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3D printing with Cura

Objectives

  1. To develop competence with use of the 3D printing software
  2. Understand basic settings to be used with the 3D printing software
  3. Effect and need of infill and supports when 3D printing

Things

For this project, you will need

  1. Autodesk Fusion 360 on your computer
  2. Cura on your computer
  3. 3D printer

Let’s begin!

Recall that in the second unit we converted our 3D model into a format called .stl and saved the individual parts, i.e., the top and bottom of the case. STL is the standard format used for 3D printing files using a 3D printer. The STL format, an abbreviation for Stereo lithography, is a native file format when 3D printing is required to be carried out. STL files differ from regular CAD files in that they capture only the surface geometries of the model made, not taking into consideration the colour, texture and other CAD attributes. However, a STL file cannot be printed as it is. We need to carry out a process called ‘slicing’ which is done by another 3D printing slicing software. One the most commonly used 3D printing slicing software is called ‘Cura’ and it is a free and open-source software. Once the STL file is sliced, it is then converted into ‘G-codes’ which is used by the 3D printer for printing the model in a layer by layer manner. Let’s download ‘Cura’ and get started with 3D printing.

1. Navigate to the following link: Download

 

Enter your option and click I agree

 

2. Click on ‘Download for free’ and follow the instructions on screen to download and install the software.

 

Click ‘Download for free’

 

3. Open the application once installed. You will be guided through by a set of instructions to set up the software for the first time.

4. Next, add your local printer to link to the software, either a networked or non-networked printer.

 

Add a printer

 

5. Then, you will be prompted to update machine settings. If this doesn’t appear, you can access these settings by clicking on ‘Manage Printers’, and then clicking on ‘Machine Settings’. Under printer settings, update the X, Y, and Z dimensions of the printer available at your lab. The X and Y coordinates indicate the bed size and the Z coordinate indicates the height.

 

Machine Settings

 

6. If you select origin at center , the extruder’s home position will be positioned at the centre of the bed.

7. Under Gcode flavour, the default setting will be Marlin. This will be the case for most 3D printers, but there are other options such as RepRap which may be required by other printers you will be using.

8. Update the material diameter based on the diameter of the filament you are using, as well as the nozzle size based on your printer’s configuration (0.4 mm is common, so leave it at that if you are unsure).

9. The cuboid with the checkered base is indicative of the workspace of your printer. You can add a file to be printed by dragging the file into the cura window or click on the file icon on the top left corner and choose the STL file you want to add.

10. You can toggle between the various views using the menu on the bottom left hand side corner. The model inserted is as shown.

11. However, it is a good practice while 3D printing to have a maximum surface area of the model resting on the bed. Click on the model and rotate about the appropriate axis until the part is oriented as shown.

 

Rotate object to have maximum surface area on the bed

 

12. The most important parameter that you need to be aware of while printing is the infill density. It is defined as the amount of plastic in your model. More the infill density, more will be the amount of plastic deposited and therefore stronger will be the part. However, this inversely related to the time of the print.

13. If the component you are trying to print has ‘overhangs’, i.e., the component isn’t supported by a base, then you need to ensure that ‘Support’ is turned on, to prevent collapse of the structure during printing.

14. Change other print settings if required under the ‘custom’ drop down menu in the ‘Print Settings’ option. We recommend you experiment with these settings once you have assessed the quality and time taken for your prints. You can use the recommended settings for now if you’re unsure.

15. If you need multiple copies of the same model, right click on the model and select ‘Multiply Selected Model’.

16. Ensure that your model is of the right dimensions under the ‘Scale’ option.

17. After you are done making the necessary modifications to the model, click on ‘Slice’. This will convert the given STL into G codes for printing, which you can save to your printer’s SD card or a USB pen drive to be inserted into the printer you are using.

18. You can select ‘Layer View’ under the ‘PREVIEW’ tab to see what manoeuvres your printer will make during the print for better clarity.

 

Layer view

 

There you go! You can now design a figment of your imagination from scratch and print it using a 3D printer and bring it to life!

 

Takeaway

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