How to Insert a Z Pause in a Stratasys Printer

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How do I use a Stratasys printer with multiple materials? Multiple colors? How do I add metal inserts in my 3D printed part?

This tutorial explains how to use Stratasys software to insert pauses (Z-pause) during an FDM print job, to change materials, colors or to add metal inserts. Go to Step 1 for some documentation and examples of parts printed with Z Pause.

  1. Step 1: What is a Z Pause?

    Z Pause is a feature in Stratasys FDM printers that automatically pauses the print job at pre-decided layers/slices. There are 2 reasons to pause an FDM print job : to change material/color or to add metal inserts.

    Examples of parts printed with multiple colors (all ASA) are shown below. Printing with different materials types is usually not advised since a number of warnings need to be ignored and the print heads could wear faster.

    Many users also pause prints to place or insert bolts, bearings, and other metal inserts. The print job would then resume on top of the inserts. A great example of 3D printed part with metal inserts : Fidget Spinners!

    However, this can be tricky and needs pre-processing in Insight to remove support tool-paths in the region of the metal inserts. It is beyond the scope of this tutorial.

    To download similar files/parts for printing, go to grabcad.com or thingiverse.com.

  2. Step 2: Pick a Stratasys Software

    This tutorial tells the user how to insert Z pauses in the following Stratasys software:

    Catalyst (Go to Step 3) - you will need to obtain the installation from Stratasys.

    GrabCAD Print (Go to Step 7)

    Insight (Go to Step 11)

    For the purpose of this tutorial, I am using the Stratasys F370 printer. This feature can be used in all Dimension, uPrint and Fortus printers. Catalyst only works for Dimension and uPrints, while Insight works for the Fortus printers. GrabCAD Print works for all Stratasys FDM printers.

    Makerbot printers can also be paused in a similar fashion. For more information, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-fVOgKWnGc and http://www.techknight.com/blog/2014/6/17/practical-use-of-makerbot-z-height-pause

  3. Step 3: Getting Started With Catalyst Ex

    For the purpose of this tutorial, I am using version 4.5.

    After launching, go to File - Open STL. (Catalyst only supports STLs and CMBs).

    Select Manage 3D printers to add a printer from Network or manually. This will help prepare the part for these printers.

    Select the desired properties.

    Refer to the picture below for the above steps.

  4. Step 4: Orientation Tab

    Select the orientation tab as shown below.

    Then select the 'Process STL' button at the right bottom of the screen above to see the slice data and Layer view panel in the right.


  5. Step 5: Insert Pauses

    In the layer view settings on the right of the screen, Select the 'Go To' option. This will allow you to select a layer. The 'Step Up' and 'Step Down' allow you to go to the next or previous slices.

    Select the 'Insert Pause' button at a desired layer. This will automatically pause the printer at the start of that layer, before any material is deposited. This can be repeated for any number of slices. The 'Clear All Pauses' removes all the inserted pauses.

    Once you are done, select the 'All' button to view all the slices. The layers with Z Pauses are shown in white.

  6. Step 6: Print Your Part

    Once you have inserted all the desired pauses and are ready for your print, click the 'Add to Pack' and 'Print' buttons at the right bottom of your screen.

    Catalyst also auto-saves a .cmb archive to your disk. You can also send this file elsewhere to be printed. All the Z pause related information is contained in the CMB file.

  7. Step 7: Download and Install GrabCAD Print

    To download GrabCAD Print, go to print.grabcad.com. Click the download button and complete the installation process.

    Once complete, launch GrabCAD Print.


  8. Step 8: Getting Started With GrabCAD Print

    If you haven't used GrabCAD Print before, once GrabCAD Print is launched, select the Printer list panel at the right bottom of the screen. Here, click 'Add a Printer'. This allows you to add your desired printer (a network printer or a template printer).

    Once the printer is selected, add a CAD model by clicking the 'Add Models' button in the left panel.

    Finally, click the Slice Preview button in the right panel to slice the added model.


  9. Step 9: Insert Pauses in Slice Preview

    Once the slicing is complete and the graphics are generated, the Slice Preview panel opens.

    The Add Z Pause button adds a pause at the start of the selected layer (Layer 9 / 26 here).

    The Z Pause highlight section shows a list of all the layers with Z Pauses. The slices with Z Pauses are highlighted in light blue.


  10. Step 10: Print Your Part

    Once you have inserted all the desired pauses and ready for your print. Click the blue 'Print' button at the right bottom of your screen to print to the selected printer.

    GrabCAD Print can also import CMB files that have been created in Catalyst, Insight, or by other GrabCAD Print users.

    These CMBs may contain Z Pauses, and can be viewed in the slice preview as shown in Step 9, before Printing.

  11. Step 11: Launch Insight Using GrabCAD Print

    Insight can be launched from the apps menu of GrabCAD Print as shown below. To Download and Install GrabCAD Print, go to Step 7.



  12. Step 12: Getting Started With Insight

    Once launched, click File - Open to insert an STL file.

    The printer icon on the right allows you to prepare your file for a desired printer.

    Once the printer has been selected, select the Green Flag to slice the model and create associated files on disk.

  13. Step 13: Insert Pauses

    Go to Toolpaths. Insert pause to open the Insert Pause panel.

    Once the panel is open, select the icon with 6 horizontal lines as shown above. This displays all the slices.

    Now, follow the instructions on the Insert Pause panel. Use the mouse cursor to select the layers in the STL file. The 'Selection Tools' section allows for more selection options.

    Once all the desired layers are selected and displayed in white (similar to Catalyst), click OK to commit the changes.





  14. Step 14: Export and Print Your Part

    Since Insight doesn't directly communicate with the Printers, you have to export the CMB with the pauses.

    Go to File - Save As - Toolpath to save your cmb file. It will be saved as a zipped file.

    Go to Step 10 to import your CMB in GrabCAD Print and Print your part.


  15. Step 15: Show Off Your Cool Parts!



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