Depending on which 3D printer you buy, it can be a fairly quick or long process to put it together. Once that’s done, we have to look for software to aid our 3D printing journey, so most people wonder what software they need for 3D printing.
I’ll answer that question in this article, so hopefully, you have a better idea of this topic.
3D printers don’t usually come with the software unless they specifically have branded software, such as the PrusaSlicer for Prusa 3D printers or ChiTuBox for Anycubic resin 3D printers. Most other 3D printers are open-source, meaning they can be used with other open-source software such as Cura.
That’s the basic answer, so I will go into more detail about dedicated slicer software and what software you need for 3D printing.
What Software Do You Need for 3D Printing?
Technically speaking, you don’t need any software for 3D printing but it would be very inconvenient without it. You could download the exact G-code file for your 3D printer which has the settings perfect for your 3D printer, although this wouldn’t be practical.
For 3D printing, you should at least be using a slicer software which takes a 3D model file and translates it into a language which your 3D printer can understand called a G-code file.
If you want to make your own 3D printed models which can be a personalized item or DIY project around the house, you’ll need to use a modeling software to create it. They provide model files in an STL or OBJ format which then goes into your slicer to compute the information.
There are so many tools in the market for that, some are free, and some are paid, and it also depends on your level of expertise.
So in summary, you’ll the software you need for 3D printing is slicing software and modeling software.
Examples of common software used in 3D printing:
- Simplify3D (paid)
3D Model Design Software
They have differing levels of features and abilities depending on what stage you are at. If you are just starting 3D printing or are in the early days, you want a 3D printing software that has a small learning, so you can concentrate on other things.
Some are browser-based and others need to be downloaded as an application, both still will generally give you similar results.
Slicing software is something that you must have for 3D printing.
The software converts the digital 3D model into printing instructions for your 3D printing by generating a G-code, which is then executed by the 3D printer and then turned into a 3D printout.
It basically cuts your model into different layers, and the printer then gives the output in the form of layers one by one.
It tells your printer what nozzle temperature to use, what infill pattern to extrude, advanced settings such as adaptive layers, randomized layer starting points, printing speed, and several other settings that create a successful print.
Do 3D Printers Come with Software?
Depending on what type of 3D printer you purchase, they may come with slicer software ready to download on a USB stick. Most of the time, you simply research which software you want to use, then download it or use a browser-based software.
Some 3D printers do some with software which are specialized for that type of 3D printer, along with firmware setting updates and so on.
Some manufacturers send open source projects to you from where you can download the software and can use it.
You can get discounts on paid software with professional 3D printers out there.
What is Open Source Software?
Open source software is those who come under the source code that is available to anyone for inspection, modification, and enhancement. You can access this software and can even customize it according to your need and requirements.
The legal terms of open source software must be accepted, but they are totally different from those of proprietary licenses.
The open source software accepts the way how you want to use, study or modify it and does not hinder your ideas. It grants you permission the way you want to modify the software for your own purpose and get things done.
Examples of open-source software are:
Meshlab is an open source software for processing and editing 3D triangular meshes, which provides you the tools for rendering, texturing, and creating 3D models for printing purposes. Its open source capability allows you to modify and customize it according to your need.
Pros of Open Source Software
- Open source software is cost-effective and free to use.
- You can add any number of plug-ins and add-ons in the software for your use.
- You can customize it for your use according to your changing demands.
- The open-source software is reliable, and you can work with other developers in making it better.
- You can keep improving your software with time without hurdles.
Cons of Open Source Software
- Some open source software can be quite complex to navigate
- The support you get in the open source software is not always reliable, since its free
- Some open source software don’t receive many updates, so they don’t keep up with the standard practices.
- The software could be abandoned by the support, but there are usually forums for assistance.
What is a Dedicated Software?
Dedicated software is such a software which is designed for a specific purpose to meet the needs of an organization or user. Dedicated software follows a specific route in their formation as they are to be created for a specific purpose.
You will find this software adjusted according to the individual needs, which makes it easier to use. You can even ask the company to create dedicated software to add different tools that you need in your 3D modeling.
They are more likely to have consistent upgrades since it is an ongoing project which corresponds with current users.
Examples of dedicated software are:
- PrusaSlicer – still open source
Pros of Dedicated Software
- The software is aligned with the major goals which you want to achieve.
- Created with the user and 3D printer in mind
- You can scale up your operations according to your need through this software.
- Can still work with many other open source 3D printers
Cons of Dedicated Software
- Less ability to customize certain features
- Having to wait until the specialized team implements upgrades which can take some time
- Don’t have the freedom to use custom plugins and add-ons unless allowed by the company
- Less freedom to choose a software which you are already familiar with
Which 3D Printers Have Dedicated Software?
Dedicated software are usually pretty good compared to their open-source counterparts, but some have definitely had some trouble getting things in order.
The ChiTuBox slicer which works with Anycubic resin 3D printers is well-known to be very fast at slicing, and is fairly simple to get used to. There have been complaints about supports not being generated very well.
As time goes on, and upgrades happen, software usually increase in their features and overall printing sucess rate. ChiTuBox has gotten a lot better since the early days, but the timing of upgrades can be quite slow.
PrusaSlicer has gone through a recent update (at time of writing), releasing the PrusaSlicer 2.2 which has plenty of upgrades as shown in the video below.
6 Best 3D Printing Software for Beginners
Cura is a great slicer which is probably the most popular slicing software out there. It constantly gets updated with awesome features and experimental options that you extra control over your 3D print files.
TinkerCAD is a simple, beginner-friendly model design software which allows you to get started making simple models yourself. It’s a great starting point if you are looking to get into 3D print model design.
You can save your models within the browser, saved for whenever you revisit your TinkerCAD profile. It has some default shapes for you to start from, going up to more complex shapes like threads on screws and much more.
Slic3r is an open-source slicing software which is great at providing several features to get your perfect 3D print model file ready for you to print. It has many infill options, experimental support and features which make it a comprehensive slicer.
SketchUp is quite similar to TinkerCAD which gives a simple, yet effective platform to create objects for beginners. It happens to be one of the more popular 3D model designing software out there.
It is also tailored to advanced users with the pro version, which has tools that go into more depth than the basic ones.
FreeCAD has many features and resources that help you to improve your designing skills. It doesn’t use the well-known drag and drop method of creating models, but rather one where you edit parameters (parametric).
You use a 2D shape as your foundation, build extra objects then manipulate those pieces in ways that create whole new designs. You can really go into detail on how objects are edited as you get more experience and creativity.
PrusaSlicer actually began around the foundation of Slic3r then grew in popularity because of the work that was put into it. There has been a recent release of the PrusaSlicer which has several new features.
Many people who do resin 3D printing implement this software to auto-generate supports and use the auto-orientation function to get their resin prints coming out successfully.
It has multi-material support and doesn’t have issues with giving you smooth variable layer height functions. It can be used for resin 3D printing, as well as FDM printing.
Depending on your level of expertise, you can use the basic settings or get into more-depth with your customizability.
Do All 3D Printers Use the Same Software?
No, all 3D printers don’t use the same software. 3D printing software is usually separated by filament and resin 3D printers. Some 3D printer software like Cura can only be used by filament 3D printers, while others like Lychee Slicer can only be used by resin printers. Some can be used by both like PrusaSlicer.