Cura S series

Powerful new plugins and super print speeds with the UltiMaker Cura 5.5 beta

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Arun Chapman

October 10, 2023

With the latest release of UltiMaker Cura, users can look forward to easier organization of models on the virtual build plate, exciting new plugin capabilities, and huge speed improvements for UltiMaker S series printers!

Double your 3D printing productivity on UltiMaker S series printers

At UltiMaker, we are constantly trying to improve the machines we make. Not just our latest printers, but also the ones already in the hands of our users. This Cura release has enabled us to double the 3D printing productivity for everyone using our S series printers. with UltiMaker materials.

Why do we say productivity instead of speed? The reason is that saying our printers are now faster is selling short what this update achieves. Printing parts faster is relatively easy, but doing so without reducing print quality or increasing failure rates is much harder. With this update, we have managed to do just that. Prints can now be completed in up to half the time, without any reduction in reliability or quality.

As an example, in Cura version 5.4, this part printed in PETG on an S5 using an AA 0.4 mm print core would have taken 2 days and 35 minutes to print:

Cura 5.4 speed example

But in Cura 5.5 it will take just 1 day 7 hours and 19 minutes using the same material, extruder, and printer:

Cura 5.5 print times (updated)

In the past, when we have made improvements like this, it’s often been because we have tested and tweaked our print profiles over and over again to find the absolute best combination of settings. We have done that here too, but we have also introduced new features that help push our printers to their limit. Some of the more notable ones are:

Optimized print speeds for different line types

Outer walls, inner walls, and supports are all printed at different speeds. We have optimized the print speed for these and other line types, while also adjusting the acceleration and deceleration behavior when moving between line types. As a result, we are now able to print internal structures faster without reducing the visual quality or mechanical properties of your part.

Smooth internal wall pathing

Previously the inside of walls was printed using a diagonal pattern that resulted in the print head performing a jittery zig-zag motion during printing. This has been changed so that the inside of walls now print using long smooth lines which enables the print head to reach higher speeds.

Prevent infill crossing close to walls

Tweaks have been made so that infill no longer overlaps near to external walls. Overlapping infill near walls can cause artifacts on the surface of your print, this change prevents those artifacts and also reduces print head travel, increasing print speeds.

These are just some of the improvements that were made to speed up our printers in this release. For the full list, check out the release notes on GitHub. Speed gains will vary significantly depending on which material, nozzle size, or model you are using. The biggest improvements can be seen when printing large models and when printing multiple models at the same time.

AA 0.8 mm print cores get intent profiles as well as speed and quality improvements

The AA 0.8 mm print profiles for UltiMaker PLA and Tough PLA have been optimized for both speed and print quality, as well as gaining access to recommended intent profiles.

Cura intent profiles

One of the easiest ways to print more parts in less time on an UltiMaker printer has always been to use a larger nozzle size. 0.4 mm nozzles have become somewhat of an industry standard and as a result, our 0.4 mm print cores have long been our most popular. However, we also offer 0.8 mm print cores, and for many users, these would be a better choice.

As mentioned, moving to a larger nozzle size means much faster print speeds, with the tradeoff that your parts will have more prominent layer lines and, therefore, may not look as nice. However, all the way back at the release of Cura 5.0, a new slicing engine was released that enabled variable line width. This resulted in improved print quality when printing thin walls and fine details. What many people may not have realized, is that it’s also now possible to print using a 0.8 mm print core while still getting great print quality. If you're looking for the absolute best print quality then a 0.4 mm print core is still your best choice but if speed is a priority then a 0.8 mm print core is the better tool.

Our new 0.8 mm print profiles will make this easier than ever, allowing you to select the profile that matches your requirements (Visual, Engineering, or Draft) and then print with the confidence that you are using reliable print profiles that have been professionally tuned for your needs. Better yet, with the combined effect of moving from a 0.4 mm to a 0.8 mm print core and the other speed improvements in this release, you will find that it’s possible to print huge parts in less than half the time!

Powerful new engine plugins

This release sees a huge new addition to Cura which will fuel improvements for years to come: engine plugins with powerful new capabilities!

Since 2015, Cura has allowed members of the community to create plugins that add new functionality to Cura or augment existing functionality. Over the years we improved our plugin system to make it easier to create and share plugins. Today you can find and download dozens of plugins through the UltiMaker Marketplace and many people have, with some of our most popular plugins being downloaded millions of times!

Examples of popular plugins include the Settings Guide plugin which adds additional context to the over 600 settings in Cura, and the OctoPrint Connection plugin which lets you use the popular OctoPrint web interface for remote printing and monitoring.

Up until now, the functionality of plugins has been limited to manipulating your parts before slicing and UI tweaks. Everything that happens after you start slicing your part could not be modified. In other words, if Cura was a car, plugins would allow users to modify the paint scheme, change the rims on the tires, and maybe even swap out the seats for something more fancy. But everything under the hood was off-limits. You could make the car look better, even feel better, but it would still drive the same.

With the new plugin capabilities in this release, that has all changed. It is now possible to fundamentally modify how Cura works by interfacing with the slicing engine at the heart of Cura. This allows plugins to add new settings, modify existing settings, and change how Cura behaves when slicing a model. The result is more powerful plugins with a much wider range of capabilities. Some examples of the kind of functionality that users could add with these new plugins include:

  • Paint on supports: By combining the new and existing plugin capabilities, it would be possible to create a plugin that allows you to manually tag areas as requiring supports.
  • Version number in print: It’s possible to create a plugin that modifies the skin area on layer 0 to have a version number or any other custom text that will appear on the bottom of the model when printed
  • Texture You can use a plugin to give your model a custom texture embossed on the surface.

These are just some of the countless possibilities that are unlocked with engine plugins. As has always been the case, plugins still need to be approved before they are added to the Marketplace so it is unlikely that a plugin will be dangerous but it is important to be mindful that the expected behavior of Cura may change drastically when installing engine plugins.

Duplicate and organize models on your build plate more easily

Cura 5.5 grid feature

Two new improvements have been added that make it easier than ever to fill up your build plate with models and organize them effectively.

The first is that you can now duplicate your models using the same copy-and-paste shortcuts you would when duplicating text. Just select the model you want to copy and press Ctrl+C, then Ctrl+V (Command+C and Command+V on Mac) as many times as you want to spawn additional copies of your model. Each additional instance of your model will be placed on your build plate as if it were a new model being loaded into Cura with the added benefit that any changes made to your original part, such as it being resized, will also be reflected in all duplicate models. Right-clicking your part will also bring up the copy/paste shortcuts in the context menu.

The second change is that you can now organize multiple models on the build plate using a grid formation. When multiplying your part or when using the new copy/paste function, parts will now be placed in a grid pattern. There is also a new option in the context menu (or when pressing Ctrl+Shift+R) that will arrange all instances of your model into a grid pattern.

These two features combined make it much easier to fill your build plate with prints and keep them organized when doing so!

Additional improvements

The following improvements have also been implemented in the Cura 5.5 beta release:

  • A donation button was added for users to help fund Cura’s open-source development
  • A new Apple Mac build of Cura is now available for users with ARM processors
  • Numerous bug fixes

Give us your feedback

Download this latest release to start discovering new 3D printing possibilities right now. And please, go to the UltiMaker community site to give us your feedback.