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Posted on November 30, 2022

13 Easy to Use 3D Printing Software

Thanks to the rapid advances in different fields of technology, machinery, software, and material design, we can now bring our visions to life using 3D printing technology. But the first step in creating a three-dimensional object is designing a model or prototype.

Once upon a time, one had to spend a great deal of time and resources to acquire this skill. But now, many modeling software are available in the market for everyone who wishes to work with 3D printers.

If you`ve just dived into the world of 3D printers, you might feel intimidated by all the different software that are presented in the market. But there's no need to worry. To lend a hand, here we`ve provided a comprehensive guide on some of the best 3D printing software available.

From 3D printer control, and STL edit and repair programs, to slicers and modeling programs, here you can find everything you need to know. But first, let's start with the basics: what is a 3D printer, and how can you use it?

Photo by Maxim Tolchinskiy on Unsplash 

3D Printing Technology - An Overview

Additive manufacturing (AM) or commonly known as 3D printers is a technology that creates three-dimensional items from a digital 3D model or a computer-aided design (CAD). After going through different processes, the models are built with layers of material such as plastics, liquids, or powder grains.

3D printing technology has been around since the 1980s and it's been used in the production of different practical or aesthetic prototypes. However, it's only in the past few years that the advances have brought 3D printing so far that it is now an essential part of industrial-production technology.

Since man can't create complex shapes like hollow objects that reduce weight, 3D printers are designed to produce all kinds of elaborate shapes and geometries. Nowadays, professional and affordable 3D printers are available to support and develop businesses in every industry.

How Does A 3D Printer Work?

The process of three-dimensional printing begins when a CAD model is sent to the software and the design starts to be prepared. In a technique known as fused depositional modeling (FDM), a 3D model is built layer by layer, from the bottom to the top, printing over the same section. 

In a few hours, 3D printers automatically produce a 3D object from a CAD drawing. Depending on the 3D printing technology, some printers use the laser to convert liquid resin into plastic, while others merge small particles of the polymer at a high temperature to construct the models. 

Many new 3D printers that are now available in  the market can be run unattended until the model is finished. On top of that, modern printing technologies can automatically refill when the material is required.

While choosing the optimal 3D printer and software is the key to have a perfect model, there are still other things to consider, namely the printing material. BuilTak`s printing surfaces offer a versatile surface so you can enjoy a perfect adhesion with all filaments

3D Printing Software

Working with 3D printing technology, you need to learn how to handle different applications during the process. From designing the model to slicing it, to monitoring the desktop while the 3D printer builds your model, there's no hiding from 3D printing software.

Keep reading to learn more about the different software programs you need for your 3D printer.

Slicer Software

A slicer program transforms your 3D design into the language of your 3D printer so it can read the model and construct it. The process begins by slicing your CAD drawing into two-dimensional layers which later will be printed on top of each other to build a 3D object. 

Generating the programming language of the 3D printer, G-code, this software basically defines and instructs the printer how to build the model. Keep in mind that slicer programs are only necessary if you`re using an FDM desktop or a resin 3D printer. Some of the new 3D printing services don’t require slicer software.

Slider programs also allow users to control their 3D printing machines directly. To do so, the 3D printer should be connected to the computer during the entire printing process.

3D Modeling Software

3D modeling programs are designed for users who want to build their 3D digital models by themselves. These models are three-dimensional representations of your desired shape or object. 

These designs are used as the initial models for 3D printing technology or as prototypes in video games, architecture, engineering, medical sciences, etc.

Photo by Kadir Celep on Unsplash 

The Best 3D Printing Software

Today, there are many free and premium software available for 3D printers. Choosing a program that best suits your needs, mainly depends on why you want to work with a 3D printer and what level of skills you have.

Here we have collected a handy list of the top software for designing, repairing, preparing, viewing, and controlling 3D prints and printers. Now you can learn what these software are, and how they work.

Slicer-3D Print Host Software: Cura

Developed by Ultimaker for their 3D printing technologies, Cura is a popular open-source slicer program. Although it was originally designed only for the 3D printers of the Ultimaker Company itself, Cura is now a general standard for almost all 3D printers in the market.

