A slicer’s job, at its core, is to create the G-code file that your 3D printer can read from to perform the printing process by merging the 3D model data with the required print-specific configuration that does not belong to the model itself, such as the temperatures and the infill.
On the other hand, in modern slicer software, it’s also possible to find some extra features that bring more to the table than just allowing you to configure the print settings, whether quality improvements or direct changes to the 3D model that you will be printing.
In today’s article, we will be taking a look at one of the more innovative and compelling experimental features you can find in Cura, known as wire printing, which produces some results that you would never expect to see if you have never witnessed it in use before.
So, what is the wire printing mode in Cura?
The wire printing mode in Cura is a special mode that causes the 3D printer to print a mesh of the exterior shape of the model, similar to drawing the object with a 3D pen, instead of printing a solid object that a standard 3D printing process yields.
Next up, we will be analyzing the wire printing mode in greater detail, find out how to activate and use the wire printing mode in Cura, and finally, discuss the scenarios where it would be suitable to utilize the wire printing mode.
What Is the Wire Printing Mode in Cura?
Wire printing is one of the more exciting features that you can find in Cura, as it has the ability to turn your 3D printed model into entirely something else, unlike most other features that primarily aim to improve what you have at hand.
In a nutshell, activating wire printing in Cura causes your model to be sliced in a way that consists of triangular meshes in the form of the model’s outer shape instead of a solid model, creating a transparent object that does not have any infill.
To create this effect, the 3D printer follows the pattern of laying down the layer’s perimeter first and adding a sawtooth pattern on top until the top surface of the model, which is closed off with rings held together by the sawtooth pattern once again.
Due to the technique that the 3D printer needs to use to achieve this effect, the wire printing mode works best with vertical shapes and can become highly unreliable when printing large horizontal surfaces, specifically when the 3D printer needs to close off the top of the model.
How to Use the Wire Printing Mode in Cura?
Even though it has a significant impact on the 3D model, activating and using the wire printing mode in Cura is no different than configuring any other regular print setting, such as the nozzle temperature, meaning that you can give it a try with the click of a button.
Below is a step-by-step guide you can follow to activate the wire printing mode in Cura:
- Navigate to the Prepare tab of Cura.
- Click the rightmost pane to bring the Print Settings section up on the screen.
- Click the icon (three horizontal lines) next to the search input, and choose All from the dropdown menu to make advanced settings of Cura visible, which includes Wire Printing.
- Type “wire printing” into the search input, and press Enter.
- Click the checkbox next to the Wire Printing entry.
After activating wire printing, all the wire printing-related settings of Cura will become visible, allowing you to customize standard print parameters such as the extrusion speed and the flow rate explicitly for the wire printing mode, alongside some wire printing-specific parameters, such as the connection height.
Preview Mode in Cura Doesn’t Work with Wire Printing – What to Do?
When you slice a model with the wire printing mode active for the first time, you will notice that the preview mode in Cura isn’t working correctly and practically not showing anything, making it impossible to have an idea of how the 3D printer will conduct the printing process.
To get the preview mode working with wire printing in Cura, you will need to save the G-code file that you have sliced to the disk and then import the G-code file (not the STL file) back into Cura.
Below is a step-by-step guide you can follow to see a preview of a model that you intend to print with wire printing active:
- Enable the Wire Printing mode.
- Click the Slice button and wait for the slicing process to conclude.
- Click the Save to Disk button, and save the G-code file to an appropriate location on your computer.
- Click the File menu (top-left) of Cura, and choose Open File.
- Locate the G-code file you saved earlier (step 3) and open it with Cura.
Following this process will prompt Cura to load the G-code file you have sliced and directly put you into the Preview tab.
While this process will make the preview mode function just as it does with standard models, please note that the preview may not work as accurately as it does with a solid model due to wire printing being more unreliable in comparison.
When Is It Suitable to Use the Wire Printing Mode in Cura?
Due to its power to entirely transform your 3D model into something else as an experimental feature of Cura, wire printing mode is something you are more likely to use in very particular scenarios where you can benefit from the changes it brings to your print.
We can consider the wire printing mode to primarily be suitable for prototyping purposes as it allows you to have an approximation of the scale of the actual 3D printed model by spending a fraction of the time and material it would take to 3D print the real thing.
Aside from prototyping, it can also be possible to use wire printing for purely decorative, preferably vertical objects, such as figurines and busts, as the wire printing mode brings an entirely different art style to the table compared to printing a solid 3D model.
While the wire printing mode is both an experimental and a pretty niche feature, meaning that your 3D printer may not always be able to produce the desired results when it is active, we cannot deny that it’s possible to create some pretty cool 3D printed models with it.
To quickly recap, enabling the wire printing mode in Cura entirely transforms the final product that the 3D printing process yields from a solid object to a mesh based on the model’s exterior shape, creating a look as if the model was constructed by combining several thin wires.
While printing with the wire printing mode enabled will make the printing process require much less time and material, the model will be highly fragile both during and after printing, potentially dimensionally inaccurate, and devoid of detail.
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.