When you have a 3D model in STL format, you cannot simply put it into the printer and start printing. It won’t print.
For an STL model to print, it first has to be sliced by a program known as a slicer. This is because for the printer to print, it has to execute special commands. These commands are made possible by a slicer.
As the name suggests, a slicer simply cuts models into layers, or rather, into separate commands. However, you can slice models in many different ways. As a result, there are may programs that you can use to customize the work of the slicer, or rather, how it will split the model into separate commands.
The slicer itself consists of two parts: the core and the shell. The slicer core slices the model based on the specified parameters. On the other hand, the shell allows you to set the slicing parameters and visually evaluate the slicing result before sending the model to print.
In addition, many slicers have built-in functionality that provide them direct access to the printer. This way, you can manually control, set up the settings and diagnostics, and so on.
Best Slicers for 3D Printing
Next, let’s look at the most popular slicers for 3D printing.
Without a slicer, a 3D printer is a useless machine. Therefore, many 3D printer manufacturers supply slicers with their units. Some companies also make their slicers publicly available. Examples of such companies include Ultimaker, CraftUnique, Prusa, among others.
Let’s quickly go through these free 3D printing slicers from the companies.
The Ultimaker Cura was initially created only for Ultimaker 3D printers. However, the slicer later became an open-source project. Today, you can find a huge number of printers from different manufacturers in the Cura profile library.
The Ultimaker Cura uses its own Cura core, which has many settings and functions such as tree support, wireframe printing, color printing, etc.
This free 3D printer slicer is frequently updated with new innovations and profiles for various 3D printers. The slicer is recommended for beginners because of its two control modes: simple and professional.
Recently, there has been support for add-ons that allow you to save backup copies of settings, repair the model directly in the slicer, integrate various programs for 3D modeling and much more.
Through the slicer, you can also control the printer by sending commands directly from the computer.
However, the slicer does not provide any feedback from the printer, apart from showing the temperature of the nozzle and table.
- Ease of settings
- Regular updates
- Advanced preview mode
- Long startup time on any computer
- Low-informative printer management console.
2. Prusa Slic3r
The Prusa Slic3r is also known as the Slic3r Prusa Edition or Slic3r PE. Prusa decided not to reinvent the wheel and took the open-source project Slic3r, partially reworked it, and began to actively develop it.
Just like Cura, Prusa Slic3r has many printer profiles. However, the most optimized profiles are for Prusa printers. The slicer core is Prusa’s own design.
This free 3D printing slicer has fewer settings than those available on the Cura.
One feature that makes this free 3D printer slicer stand out is the ability to adjust the layer thickness and support for a special extruder capable of printing 5 different plastics at once (again produced by Prusa). This slicer will be extremely useful for people who have more than one 3D printer. All settings are divided into 3 tabs, each of which can be saved in separate profiles.
However, you have to press a button to send a print via a wire to the 3D printer.
In general, this is a reliable and convenient slicer, especially if you have a large number of printers.
- Advanced profile system
- Super fast startup
- Convenient operation with dual extruder printers
- Relatively few settings
- No printer control via wire
This slicer is designed more for remotely controlling the printer. However, it can also cut models. This slicer also allows you to choose the slicing core, just like is the case with Cura, Sic3r, and Prusa Slic3r. The slicer has a few settings but they are enough for cutting a test cube.
The main advantage of this slicer is its advanced ability to manage and configure the printer. The slicer also has a convenient interface for sending commands, as well as customizable temperature graphs. This is useful, for example, when tuning PIDs or checking axis movements.
You can also use the program to 3D print files using GCODE generated from another slicer.
- Large functionality of printer control via wire
- Limited slicing settings
MatterControl 2.0 is one of the few programs that can edit STL files and is also a slicer. While you won’t be able to create any serious model, you can add text or cut out part of the model.
This slicer does not have many settings. However, the settings available are enough for a novice 3D printer. The slicer will be useful if you need to make art products with minor modifications.
The MatterControl 2.0 also supports saving files to the cloud.
