Best 3D Printing Software

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Design Your 3D Model Using the Best 3D Design Software

You need a 3D printing software to design your models and bring them to reality by printing them.

When looking for a 3D printer software, it is important to choose one that can design the types of models you want and takes the least amount of time.

There are two main categories of 3D design software:

  • 3D Modeling. This is the CAD software that you use to design your models.
  • Slicer. This is the program that prepares your 3D models for printing.

3D Modeling Software

The first step in 3D printing is designing your model on a computer.

There are two types of 3D printer control software you can use. Most models can be designed using the traditional CAD (Computer Aided Design) software. These software programs allow you to build an object from surfaces and wireframes.

You can use Sculpture Software to get a more artistic feel. This software allows you to manipulate shapes likes you would with plasticine.

ZBrush

zbrushIf you are interested in printing tabletop miniatures, the ZBrush is the 3D printer software you should get. The software has various features that make it easy for you to sculpt figures easily and fast.

The Surface Noise feature allows you to apply various types of noises on a surface using the brush you prefer. For example, you can apply chipped paint or rust effect on a surface, modify it, and remove it without affecting the underlying model.

You can also use Panel Loops to sculpt figures. This feature allows you to convert your model into panels of polygon with a defined beveled edge. The feature will come in handy when you want to create a machined metal or armor surface.

The ZBrush is the best 3D printing software for beginners.

Tinkercad – Easiest 3D Software for 3D Printing

 

tinkercad designs

If you are new to 3D modeling, you should get started with the Tinkercad. This software is particularly recommended for kids.

Tinkercad has a browser-basedUI with an intuitive design. You can use the program to build 3D models from basic shape blocks like rectangles and cylinders.

There is a large library of pre-made 3D stock that you can use to start your designs in Tinkercad. Using the models will help you save time in designing your first model.

Tinkercad is quite limited compared to Blender and SketchUp. However, it is the easiest 3D model software to get started with.

Blender 3D Printing Software – Best Free 3D Modeling Software

One of the best 3D design software on the market is Blender. This powerful program enables you to draw any 3D object you can imagine. You can use the software for gaming with photorealistic rendering and professional level animation.

Modeling and Sculpting

The easiest way to design 3D objects using Blender is by using its powerful Modeling and Sculpt modes. In these modes, you can shape the surface of the model using a brush, like you would when sculpting plasticine.

The sculpting brushes are available in different forms and shapes, including Grab, Smooth and Crease. You can use the different brushes to shape your model in the exact way you would like, just like you would sculpt clay or plasticine using your hands.

In Modeling mode, you create objects using primitive shapes (cubes, cylinders, etc.), curves, or points. In this mode, you can create anything, from the simplest cuboid to the most complex wireframe controlled NURSB surface.

Blender is the best free 3D modeling software.

Fast Modeling

Blender has a number of advanced tools like Meatball, which you can use to join basic shapes together as a starting point for your 3D model.

For example, if you wanted to create a man figure, you can use a sphere for the head, elongated cylinders for the limbs, and a rectangular cube for the body. Meatball enables you to create objects faster than in most other 3D modeling software.

SketchUp – Best 3D Software for Beginners

sketchupThe power of SketchUp lies in its simplicity. The software allows you to successfully draw 3D objects on your first go. The program has an intuitive push-pull way of manipulating shapes and creating complex shapes. To draw 3D objects, simply manipulate the shapes by clicking and dragging them.

The program has many shortcuts that allow you to easily modify or duplicate your designs to save time.

Excellent for Beginners

SketchUp 3D printer design software is supported by a large library of free 3D models. You can load existing models and modify them in any manner you want. Using the library models is the easiest way to get started with designing 3D objects.

When you start creating more advanced models with engineering precision, you will start to notice the limitations of this free 3D printing software. For example, if you are designing an RC drone, you will realize the software will be less intuitive. Such a project will require you to design multiple parts in the correct sizes so that they fit properly. For such models, you will need a professional CAD software such as Solidworks.

Is SketchUp Free?

SketchUp is available in free and paid versions known as Make and Pro respectively. You can design tons of 3D models using the Make version. You can download the software here and try it.

If you plan on selling your 3D model designs, you will need the Pro version as it adds a commercial license on the designs. Apart from this, it has more enhanced exporting options.

SketchUp is a comprehensive CAD package that is easy to learn.

3D Slicer Software

After designing your 3D object, you have to make it ready for printing using a 3D slicer software. The slicer will ensure that the resulting 3D object is as close to your design as possible.

3D Printing Slicing Guide

To begin slicing, you can scale and orient your 3D object in the best build orientation. This will ensure the model comes out accurately and in high quality as you intend it to be. The build orientation also helps to reduce the chances of a failed build.

From there, you can determine the structure of your model. To save material and reduce build time, you can hollow out or shell your 3D model as much as possible, while ensuring that it is still strong enough.

The next step involves the build supports and rafts. These are the props that support your 3D model when it is being printed. This area is where you will need a good 3D slicer software.

Finally, the slicer will chop your 3D model into hundreds of thin layers and convert it into G-code, which is the language that a 3D printer can interpret the object and build it.

