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Tree supports are both efficient and neat. Learn why the Cura tree support setting has become one of our new go-to 3D printing tips.
One such outstanding free slicing program that many 3D printing enthusiasts use is Cura from Ultimaker. Although Cura has many beautiful features, tree supports are a unique trait that must be highlighted.
Continue reading to learn more about why tree supports are helpful, what models make the best candidates, and how to set your tree supports for success.
Why Cura Tree Support?
Let’s first discuss supports in general before we discuss what tree supports are specifically. In 3D printing, supports are essentially auxiliary objects that give overhanging features inclined more than 50 or 60 degrees support. The melted filament would otherwise “fall” into the empty space beneath it if there was no support for it. The same goes for any filament meant to be printed on top of the fallen filament. Even complete failures may result from this.
Regular supports are typically geometric or linear for the most basic support for the structures that will be printed on them. In contrast to standard supports, tree supports appear to have a “trunk” and “branches,” simulating the organic structure of a tree. The main advantage of using tree supports is that your final print will be much cleaner because they don’t touch the print as frequently as regular supports do.
Look More Closely to Cura Tree Supports
As briefly mentioned above, tree supports have a trunk-like structure that branches out and up in various directions onto your model. These end tips, printed hollow or with a specific infill density, effectively support the structure from below. You can modify the relevant settings, which we’ll go over in more detail later, to alter how the tree grows and where the branches end up.
Since the release of Cura 4.13.1, tree supports are no longer considered experimental. Still, they are also not set to the default state. You can enable them under the Support settings group, next to “Support Structure, ” if Advanced or higher settings are displayed. After that, you’ll see some more control options.
We’ll look at these possibilities and the kinds of models that benefit most from tree supports. But first, let’s discuss the purpose of using this particular setting.
Advantages of Cura Tree Support
Using tree supports has many advantages over regular or custom supports. Here are some of the main justifications for using tree supports.
Cleaner Surface Finishes
The main advantage of using tree supports may be this. Some design features, such as overhangs not directly above the print bed but somewhat over previously printed regions, would need to be generated on the outward-facing surfaces of the model itself if traditional supports were used. Tree supports have a clear advantage in this situation.
Since the branches of a tree come from the main structure and don’t touch the model, they are only placed where they are required. In other words, the model itself won’t leave behind artifacts from upright supports because the tree suppırt can lean where the print cannot. This is especially helpful when dealing with organic shapes like people and animals.
Less Material & Printing Time
Compared to standard supports, tree supports are made with less material usage. This is so that the entire tree, or even parts of it, can be printed hollow or with low infill density.
If you need a strong base (for example, to hold the model’s weight), you could print the trunk with more infill at the bottom and less or none as the supports branch out. You can print faster and save time and money by doing this.
While tree supports take much longer to calculate during slicing, they compensate for this in printing time. The printer takes less time to print because of its compact design, which results in fewer “travel” movements.
Easy Support Removal
Tree supports don’t have “roofs” that support the entire model from below; instead, they make contact with the model at fewer points. This indicates that it is straightforward to separate when tree support is removed from a model.
Unlike conventional supports, there is no risk of the support system fusing with the model. The tree and branches may also separate if you print them with various densities.
Disadvantages of Cura Tree Support
You might wonder if there are any drawbacks given all of these advantages. The only one that comes to mind is the longer slicing time, as we already mentioned. But given the time you’ll save on printing, that seems like a good compromise!
Depending on your model or printing configuration, Cura might produce a non-ideal structure, but this is more likely a matter of taste than a functional issue.
Types of Models
After learning about tree supports and their advantages for 3D printing, the following questions remain: Which models should you use tree supports for, and are tree supports appropriate for all models?
What to Consider when to use Cura Tree Support
It is typically possible to decide whether or not using tree supports makes sense if you carefully analyze their positions, relative geometry, and overall structures. Unfortunately, there isn’t a set standard for this. The best way to determine whether a model is appropriate for tree support is to carefully review and consider its overhangs.
If your model includes intricate or complicated features that require support, that is another thing to consider. It’s frequently tricky to support these structures without endangering them when the support is removed. In particular, tree supports are more flexible and a better option for models with organic shapes.
Let’s look at the model presented above to illustrate this process. Take note of the overhangs created by the chin, nose, and hair and the steep angle at the bottom.
Regular supports would leave tiny scuff marks on each of these surfaces if we used them. Common supports would also be difficult to remove and need a lot of material, possibly damaging the finer details in the process.
Using tree supports would significantly enhance the outcome because the entire support structure is removed as a solid piece with almost no marks.
Busts, miniatures, and models with long overhangs and mid-air structures are frequently excellent candidates for using tree supports. Having said that, you should assess each print to ascertain which supports are most appropriate for your requirements.
Optimal Settings of Cura Tree Support
Even though tree supports have their own settings, they are remarkably similar to those used for regular supports. Let’s quickly review some of the important settings that are unique for tree supports:
- Branch Angle: This is the angle at which the support structure’s branches will split off from the main trunk. A lower value makes them more stable and vertical, whereas a higher value will increase the reach of your branch. 45 to 50° degrees is a good starting point if you’re unsure where to go.
- Branch Diameter: Naturally, thicker branches will be more durable. Keep in mind that the diameter of the branch and the trunk must differ. For the majority of models, 2–3 mm is adequate.
- Branch Diameter Angle: The trunk’s degree of narrowing is determined by this setting. If the angle is zero, the trunks and branches will have the same diameter. In contrast, if the angle is increased, the bases will become wider, usually adding more stability. Go lower: between 0° and 3°, for features that are inherently supported. Go higher for strong overhangs: 3° to 5°.,
FAQ – Cura Tree Support: It’s Easy If You Do It Smart
How do you get Cura tree supports?
Since the release of Cura 4.13.1, tree supports are no longer considered experimental. Still, they are also not set to the default (“Normal”) state. You can enable them under the Support settings group, next to “Support Structure,” if Advanced or higher settings are displayed. After that, you’ll see some more control options.
Are tree supports better 3d printing?
Using less material will also take less time to print overall. The only significant drawback of tree supports is a significant lengthening of slicing times because tree supports require more complex calculations than standard supports.
Why do tree supports take so long to slice?
Tree supports are notoriously slow because tree supports require more complex calculations than standard supports.
Are tree supports easier to remove?
The tree supports on most models might be more cost-effective, easier to remove, and leave little to no damage to the model.
Do tree supports use less filament?
As a general rule, tree supports use less material because they are hollow shells, which is good if you want to use less filament. The option to print tree supports with a low infill density is also available if you require more stability.
What are the best tree support settings for Cura?
Most recommend a Branch Angle of 40-50° for the best Tree Support settings. 2-3mm is a great starting point for branch diameter. Additionally, ensure your Branch Distance is set to a minimum of 6mm.
You ought to have mastered tree support by this point. So why not use them the next time you encounter a challenging overhang?
Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page to let us know your ideas, and we would appreciate seeing pictures of your works of art! Sign up for our free weekly newsletter to receive all the latest 3D printing info in your email!