Fused Deposition Molding or FDM technology is one of the most popular 3D printing techniques.
It uses thermoplastic materials that melt and solidify. The properties of printed objects depend on many variables such as the material (filament), nozzle diameter, nozzle temperature, print speed, ambient temperature, etc.
Filaments used for 3D printing have different chemical compositions, and therefore different temperature requirements.
Sub-optimal nozzle and hotbed temperature settings affect the filament, and therefore the quality and appearance of 3D prints:
- If the temperature is set to a value that is below the filament melting temperature, the filament will not melt properly, leading to under-extrusion as the filament will not be pushed out properly.
- If the temperature is set to a high value, too much filament will extrude from the nozzle, leading to problems such as oozing and stringing.
- If the temperature is set to a value that is too high, the filament will burn up inside the hotend.
Even when manufacturers usually provide a range of temperatures, they don’t provide information about the optimal temperature for each filament.
Therefore, taking the time to learn about the best temperature setting for each filament you use can help you print strong and aesthetically pleasing 3D prints.
And this is where a temperature tower can help you.
There are different 3D printing calibration tests that focus on different aspects of 3D printing.
E.g. the 3D Benchy focuses on small details and dimensional accuracy, and the XYZ calibration test focuses on dimensional accuracy for the X, Y, and Z axes respectively.
In this article, we will look at another important calibration test, the temperature tower, that focuses on nozzle temperature, and show how you can print the temp tower in Cura and analyze the print results.
What is the Temperature Tower of Cura?
Cura is the most widely used free, easy-to-use slicing software for popular 3D printers, such as the Ender 3 series from Creality.
A temperature tower, or “temp tower”, is a calibration test that you can use to optimize the nozzle (hotend) and hotbed temperature for your 3D printer. The temperature tower is a model with a base and multiple blocks or sections. Each block on the tower is printed at a different nozzle temperature.
The usual practice is to print the block next to the base at the highest temperature that you want to use for the test and reduce the nozzle temperature by 5 °C for each successive block.
So if you set the slicing software to print the first block at 230°C, the next block would print at 225 °C, and so on.
Usually there are no limitations how many blocks you can print with the temperature tower.
Once you print a complete temperature tower, you can analyze the print results and decide upon the nozzle temperature setting that is optimal for the filament you want to use.
Now let’s go ahead and look at how you can use Cura to print a temperature tower.
How To 3D Print Temperature Tower Test in Cura
As already mentioned, Cura is very easy to install and use. So let’s start with this step-by-step guide to learn how to print your first temperature tower.
Temperature Tower Model
You can use different ways to find models of temperature tower.
The 3 most common are:
1. Cura marketplace (recommended)
Cura marketplace offers you some great free plugins and temperature tower is one of them. I am using the one called “Auto towers generator”. It comes with many other helpful models for configuration and so you don’t need to search and upload them always.
Here is where to find it:
Once you you have found it, simply install it and than it will be visible under “Extension” – “”Auto towers”.
You can also find a model template on sites like thingiverse.com. There are many useful models to download and you’ll find additional helpful information in the model description.
3. Design your own
Yes, you can also design your own if you are familiar with 3D software. This option will give you more freedom, as you can design and adjust the tower to your need.
To design your own tower, you can use free 3D modeling software like TinkerCAD, which is very easy to learn.
The following is a list of settings that you need to make in Cura to print the temperature tower:
This is the temperature setting for the first block of the temperature tower.
The value you set for the print temperature depends on the filament that you use.
Each filament has a distinct glass transition temperature, which is the temperature at which the solid filament turns into a substance that your printer can extrude. The correct print temperature setting will ensure that the hot end of your printer heats the filament properly as it pushes it through the nozzle.
If you are using PLA, for example, and your printer has a heated bed, set the bed temperature to 60 °C and the nozzle temperature to 210 °C.
This setting controls the motors that move the printhead on your 3D printer.
Slow print speeds produce high-quality prints, but take a longer time to finish. High print speeds, on the other hand, take less time to finish but produce lower-quality prints with lower accuracy and weaker parts.
