At its core, the primary purpose of slicer software is to correctly convert a 3D model into a G-code file that the 3D printer can process to conduct the 3D printing process in the most user-friendly way possible, essentially acting as the bridge between the 3D model files and the 3D printer.
On the other hand, despite having a simple purpose, slicer software are much more complex than they seem at first glance, giving the user complete control of every aspect of the 3D printing process through the many parameters and features available for modification, which makes it possible to tune a print specifically based on its purpose.
In today’s article, we will be talking about one of the lesser-known features of Cura, called cutting mesh, which actually is one of the strongest tools in Cura, as it gives you complete control over how your 3D printer will conduct the 3D printing process by allowing you to perform micro-optimizations that can be incredibly beneficial.
So, what is the cutting mesh feature in Cura?
In a nutshell, the cutting mesh feature in Cura allows you to override the print settings that you have configured for particular areas of the 3D model based on your choice, giving you to option to use a completely different set of print settings for these areas.
Next up, we will be examining the cutting mesh feature of Cura in further detail, find out how to activate and use the cutting mesh feature, go through the scenarios where it would be appropriate to utilize it, and finally, discuss the differences between the cutting mesh and the infill mesh only mesh types.
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What Is the Cutting Mesh Feature in Cura?
While the cutting mesh feature isn’t one that you will require for every single print, it’s a potent tool that will allow you to dive deep into print customization and perform the adjustments that will take your 3D printed models to the next level whenever such optimizations become necessary.
We can consider the cutting mesh feature in Cura to be a way to explicitly customize the print settings for the specific areas of the 3D model based on your selection, essentially meaning that it gives you the freedom to divide your model into multiple sub-sections that would each use a distinct set of print settings.
To achieve this effect, the feature allows you to designate any of the models you have imported to be a cutting mesh, and in all the areas where the cutting mesh models and the model that you intend to print overlap, the values that you have specified for the cutting mesh will be applied instead of the values that you have configured in the print settings section.
As the cutting mesh model behaves like a standard model in the interface of Cura, you are free to pick any model of your choice to be the cutting mesh and also to position it wherever you like, meaning that you have unlimited freedom in how you will be dividing your model into different sections that will be customized separately.
Naturally, the models you have selected to be cutting meshes will not be printed by the 3D printer, as their sole purpose is to designate the areas where you would like to override the general print settings.
As a result, if you have marked all the models you have imported as a cutting mesh, you will notice that the slicing process does not move forward, with Cura telling you that all of your models are set as modifier meshes.
How to Activate and Use the Cutting Mesh Feature in Cura?
As the cutting mesh feature is not located in the same section as all the standard print settings that we are familiar with, finding it, activating it, and configuring it can be a slightly challenging process if you don’t know exactly where to look.
Below, you can find a step-by-step guide that you can utilize to activate and use the cutting mesh feature in Cura:
- Import the model you would like to use as the cutting mesh.
- Select the model that you have imported.
- Click the Per Model Settings option (5th from the top) from the left sidebar.
- Choose the Modify Settings for Overlaps mesh type (3rd from the left) on the menu that comes up.
- Click the dropdown menu, and choose the cutting mesh option.
- Click the Select Settings button, and check the boxes next to the parameters you would like to override with the cutting mesh.
- Input the values of your choice into the corresponding boxes for the parameters.
- Position the model you have designated as the cutting mesh to the area of the model you’re printing where you would like the overrides to be active.
If you need to remove the cutting mesh, you can delete the model you have specified to be the cutting mesh by right-clicking the model and choosing the Delete Selected option, similar to how you would regularly remove a model from the Cura window.
On the other hand, if you would only like to remove some of the overrides you have added to the cutting mesh, all you will need to do is to click the Select Settings button again and uncheck the parameters that you don’t want to be overridden anymore.
When to Use the Cutting Mesh Feature in Cura?
Considering that the cutting mesh feature is not one that you can activate and forget about for each of your prints, having a clear understanding of the scenarios where it would be beneficial to use it is an essential part of getting the most out of the feature.
You can use the cutting mesh feature of Cura whenever you would like to optimize particular areas of your 3D model specifically to utilize a different configuration than the rest, which can practically become a necessity in some cases where these areas are built entirely different than the rest of the model.
The perfect examples of such a scenario are bridges and overhangs, which are inherently different than the other parts of the model due to them not having any foundation below them, often causing them to require the print settings to be configured in a different way for a successful print.
Cura Cutting Mesh vs. Infill Mesh Only – What Is the Difference?
While the cutting mesh and the infill mesh only mesh types fulfill pretty similar purposes, there is an essential difference between the two that one needs to be aware of when making a choice between these two options.
The only difference between the cutting mesh and the infill mesh only mesh types is that the infill mesh only option only affects the infill of the 3D model with its overrides, whereas the cutting mesh option affects everything, including the infill.
As a result, in cases where you would like only to override parts of the infill, the infill mesh only mesh type would be the correct choice. On the other hand, in cases where you would like to override print settings for the entirety of the area you have selected, cutting mesh would be the correct choice.
It’s also worth mentioning that the support structure and any other helper components will not be affected by either the cutting mesh or the infill mesh only options.
The cutting mesh feature in Cura is, without a doubt, something that every 3D printing enthusiast should have in their toolbox, as, even though it’s a relatively situational tool that will only become useful in specific cases, it’s also an incredibly powerful one when the occasion indeed calls for it.
To quickly recap, you can utilize the cutting mesh feature in Cura whenever you need to customize the print parameters for specific areas of the 3D model, where you will have the option to manually specify such areas, the parameters that you want to be replaced, and the corresponding values.
This way, you will be able to perform micro-optimizations on every single bit of your 3D model by adjusting the print parameters based on precisely what’s necessary for a better print and take the quality of your 3D printed models to the next level through these optimizations.
Mike started his 3D printing journey with the Anet A8 when it first came out back in 2017, and has been obsessed with 3D printers ever since. Nowadays, he primarily uses his Ender 3 to print functional parts that make his life more convenient whenever possible.