Choose the Best 3D Printing Slicer Software

All 3D printer slicing software will do the above tasks. However, the programs are different in the way they build 3D objects and in their effectiveness.

The success of your 3D object build will greatly depend on the slicer software you use and the printer you have. Therefore, you should choose wisely.

Below is an overview of the common 3D slicer software available on the market.

Cura

curaThe most popular 3D slicer software is Cura. This program is easy to use and free. In most cases, it does an excellent job or preparing your model for the 3D printer.

Cura slicer has an intuitive design that makes it easy to use, even for 3D printer beginners. The slicing software can carry out most of the essential functions with little input from a user.

Limitations

Cura does a great job of preparing your model for printing. However, it can reach its limits if you have a complex model.

One of the biggest weaknesses of the slicer is that it does not have complex infill options. If you need to print complex honeycomb infill structures, you will need a more advanced slicer software such as Slic3r.

The software’s support structures also lack in finesse. The structures are a bit too thick, which makes them tricky to remove without scarring your model. You can avoid this potential problem by changing the Support Line Width setting of the software.

Verdict

Cura is the best 3D slicer for beginners to 3D printing. The program is well designed, easy to use, and produces great results 99% of the time.

As you get more experienced with 3D printing, you will start noticing some of its limitations. For example, you may try to fix issues with efficiency and print quality, only to find that the settings you want to change are not there.

Slic3r

slic3r

Slic3r is an open source software with an enthusiastic following. This slicer software gives you more control on how the parts of your model are printed. For example, you can get the best quality prints and performance from your 3D printer for every build.

You can use two modes in Slic3r: Simple and Expert.

The Simple mode is easier to use but not as intuitive as Cura nor does it offer anything extra.

The Expert mode opens up a new world of settings for your 3D model.

Sequential Printing

You can print sequentially using Slic3r. Normally, you can print one layer on each part at the same time to build multiple parts on a build.

i.e. Part A – Layer 1 > Part B – Layer 1 > Part A – Layer 2 > Part B – Layer 2.

However, with sequential printing, you print the whole Part A and then the whole Part B.

The slicer software must know how large and where the printer hotend will be to print sequentially. This is important to ensure the parts being printed will not clash with others that have already been printed on the build.

The benefit of sequential printing is that in case a part fails when being printed, you have to re-build that part only instead of the whole build.

The chances of your build failing is also low with sequential printing. Other benefits of sequential printing include increasing the part quality by reducing stringing and the chances of clashes as the nozzle moves across the print from one part to the other.

Verdict

Slic3r is way ahead of Cura in terms of options and features. For this reason, beginners may find the software somewhat intimidating.

If you are a newbie, it would be best to start using Cura. When you reach Cura’s limitations, you can upgrade to Slic3r, enable Expert mode and customize your build using the wide range of settings available.

Slic3r does not have many limitations. However, occasionally, you may come across a bug or problem.

For 3D hobbyists, Slic3r is an excellent slicing software. However, if you are doing 3D printing commercially, you should upgrade to Simplify3D, which is more refined and has more functions.

Simplify3D

simplify3d

Simplify3D is commercial 3D printing slicer software with notable advantages over the free options.

I recommend Simplify3D for anyone that is in the business of 3D printing as you can be sure of getting the best quality prints from your 3D printer.

When you upgrade from the Cura or Slic3r and use the default settings of Simplify3D, you will notice an improvement in the support structure generation and build quality. To get even better results, you will have to tweak the software’s settings.

Simplify3D has plenty of settings that you can choose for your 3D print project. However, most of the settings are beyond the needs of the average user.

Compatible and Fast

Simplify3D is compatible with all the best 3D printers on the market, something that other software may not be.

The program has various pre-configured profiles that would be ideal for different printers. Using the pre-configured profiles will help you save time on tweaking and testing the settings.

Speed is another reason why I recommend Simplify3D for anyone that is in 3D printing business. The software is fast. Most operations are completed in seconds rather than minutes.

Finally, Simplify3D has multiple options that will help you build parts efficiently. For example, you can use the sequential option to print multiple parts at the same time. You can also change the settings for parameters such as temperature, and layer height for each part.

Detailed Models

Most of the problems you have seen in your own 3D prints that could not be solved due to not having enough control can be solved by Simplify3D.

For example, the blobs that occur when the extruder starts printing a perimeter section on your part and then returns to the exact point to stop can be avoided with Simplify3D.

Blobs usually happen due to two possible reasons, which can be fixed with Simplify3D.

To begin, you can change the “coasting” setting to reduce the built up pressure in the extruder’s nozzle as it nears the end of the perimeter it is printing.

You can also control the retraction settings to make the extruder retract more filament back into itself when it stops than it extrudes when it starts printing.

You will need some trial and error to fix the blob problem.

Verdict

Simplify3D is the best 3D printer slicer software. The program has tweakable settings and its default settings are superior to that of the free slicers.

Most people use the free options of Cura and Slic3r. However, if you are running a commercial 3D printing business and would like to save time, you may want to buy Simplify3D as it provides excellent value for money.

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