While creating and modifying 3D models for the purposes of 3D printing is primarily the job of CAD software, most slicer software is slowly evolving to a point where they can perform the minor changes that would usually require CAD software, with creating a mold of the model being a good example.
Especially considering the fact that not every 3D printing enthusiast is familiar with CAD software and that it can become quite tedious to require CAD software for small changes, the evolution of slicer software in this department is definitely very welcome from a user experience standpoint.
Today, we will be looking into one such minor feature, known as splitting an object into parts, and try to learn whether it’s possible to perform it directly in Cura without the need for any external software.
So, can you split objects into parts in Cura?
Splitting objects into parts in Cura with the “split objects into parts” feature is only possible if the model file (STL) you have imported contains multiple sub-meshes that create a single mesh together.
If you are trying to split a single object that doesn’t contain any sub-meshes, the “split objects into parts feature” will not perform any modifications to the model.
Next up, we will analyze Cura’s capabilities on splitting objects into parts in more detail, find out how to use the Mesh Tools plugin to split objects into parts in Cura, discuss how the split objects into parts feature works, and finally, take a quick look at alternative ways to perform the task with software other than Cura.
Can You Split Objects Into Parts in Cura?
Splitting an object into parts is a handy piece of functionality to have in the slicer software, as it allows us to manage the entire printing process within the slicer without needing to split the model elsewhere.
In a nutshell, splitting an object into parts in Cura is indeed possible with the Mesh Tools plugin, but the caveat is that the model you have imported needs to be created in a way where parts of the object you would like to split are distinct sub-meshes that Cura can detect.
If the model you’re using consists of a single mesh, Cura cannot split the model into its parts as it won’t understand which areas of the model are the parts you would like to split away.
In cases where you are unsure whether your model consists of sub-meshes or not, you can try to invoke the split objects into parts feature on your model nevertheless, and if Cura can’t split the model, it will notify you with a message stating that the model doesn’t contain any sub-meshes.
How to Split Objects Into Parts in Cura with Mesh Tools?
Even though Cura doesn’t support the “split objects into parts” feature out of the box anymore, the Mesh Tools plugin brings this functionality back into Cura, which works the same way as the old Cura feature.
To start, let’s find out how to download and install the Mesh Tools plugin for Cura, which will add the split objects into parts feature to the slicer:
- Click the Marketplace button on the top-right corner of Cura.
- Click the Mesh Tools plugin located in the Premium section of the Marketplace. If you can’t find it there, you can follow this link.
- Click the Install (or Add to Cura) button.
- Accept any dialogs that pop up.
- Restart Cura.
Now that we have access to Mesh Tools, here is how to use the split objects into parts feature to split an object into its sub-meshes:
- Right-click the object you would like to split.
- Hover over the Mesh Tools entry in the dropdown menu.
- Click the “split objects into parts” entry in the dropdown menu that comes up.
Depending on the size of the object and the number of sub-meshes, the process can take a few seconds.
When the process is complete, you should see a pop-up at the bottom of the Cura window with information about the number of sub-meshes.
How Does the Split Objects Into Parts Feature Work?
While the feature’s name looks like it gives a clear description of how the feature works, there is some nuances to the “split object into parts” functionality in Cura that one needs to understand to know what to expect out of it.
In a nutshell, the split objects into parts feature detects all the sub-meshes that you have imported as a singular model file and separates each sub-mesh as a separate entity.
This process allows you to perform tasks such as movement, scaling, rotation, and everything else you can think of separately for each sub-mesh, essentially as if you have imported a separate model file.
Since each sub-mesh acts as a separate object, you can also export each one separately for later usage, which will be easier than splitting the object into parts every time.
Alternative Ways to Split Objects Into Parts with Different Software
Since the capability of the “split objects into parts” feature in Cura is pretty limited, you may need to download another piece of software to conduct the splitting process in some cases and import the split version of the model back into Cura.
Creating and modifying 3D models is primarily a job for CAD (computer-aided design) software, which is what engineers, architects, designers, and practically anyone else who designs 2D or 3D structures that will see real-life usage uses.
While you can perform this task with any CAD software of your choice, we recommend using Autodesk Meshmixer, which is free to download as its functionality is now a part of Autodesk’s newer (and paid) CAD software, Fusion 360.
Even though there is no denying that there is a learning curve to using such software, there are also numerous tutorials explaining how to use them, which should get you to split your object into parts in no time.
While not a feature that we frequently find ourselves using, the ability to split an object into parts directly in Cura definitely makes for a better user experience than requiring to import to model into a separate piece of software and re-import the split model to Cura again.
To quickly recap, Cura, provided that you have installed the Mesh Tools plugin, allows you to split an object into parts as long as the model you have imported consists of sub-meshes that Cura can detect and separate.
On the other hand, if you would like to split an object that doesn’t contain sub-meshes into parts, you will need to modify the model in different software (primarily CAD software) that allows you to manipulate a 3D model extensively.
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.