What Is the Cura Auto Orientation Plugin? (Explained)

Plugins are, without a doubt, one of the biggest strengths of the Cura slicer, as they make it possible for the community to integrate any feature that does not exist by default without having to wait for the developers to implement them.

As a result, utilizing the plugins that are readily available as much as possible is one of the best ways to enhance your user experience and the quality of your 3D printed models while using Cura, as it’s possible to find plugins that are capable of providing improvements in both areas.

In today’s article, our topic will be the auto orientation plugin in Cura, in particular, which we can primarily consider to be a plugin that improves the user experience, with some potential positive impact on the quality of the 3D printing process in particular cases.

So, what is the Cura auto orientation plugin?

The Cura auto orientation plugin automatically calculates the most optimal orientation for any 3D model that you import and sets the orientation of the model according to the calculation, which minimizes the number of supports that will be necessary for a successful 3D printing process.

In the upcoming sections, we will dive deeper into the functionality of the Cura auto orientation plugin, find out how to install and utilize the Cura auto orientation plugin for it to benefit the 3D printing process as best as possible, and finally, go through the process of manually changing the orientation of a 3D model in Cura.

What Is the Cura Auto Orientation Plugin?

Even though it fulfills a very straightforward purpose, the Cura auto orientation plugin is one of the most convenient plugins to have at hand for a smooth 3D printing process, especially if you print complex 3D models where every tiny piece of optimization counts.

In a nutshell, even though it may seem unimportant at first glance, how you position the 3D printed model on the build plate plays an essential role in the success of the 3D printing process in many cases, with there being a more optimal way to orient the model than the rest depending on the shape of the model.

The reasoning behind the importance of correct orientation is the fact that it essentially decides how the overhangs and the bridges on the 3D model will be shaped, which directly affects the difficulty of the 3D printing process, as complex overhangs are harder to print due to the lack of foundation beneath them.

Aside from the initial difficulty, the presence of overhangs also brings support structures into play in some cases, which opens up a whole new dimension of issues due to supports drastically increasing the time and material that goes into the 3D printing process, and also the time spent during post-processing where they will need to be cleanly removed.

The purpose of the Cura auto orientation plugin is to calculate the most optimal way for the 3D model to be oriented on the build plate automatically, which improves your user experience by saving you from having to find the optimal orientation manually and also increases reliability by ensuring that your 3D models will always be oriented correctly.

While it may seem like a minor optimization, using the Cura auto orientation plugin will essentially ensure that you will never be printing an overhang or a bridge unnecessarily, which, over time, will come back to you as plenty of time and material saved that might have otherwise be spent on printing supports or failed prints.

How to Install and Use the Cura Auto Orientation Plugin?

Installing plugins in Cura is always a straightforward process regardless of the plugin you’re installing due to the built-in plugin manager that Cura comes with, and the installation process of the auto orientation plugin is no exception.

Below, you can find a step-by-step guide for installing and utilizing the Cura auto orientation plugin:

  1. Click the Marketplace tab located in the top-right corner of the Cura window.
  2. Click the Plugins tab, and scroll down in the Community Plugins section to find the Auto-Orientation plugin. As the plugins in this list are ordered alphabetically, you should be able to find the auto-orientation plugin without scrolling too much.
  3. Click the Auto-Orientation plugin, and click the Install button.
  4. Go through the necessary dialogs to install the plugin.
  5. Restart Cura.
  6. Click the model you would like to auto-orient.
  7. Click the Extensions option on the menubar of Cura, hover over Auto Orientation, and choose the “Calculate extended optimal printing orientation” option.

While the extended orientation option can take a longer time, especially if you have imported a large model, we recommend using it over the fast orientation option as it produces more reliable results.

If you would like the Cura auto-orientation plugin to automatically optimize the rotation of any model you import into Cura without having to trigger the orientation manually, you can check the “Automatically calculate the orientation for all loaded models” checkbox in the pop-up that you can make visible by clicking the Modify Settings option in the Auto Orientation dropdown menu.

How to Manually Change the Orientation of a Model in Cura?

Using the auto orientation plugin is not a complete necessity to be able to orient a model in Cura, as it’s also entirely possible to conduct the orientation process manually whenever necessary.

Below is a step-by-step guide you can follow to manually change the orientation of a model you have imported into Cura:

  1. Left-click on the model you would like to rotate.
  2. Navigate to the Rotate tab on the left menu (3rd option from the top).
  3. Click and hold the circle that corresponds to the axis you would like to rotate the model on (green, blue, red) and drag your mouse in the direction of your choice while following the direction of the arrows.

To reset the rotation of the model to its original state, you can utilize the Reset button, which is the first button from the left in the pop-up that is attached to the left menu.

When the Snap Rotation checkbox is checked, which it is by default, you will only be able to make rotations in increments of 15 degrees. For free rotation, you will need to uncheck the box, which will allow you to rotate in increments of 1 degree.

Wrapping Up

While the Cura auto orientation is not one that is mandatory for a successful 3D printing process by any means, it’s definitely one that will improve your 3D printing experience by a considerable margin and even potentially increase the quality of your 3D printed models in some particular cases.

To quickly recap, the Cura auto orientation plugin fulfills a straightforward but important role in the optimization of the 3D printing process, which is to automatically find the most optimal way to rotate a 3D model on the build plate, where the presence of overhangs and bridges will be minimized.

With fewer overhangs and fewer bridges to print, the 3D printer will be able to print your 3D model more reliably, without the difficulties of printing complex overhangs, and with fewer support structures, which require extra time and material to print, and additional time and effort to remove during post-processing.

Happy printing!