Technically speaking, it’s entirely possible to 3D print most models of your choice by only modifying the basic parameters in Cura, such as the print temperature, and avoiding all the more advanced options, which creates a much more user-friendly experience that doesn’t involve any complexity compared to going through the process of tuning the more advanced parameters.
On the other hand, as the parameters that are considered advanced allow you to customize your prints even further and increase print quality, having an excellent understanding of them is one of the best ways to take your prints to the next level, especially considering that modifying such parameters can cause more harm than good when done incorrectly.
In today’s article, we will be going through one of such advanced features that Cura offers, known as retract at layer change, which, as apparent from the name, is a feature that allows further customization of how the retraction process takes place, giving you more control over the 3D printing process.
So, what really is the purpose of the retract at layer change feature in Cura?
Activating the retract at layer change feature in Cura causes the 3D printer to perform a retraction after the completion of each layer, regardless of whether a retraction would naturally be triggered or not at that point, allowing the printhead to move to the new Z position while the filament is retracted.
In the upcoming sections, we will be analyzing the retract at layer change feature of Cura in more detail, going through the steps of finding and activating the retract at layer change feature, and finally, discussing the scenarios where it’s suitable to enable this feature to gain benefits.
What Is the Retract at Layer Change Feature in Cura?
Even though the name of the retract at layer change feature of Cura gives us a pretty good idea of what it does, it’s worth taking a deep dive into due to it being an advanced feature that can have a severe impact on how the 3D printing process is conducted.
In a standard scenario, the points where the 3D printer retracts the filament during the printing process are specifically computed by the slicer, where the selection process usually is a product of calculations based on the likelihood of stringing occurring as the printhead travels from one point to another.
While this methodology works perfectly to eliminate the issue of stringing, with no filament to ooze out of the nozzle as the printhead travels unintendedly, there are other cases where retractions can be required but are not performed by default, with the Z seam problem being the prime example.
The retract at layer change feature of Cura aims to resolve the Z seam problem, in particular, by triggering a retraction whenever the 3D printer completes the printing of a layer, which are practically extra retractions following a specific condition that otherwise would not occur.
As a result, when the retract at layer change feature is enabled, the filament is prevented from leaking out of the nozzle as the printhead moves up in the Z axis to get into the correct position for the printing of the upcoming layer, which drastically reduces the visibility of the Z seam that primarily is a product of the excess plastic that leaks out.
How to Find and Activate the Retract at Layer Change Feature in Cura?
Since the retract at layer change parameter is considered to be an advanced one by Cura, you will need to take an extra step to make advanced settings visible before you can find the parameter and make modifications.
Below, you can find a step-by-step guide you can follow to find and activate the retract at layer change feature in Cura:
- Navigate to the Prepare tab located at the top of the Cura window.
- Click the pane on the right to bring up the Print Settings dialog.
- Click the Custom button if it’s available. Else, skip this step.
- Click the “three lines” icon next to the search input, and choose All from the dropdown to make all Cura settings visible.
- Type “retract at layer change” into the search input, and press Enter.
- Check the box next to the “Retract at Layer Change” label.
When to Utilize the Cura Retract at Layer Change Feature?
Since the retract at layer change feature is disabled by default, having a good understanding of when enabling it would be beneficial and not cause more harm than good to the 3D printing process is vital to take your print quality a step further.
As the primary purpose of the retract at layer change feature of Cura is to reduce the Z seam that appears on the surface of a 3D printed model, our recommendation would be to activate it in cases where the Z seam seems to be getting out of hand and reducing the visual quality of the model by a considerable margin.
One thing to remember when activating the retract at layer change feature is that retraction distance is a parameter that directly affects the impact of the feature, which should be set to a value that is as low as possible for the best results, even though the feature does not come with any specific configuration of its own.
Since using a retraction distance value that is way too high will slow the retraction down by a considerable margin, activating the retract at layer change feature in combination with a high retraction distance value will most likely cause oozing to take place, practically negating the benefits that come with it.
While the retract at layer change feature is a pretty straightforward one with only the option of turning it on and off and no other modifications required, it’s a feature that we recommend using carefully due to its considerable impact on how retraction works.
To quickly recap, enabling the retract at layer change feature in Cura forces a retraction to occur whenever the 3D printer completes an entire layer, right before the printhead moves to the intended height for printing the upcoming layer, guaranteeing that the filament is always retracted before the printhead starts moving in the Z axis.
This way, the 3D printer can start a layer more cleanly, with no excess filament ending up being wiped at the start of each layer, increasing the visual quality of the print and drastically reducing the Z seam issue that stems from the excess filament that keeps piling on.
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.