Cura Tree Support: Everything You Need to Know

Mario De Lio

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A 3d printed model of baby yoda printed with cura tree support

Key Takeaways

Cura’s tree support generates tree-like structures to support overhangs.

Tree supports use less filament and print faster than traditional supports.

The only downside is that they take longer to slice.

Cura Tree Supports are a remarkable support structure in Ultimaker’s Cura slicing software.

Tree supports use a tree-like design with a singular base extending into branching limbs. They provide the benefit of having less contact with the print, so they are easier to remove and produce cleaner models.

To utilize Cura Tree Supports in your 3D printing projects, familiarize yourself with their settings and options. This will enable you to optimize the support generation process, leading to enhanced print quality, reduced support removal time, and improved overall 3D printing experience.

What Are Cura Tree Supports?

A 3d printed model of baby yoda printed with cura tree support

Cura tree supports have a trunk and branch-like structure that supports the overhangs of your 3D prints.

Unlike regular supports, which are individual columns connecting the model to the build plate, tree supports imitate the shape of a tree. Tree supports branch out from a singular point and extends to the model, making contact only where support is required, such as overhangs.

The branching design allows for better coverage of overhangs and other areas that need support while minimizing contact points with the model. Using tree supports results in smoother surfaces and fewer post-printing cleanup tasks compared to regular supports.

In 3D printing, supports provide a stable surface for overhanging features and angles of 60 degrees or more. Without support, the melted filament would fall into the empty space beneath the print head.

Traditional supports create “pillars” that extend vertically and support your model.

With traditional supports, the support structures are often generated on the outward portion of the model.

You don’t have that problem with tree supports.

That’s because the trunk of the support doesn’t touch the model. The branches extend from the trunk and only touch the model where support is needed. 

The left model uses cura tree supports while the right model uses standard support settings
In the photo above, you can see the difference between regular tree supports. If you look closely, the model on the right has supports stretching along the exterior surface of the model. The supports will be more difficult to remove and ruin details in the print. The model on the left doesn’t have these issues because it uses tree supports.

Additionally, tree supports are hollow. Their hollow structure means they use less material and print faster than standard supports.

You can also print tree supports with a low infill density if you require extra support.

The only downside to using tree supports is that they take longer to slice. But the quicker print times are more than enough to make up the difference.

Pros

  • Less Filament: Tree supports require less material than regular supports, making them a more economical option for complex prints.
  • Easier Removal: The design of tree supports allows them to be easily detached from the print once it’s finished, often leaving fewer marks on the model’s surface.
  • Cleaner Surface Finishes: The branching structure of tree supports has fewer contact points with your model, making it easier to remove 3D support structures and get cleaner models.
  • Quicker Print Times: Tree supports use less material and have a lower surface area than normal supports, making them faster to print.

Cons

  • Slicing Time: Generating tree supports in Cura can increase the slicing time.

Optimal Tree Support Settings in Cura

A screenshot of a sliced model the preview tab in Cura with tree supports

You’ll notice that tree supports have different settings compared to normal support in Ultimaker Cura.

Here are the optimal tree support settings in Cura:

  • Branch Angle is the angle that the branches diverge from the trunk of the support structure. Lower values create steeper branches, while higher values give your branch more reach. A value of 40 to 45 degrees is best.
  • Branch Distance is the distance between branches at the point that they touch the model. Lower values bring the branches closer together, which provides more support but makes support removal more difficult. The default value of 1 mm is best for most support systems.
  • Branch Diameter is the thickness of the branch. Thicker branches are sturdier but use more filament and make for difficult removal. A thickness of 2 to 3 mm is sufficient.
  • Branch Diameter Angle controls how fast the branches taper as they extend away from the trunk. A setting of 0° means the branches will maintain a constant diameter. A setting of 0° and 3° is best for most applications, while 3° to 5° should be used for overhangs that require additional support. Increasing the branch diameter angle gives the branch a wider base, increasing stability. 
  • Collision Resolution calculates where branches are likely to collide. Lower settings generate more accurate tree supports with lower failure rates but with longer slicing times. The default setting of 0.2 mm works well in our experience.

Your optimal settings may vary depending on your specific 3D printer and model requirements. Don’t hesitate to experiment with these values, observing how your supports perform during printing to achieve the best balance between support efficiency and ease of removal.

When To Use Tree Supports

Tree supports printed used during a print for a bust of the statue of david with white pla

Tree supports are particularly useful when dealing with complex 3D models with intricate overhangs and cantilevered sections.

Tree supports provide a more efficient and versatile support structure while minimizing the contact points with the model and saving printing time and material.

It’s generally recommended to use tree supports when printing models with complex geometries. Due to their more flexible design, tree supports can better adapt to small, intricate models.

The only time we wouldn’t recommend using tree supports is for very large, flat-surfaced models with large overhangs, such as a helmet. Because tree supports don’t have a “roof, they don’t provide the required support for such a large, heavy print.

Article by

Mario De Lio

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