3D Printing: Setting Up Your Slicer Settings

 In 30 days of education

In this post we explain the different computational calculations which “slice” the object into individual layers to be printed. Since most 3D printers build the object one layer at a time, the object must be translated from a three-dimensional object into a series of stacked two-dimensional objects. This additional step allows for the creator to be able to control what’s going on inside the model as well as outside.

3D Printing: Setting Up Your Slicer Settings

It’s not long after you start looking into 3D printing that you come across the term slicing the model, or slicing software. If you’re unfamiliar with the term “slicing,” it simply refers to the computational calculations which “slice” the object into individual layers to be printed. Since FFF printers build the object one layer at a time,the object must be translated from a three-dimensional object into a series of stacked two-dimensional objects. This additional step allows for the creator to be able to control what’s going on inside the model as well as outside.

First, here are some key terms –

Layer resolution/thickness– This is the layer height for each layer that is being printed. A small number indicates high detail, while a larger number indicates a lower-resolution print. Most 3D printers have a range of layer resolution between 0.05mm and 0.4mm.

Filament – The material used to print with. Most of these are plastic-based. The most common filaments for 3D printing are PLA and ABS. We’ll be doing a follow up blog post about the advantages and disadvantages of most of the common types of filament later in this series.

Build Plate – The glass or acrylic surface on which the printer builds the model. Some have the ability to be heated.

Here are the key factors to consider when setting up your print settings or slicer settings.

How detailed do I need this to be?

The primary factor to consider when looking at detail is layer resolution. Prints that require a lot of detail should be printed at a maximum of 0.2mm/layer. If you’re simply running a quick test or draft of an object, 0.35 or 0.4mm/layer should be sufficient. For most objects, 0.3mm/layer is a good starting point. This, however, will also depend on your printer and its particular preferences. Some printers can do remarkably fine detailed prints, going down to 0.02mm/layer or lower. Which leads to the ever important question:

How fast do I need this printed?

There are two key things to keep in mind when controlling the speed of a print. The smaller the layer resolution,the longer the print will take since it has to build each layer one at a time. For example, a 0.2mm/layer print will take approximately twice as long as a 0.4mm/layer print of the same model.

The second key factor is the actual speed the object is printing at. Slower speeds result in less warp and higher-quality prints, but take additional time. Faster speeds are good for small, relatively flat objects or drafts of prints. Each printer has limits on its speed, so adjust the speed of your print according to the capabilities of your specific 3D printer.

The settings to adjust when controlling the speed the object is printing at are:

Bottom Layer Speed– this is good to have set relatively slowly so your objects gets a solid bind to the build plate. This will reduce warping, which we will address in the next question.

Print Speed -this is your primary speed control. Adjusting this will have the most impact on the amount of time it takes to print a model.

Travel Speed -this is the speed of the extruder when it is not printing the object itself and instead traveling between portions of the model. This can be set relatively high, but be careful to not exceed your manufacturer’s designated print speeds.To see the speeds capable for your particular printer, check out our 3D Printers Comparison Table.

Is this a design that is prone to warping?

Because FFF printers superheat filament when printing models, certain designs are prone to warping. The filament condenses slightly when it cools, which can cause the edges of objects to pull up from the build plate, causing a warping effect. Large objects are most prone to this, especially large solid objects or long flat objects. Inserting holes into the bottom of the model can help reduce pressure on the cooling model and reduce warp. Additionally, slowing the print speed down significantly will also help immensely in reducing warp.

Another very significant factor to consider when determining if your model is prone to warping is the type of filament you’ll be printing with. ABS plastic is very prone to warping and requires a heated build plate to help remedy the problem. PLA plastic is much less prone to warping than ABS, but it will still happen on occasion. If you are experiencing warping with a model and slowing it down is not solving the issue, you can add what is called a raft or a brim.

A raft is two layers of cross-crossing filament which prints before the model. This helps give the model a more solid surface to connect to and rafts can theoretically be removed simply by snapping them off of the final model. Brims work in a similar fashion, but instead build a few shells of plastic out around the base of the model  to help increase the build are attached to the build plate to help hold the model down. I have had mixed results using both rafts and brims and so our models are designed to be able to be printed without them as often as possible. If you need add one to a particular model, turn off 1-click printing and go in and adjust your print settings manually on that tab of the printing process.

Does this model require supports?

Because 3D printing builds from the ground up, any overhangs on an object must be supported. For instance, if you were to print a dog in a standing position, you would need supports below the dog’s face, belly, and tail. All the MyStemKits.com models have supports already integrated into their designs so you don’t have to worry about adding additional ones. However, if you are experiencing difficulties even with our pre-supported models, you can go into print settings and turn them on. To do this, turn off 1-click printing and adjust your print setting manually on that tab.

How sturdy/dense do I need this?

To control the amount of plastic to be printed on the inside of the object, adjust the infill percentage. For more dense objects/sturdier objects, increase the amount of infill. For lighter objects, decrease the amount of infill. In the MyStemKits.com system, we’ve preset these according to the design needs.  We go into more depth on this topic into tomorrow’s blog post.


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Have any other useful tips for best slicing practices? Tell us in the comments!

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