Cura uses the print speed setting to determine the amount of filament the 3D printer will need to extrude to maintain the required print speed. For a medium-quality print, you can set the print speed to 50 mm/s.
3D-printed objects are not fully solid structures. They have an external region that is visible, and an infill pattern that is not visible.
The infill helps to save material and reduce printing time. You can vary the design and density of the infill pattern.
The Grid infill pattern on Cura creates a grid on every layer of the 3D print. To start, you can use Cura’s grid at 20% which will provide moderate strength for your temperature tower.
This setting corresponds to the height of each successive filament layer that your printer extrudes.
Layer height affects the overall print speed and quality. A general practice is to use a layer height equal to half the nozzle diameter.
Since most popular printers, such as the Ender 3, come with a 0.4 mm nozzle, you can set the layer height to 0.2 mm.
These settings control the overall behavior of the 3D printer. Now we will look at settings that modify the nozzle temperature for each block on the temp tower.
The G-code is a programming language that controls machines connected to computers. To make temperature changes for each block, you need to modify the G-code:
- On Cura, go to the “Extensions” menu
- Select “Post Processing”
- Select “Modify G-code”
- Click on “Add a script”
- From the sub-options, select “ChangeAtZ”. This is where you configure the slicing software to make changes based on the z-axis height or number of layers.
- Set “Trigger” to “Height”
- From the options on the right choose ‘Change Height’ as ‘5.0’ mm
- Enable “Change Extruder 1 Temp”
- Enter the desired temperature value for “Extruder 1 Temp”
- Repeat steps 4 – 9 to add as many scripts as the number of test blocks that you want to print. For each additional script
- Increment “Changing Height” by 5 mm
- Decrement “Extruder 1 Temp” by 5 °C.
Once the configurations are complete, you can print the temperature tower.
Checklist To Understand Temperature Tower Results
After the temperature tower is completely printed, you can inspect it to decide the best nozzle temperature for your filament.
A simple visual inspection will give you a good overall picture of how different nozzle temperatures affect 3D print quality and appearance.
Based on which part of the tower has achieved the highest print quality, you can decide on the temperature of your next prints.
Layer Adhesion Inspection
Layer adhesion gives an insight into the print quality and model strength.
If the filament melts properly, successive layers will adhere better and there won’t be any gaps between layers. As a result, the model will be strong and will have a good visual (smooth) appearance.
To test the adhesions of the layers, try to use any tool to separate the layers.
The most together glued layers with the best visual appearance are your favorites.
This is a very important evaluation criterion if you plan to print highly detailed objects, such as miniatures or faces.
The block with ideal temperature will have a nice smooth surface, sharp edges, and nice visible details.
On the other hand, the blocks with low temperatures will have a small unsmooth surface with little pieces of filament.
Stringing occurs when small strings of plastic are left behind on a printed model. This is due to plastic oozing out of the nozzle while the extruder moves to a new location.
Stringing can vary in appearance but often looks like fine filament hairs between two points that would not be connected under normal circumstances.
Generally known, stringing is not a signal of bad quality printing. Anyway, this is a signal where you need to adjust your temperature. Same as with
Cura Temperature Tower Not Changing Temp?
Upon inspection, if you find that the different test blocks on your temperature tower appear the same, it could be due to a configuration issue that led to the printer using the same temperature to print each block.
To solve this problem, the first thing that you can do is recheck Cura configuration settings.
If you recheck the Cura configuration and find that it is set up correctly, the next step is to try changing the “Trigger” to “Layers”, and increment the layer number by an amount that corresponds to the layer height. For example, if you are using 0.2 mm layer height, you can increment the layer number by 25 for each successive block on the temperature tower.
Knowing how to calibrate your 3D printer is essential if you want strong and high-quality 3D prints.
Printing a temperature tower with Cura is easy: you can set up the software in a few minutes and start printing. Once your temperature tower is ready, you can inspect it and select the temperature that gives the best results.
Cura is just awesome free slicing software that many 3D printing enthusiasts are using. You can also learn another great feature like “Pause at Height” in our last article.
Hope this article will help you find out the right temperature settings for your prints. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.