While there is no denying that support structures can be pretty challenging to remove and take a lot of our time and effort for successful removal, we also have to accept that these structures are essential for a successful printing process in some cases.
As a result, just as with anything else in the realm of 3D printing, the technology of support generation is also advancing with each passing day, with slicer software developers making the process of creating support structures a much better experience.
Today, we will be diving deeper into the support structure customization capabilities of the Cura slicer in particular by analyzing support interfaces, which is a feature that offers a way to craft supports that are more suitable in some printing scenarios, creating higher quality prints as a result.
So, what really is the support interface feature in Cura?
Support interface is a Cura feature that prompts the 3D printer to print extra layers of dense plastic in the areas (both top and bottom) between the supports and the model, forming a more robust support structure that can better handle situations where standard supports aren’t strong enough.
In the upcoming sections of the article, we will examine the support interface feature of Cura in better detail, find out how we can activate this feature, and talk about the scenarios where it would be suitable to use this feature to improve our prints.
What Is the Support Interface Feature in Cura?
While we are all familiar with support structures, which can come in pretty handy for printing bridges and overhangs that require some help during the printing process, customizing these structures adds a whole new level to utilizing them for various scenarios.
The support interface feature in Cura allows the generation of extra layers of entirely customizable and dense support structures that cover the entire area between the regular supports and the model, which increases support robustness without slowing the printing process down too much.
In cases where standard support structures cannot provide enough support to the model, such as the printing of large bridges and overhangs, support interfaces will come in very handy and offer that extra bit of help these parts require for a successful print.
Alongside many other parameters that allow customization, there are two primary components, which are also parameters of this feature, that essentially create the support interface feature together, known as support roof and support floor.
Enabling the support roof parameter activates the top part of the support interface feature, creating the interface structure in the area where the top of the supports connects to the model.
On the other hand, enabling the support floor parameter does the exact opposite, activating the bottom part of the support interface feature and creating the interface structure in the area where the model connects to the bottom of the supports.
While both support roof and support floor are under the umbrella of support interfaces, it’s worth noting that it’s possible to customize these structures separately when necessary, which brings a significant amount of flexibility to the feature.
A vital point to keep in mind is that the support interfaces will only be generated in areas where the supports connect to the model, meaning that there won’t be a support interface structure in the space between the build plate and the support in scenarios where one side of the support connects to the surface.
How to Activate the Support Interface Feature in Cura?
Activating the support interface feature and modifying its parameters follows the same process as altering any other print setting, such as nozzle temperature or fan speed, meaning that it’s a straightforward process that you can go through in no time.
Below, we have listed the steps you can employ to activate the support interface feature in Cura:
- Click the Prepare tab, which you can find on the top of the Cura window.
- Click the pane on the right to navigate to the Print Settings menu.
- Click the Custom button if you see it; else, skip this step.
- Click the button next to the search input, and choose the All option from the dropdown.
- Type “support interface” into the search input, and click the check box next to the Enable Support Interface.
Following these steps will enable the support interface feature and make all support interface-related parameters visible, which you can use to fine-tune the properties of the support interfaces to your needs.
Optionally, you can opt only to check the Enable Support Roof or the Enable Support Floor options instead of Enable Support Interface, which will allow you to utilize the support roof or the support floor without the other.
If you cannot see the checkbox for the support interface feature despite making all settings visible via the dropdown that appears by clicking the “three lines” icon, make sure that you have enabled supports, which is a pre-requisite of the support interface feature.
When to Utilize the Support Interface Feature in Cura?
As you won’t need to utilize the support interface feature for all of your prints, especially considering that it can even have adverse effects when used wrongly, having an idea of when to activate this feature plays a vital role in getting the maximum possible benefit from it.
We would recommend enabling the support interface feature of Cura to add more strength to the support structure whenever you believe that the standard supports won’t be able to support certain parts of your print due to them getting overwhelmed by the weight above.
As with anything support-related, overhangs and bridges are the first things that come to mind, especially if they are particularly large and heavy, where the usage of the support interface feature will most likely prove to be very useful due to the possibility of standard supports not being strong enough to keep these structures upright.
On the other hand, it’s worth mentioning that using the support interface feature will slightly increase the print time and, more importantly, cause the support structures to become even harder to remove, especially considering that the interfaces are denser than standard supports.
Because of this, we recommend utilizing the support interfaces only when they are absolutely necessary, as any situation where you use them without needing them will cause you to spend more time and effort on removing support structures without any benefit.
The support interface feature of Cura offers a great set of modifications to the standard support structure, making support creation a lot more flexible and allowing you to create more efficient supports that are useful in scenarios where regular supports wouldn’t work well enough.
To quickly recap, enabling the support interface feature in Cura causes the 3D printer to print an extra layer of dense plastic that acts as an extension between the supports and the model, which furthers the strength of the supports without adding too much print time.
The two main components of the support interface feature, which are called the support roof (between the top of the supports and the model) and the support floor (between the bottom of the support and the model), are both individually customizable and toggleable, making this feature a very flexible addition to the process of support generation.