Today I’m going to talk about an experimental way of printing that unleashes the true potential of 3D printing. I guess you all heard of non-planar 3D printing.
What is non planar 3D printing?
Essentially non-planar 3d printing makes your printer move on all 3 axes at the time. When it reaches the concave area the printer will go up and down on the y-axis, following the curve, and it will also move the x and y-axis to create a curved surface, as opposed to using discrete layers in the z-axis. Non-planar 3D printing was developed to improve the printing of curved objects such as wings for plane models, concave objects, and many other applications.
3D printing non planar layers
In other words, the slicer will simply create the skeleton of the object taking count of the final layers and when it reaches the final layers the printer will create a shell on the outer side of the object like this:
These layers have 2 simple benefits:
- When tuned right, the outer layers will have a more smooth surface and increased aerodynamics.
- Those outer layers increase the resistance of the pieces as it binds all the layers with the outer shell.
Non-planar 3D printing slicer
There is only one Slicer that allows us this kind of slicing and we’re talking about Slic3r.
This version is an open-source, modified release of Slic3r that includes a method for non-planar slicing. This feature can be used to generate g-code for nonplanar printing on any printer. Slic3r was born in 2011 within the RepRap community and thanks to its high configurability became the swiss-army knife for 3D printing. The general idea of this version is to remove the stair-stepping effect on surfaces that are close to horizontal by printing these areas with nonplanar layers. With this approach, the printable areas are detected automatically and checked for possible collisions while printing. The area below the nonplanar surfaces is printed with a regular planar structure. The modified Slic3r then generates a nonplanar toolpath on top of the regular layers. This technique leads to much smoother surfaces due to the missing stair-stepping effect.
Non planar Slic3r installation
You can find the project on Github here. You could follow the installation guide by yourself, but for your luck, I’ve made an installation file that you just need to run it to download and compile the project easily. The downside is that it works only on Linux, I’ve tried to compile it for Windows but the process is too long and complicated. In my opinion is much easier to use a virtual machine to do all the steps and to spare some time. If you already have Linux skip to this part and download the shell script and follow the guide from here!
If you use Windows or Mac OS x follow from here
Download and Install VirtualBox + Ubuntu
Go to the official website and download the latest version of VirtualBox, after that go ahead and install it. Next, download the latest version of Ubuntu here. Now we can proceed with our tutorial. Open VirtualBox and click on the new button and proceed to set the correct settings. You need to set a name for your machine, a machine folder (we will leave the default value). The most important part is the type and the version. We will set Linux as the type and Ubuntu(64-bit) as the version.
After this part just leave everything as default and click next then the create button. Once you’ve created your new virtual machine select it and click the settings button. In the settings menu, we have to set up a feature so we can easily drag and drop files from the virtual machine to our computer and vice-versa, also in this way we can copy/paste files which is very important. To do this go to General settings: Advanced. Inside you will find these 2 settings: Shared clipboard Drag’n’drop. We need to set the value for both to Bidirectional so it works in both ways.
If we want this virtual machine to properly work, I strongly suggest that you go to the System settings and Display settings and try to increase the resources that the machine will use so that the performance increases. It is pretty important because Slic3r needs a little bit of “power” to work properly.
The next important part is providing the Ubuntu .iso file to the software. Go to the Storage settings and under Controller: IDE click on the empty option. After that click on the little CD icon and select Choose a disk file…, navigate to your Download folder and select the Ubuntu .iso file. Press ok and we are done! Start your new virtual machine and follow the installation process, it is pretty easy and you don’t have to change anything. Once you’ve successfully installed Ubuntu restart the virtual machine.
Run script file to install Slic3r easily
Now that our virtual machine is ready it’s time for the easy part. Go to the download page of the script file that I’ve prepared, essentially is a file with all the required commands to:
- 1.Download the needed packages.
- 2.Download the Github repository.
- 3.Make the build and the compilation of the files.
Drag and drop the file to your Linux machine and save it preferably on the desktop. Open a terminal session (you can do this by clicking on the square dots in the lower-left corner and search for Terminal) and type:
This is for logging in as root user .This is needed as we have to give permissions to our script file.After that type:
Replace the username with your ubuntu username. Once you are inside the desktop, type ls and press enter, and look if the .sh file is there. If it’s there we need to give permission to the file in order to let it install Slic3r. We can accomplish this by typing this command:
chmod +rx namefile(installSlic3rnonPlanar.sh)
This sets the required permissions
After we gave permission to the script file we just need to type:
Once the installation starts, take a break because you deserve it, and also the installation takes a while. Once it’s done try to check between the red text if there are any errors, you will see lots of warnings but ignore them, check only for errors. If everything is ok then we can start slicer and do some non-planar slicing. You need to type ls and see if there any Slic3r folder if there is any go inside it and start the application this way:
cd Slic3r. //navigate into the folder perl slic3r.pl //starts the application
Once Slic3r starts, you have to configure it with your printer settings, the process is straight-forward and after that, we will go through the specific nonplanar settings:
3D printing non planar slicing
There are 2 important settings in non planar slicing:
Maximum non planar angle / Maximum non planar height
These 2 parameters come together ,the concept is very simple but I will use an image to make it clear.
Basically, the slicer needs to know how much maneuvering space has around the nozzle so it doesn’t collide with the fans or other hotend parts. It does this by making this simple calculation, you need to know how much the nozzle protrudes from the hotend and what is the angle from the tip to the nearest colliding point. This scenario in the photo is ideal but that means eliminating the fans or having a much cleaner build around the nozzle. Nowadays they sell special long nozzles that help with this kind of problem.
Go ahead and see how much space you have and insert the values in the slicer.
Check if everything is set up correctly and tune the settings as your machine requires, do a couple of test prints, and see if you’re satisfied with the standard type of printing.
Non planar 3d printing test
After you have properly configured Slic3r open the test model I’ve put in the .zip download file and try to slice it.If you don’t see any non-planar layers try to exit Slic3r and open it again. It doesn’t work always and sometimes I need to restart Slic3r or to delete the model from the plate and reimport it. If you see errors in the slicing process, try doing this. Another useful tip is to try to force the slicer by putting 45°C as the angle and 20mm as the height in this way you just kind of force it.
In the end you should have an preview like this:
The final model didn’t come out perfectly there is lots of tweaking to do, but it’s a start and I’m sure that with some more calibrations the results can get much better. As for the nonplanar layer, they are much much better than the standard layers, there is less stepping, and the look is better, too bad for the outer borders.
I hope you didn’t find this tutorial too hard, and that you succeeded in configuring Slic3r . As you can see, this process is not 100% refined, and there is lots of work. But the potential of this way of slicing is incredible, and I hope more and more people will start working on this kind of printing.
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