While 3D printing is fantastic for prototyping and manufacturing models on small scales, it falls short on large-scale production due to the process taking way too much time and effort with consumer-grade 3D printers.
Fortunately, not all is lost just yet, as there is a workaround for large-scale production to a certain extent that doesn’t involve running your 3D printer 24/7.
Similar to how industrial molds work, it’s possible to print a mold of the model you intend to mass-produce and use the mold to cast a large number of objects.
Enter mold mode, a fantastic option in Cura that makes the process of printing 3D printed molds in a much smoother manner.
So, what really is mold mode in Cura?
Mold mode is a special mode you can activate in Cura that allows you to print a mold of the model you have imported, which you can use to cast the object as many times as you wish to speed up the manufacturing process.
As mold mode is definitely one of the more fascinating features in Cura, let’s take a deeper look into how it works and why it’s such a convenient feature to have at hand.
What Is Mold Mode in Cura?
While mold mode is not a feature that most 3D printing enthusiasts will use regularly, it’s a compelling feature that serves a very distinct and unique purpose.
Mold mode is a Cura setting that converts the model you will print to a mold of the object instead, which you can use to produce the model multiple times.
When you enable it, mold mode creates a negative of the model you have imported, giving it the necessary shape for it to function as a mold when you print it, similar to how industrial molds work.
Without mold mode, you would need to design the model’s negative in 3D modeling software such as Fusion 360, which can take a decent amount of time and effort, especially if you don’t have prior experience.
As Cura allows you to obtain the negative and print a mold of any model you wish to with the click of a button, it’s definitely a highly fascinating feature that will come in extremely handy for those looking to 3D print molds.
It’s vital to note that the molds created by Cura are very simple and not too customizable, meaning that it might not be able to do the job for more complex molds that require a higher degree of customization.
How Do You Use Mold Mode in Cura?
Using mold mode in Cura is a straightforward process, which we have outlined the steps for below:
- Navigate to the Prepare tab at the top of the Cura window.
- Click the third pane from the options that are right under to bring up the Print Settings window.
- Click the Custom button if you haven’t before to navigate to the advanced part of Print Settings.
- Click the three lines icon next to the search box, and choose All from the dropdown to make all advanced settings, including mold mode, visible.
- Type “mold” into the search box.
- Check the box next to the Mold label to activate mold mode.
Upon activating mold mode, Cura will display a few extra parameters you can use to customize how mold mode works, which we have listed below:
- Minimal Mold Width – This option allows you to specify the distance between the outer border of the model and the outer border of the mold itself.
- Mold Roof Height – Model roof height specifies the height above the horizontal parts of the model.
- Mold Angle – The mold angle parameter allows you to decide the angle of the overhang of the outer walls of the mold.
When Should You Use Mold Mode in Cura?
As apparent from its name, the use case for mold mode in Cura is quite distinct and clear.
You can use the mold mode feature in Cura when you need to manufacture multiple instances of the same object as quickly and effortlessly as possible.
Compared to printing each object separately, printing a mold and using this mold to cast the model numerous times will both save a considerable amount of time and effort, making large-scale production much more feasible.
An important thing to consider is that as 3D printed models are never as durable as industrial molds, you may not always get the mileage you intend from them, which often makes it a good idea to print a backup.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Mold Mode in Cura
Just as most other features, the mold mode feature in Cura comes with both advantages and disadvantages.
First, let’s start with the advantages of mold mode:
- Easy to use – Mold mode allows you to print a mold of the model with a single click of the button, making it a simple feature to use.
- Eliminates the need for 3D modeling software – While creating the negative of a model would require knowledge with 3D modeling software, mold mode in Cura removes the need for it.
- Allows quick manufacturing of 3D printed parts – Even though 3D printed molds aren’t as durable as industrial molds, they do a well-enough job for quickly manufacturing parts compared to 3D printing them one by one.
On the other hand, here are the disadvantages of mold mode:
- Not too customizable – The simplicity of mold mode in Cura is a double-edged sword as it doesn’t leave much room for the customization of the mold like a 3D modeling software would.
- 3D printed molds may not be too durable – In some cases, the mold you have printed may break and become unusable way before you expect.
How Do You Enter Special Modes in Cura?
As the Special Modes (which includes mold mode) section of Cura resides with the rest of the settings in the Print Settings section, entering it is simple.
Here are the steps you can follow to enter Special Modes in Cura:
- Click the prepare tab at the top of the Cura window.
- Bring the Print Settings window up by clicking the rightmost pane below the blue stripe.
- Click the three lines icon next to the search box, and choose All.
- Click the same icon once again, and click the Collapse All Categories option.
- Scroll down and click the Special Modes tab to expand the options.
Even though it’s possible to achieve what mold mode does in different ways, Cura, without a doubt, offers the quickest and easiest to 3D print a mold without the need for experience with design software.
To quickly recap, Cura’s mold mode creates a negative of the model, essentially turning the model you will be printing into a mold that you can use to cast large amounts of the object.
While creating the negative of a model requires knowledge of design software as it’s technically a completely different model in terms of shape, Cura makes it possible with a single click of the button.
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.