It's quite easy to learn and work with Cura and it can be extended via one of many available plugins. This 3D slicer software allows users to manage their settings in an easy-to-use interface. Just put the software on Basic mode and you can get started with the basics of 3D printing settings.

If you feel confident using the program, you can switch the setting to advanced, expert, or all to get up to 400 settings. Cura Ultimaker is constantly updated, and new versions are released frequently, This means you can take advantage of using an all-time up-to-date program.

Additionally, if you need to control your 3D printer directly, you can connect your desktop to the printer during the printing process and convert Cura to a 3D printer host. If you want to learn more about this software and how you can best use it, check Ultimaker's website.

Slicer Software: PrusaSlicer

Designed and developed by the creators of the Prusa 3D printer, PrusaSlicer is another open-source software. Although Prusa used the Slic3r program to develop its software, it hasn't caused any problems for the vast popularity of this program among users.

Prusa has gathered all the functional features of tunable settings, plus other practical features that Slic3r`s original version does not include. With personalized support structures, multi-material support, and even a variable layer height function, PrusaSlicer software is now one of the favorite free 3D slicers among amateurs and professionals.

If you`re a newbie in the world of 3D printing and feel intimidated by all the complicated settings in slicer programs, fear not. PrusaSlicer software provides various modes for everyone with any level of experience. Even with a simple profile, you can add amazing edits to your model.

This slicer program can work with both FDM and resin printers. If you`re interested in Prusa and you like to know more about their software and 3D printer, you can check their website.

Slicer-3D Print Host Software: OctoPrint

OctoPrint is an open-source web-based Slicer built by Gina Häußge. These programs offer users different tools to control and manage their printing model. With a Wi-Fi device connected to the 3D printer, you can check the entire printing process remotely using an embedded webcam feel.

As a pure web-based host, OctoPrint allows you to do all your tasks from anywhere and anytime, you can start, pause, or stop your printing whenever you wish. On top of that, this software accepts G-code from all slicer programs and includes a GCodeVisualizer which you can use to preview your models before or during printing.

And best of all, OctoPrint incorporates a plethora of setting tools to control the 3D printing process and offers various ways to keep track of all your printings. You can also set up OctoPrint to send notifications or alerts through different messaging apps.

Slicer Software: Kiri: Moto

Kiri: Moto is a browser-based slicer software written specifically for those who don't have the graphical grunt to support the slicing process. Kiri: Moto is a powerful tool that can prepare models not only for 3D printing,  but for laser engraving, and CNC routing as well.

For those who have just set up their 3D printers and are still rookies when it comes to the settings, Kiri: Moto is an absolute go-to. The settings of this software are more basic compared to the other slicers. However, it still provides the majority of tools you`ll be needing.

Slicer Software: Simplify3D

If you need a professional 3D printing slicer and you`re willing to pay from your pocket, Simplify3D is probably one of the best programs you can go for. It is one of the most powerful and popular premium software in the market which can highly improve the quality of your prints.

Not only will Simplify3D slice the computer-aided design into layers, but it also finds issues and problems with the models and corrects them. Moreover, with Simplify3D users can preview 3D results, which helps them identify any other possible issues.

Photo by Xiaole Tao on Unsplash 

STL Editor, STL Repair, Design: Meshmixer

If you`re looking for free advanced editing software, Meshmixer is a great option. Using this software, you can design, view, check, edit, and even fix your STL files. It’s a friendly software, created to find any potential issues in the printing model and repair them.

Known as the “Swiss Army Knife” of 3D printing software, Meshmixer offers a variety of features such as the following.

  • drag-and-drop mesh mixing
  • 3D covering stamping
  • 3D design
  • Support structure branching

You can download this free software right now from Autodesk`s website. The only bad news is that Autodesk has stopped providing support and updates for Meshmixer. They`re now developing their new software platform Fusion 360 which includes many features of Meshmixer.

STL Editor-STL Repair Software: MeshLab

MeshLab is a super advanced, free STL editing software that features many tools for processing 3D printing meshes. This editing software is popular among experts for including features like manifold mesh and being able to process huge files.

