Introduction. What is Cura?

Cura is such a handy slicing program that many users don’t even realize what they are doing. You just upload the model, select the 3D print quality and start printing. It’s as easy as printing with a regular 2D printer.

Basically, Cura is a 3D printing software. The purpose of its use is to transfer a digital file from a computer to a 3D printer so that it can process the received data and start printing.

Compared to many other programs, Cura seems extremely simple. But if you need more flexible settings, they are there too. The point is that the user interface is really smart and convenient. Cura is developed and supported by 3D printer manufacturer Ultimaker, known for its perfectionism and active support for open source projects. There are versions of the program for all popular operating systems: Windows, Mac OS and Linux.

There are a lot of manual settings, but they are hidden from the user (not so deep, in fact). So, if you are the type of person who is interested in experimenting or needs certain non-standard 3D printing settings, you can implement them. For those who just want to print a part, just adjust the speed and quality.

This tutorial is aimed at those who are just getting started with their 3D printer. We will assume that you have just turned on the printer and installed the print media. From now on, we will look at the necessary steps in Cura 3D to start 3D printing. Before dealing with Cura, it’s worth understanding the entire process of preparing a 3D model file. Even if you are going to use ready-made 3D models, there should be a common understanding.

Three main stages of preparing files for 3D printing:

1. Modeling
Modeling – defining the size and shape of objects in a special software environment such as Blender (open source), Rhinoceros or ZBrush. These applications support native data formats and allow you to open, edit, save, and export these files.

2. Export of a 3D model
After you have created the model, you need to export it to STL or OBJ format. These are the main 3D printing formats and are supported by Cura. They differ from native 3D modeling applications in that they only contain information about the final geometry, represented as a polygon mesh.

3. Slicing 3d model and exporting G-code
An STL or OBJ file can be imported into Cura 3D, where it is processed and a G-code is generated at the output. G-code is a text document with commands for a 3D printer. It prescribes the temperature of the extruder, movement to the left, right, plastic feed, and so on.

At the first stage, a 3D model is developed, but if you do not have such experience, do not worry, there are ready-made 3D models in our catalog. They are already exported in STL format, so you can immediately import them into Cura 3D. 

What exactly does Cura do?

Cura converts the 3D model file (usually .stl or .obj) into a format that the 3D printer can “understand”. FFF 3D printers form each new layer on top of the previous one. Cura takes a 3D model, cuts it into layers, and passes the instructions to the 3D printer, layer by layer.

These instructions are sent as G-code, a text document with a .gcode extension. If you open the file, you can view the code and try to figure out the commands.

For example, here’s few strings of code:

G0 F7200 X19.698 Y28.262 Z.36
G1 F1500 E0
G1 F1350 X22.467 Y26.175 E0.15654
G1 X23.338 Y25.568 E0.20447
G1 X24.246 Y25.027 E0.25218

Knowing g-code is optional – we will be configuring it through the friendly Cura interface. Over time, as you become more familiar with 3D printing, you will be able to adjust the speed of the coolers, the height of the layers, the temperature of the extruder at different points. This is a very useful skill for troubleshooting some 3D printing problems.

Since each 3D printer has its own characteristics: the size of the printable area, the area of ​​the table, the diameter of the nozzle and others, Cura must know these parameters in order to correctly generate the G-code.

After you specify the design features of your 3D printer model, you can go to the settings for the height and thickness of the layer. Only then can Cura generate the correct G-code for printing.

The resulting G-code can be saved to an SD card or transferred to 3D printing via WiFi (depending on the method that your 3D printer supports).

To be continued.

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