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Best Slicer Habits for a Best Smooth 3D Print

Updated: Apr 17, 2023

Accurate 3D slicer settings are one of the most important factors to achieve a successful 3D print. Even the most experienced makers often go through trial and error to find the 3D slicer settings that give them a beautiful print. Slicer settings are important because every 3D printer is different, every material is different, and every 3D model is different. Printers and materials will therefore always require different settings to achieve a good print quality. Slicer settings cover all aspects of printing, from the temperature of the heated elements to the thickness of each wall and layer.

Let’s go through some of the basic features of a slicer, and talk about how each setting will affect your print.

#1 Temperature

Filament temperature setting
Temperature tower

The temperature of the nozzle is the most important setting in your slicer because, without a Goldilocks level of heat (not too cool, not too hot), no print will work. Nozzle temperature should be the first thing you tune on your slicer whenever you begin printing with a new filament, and you can do this by printing a temperature tower to see which values work best.

Too high a nozzle temperature will cause over-extrusion with blobs all over your print. At the other end , too low of a temperature will cause under-extrusion, where the layers are not fully printed.

Setting nozzle temperature alone is not sufficient, bed temperature is a whole other player in 3D printing if your machine has a heated bed. Bed temperature is another setting you can adjust, and it will affect your print’s bed adhesion. Generally speaking, a hotter bed will provide better adhesion, while a cooler one could lead to warping. Too high bed temperature will deform the part on the bed.

#2. Layer Height

This setting specifies the height of each filament layer in your print. Prints made with thinner layers will create more detailed prints with a smoother surface where it’s difficult to see the individual filament layers. The drawback of thinner layers is that it takes more time to print , since there will be more layers that make up your object.

When setting layer height, you need to find a suitable balance between printing time, detail, and part strength. Some 3D printer manufacturer suggest the “magic number” , where you set your layer height as a multiple of your stepper motor‘s natural step distance. On many common printers like the Ender 3, the step distance is 0.04 mm, so heights of .16, .2, and .24 mm work as good detailed, balanced, and quick values.

#3 Speed

Speed setting of 3D printer

Print speed refers to the speed at which the extruder travels while it lays down filament. Optimal settings depend on what design you’re printing, the filament you’re using, the printer, and your layer height. Everyone wants to print their job as quickly as possible, but faster print speeds can cause messy looking prints. For complicated prints, a slower speed will give you a higher quality print. A good starting point that Cura recommends is 50mm/s. You can also play around with speed and see what works best for your printer.

#4 Retraction

Retraction setting of 3D printer

This setting is used to pull the filament slightly back into the print head during times when the head is traveling from one print point on an object to another. This stops the filament from leaking out of the print nozzle and leaving strings of material across otherwise empty space.

Retraction is usually always enabled, unless your print doesn’t have any discontinuous surfaces in it. This setting can sometimes cause filament to get clogged in your nozzle during a print in which case you probably want to disable it. If you find there is too much filament oozing out of the nozzle, leaving your print with a bunch of strings or clumps on the outer edges, then be sure to turn on retraction.

#5 Fill density

Fill density setting of 3D printer

Fill density or infill is a measure of how much material will be printed inside the outer shell of the object in question. Fill density is usually measured as a percentage of whole, as opposed to a unit of measure. This means that if 100% fill density is selected, the printed object will be solid, with no empty space inside the outer shell. Likewise, if 0% is selected, the printed object will be empty inside. Fill density is used to conserve filament while printing and speed up printing times. However, an object with more infill will be stronger and heavier than an object with less infill. Therefore, if either of these properties will benefit the printed object, consider increasing the fill density as needed.

#6 Shell thickness

Shell thickness setting of 3D printer

A shell is the outer wall of a designed part. Shell thickness refers to the number of layers that the outer wall will have before infill printing will begin. The higher the setting is for shell thickness, the thicker the outer walls of your object will be. Shell thickness is an important setting to tune because it can significantly impact the strength of your model.

Obviously, thicker walls make for a sturdier object, so if strength is a quality that you require, you need to increase the shell thickness appropriately. Delicate or decorative designs do not usually require strength. Increasing the shell thickness in these instances provides no real benefit and will likely distort the design of the object being printed.

#7 Cooling

Cooling fan setting of 3D printer

The part cooling fan setting as important as any other setting in the 3D printer. When adjusting the speed of your part-cooling fan, consider the material you’re currently printing with. For example, PLA requires moderate cooling from the part-cooling fan, but ABS shouldn’t have any (because cooling can lead to cracking). If your model has overhangs and you don’t want to use supports, you can try increasing cooling to more rapidly solidify printed overhangs. The speed also depends on the environment that you are printing. If the room temperature is high ( like hot summer in India), you need to adjust speed of the fan. If the room temperature is cold, reduce the part cooling fan speed. I normally keep my part cooling fan “off” when I am printing ABS.

The above slicer setting are good enough to get a good print.

If you have any recommendations based on your experience do share with me or write in comment.

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