The new version of MashLab was released in 2020, and the last update came in February 2022. Many professionals have now chosen MashLab as a functional alternative to Meshmixer. 

If you`re looking for a powerful editing program, you can't go wrong with MeshLab. The program allows you to create new STL files, edit them, and even merge old models to build new ones.

3D Modeling software: Tinkercad

If you don't have much experience in modeling and you find it difficult to work with designing software, Tinkercad is the key. This browser-based software is created by Autodesk for designing 3D printing models. 

The program is free and user-friendly, making it a perfect alternative for educational purposes.  You start shaping your model block by block to a basic shape. Then you can use other tools to customize your object. 

This 3D printing software features a convenient interface so everyone with any level of expertise can work with it. The only problem with Tinkercad is that it's not the optimal option for elaborate designs. 

Compared with other modeling programs, Tinkercad is somehow limited in designing tools. Now, when you feel confident working with Tinkercad, and you think it's time to level up, you can switch to a more powerful program like FreeCAD, or SketchUp, which we will talk about in a second.

3D Modeling Software: SketchUp Free

The problem with many 3D printing programs is that they`re either very functional but too complex, or they`re simple but limited. Now, what if we said there`s great modeling software that is both easy to use and functional?

No, I`m not messing with you. With a variety of tools and features, SketchUp free is a perfect choice for anyone with any kind of experience in model design. Professionals can take advantage of its advanced drawing tools to showcase their designs and beginners can enjoy the user-friendly interface to design their projects.

SketchUp features both premium and free versions. If you`re an architect, a house designer, or an engineer, premium SketchUp has some great added tools which you can take advantage of, including mobile model viewing, ten GB of storage, and access to 3D Warehouse.

That being said, you can use SketchUp for free and still enjoy its top-notch features. All you have to do is to visit their website, download the program and install it.

3D Modeling Software: FreeCAD

Looking for open-source software to improve your designing abilities? Well, FreeCAD is your answer. This designing program is a parametric tool with multiple features that allow users to design real-life models in various shapes and sizes.  

Additionally, the parametric feature makes the editing process a piece of cake. All you need to do is go back to your history, edit the parametric model, and that's it, you have a new model.

FreeCAD is indeed free, but this doesn’t mean it’s short of any tools that premium designing software offers. Some of the amazing features of this program include Finite Element Analysis (FEA), experimental workbenches, and a robot simulation module.

Photo by Maria Teneva on Unsplash 

3D Modeling Software: Blender

Blender is one of the most famous CAD software, ideal for professional artistic purposes like animations, graphics, or video games. With many amazing tools like fast designing, sculpting, and rendering, this program is an optimal choice if your work involves using printable 3D models.

That being said, Blender isn't the best choice for beginners. If you`re a newbie in designing 3D models and have only worked with concepts and created complex models, you`ll have a hard time working with this software.

However, with the growing popularity of Blender among users, today there are many tutorials out there that help people with any level of experience work with it.

Printable File viewer: WebPrinter

Sometimes you download a G-code and you want to know whether it is worth being printed or not. Well, with WebPriner you can easily open those files and see what they look like.

WebPrinter is a quick browser-based software that helps you solve the mystery behind a long-forgotten G-code. All you need to do is to upload the file and wait for the WebPrinter to bring it back to life.

Printable File Viewer: Gcode Analyzer

One of the oldest programs that have been long used for analyzing G-code files is Gcode Analyzer. Known for its simplicity, you can upload your file in this software, and very soon you`ll have a perfect picture from each layer of the model. 

Additionally, the Gcode analyzer offers a full text of your G-code file, which you can explore and find the instructions that were given to the model. 

Bottom Line

Buying a 3D printer also means finding the appropriate software for your device. But it's not an  easy task to learn about these programs and find the ones you can best work with. Or at least, that’s how it may seem to beginner makers.

While they might seem too complicated at the first glance, each becomes easy to navigate once you familiarize yourself with the environment, functions, and models.

In a nutshell, 3D printing technology requires four different types of software that work together to build a printed 3D object. But the good news is if you`re not planning on doing everything