While it doesn’t get as much attention as the surface, the infill is an equally vital part of a 3D printed model since it essentially is the primary decider of both how durable and resistant the model will be against physical stress.
Alongside the fact that it determines the structural quality of the model, the infill configuration is also responsible for the amount of material used and the time spent on the printing process, which makes it a key point of optimization for the printing process to be as successful as possible.
In today’s article, we will analyze the gradual infill parameter in Cura, which is a parameter that offers an express method to configure how the 3D printer will spread the infill throughout the model to achieve an optimal infill configuration.
So, what is the gradual infill feature in Cura?
Gradual infill is a Cura feature that you can find in the Infill section of print settings, which allows you to reduce the amount of infill the printer extrudes into the areas far from the top surfaces of the print while keeping the infill dense for the areas around the top surfaces.
In the upcoming sections, we will examine the gradual infill feature of Cura in more detail, find out how we can use this feature to improve our prints and discuss the scenarios where it would be suitable to activate the gradual infill feature.
What Is Gradual Infill in Cura?
Optimizing the infill is one of the most effective ways to conserve material, reduce print times, and manufacture models that are lighter in weight all at once, making it a significant point of configuration for a successful printing process.
Gradual infill in Cura is a feature that instructs the 3D printer to gradually reduce the density of the infill as the extruder moves further away from the top surfaces of the model.
The gradual infill feature conducts the process of reducing the infill density by halving it whenever the extruder travels a certain distance away from the top surface and also makes it possible to repeat the halving multiple times as long as the distance condition is fulfilled.
The two parameters, Gradual Infill Steps; and Gradual Infill Step Height, where the former determines the number of halvings; and the latter determines the points where the halvings will occur, are responsible for controlling the gradual infill feature.
To have a better understanding of how the gradual infill feature operates, let’s go through a quick example:
For the purposes of the example, let’s assume that the Gradual Infill Steps parameter has the value of 3, the Gradual Infill Step Height parameter has the value of 2 mm, and the Infill Density is 20%.
In the case of this example, the area that falls between the top surface and 2 millimeters below would have 20% infill (step 0); the area corresponding to the next 2 millimeters of depth would have 10% infill (step 1), the next 2 millimeters would have 5% infill (step 2), and finally, the rest of the model would have 2.5% infill density (step 3).
How to Use Gradual Infill in Cura?
Using the gradual infill feature in Cura is no different than modifying any other print setting, meaning that it’s a straightforward process that won’t take too much of your time or effort once you know where to find the parameter.
Here is a step-by-step guide you can follow to activate the gradual infill feature in Cura:
- Click the Prepare tab located on the top of the Cura window.
- Navigate to the Print Settings menu by clicking the rightmost pane below the Prepare tab.
- Click the Custom button in the Print Settings menu if you see it, else skip this step.
- Click the icon (three lines) next to the search input, and choose the All option from the dropdown menu to make all print settings visible.
- Type “gradual infill” into the search input.
- Input the desired value for the Gradual Infill Steps parameter. Inputting a value greater than 0 will activate the gradual infill feature and prompt the Gradual Infill Step Height input to appear.
- Input the desired value for the Gradual Infill Step Height parameter.
To deactivate the gradual infill feature, you can repeat steps 1 to 5 and input the value of 0 for the Gradual Infill Steps parameter.
Why Should I Use the Gradual Infill Feature in Cura?
While the value of Cura’s gradual infill feature may not be apparent at first, it has a considerable positive impact on the printing process when used correctly.
The gradual infill feature in Cura allows you to reduce print times by a considerable amount and also conserve filament that would otherwise be used as the infill for parts of the model where the presence of infill is not very necessary.
Even though the benefits may not seem significant at first, keep in mind that the time and material saved through the gradual infill feature can reach considerable amounts over long periods if you print frequently.
When to Use Gradual Infill in Cura?
Deciding the correct time to use gradual infill in Cura is paramount to gaining the highest possible benefit, as activating gradual infill in a scenario where it’s not feasible can have adverse effects on the print.
We only recommend using Cura’s gradual infill feature for printing models that are purely decorative (such as figurines), where there is no necessity for strength and durability as the object won’t be under tension.
Since models printed with gradual infill enabled will always have less plastic in them when compared to those without, it’s best to refrain from using this feature for models with functional purposes, where a high infill density is necessary for the object to be able to resist the tension.
The gradual infill feature in Cura offers a unique way to quickly and efficiently optimize how the 3D printer extrudes the infill into the model, which can do wonders in the fronts of print time and material optimization.
To quickly recap, Cura’s gradual infill feature offers a quick and straightforward way to reduce the infill density gradually for areas that are further from the top surfaces by halving the infill density whenever the height of the infill reaches the desired value.
By keeping the infill dense around the top surfaces while reducing the density for the rest of the model, the gradual infill feature allows us to reduce print times and conserve material without compromising on the model’s durability when used in suitable scenarios.
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.