First of all, what is slicing?
Slicing in our context of 3D printing is where the program takes a 3D model you give it and “slices” it into layers that can be printed. This is where support material, infill and perimeters are generated .
3D printing has two fronts you need to work with to get anything done. The hardware of the printer and filament and the software of slicing parts and generating tool paths, this post will be covering the slicer, there is no better time for this with the release of version 2.3.
This is going to be a basic overview of the software. By the end of the post, you will be able to slice parts and export the Gcode.
Just so you know, you don’t need a Prusa printer to use this slicer, there are loads of common printers with premade profiles and you can make your own profiles from scratch. My examples are using a MK3S (overview here) with MMU2S (review here).
For any examples, I will be using the 3D Benchy 3D printing torture test. Get your own from here.
The first part of the slicer worth touching on is the user mode, PrusaSlicer gives you three options. Simple, Advanced, and Expert. Each mode gives you more options to work with. The simple mode is good for teaching the software as it hides most of the complex options. I personally use the Expert mode but this will all apply to any user mode.
We need to add a part into the plater to do anything. Click the left button from the top UI to open your browser and select 3D models to import. 3D models are most often in .stl, .obj or .3mf file extensions but there are more obscure ones that will work.
The Plater is the next step. This is where you will spend most of your time using the slicer. I’m not going to detail every single button; I recommend clicking everything. You can hover over a button where it gives you a name and a hotkey.
On the right side of the plater is the primary print settings. This is where you can select layer height, filament types, printer, supports, infill, and brim. Advanced and expert modes also have access to the part directory that shows a list of all the parts loaded in the plater.
Be 100% sure that the material you have selected is correct. The printer cannot tell the difference.
The filament selection and directory has some parts unique to MMU users. Single tool printers will only be able to choose one filament and cannot select extruder from the directory.
When an object is selected, the right side of the screen will show object details, you can edit these manually or use the tools in the plater window. The amount of information is reduced with simpler user modes.
That is everything on the plater window covered. Now we will move onto the preview window.
There are two ways to slice your part when you are ready. Either click the preview button in the bottom left or the “Slice now” button in the bottom right
Once the slicing has finished, you will be in the preview window. This is where you can look at the part as it would be printed. The right-side menu is unchanged but there are some new sliders and a legend.
The legend gives you lots of information as well as a colour breakdown of each feature of your print. Our Benchy is safe to print as is. If you see a dark blue in the legend listed as overhanging perimeters, I recommend adding supports.
One of the best ways of interrogating the tool path is by using the two sliders at the right and bottom of the preview. The vertical slider allows you to scroll through the layers with the horizontal slider scrolling back through the tool path for that layer.
When we are happy with the preview, we can export the Gcode.
Gcode is the file generated by the slicer. This file contains all the instructions for the printer to make the part.
PrusaSlicer recognises when you plug in the SD card and gives you a little button next to export. This button will open the browser straight into the card instead of somewhere else on your PC.
When exporting, always wait for the bottom left to say is has been successfully exported. Removing the SD card early will corrupt the file and make it unreadable for the printer.
All exports are given a naming convention telling you the name, layer height, material, printer, and estimated time.
Now we are ready to take the SD card to the printer and start the print.
And that’s it. The process of taking a 3D model, slicing, and exporting. I have not touched any of the powerful utility here. The best way to learn about the tools is to load in your own Benchy and test.