MatterControl Tutorials: Intermediate
This intermediate MatterControl tutorial goes over some of the slice settings you will be changing most frequently to impact the strength and detail of printed parts.
This tutorial will go over some of the slice settings you will be changing most frequently, not necessarily for troubleshooting, but because different settings impact the strength and detail of your printed parts.
Most of what you change will be within the slice settings tab on the righthand side. These impact everything from the speed your printer moves to the temperature that it’s printing at.
The general tab under slice settings is where you’ll be spending most of your time. These settings directly correlate to Part Quality (that is: strength, resolution, and speed).
- If you are trying to print a part that prioritizes strength over resolution and speed, here’s what you might want to do:
- Keep your layer height within a range that is achievable by your nozzle. The general rule to follow is max layer height is your nozzle diameter in mm X 0.75. The strength differences between 0.1mm, 0.2mm, and 0.3mm, for example, are minimal
- 3 perimeters are ideal for parts that will regularly face some form of stress, and any more than that doesn’t tend to happen often for me. Some parts may benefit from more perimeters, but it generally doesn’t improve much.
- Top and bottom solid layers close off your 3D print on the top and bottom, respectively. You need more layers on top than on bottom to bridge over infill, so I would suggest a minimum of 5 top and 3 bottom layers, or 1mm of top thickness and 0.6mm of bottom thickness, whichever gets me more with my layer height.
- Some infill types hurt your strength (like concentric and lines), but it’s really your choice whether you use hexagon, triangle, or grid - their strength is comparable. Density plays a less significant role on strength than perimeters, so for your average part, 30% is a good ceiling for infill density.
- If you want a better resolution out of your part but don’t care about time to print or don’t necessarily care about its strength, here’s what you might want to do:
- Change your layer height to 0.1mm or below for high quality. I don’t usually dip below 0.1mm simply because it turns a ten-hour print into twenty, and at that point, an SLA printer will probably do you better.
- A minimum of two perimeters to keep the outer surface looking clean.
- Top and bottom layers follow the same rule as before: 5 and 3 or 1mm and 0.6, whichever has more (so in this case, 10 and 6 layers)
- Infill type and density don’t really matter, so a 10% density will provide structural support for your top layers, and triangle infill is a fairly quick infill.
- If you want a good all around 3D print, there are only a couple of things you need to change.
- 0.2mm layer height, 15% infill and the same rule for top and bottom layers.
If you notice that your prints have sections where there’s weird over or under extrusion in your top solid layers, you may want to check these settings:
- Merge Overlapping Lines can be turned on or off. Most models will benefit from having it turned on, but some still struggle with it. What it does is if two lines will overlap, then it will cause a little ridge in your print in that spot where the lines smeared each other, so turning it on will make it print only one line instead.
- If you’re printing text sticking out of the surface of something, this can cause them to appear hollow, in those cases, turning it off can help.
- Your printer’s capabilities are limited to what your nozzle can do. If a feature of your 3D model is smaller than your nozzle then it won’t be printed. MatterControl can force that feature to be printed by turning on Expand Thin Walls, which will inflate it to be printable.
- Fill Thin Gaps detect gaps between perimeters that are too thin to fill with normal infill and attempt to fill them, so if the gap between your walls is just big enough to fit another perimeter, it will do that instead of turning your printer into a jittery mess as it prints the infill.
3D printers have a speed limit; while you can change the speed within MatterControl, you may notice that increasing the speed starts introducing artifacts into your print - ringing as the printer’s motion resonates throughout the frame. Lowering speed will generally increase print quality related to resonance, but it won’t fix all your problems. If you can notice features of your 3D prints “echoing” past where it should be, this is called “ghosting” or “ringing” and is most easily fixed by dropping your speed settings.
If you’re printing PLA (which in my opinion you should start with as a beginner) your layer cooling fan is hugely important for your print quality. Your fan settings impact when it turns on at full blast, and when do you want it disabled (like in the beginning of your print when you need to make sure it sticks to the bed).
The cooling subsection works by overriding your print speed settings in favor of slowing down your print to allow quicker layers adequate time to cool. If you see that your prints are coming out with the undersides looking really rough, or if the tops of your prints look squished and melted together, then you might want to take a look at these settings.
Slow Down if Layer Print Time is Below
- The minimum amount of time a layer must take to print. If a layer will take less than this amount of time, the movement speed is reduced so the layer print time will match this value, down to the minimum print speed at the slowest.
Minimum Print Speed
- The minimum speed to which the printer will reduce in order to attempt to make the layer print time long enough to satisfy the minimum layer time.
When it comes to bed adhesion print settings, there are a couple of things you can use: skirt, raft, and brim. A skirt is just an outline that surrounds your parts to both give your printer enough time to prime the nozzle before it moves to your parts, and so you can check if your bed leveling looks good. A raft isn’t often used anymore - it’s more of a legacy setting. Rafts were generally used when beds weren’t level, so several layers of sacrificial material were printed that could peel off the finished 3D print. There’s enough advancement in bed leveling that this isn’t really a problem. There are still cases where it may be helpful to have it, like an array of small parts that need to be kept from rolling away. A brim is like the brim of a top hat, extending the bottom layer of your 3D print to give more surface area for bed adhesion. Brims are especially helpful for warpy materials like ABS and nylon but are also useful for 3D models with small first layers.
Very few of your 3D models can be printed without modification - most models have some form of unsupported overhang where the material would have to be printed and solidify in midair. Support settings generate a scaffolding to go under specific parts of your 3D print and catch it.
If your supports are coming out stringy and aren’t really holding together before they tip over and scatter across your print bed, then it would be helpful to turn on “create perimeter” which creates a perimeter just like the main part of your 3D print.
What changed the game for support generation was interface layers and air gaps, which prints a ceiling on top of the support and prints the first bottom solid layer that’s above the interface layer slightly higher, respectively. This means you can easily remove support and significantly improve the quality of your supported 3D prints.
- I find 3 interface layers, or 1mm whichever gets me more, gives me a well-supported overhang. Air gap, however, is more printer specific, with some doing well with a 0.2mm air gap and others needing 0.6mm to remove properly.
While there are presets for a lot of different materials, there’s a lot of different suppliers and materials you can get now that weren’t possible even a year ago. Under filament is where you’ll want to modify your material specific settings. Some of them are for print estimates, like density and cost (which will show you each part’s mass and cost in the print preview), while others are essential for successful 3D printing. The diameter should be cross-referenced with your spool of filament, measuring the diameter in several places using calipers to get the average diameter of your filament. Extruder and bed temperature are also material specific, but the general rule is: If layers aren’t adhering to each other, turn up the heat. If overhangs look ugly, lower the extruder temperature. If parts are warping, raise the bed temperature.
To prevent your printer from oozing filament all over your 3D print as it moves around, your extruder will retract filament to relieve pressure and minimize stringing and spider-webbing. We have another video that goes more in-depth to dialing in retraction settings. But a good place to start would be bumping up your retract length 0.25mm or increasing your retraction speed by 10mm/s and see if that improves things.
I hope that gives you a better idea of the most significant settings at your disposal. There’s too many to go over entirely in one video, but if you hover over your settings, you can also see tooltips pop up, which will give you a specific description of each setting and feature. You can also check out the help page in the top left for some walkthroughs, or you can contact our support team at email@example.com or give them a call at (949) - 613 - 5838 for some live help with your specific issue.
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