- Built-in model editor
- Intuitive interface
- There is a library of profiles for popular printers
- Few slicing settings
This software is designed for remotely controlling printers from anywhere in the world. All you have to do is to connect the printer to the computer and install this program on it. After that, the printer can be controlled through the web interface.
On the web interface, you can remotely change the model, cut and print it. You can also connect a camera and watch the printing process.
This program has very few slicing settings. The settings are not sufficient to calibrate the printer or do any serious printing.[su_alert]Do not leave the printer unattended, especially if it is no longer new. There may be a risk of fire at any time due to wiring or mechanical problems.[/su_alert]
- Simple interface
- Start printing from anywhere in the world
- Ability to observe the seal
- Model editing tools available
- Few slicing settings
IceSL is a combination of OpenSCAD with its “modeling language” and a slicer. With this program, models can be edited with a “brush” like the one in Meshmixer.
The IceSL has many small advantages over other slicers. However, it is not suitable for everyday use due to the inconvenient interface and the small number of slicer functions. This program can be described in one phrase: interesting but not recommended for beginners.
- Built-in model editor
- Inconvenient interface
- Few slicing settings
Octoprint is in many ways similar to 3DprinterOS. However, it is an opensource project and, therefore, has many add-ons. This slicer is designed for home use and has a large user base. Therefore, it will be very easy to transfer your printer to remote control due to the large number of lessons and articles.
Using the program is the most popular way to remotely manage a printer. There program has no slicer. However, it supports direct export of files from Slic3r. Like Repetier, Octoprint has an excellent printer management and monitoring console. However, most of the functions have to be configured manually.
- Large user base
- Lots of articles with instructions
- The ability to create a video broadcast of the printing process
- Hard to learn
- Complete self-configuration required
Commercial 3D Printing Slicers
At the moment, many commercial 3D printing slicers are no longer used since the free ones have either caught up with them or surpassed them. However, there are a few that are still ahead of the curve. These are:
This is one of the best commercial 3D printing slicers. When it was launched, it was the most advanced 3D printer slicer due to the ability to change the print parameters for one model at different layer heights and print functionality with more than one extruder.
However, today, it has been overtaken by Cura and Prusa Slic3r. Nevertheless, the convenience of setting print parameters and their number are still the main advantage of this slicer. The slicer also has an excellent printer management interface, second only to Repetier host.
Another feature of this slicer is the ability to manually install supports and a large number of filling patterns. There are also several settings for viewing models. For example, you can change the way models are displayed, view in a section, display normals to planes, and so on.
- Large number of print settings
- Convenient printer management interface
- Manual installation of supports
- Changing print settings at different heights
- Easy print setup with two extruders
- High price
- Rare updates, mostly just bug fixes
Price: from $ 149 ($ 149)
RECOMMENDED: 3D Slicer Software Review : Ultimaker Cura, Simplify3D, IdeaMaker, UP Studio, FlashPrint
This software is a direct competitor to 3DPrinterOS. The main difference is the user friendliness, which is achieved through a user-friendly interface and easy installation.
The program is based on Octoprint, has a redesigned interface and a few add-ons that allow you to completely control the printing process while away from the printer. For example, you can slice the model and set it to print.
On the same time note, the program is also targeted towards business users. Therefore, the company also provides special PCs and control consoles that facilitate connecting the printer to the system. A trial plan is available in which you can connect 2 printers, but all basic functions will be available.
- Easy to connect and configure
- Trial version available
- Interface specially designed for mobile devices
- Monthly fee
Price: from $ 765 ($ 9.90) for 1 month
This slicer has also failed to keep up with the times. Previously, its functionality was a cut above the rest, but now Cura has all the same settings as the KISSlicer, and it also adds its own. One useful feature of this slicer is the function of joint viewing of the GCODE and the model.
There are two versions of the slicer: free and PRO. The only significant difference between them is that the paid version has support for printing in multiple colors.
- Convenient work with profiles
- Easy to learn
- Complex interface
- Infrequent updates
Price: from $42
Among the slicers, the Ultimaker Cura and Prusa Slic3r are the best choices for their ease of use and flexibility when slicing models. However, do not forget about auxiliary programs, such as Meshmixer and Netfabb, which allow you to quickly edit or repair the model.