We can consider slicer software to be one of the most vital components of the 3D printing process, as it essentially determines what your 3D printer will really be printing by using the 3D model and the configuration you have supplied through the core parameters such as the nozzle temperature, bed temperature, fan speed, and more.
On the other hand, alongside the core parameters, which you should always aim to configure as correctly as possible for the printing process to be successful, it’s also possible to find more advanced features that only come into play in specific cases, which can even do more harm than good when wrongly used.
In today’s article, we have one such expert feature of Cura as our topic, known as equalize filament flow, which can bring significant improvements to the consistency of the extrusion, and, just as with any other expert feature in Cura, is reserved for usage in particular scenarios that can specifically benefit from it being active.
So, what is the equalize filament flow feature in Cura?
Equalize filament flow (known as flow equalization ratio in Cura 5) in Cura is a feature that aims to keep the flow rate stable by dynamically adjusting the print speed when the 3D printer needs to print lines of different widths, as opposed to modifying the flow rate, which would take longer time.
In the upcoming sections, we will take a closer look at the equalize filament flow feature in Cura, find out how to activate and use this Cura feature, and finally, discuss the scenarios where it would be suitable to utilize the feature to improve the print quality.
What Is the Equalize Filament Flow (Flow Equalization Ratio) Feature in Cura?
While the equalize filament flow feature in Cura essentially does what its name suggests, which is to equalize the flow of the filament, it’s not exactly possible to understand how it really operates just by looking at the name.
When printing a 3D model, it’s entirely possible for some print lines to be thicker and others to be thinner than the line width value you have configured in Cura, which creates a scenario where the 3D printer needs to adjust the flow of the filament accordingly to compensate for the differences.
On the other hand, as the filament is in a state of constant flow during the 3D printing process, such sharp changes are near impossible to perform instantaneously, which often creates inconsistencies in the extrusion in scenarios where the 3D printer needs to switch between different line widths quickly.
The equalize filament flow (flow equalization ratio) feature in Cura aims to resolve the inconsistent extrusion that stems from printing lines of varying widths by adjusting the print speed, which the 3D printer is mechanically capable of performing a lot quicker than adjusting the flow itself.
When the equalize filament flow (flow equalization ratio) feature is active, the 3D printer will slow down to print lines thicker than the configured line width value and move faster to print the narrower lines, which will keep the flow rate stable across distinct line widths without having to adjust it dynamically for lines of different sizes.
How to Activate the Equalize Filament Flow (Flow Equalization Ratio) Feature in Cura?
Activating the equalize filament flow feature in Cura requires nothing special for the most part, as it’s possible to find it in the same section as any other print setting that Cura offers and enable it with the click of a single button.
Below is a step-by-step guide you can follow to activate the Equalize Filament Flow (Flow Equalization Ratio) feature in Cura:
- Click the Prepare tab on the top of the Cura window.
- Click the Print Settings pane (the pane on the right).
- Click the Custom button if it’s visible; else, skip this step.
- Click the icon (three horizontal lines) next to the search input, and choose All from the dropdown menu that appears.
- Follow the instructions below, depending on whether you’re using Cura 4 or Cura 5.
In Cura 5, type “flow equalization” into the search input and press Enter, which will make the Flow Equalization Ratio parameter visible.
The Flow Equalization Ratio parameter accepts a percentage value, where 0% corresponds to turning the feature off, and 100% instructs Cura to keep the flow rate constant at all times (such as by doubling the print speed for lines that are half the line width value).
Values larger than 100% are also accepted and can come in handy when extruding wider lines.
On the other hand, to find the parameter in Cura 4, type “equalize” into the search input instead and press Enter, which will bring up the Equalize Filament Flow parameter.
Checking the Equalize Filament Flow parameter will activate the feature and make another parameter visible, known as Maximum Speed for Flow Equalization, which is responsible for determining the highest print speed value that the 3D printer can get to as a result of the dynamic adjustments by the Equalize Filament Flow feature.
Keeping the Maximum Speed for Flow Equalization slightly below the maximum print speed your 3D printer can reach without issues is vital for this feature to function correctly, as attempting to push the 3D printer to speeds it cannot healthily reach will cause steps to be lost, creating the issue of layer shifting.
When to Utilize the Equalize Filament Flow (Flow Equalization Ratio) Feature in Cura?
As the equalize filament flow feature in Cura is one of the more advanced ones, the necessity to utilize it does not arise as often as you would with other, more standard features you can find and regularly use to improve your prints.
We recommend keeping the equalize filament flow (flow equalization feature) enabled at its default value for all your prints as it’s unlikely to cause any adverse effects, meaning that in the worst case, it won’t do anything at all, and in the best scenario, it will improve your prints considerably.
Please note the only times you will really notice the impact of the feature is when you’re printing models with varying line widths, as it won’t have any effect on printing models where the line widths always stay consistent.
While an advanced component that you will only need to use if there is a particular situation that calls for it, the equalize filament flow feature in Cura is a handy option to keep in mind as such a situation can arise at any point of your 3D printing journey.
To quickly recap, the equalize filament flow (flow equalization ratio) feature in Cura exactly does what it says, which is to balance the flow of the filament across printing lines of different widths that require different amounts of flow.
To achieve this effect as quickly and as efficiently as possible, the equalize filament flow feature instructs the 3D printer to adjust the print speed accordingly instead, rather than changing the flow of the filament, which would take a much longer time in comparison.