3D Printing Software in 2021: A Comprehensive Toolbox

 3D Printing Software in 2021: A Comprehensive Toolbox

While 3D printers and filament will cost you money, the software does not. 3D printing allows you to take an image from a computer screen and set it on your workbench or kitchen table. Doing so requires a variety of software and skills. Understanding the tools available to you will help you turn your 3D vision into a physical reality faster and more easily. This is true whether you will be using the software for mechanical engineering, hobby modeling, and everything in between.

  Software Type OS Ease of Use Open-Source
Ultimaker Cura Slicer, 3D Hosting Windows, macOS, Linux Beginner No
Slic3r Slicer, Auto-Repair Windows, macOS, Linux Intermediate Yes
OctoPrint Remote Printing, 3D Hosting Windows, macOS, Linux Intermediate Yes
Meshlab Mesh Edit and Repair Windows, macOS, Linux Advanced Yes
What is the Best Free 3D Printing Software for you?
Unlike many pieces of this type by TrustRadius, this is less about finding the one software that works best for you. Some users may just want a simple 3D printing slicer. Others may need a slicing, editing, and remote printing group of tools. 

The reality of finding 3D printing tools is that the variation in your own experience and print complexity will require very different software. Those who are new to the field and creating simple models will probably want just a slicer. A slicer is software that converts a 3D model into 2D “slices”, that can then be used by a printer. Think of this as slicing a potato into very fine layers to make chips. 

Those with more complex models may require STL editors and repair functions. STL files are native to CAD software and hold the information of a 3D design. They can be less precise than OBJ files, given the difference in how triangular meshes are interpreted but are an industry standard. Slicers work pretty well, but are not perfect, particularly on complex models. Editing and repair tools allow users to fix these issues. 

Just as importantly, converting a model from something made on the PC to something in the real world is hard. Sometimes, a shape simply does not work well for a 3D printer. These are brilliant machines, but they have limitations. Editors allow users to push these limits and create more complicated, detailed models. 

In finding the right 3D printing software for you, it is vital to work within your experience level. Some will come with a steep learning curve and are suited to manufacturing and professional users. Others features a simpler, user-friendly interface and are made for turning hobbyist sculpting projects into reality.

 Below you can find the first episode in a comprehensive guide to 3D printing for beginners.

 Ultimaker Cura – Free, Simple 3D Printing Slicer
For beginners and 3D printing hobbyists, Ulitamaker Cura offers simple, effective software. This software works as a slicer, allowing you to turn the 3D objects you model or download into something readable by your printer. 

This software works on macOS, Linux, and Windows operating systems. It is well known for its user-friendly and polished nature.  Even though Ultimaker sells its own collection of 3D printers, this software works with most common brands. It is entirely free to use.

Using the software is extremely simple. If you recently bought a 3D printer, this is probably the fastest way to go from unboxing to printing. The recommended mode sets a strong baseline, then over 400 customization options allow you to tweak to the needs of your printer. 

Another benefit that targets beginners is the fantastic community support around this software. The forums have an active following that will be great for newcomers and experienced users alike.

Ultimaker works with most of the commonly used 3D modeling software. This includes Solidworks and Siemens NX. Chances are, the software you are using is supported by this program. Ultimaker has no 3D modeling capabilities of its own. It is purely a slicer and 3D printer controller.

Ultimaker Cura lets you control most aspects of your printer from your PC (or Mac). Obviously, this will require your device to remain connected to the printer throughout the process.

Who Is Ultimaker Cura Right For?
This software is ideal for 3D printing beginners or those who want an easy-to-use slicer. Compatibility is the name of the game for Ultimaker Cura. It will work with most printers and modeling software. Those who need more advanced STL repair, editing, and remote control will want to look elsewhere. 

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