to extrude the material into empty air, since the part it was supposed to build on is no longer in the correct location, creating a tangled mess of plastic. Alternatively, if the part adheres to the nozzle, plastic will slowly accumulate around the nozzle and ultimately encase the entire extruder. Poor bed adhesion can also cause the first layer to warp, resulting in print failure. Bed adhesion can be improved in the slicer 3D printer settings by printing a “brim.” A brim is a single layer that effectively expands the surface area of the first printed layer, creating a larger bonding area on the bed plate.
A 3D printer slicer is a software package used to prepare a 3D model for 3D printing. It converts the model, typically in STL format, into a set of printer instructions in a machine-control language called G-code. For more information, see our article on Slicers in 3D Printing.
3D printer slicer settings are important because they ensure that a part is printed with the correct set of instructions for a specific material and part design. The settings also help ensure that every unique part is printed with the correct supports, infill, temperature, etc. Using the incorrect slicer settings will result in a failed print.
The exact method of changing a slicer’s settings depends on the software being used. However, most slicers will have a set of standard 3D printing settings for new users, as well as more advanced 3D printing slicer settings that can be modified by more experienced users.
Slicer software can be used by downloading it from the supplier's website. Some slicers are free, while others need to be purchased. Once it is downloaded and installed, open the software and import the desired 3D model. The acceptable file formats will depend on the software you are using, but the most common format is STL (standard file format). Most CAD and design packages can export models as STLs.
A 3D printer slicer works by converting a 3D model into multiple 2D slices. The number of slices depends on the chosen layer height. These individual 2D slices are then converted into a set of instructions that can be understood by the 3D printer. These instructions are called G-code. They tell the machine where and how fast to move, and what temperatures are required, and give it information about other features to be printed, such as brims, supports, and outer shell thickness.
There are many different slicer software packages available. The best of these are:
- Cura: This software was developed by Ultimaker, which has its own range of top-tier 3D printers. Cura is free and can be used with almost any FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) 3D printer.
- Simplify 3D: Simplify 3D is a paid software that comes with a range of powerful printer settings.
- Prusa Slicer: This software was developed by Prusa, which supplies medium-cost, high-quality 3D printers.
- Netfabb: Netfabb is a professional software package developed by Autodesk. It is best suited for industrial 3D printing applications. Netfabb can be used for preparing files for almost any type of 3D printer technology.
- Dremel Slicer: Dremel Slicer, also known as Dremel Digilab 3D Slicer, is a Cura-based slicer software program developed for Dremel 3D printers. It can also be used with Cura-integrated 3D printers.
For more information, see our article on the Best Slicer Software for 3D Printing.
No, the brand of slicer software used will not affect the print quality. However, using the correct 3D printing slicer settings can be the difference between a failed print and a successful one. Most slicers will provide good baseline settings but these must often be tweaked to get optimal results.
This article presented ten 3D printing slicer settings, explained what they are, and discussed how each one is important for 3D printing. To learn more about 3D printing slicer settings, contact a Xometry representative.
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