3D Printing Software Packages

3D printer becomes popular nowadays. Many people have had or plan to have a 3d printer. However if you are just beginning to get into this world, you will find it is difficult to choose the proper 3d printing software.

What types of 3d printing software are used

Usually we need three types of 3d printer programs.

3D Modeling software (CAD software)

3D modeling software is used to create 3D models. Of course, you can download 3D models from an online marketplace or hire somebody to help do that. So CAD software is not necessary. But if you want to create a 3d model by yourself, it will be necessary to learn CAD software. Most CAD software packages run on the windows system, but there still be some APPs can work on iOS or Android platforms.
Read <How to learn 3D CAD software> to get more information.

3D printer slicer software (CAM program)

3D printer cannot understand 3D model directly, but it can understand G-Code. Slicing software acts as the middleman between 3d models and 3d printer. It is used to produce G-Code that can be recognized by the printer. If you want to use 3d printer, it is necessary to learn a 3d printer slicing software.

3D Printer interfacing software (Client software)

3D printer can be controlled through a computer or an on-board control screen or through both. Interface/control software allows you to send G-Code to the 3d printer, and allows you to change some parameters in real time. They are proprietary client software or open source. But sometimes you don’t need to use these software packages because many printers can read G-code directly from SD Card or a USB stick.

Some programs combine the functionality of slicing software and interfacing software. So you don’t care what is slicing software and what is interfacing software.


Some 3d printing software packages

There are a lot of slicing/interfacing programs. If you want to use a 3d printer, it is necessary to learn some software packages.

When you want to buy a 3d printer, you need to know what software it supports. Some 3d printer manufacturers ship their printer with a slicing software. But usually you can try to choose slicing software by yourself unless explicitly noted. And some programs have combined 3d printing function too, e.g. solidworks, Creo, etc.

Free  software packages

  • Cura                     Free

Ultimaker Cura is an open source software, and it is free of charge. It is used to slice 3d model and general G-Code, then G-Code will be sent o the 3d printer for manufacturing  physical objects.

This software is compatible with most desktop 3d printers. It supports many format files: OBJ, STL, X3D, 3MF, and so on. It supports a wide range of firmware, such as Repetier, Marlin, Mach3, Makerbot and Griffin. Cura supports dual extrudes.

  • Slic3r                    Free

It is compatible with many 3d printers, and support DLP printers (SLA technology printer) too. It supports multiple extrudes. Slic3r can slice 3d model 100x faster than Skeinforge. The software can read STL,OBJ and AMF format files and then produce G-Code or SVG files.

  • Repetier-Host      Free

Repetier-Host is compatible with almost all 3D FDM printers. It support multi extrudes-up to 16 extruders. It includes 4 slicers directly: CuraEngine, Slic3r, Slic3r Prusa Edition and Skeinforge. And if you want, you can use any other slicing software with Repetier-Host. After slicing you can see all support structures and extrude movements before turning on your printer. And you can save much time and money with the function.

  • ReplicatorG         Free

You can use it to drive Thing-O-Matic, MakerBot Replicator,  RepRap machine, CupCake CNC or generic CNC machine.

  • Matter control                    Free

It is an all-in-one software package. You can design,slice,organize and manage 3d prints with Matter control. It supports dual extrudes. You can design simple 3d models with this software. Of course, if you want to create a complex model, it is best to use a CAD software. It supports multi-head 3d printing.

Commercial software packages

  • Materialise                       Commercial

Materialise provides several software packages to manage and control 3d printing process.If you want to optimize your design,you can try Materialise 3-matic. You can use Magics,  Magics Essential,  MiniMagics and Materialise-Stage to prepare files for 3d printing.

  • Simplify 3D                      Commercial

It supports for many different 3d printers, including dual extrudes printers. There is pre-print simulation function. And that allows you to see the exact actions before you start the printer. With this function, you can get some information about sequences, speed, and other settings to verify the parameters. 

  • AUTODESK Netfabb         Commercial

It is not only a slicing and control software. With this software you can analyze and repair your models to confirm the 3d model obey the 3d printing rules.You can add lattice structure to lightweight your 3d model.

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