For 3D printers, cooling settings affect the blow rate of the fan mounted at the head of the print nozzle. Interestingly, this fan actually blows cold air onto the plastic at the mouth of the nozzle, not at the metal of the nozzle itself.

Occasionally, you will see cooling implemented for bridging techniques, but with PLA filament, fan rates are normally set to 100% with no adjustments necessary.

When you move from PLA to ABS or PC, you will need to adjust cooling settings more often as these plastics tend to warp and curl a lot more in comparison. In general, you will use little to no fan for non-chambered printers. As an exception, Vision Miner uses around 30% cooling due to the heated chamber of the Funmat HT. In heated chambers, fans are blowing warm air rather than ambient cold air onto the newly-extruded plastic.

Beyond ABS and PC, materials such as PEEK and PEI require zero cooling even in warm chambers due to how temperamental these plastics can be for printing.

For most slicers, beginners can stick to the automatic settings. For intermediate users, slicers such as Simplify3D let you adjust cooling rates dynamically during the printing process. For example, let’s say you are printing two pyramids which merge at a common point. As the printer gets to the top of the pyramids, the hot nozzle spends more time printing on smaller and smaller areas. As a result, the heat of the nozzle can eventually heat plastic already laid down onto the part. In this instance, you would want to increase cooling near the top of the print to avoid melting your part.

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