While getting started with Cura and printing your first few 3D objects is usually relatively straightforward, the process gradually becomes more difficult when you dive into the world of optimizations to take your 3D printed models to the next level.
Whether it’s aesthetical or functional improvements you’re looking to add to your 3D prints, it’s easy to get lost in all the settings Cura offers, which sometimes makes it hard to find the correct parameters for the improvements you’re looking to perform.
Today, we will look at the top surface skin layers setting in Cura in particular, which we believe will very much please those looking to improve the aesthetics of their prints by making the top layers look much smoother.
So, what is the top surface skin layers setting in Cura?
Top surface skin layers is a parameter in Cura that allows you to choose the number of customized extra layers the printer will print on top of the surface of your 3D printed models.
The primary idea behind this parameter is to print high-quality layers that will make the surface of your prints much smoother and better looking.
While the top surface skin layers setting in itself is a single parameter that performs a straightforward task, it activates a fair few parameters that you will need to additionally configure correctly to ensure that you get the highest degree of improvements possible.
What Is Top Surface Skin Layers in Cura?
The top surface skin layers parameter is one of the most impactful elements you can add to your toolbox to make your 3D printed models look smoother.
In a nutshell, Cura tells the printer to print an extra amount of layers on top of your 3D printed model when you activate the top surface skin layers setting, which you can customize through specific parameters that the slicer will only apply to these layers.
As Cura prints these layers by using a specific set of parameters of your choice, it’s possible to obtain higher quality layers for the surface of your print that will make your 3D printed model look and feel smoother.
Since the parameters that Cura will apply to these layers are also as important as how many surface skin layers you will be printing, let’s take a look at the parameters as well:
- Top Surface Skin Flow – The flow rate for the top surface skin layers.
- Top Surface Skin Speed – The print speed the printer will use for the top surface skin layers.
- Top Surface Skin Line Width – Line width value of the top surface skin layers.
- Top Surface Skin Pattern – Pattern of the top surface skin layers.
- Monotonic Top Surface Order – Causes top surface lines to overlap with adjacent lines in the same direction. While this setting causes the printing process to take longer, it also provides a better look for flat surfaces.
- Top Surface Skin Line Directions – The directions (angles) of the lines of the layers. (only works for Lines and Zig Zag patterns)
While experimentation is the best way to find out the optimal values for these parameters, our recommendations are as follows:
- Top Surface Skin Flow – 100%
- Top Surface Skin Speed – Half of the print speed (for instance, 20 mm/s for 40mm/s print speed)
- Top Surface Skin Line Width – Half of the line width (for instance, 0.3mm for 0.6mm)
- Top Surface Skin Pattern – Lines
- Monotonic Top Surface Order – Enabled, especially if your model has a lot of flat surfaces.
- Top Surface Skin Line Directions – [45,90]
How to Configure Surface Skin Layers in Cura?
Configuring surface skin layers in Cura is not so different than using any other setting, which we have listed the steps for below:
- Navigate to the Prepare tab through the top bar in Cura.
- Navigate to the Print Settings window by clicking the pane on the right side (below the Prepare tab).
- Click the icon with three lines located next to the search input.
- Choose the All setting from the dropdown menu to make all the settings visible.
- Type “top surface skin” into the search box.
- Enter the desired amount of top surface skin layers into the Top Surface Skin Layers input box.
Upon entering a value greater than 0, additional parameters such as Top Surface Skin pattern, Top Surface Line Width, and many more will also appear, which you should configure as well.
How Many Top Layers Should You Use in Cura?
A common question about the top surface skin layers setting is the optimal number of top layers that one should use to guarantee the best results possible.
In almost all scenarios, using two or three top surface skin layers will be enough to provide your model with a smoother and better-looking surface as long as you configure the rest of the parameters correctly.
Since adding more layers will only cause your model to become larger with no added benefit, there isn’t much of a point to go with a greater number than 2 or 3 for this parameter.
How Do You Smooth the Top Layer in Cura?
Smoothing the top layer of your 3D prints is a fantastic way to make your models look and feel much better, with Cura offering you two ways to do so.
The parameters you can use to smooth the top layer of your models in Cura are ironing and top surface skin, which offer two different ways of conducting the smoothing process.
Top Surface Skin
The top surface skin parameters are the first method for smoothing the top layer of your prints in Cura.
Using the top surface skin feature allows you to add extra higher-quality layers above the top layer of your models, creating a smooth look and feel.
You can find the top surface skin settings in Cura by typing “top surface skin” into the search box after making advanced settings visible.
The second option to smoothen the top layer in Cura is to use the ironing feature.
The ironing feature causes the nozzle to travel over the top layer after the printing process to iron the top layers and create a smooth surface.
You can find the ironing feature in Cura by typing “ironing” into the search box after making advanced settings visible.
The top surface skin layers setting is a quick and easy way to improve how the top layer of your print looks dramatically and give it a smooth texture that looks aesthetically pleasing.
To quickly recap, top surface skin layers is a setting that allows you to specify the number of additional layers that Cura will print on top of your model with a specific set of parameters.
Since you can use these parameters to create higher quality layers that look better, you can easily add a smooth and good-looking finish to your 3D printed models with the top surface skin layers setting.
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.