Ultimaker Cura has 3 stages: Prepare, Preview, and Monitor. After installing the SmartSlice plugin, a new stage is added called SmartSlice.
The SmartSlice stage in Cura
To enter the SmartSlice stage, an STL part must be loaded on the build plate in the Prepare stage. Once in the SmartSlice stage, the build plate is hidden to allow for easier surface selection and the toolbar on the left edge of the window will be updated with tools ("A" in the image below) that are unique to SmartSlice. These tools allow you to define the use case and the requirements. There is also a "?" button for quick access to your account and online documentation. The color of the Validate button ("B" in the image) indicates if the model is ready to be Validated. If the button is yellow, it means there are items that need to be resolved. Hovering over the button will reveal a list of items that need attention. Once all items are taken care of, the button changes to blue which means you may proceed with a Validation. Typical solutions times for a Validation range from seconds to a few minutes.
After a Validate operation is complete, the results that are computed by SmartSlice are compared to the requirements defined by the user (the "Target") as shown in the example below. If a computed result does not satisfy the target, then the value is colored red. If a computed result exceeds the target, it is colored yellow to indicate that there is a potential opportunity to adjust the settings and find a configuration that uses less material but still meets the requirements. Click here to learn more about interpreting results.
At this point, you can decide to (a) manually adjust print settings and continue running Validate operations or (b) run an Optimization and let Smart Slice automatically determine the print settings. Click here learn about the differences between Validate and Optimize. Optimizations require significantly more time to complete than Validations because many solutions are being computed instead of just a single solution. Typical run times for an Optimization are between 20 minutes and 1 hour.
After an Optimize operation is complete, a table appears in the window that contains a list of print setting configurations that meet your requirements. By default, the list is ranked by Print Time and it can be sorted by Mass, Factor of Safety, and Max Displacement. To preview a given configuration, click on the view icon in the table then click the Preview button to slice the part. If the configuration contains modifier meshes, the print settings for those regions can be viewed as explained here.
Saving SmartSlice setup and results
The data in the SmartSlice environment is stored anytime a Cura Project is saved (File > Save). Additionally, you will be prompted to save anytime SmartSlice data exists and you attempt to close Cura using the exit button.