Simplify3D vs Cura: What Are the Differences?

Simplify3D and Cura are among the most popular 3D printer slicers. What is the difference between the two programs? Read our Simplify3D vs Cura guide below to find out.

Simplify3D vs Cura: Introduction

A slicer is a software that converts a 3D model and some settings into printing instructions for a 3D printer. The software usually outputs the instructions in a machine language known as G-code.

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A slicer is essential to the success of your 3D printing project.

Simplify3D is a commercial 3D printer slicer that works on Windows, Mac OS and Ubuntu. This ultra-fast slicer comes with dozens of features that you can use to end up with a quality 3D printed model.

On the other hand, Cura is a free software made by Ultimaker. The opensource software not only works on Ultimaker 3D printers but also printers from many other manufacturers. This program is easy to use, has a large helpful community and its capabilities can be taken further by installing various add-ons.

In this Simplify3D vs Cura article, we look at the two slicers and compare them.

Printing Settings Panel

Coming to printing settings, Simplify3D has a large window for adjusting the printing parameters. There are 12 tabs that house all the customizable settings and process options. The tabs are organized based on parameters such as temperature, supports, infill, and layers for a streamlined workflow. A small description appear over each printing parameter when you hover over it with the mouse.

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With Cura, the print settings panel is available on a side window that occupies a part of the interface. You can customize the parameters available, e.g., you can keep the most useful ones for your 3D printers.

As is the case with Simplify3D, hovering over the print parameters displays their description.

Both Simplify3D and Cura have preview areas where you can see a simulation of your 3D model. In the area, you can analyze the model and check it for inconsistencies or errors. Cura further allows you to change any printing parameter or model positioning settings in the preview area. However, this is not possible with Simplify3D.

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In Simplify3D, any improvement that you want to make to your model can only be done after exiting the model preview mode. After making the changes, the model will have to be reprocessed and sliced when entering the preview model. This process can take some time, depending on the complexity and size of the model.

The analysis tools available for both platforms are similar. The tools have different visualization modes, such as color schemes for different types of lines, speeds, federate, etc.

When it comes to simulation control, Cura offers a bit more option with two manual sliders. The sliders allow you to control both line and layer progression in the simulation. Simplify3D only has a single control slider.

Printing Information

During the printing process, you definitely want to have information on things like print time and available filament.

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Simplify3D displays printing statistics on the left in the preview mode. Anytime you change a parameter and want to see its impact on the printing job, you have to exit the preview mode and the model has to be reprocessed and sliced again.

On the other hand, Cura slices your model immediately after import. After slicing, the printing information is displayed on a small window on the lower right. You can see all the printing information by hovering over the ‘Information’ icon.

Anytime you change the printing information, Cura will automatically slice the model again. You can, however, disable the auto slicing feature on the Preferences tab.

User Interface & Experience

The software interface can determine the user experience. A confusion UX can make it more difficult for a person to learn how to use all the features of the software.

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Overall Layout

With software, you want a program with a good layout. The buttons and icons should be easily recognized.

Both Cura and Simplify3D has nice and clean layouts. Their model import tools also look similar.

Cura smaller toolbars but bigger icons. On the other hand, you can instantly manage all imported models and printing processes on the left panel of Simplify3D.

In Simplify3D, the buttons for scaling and positioning the models are fixed on the sight. In Cura, these buttons only show when importing a model.

Cost and Updates

The main difference between Simplify3D and Cura is cost.

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Cura is an opensource programs that is free. Since its inception, the program has received at least five new releases. You can see all the program versions ever released on GitHub.

On the other hand, Simplify3D is a commercial slicer that is also suitable for both beginners and professionals. The program costs $149 but comes with a 14-day free trial.

Simplify3D has received two updates in 2019, mostly of minor improvements and bug fixes. The older versions of the program are not available for download.

Features

The features of a slicer determine how much you can customize the 3D model and print quality. Read on to find out how Simplify3D and Cura are different.

Cura was initially designed to support only Ultimaker 3D printers. However, it now supports many different brands and models.

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Simplify3D supports even more 3D printer models, including smaller brands that are local to specific companies. According to Simplify3D, the software supports 95% of desktop 3D printers on the market.

Both Simplify3D and Cura comes with preset profiles for many common printers.

Plugins

Cura has a range of plugins and add-ons that can be purchased on the Cura marketplace to extend its functionality. The plugins enable a wide range of things, including changing the user interface, new tools and features, and even importing preset profiles for specific filament brands.

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On the other hand, Simplify3D has no plugins for extending its functionality.

Customizable Supports

Both Simplify3D and Cura create support structures for overhangs. With this feature, you can set parameters like the maximum pattern, density, or overhang angle or overhang angle before determining support placement.

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With Simplify3D, you have complete control of support allocation. The ‘Manual Placement’ tool makes it easy to manually remove or add supports.

Cura also allows customization with the ‘Support Blocker’ tool. However, the tool can be a little complicated to use for fine tuning the supports. To get around the issue, you can use some plugins that allow manual editing of support.

Processes

Finally, let’s look at how these two slicers handle different printing processed within a single G-code file.

In Simplify3D, a process refers to various printing parameters that can be assigned to different models within the same print job. The parameters can also be assigned on the same models but at different layer heights. Therefore, you can have four different layers being printed at the same time but each with different print settings.

Also, the software program allows you to print each part sequentially, depending on their total height.

Both Cura and Simplify3D have features that allow settings to be applied to different models. However, Simplify3D’s settings are more intuitive and easier to use than Cura’s.

Verdict: Simplify3D vs Cura

So, which is the best FDM slicer between Simplify3D and Cura?

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Well, it really depends. Both software have their advantages and drawbacks.

In terms of quality, both slicers are very solid when used properly.

Coming to community support, Cura has a wider userbase mainly because it is opensource. There are also many plugins that can extend the functionality of the slicer.

On the other hand, Simplify3D is preferred more by professionals and is compatible with over 95% of the 3D printers on the market. Therefore, if you have a local printer brand that is not supported by Cura, you should check with Simplify3D.

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