Support Structure: Cura vs PrusaSlicer

  • Post published:10 January 2021
  • Post category:article
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Which Slicer generates more optimal support structure? It is inevitable that sometimes the necessary evil in the name or support structure is needed for successful printing of 3D object. As such the right Slicer for a purpose is essential. I started using Cura as it was the recommended Slicer program to use with Ender3 v2. I use PuraSlicer to use with my Prusa i3 MK3S+. More on the overall comparison between the two popular slicing programs later. But I will go through the difference between Support Structure generated by Cura and PrusaSlicer.

Different slicing program generates different support structure

If you are just starting out like me, you would probably think that the support structures generated by different slicing programs are ‘standard’ and will be the same. But this is not the case. Different slicing program generates the structure differently and at times there are some big differences. Depending on print types, you may prefer one to the other.

Why does this matter

Support structure is that extra stuff that needs to be removed from the printouts to achieve the final product. A lot of times, there will be some scar on the printed object when the support is being removed. And at times, the parts that require support are overhanging parts that are quite fragile. So in my view there are 2 main requirements when printing support structure to ensure perfect printouts!

  1. It must be easy to remove.
  2. When removed, it should leave as little mark as possible
How did I do the comparison

I used the 2 widely-popular Slicing programs that I am already using to make the comparison: Cura and PrusaSlicer.

Next, I selected to print a human-like figurine below as I feel that this type of design is one of the hardest to print as there are many ‘hanging’ parts. So it is a good test case. For example, the outstretched arm, head, leg and clothing are hanging.

I also try to make sure that all major parameters, other that Support details, are the same:

  • Material: PLA.
  • Extruder: 200 deg C. Initial bed temp: 70 deg C. Print bed temp: 65 deg C.
  • Infil: 15%. Print Speed: 90mm/s.

Then we can examine the different options available on Cura and PrusaSlicer more objectively when generating support for the model.

Support Structure in PrusaSlicer

There are 3 options available here

  1. Support on Build Plate only
    • Support structure will only originate from the build plate to support the required parts.
    • Recommend to use this option as a start to let the slicer decides where to place the support. It is less pervasive then “Everywhere’ option so it is easier to remove.
  2. For Support Enforcer Only
    • This option is to apply support materials to selected parts only.
    • May be used if you are already familiar with the capability of your printer.
  3. Everywhere
    • Support structure can originate both from build plate and from the model itself to support other pars.
    • This is the sturdiest but also the most pervasive. So it may be more difficult to remove.
Suuport on Build Plate only (left) and Everywhere on PrusaSlicer

For comparison purpose, below is the setting that I choose to print and how the support is generated.

Support Structure in Cura
Support structure on Cura

There is a bit more option in Cura when generating support. First there’s option for:

  1. Normal
    • This setting will generate support directly below the overhanging part.
  2. Tree
    • This options will generate tree-like support and may wrap around the model. First a big ‘trunk’ will originate from the print bed and then smaller ‘branches’ will grow out from that trunk to just touch the model at the tip.
Normal structure (left) and Tree (right) on Cura

Then there is another option you need to make:

  1. Touching Buildplate
    • The support structure will only originate from the build plate and not from the model.
  2. Everywhere
    • The support structure can originate from the build plate or from the model itself.

For purpose of comparing with Prusa, I will print with below settings

Cura Support Structure settings
Let’s compare the print results

The slicing are done by Cura and PrusaSlicer. For consistency sake I will print both models with Prusa MK3+S. This is so we can be sure any difference in quality is not due to the printer.

Cura (left) v PrusaSlicer (right)
Cura (left) vs PrusaSlicer (right)

Printout sliced with PrusaSlicer has support that is more difficult to remove than the printout sliced by Cura. It cannot be seen clearly here that for model sliced by Cura, only the very tip of the support structure actually touches the actual model. But in the case of model printed by PrusaSlicer, the support structure surrounds the model quite a bit, making it harder to remove. I only attempted to remove the support structure from the model sliced by Cura and below is the final product.

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