There is no denying that the Cura slicer ships with some pretty impressive features that allow us to customize the 3D printing process fully, ranging from modifying the starting G-code of the printer to adding fuzzy skin to the models we print.
On the other hand, what we would consider being the best feature of Cura is its plugin support, allowing members of the 3D printing community all over the world to integrate the features they would like to see in Cura and share them for everyone else to use.
Today, we will be taking a deep dive into the Mesh Tools plugin for Cura, one of the most downloaded plugins on the Ultimaker marketplace that offers an impressive set of features that we believe should be a part of Cura out of the box.
So, what is the Mesh Tools plugin for Cura?
The Mesh Tools plugin for Cura is a toolkit that allows you to perform mesh analysis and modifications on the model you’re slicing, such as checking the water tightness status of the model or fixing small holes that may cause the printing process to fail.
Next up, we will be analyzing the capabilities of the Mesh Tools plugin in greater detail, find out how to install and use this Cura plugin, and finally, take a quick look at the scenarios where using this plugin would come in handy.
What Is the Mesh Tools Plugin for Cura?
While the functionality Mesh Tools offers isn’t a complete necessity for a successful printing process, the plugin does come with some pretty impressive features that make 3D printing a smoother experience in most scenarios.
In a nutshell, the primary functionality of the Mesh Tools plugin for Cura is examining and fixing the models before you slice them to ensure that the models don’t have any problems that would cause the printing process to fail.
For instance, if you attempt to print a model that is not watertight in Cura, you will see a warning that tells you the model is not watertight and may not print correctly as a result.
With Mesh Tools, you can most likely restore the watertight status of your model by using the Fix Simple Holes functionality, which will identify the holes that prevent your model from being watertight and repair them.
Alongside its functionality of analyzing and fixing the model, Mesh Tools also allows you to perform a slight bit of modification on the model, such as splitting it into its parts or applying transformations to it.
While you most likely won’t use such features unless in specific cases compared to the features that analyze and fix the models, it’s a handy set of functionality to have at hand regardless.
How to Install the Mesh Tools Plugin for Cura?
Installing the Mesh Tools plugin for Cura is a pretty straightforward process, mainly because Ultimaker Marketplace, which allows the installation of plugins with the click of a button, being integrated directly into Cura.
Installing the Mesh Tools plugin is a pretty straightforward process as you can use Cura’s built-in Marketplace to add the plugin with the click of a button.
Here is a step-by-step guide you can use to install the Mesh Tools plugin for Cura if you aren’t familiar with the Marketplace:
- Click the Marketplace button on the top-right corner of Cura.
- Click the Mesh Tools button in the Premium section of the Marketplace. If you can’t find the Mesh Tools plugin here, you can also navigate to the Ultimaker Marketplace in your browser and search for Mesh Tools.
- Click the Install (or Add to Cura if you’re in the browser) button to install the Mesh Tools plugin.
- Go through any dialogs that may pop up and accept them.
- Restart Cura after the installation process is over.
Upon restarting Cura, the Mesh Tools plugin should be installed, which you can confirm by clicking the Marketplace button again and navigating to the Installed tab.
Please note that you will need an Ultimaker account for this process to work, and you will need to be logged in to this account in both Cura and your browser to install plugins into Cura from the browser.
How to Use the Mesh Tools Plugin in Cura?
Since the Mesh Tools plugin offers a decent amount of functionality that we can consider advanced, there is a slight learning curve associated with using the plugin effectively, primarily about how each distinct feature operates.
To access the full functionality of the Mesh Tools plugin in Cura, all you need to do is to click the Extensions tab in the menu bar of Cura and hover over the Mesh Tools entry, which will prompt the list of Mesh Tools features to appear.
Since you will be greeted with a fair few features in this menu, let’s quickly go through each of them to make things more understandable:
- Reload Model – Reloads the model file
- Rename Model – Renames the model file
- Replace Models – Replaces the chosen model with another one
- Check Models – Checks the models for water tightness and sub-meshes
- Analyze Models – Displays mesh information, such as the number of vertices and the volume
- Fix Simple Holes -Fixes small holes that prevent the model from being watertight
- Fix Model Normals – Recalculates the normal vectors of the model to ensure that all normals are facing the correct direction
- Split Model Into Parts – Splits a mesh that contains multiple bodies into separate parts to allow individual manipulation
- Randomize Location – Randomizes the position of the chosen object
- Apply Transformations to Mesh – Applies rotation and scale to the mesh, making the rotated and scaled version of the model the new default
- Reset Origin to Center of Mesh – Fixes the origins of models that may not have centered origins as a result of using the “split models into parts” feature
When to Use the Mesh Tools Plugin in Cura?
Having a good understanding of when Mesh Tools would be beneficial to the printing process is a vital part of making good use of the plugin, especially considering that this plugin comes with some specific and advanced features.
Even though using the more advanced features of the Mesh Tools plugin isn’t a requirement for success, analyzing your models before the printing process and fixing any problems that may cause the print to fail is a good habit not to face issues down the line.
Considering how simple the Mesh Tools plugin is to use, quickly verifying your models won’t take more than a minute of your time, making it an efficient solution that can save you from more problematic issues later on.
Even if you don’t frequently require the features it offers, we believe that the Mesh Tools plugin should be in every Cura user’s toolkit the significant amount of functionality it brings to the slicer.
To quickly recap, the Mesh Tools plugin in Cura offers a way to analyze models for any mesh-related problems that may prevent them from printing successfully and apply fixes that can resolve these such problems with the click of a button.
While such problems would usually require modifying the model in CAD software, the Mesh Tools plugin makes the whole process a breeze by adding the functionality directly into Cura.