Planning is an important step in making sure prints turn out as well as they can. Choosing the right material, making sure you have enough filament and setting aside enough time. These are essential to making sure the project proceeds smoothly.
Slicing software plays an important role in this respect. Without slicers, you would have to rely entirely on your calculations and some inspired guesswork to figure out those things. One way how slicers are especially handy is by estimating how much filament you need for a project. But how accurate are slicer estimates?
Cura is by far the most popular 3D slicing software. In this article, we examine just how accurate it is in giving filament estimates. We also look at how to work out if you have enough filament for a project. Also, how accurate are 3D prints?
Is Cura Estimate Accurate?
Cura filament length estimates are accurate. They are not an estimate but outputs from given parameters. Given the dimensions of the model, slicing software can precisely determine how many steps the feeder stepper motor will need to do to produce the model. This is how it works out filament length.
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While it is accurate with the length or amount of filament needed to print, it is not as accurate in estimating the time it will take to print. Printing times vary wildly from the estimates given by Cura. This is, however, not restricted to just Cura. It also happens with other slicers.
In a lot of cases, the actual print times are longer than the estimates. The estimate may be up to 5 hours shorter than the time it will take to print! This can be a huge inconvenience if you’re working on a project with a strict deadline.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that slicers would struggle more with giving accurate time estimates compared to material estimates. There are far more variables involved like travel speeds and flow rates that can throw off the calculations.
This is why slicer settings are important. You can better manage and track your builds with the right slicer settings.
What are slicer settings?
Slicers prepare your 3D models for printing. They slice your model into horizontal layers that can be printed before sending that information as a set of machine-readable instructions that your printer will use to produce your model.
In other words, they take a digital 3D model and convert it into a physical 3D model. The settings of your slicer software determine how this is done. Different software will have different settings but basically, most will have the following settings you can adjust to influence your print.
Adjusts the height of each layer in your print. A thicker layer results in a model with less detail and the layers will be more visible. It is, however, faster to print. Thinner layers will give you finer details and less visible layers but will take longer to print.
Layer height is similar to how a camera works. Higher resolution produces more detail. In this case, the higher resolution is a thinner layer.
Shell thickness determines the strength of your model. It’s the thickness as determined by the number of outer wall layers of your model. The thicker the layers the stronger the model.
Determines how solid your model is and is measured as a percentage. If set to 100% then there will be no space inside your model as it is completely solid. If set to anything less than 100% then that creates a hollow model.
The higher the setting, the more material is used, and the longer the print time will be.
Retraction prevents unevenness in your models. Once your printer detects a discontinuous surface, it retracts the nozzle and stops extruding the filament.
This is how fast the print head moves while extruding the filament. While you might want to always choose the fastest print speed this can ruin your print. It is much better to use the best print speed for the job. In a lot of cases, a slower print speed produces better prints.
We highly recommend that you check out our post What Settings Should You Use For PLA? (Speed & Temperature)
This is a setting that removes scars that may develop on your prints.
Sometimes you might need to make the first or last layer thicker to support the structure of your print. This setting helps you control that.
This is printed material that helps hold up a model that might not have enough of a base layer to stand on its own.
These are some of the main settings you can adjust on a slicer. There are several more although, more often these will be the ones you turn to the most.
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How Do You Know If You Have Enough Filament?
Slicing software gives an estimate of how much filament is required for a print. Generally, the amount of filament needed for a build is determined by the size and complexity of the print. Larger or more complex builds will require more filament.
If your model is fairly complex or large then you can reasonably expect to use more filament. This is why it is always a good idea to have a spare spool or two of filament before you start a print. But sometimes it might not be practical to do this, especially if you’re dealing with a print that has several colors or that uses a more expensive exotic filament.
Fortunately, the slicer settings can help you reduce the amount of filament you might need. For example, by adjusting the fill density or shell thickness you can make a model that uses less filament if you are running low. Source
For more on this, we highly recommend that you check out our post ” What Happens When Filament Runs Out? How To Save Your Print!
How Does Cura Set Material Prices?
Cura takes inputs including the weight, price, density, and diameter of the filament before it calculates the cost. This is the material cost setting that gives the price per gram of filament.
How Accurate Is A 3D Print?
The accuracy of a 3D print is about ±0.5mm. Dimensional accuracy is a measure of how close the dimensions of a physical print are to the digital model. No manufacturing process is 100% accurate, however. The accuracy of a 3D print is influenced by factors including the printer, printing material used, the design of the model, and the printer settings.
Accuracy is expressed as a percentage or millimeters. Your print may be therefore ±2% or ±1mm of your digital model for example.