3D Printing Software
Onshape is a cloud-native product development platform with integrated CAD, data management and analytics. Onshape aims to accelerate time to market and improve innovation by:1) Access: Unlike file-based CAD which is on-premise only, Onshape enables remote access for designers and…
PTC offers Creo, the company's line of computer-aided design (CAD) products that support the product lifecycle management (PLM) process with 2D and 3D design kits (Creo Elements and Creo Direct), an augmented reality module, Creo Illustrate for technical illustrations, Creo Sketch,…
Siemens PLM (formerly UGS), a division of Siemens AG, offers Solid Edge. Solid Edge is a 2D/3D CAD modeling, simulation, CAM, and 3D printing suite offered free to students, hobbyists, and learners or at relatively low cost to mid-tier companies. It's capabilities are limited relative…
Autodesk offers Tinkercad, a 3D modeling and design tool available free for educational purposes.
GrabCAD Workbench was a CAD collaboration solution that helps designers to manage files and engage partners in the design process. Since August 2022 it has been discontinued.
Simplify3D headquartered in Cincinnati develops 3D printing software used by innovators, engineers and professional worldwide. The application aims to streamline the 3D printing process, while providing customization tools that enable users to achieve high-quality results. The…
Materialise Software headquartered in Leuven provides companies with a platform of software tools that manage and control the 3D printing process, to provide users with a solid foundation on which to expand and realize potential. The Materialise Magic 3D suite is presented as the…
KISSlicer has come a long way from the initial command line release ("Three settings should be enough for anybody!"). Targeting precision and focusing on the technical aspects of 3D printing has kept KISSlicer adding features and options to keep up with a wide variety of printer…
ideaMaker is a 3D slicing software from Raise3D Technologies headquartered in Irvine, that automatically generates support structure while providing a set of tools for manual editing and advanced purposes. Some examples include PVA support, creating a more stable support structure,…
OctoPrint is a web interface for 3D printer.OctoPrint is Free and Open Source Software released under the GNU Affero General Public License (AGPL). All its source code is available in its Github repository.
Slic3r is an open source 3D printing toolbox. It is licensed under the GNU Affero General Public License, version 3 and available as a free download for macOS, Windows, or Linux.
Repetier-Server Free and Pro are professional software solutions to control and manage 3d printers at the same time and to get the most out of it. Presented as solutions designed for manufacturers, professionals, makers and educators who value quality, safety and functionality.
3DPrinterOS is a 3D printing infrastructure and management platform, from 3D Control Systems headquartered in San Francisco. The solution is a pre-built single interface that allows full visibility and transparency into who is doing what, which machines need repair, what analytics…
MeshLab is an open source system for processing and editing 3D triangular meshes. It provides a set of tools for editing, cleaning, healing, inspecting, rendering, texturing and converting meshes. It offers features for processing raw data produced by 3D digitization tools/devices…
Nano Dimension headquartered in Sunrise, Florida supports design to manufacturing with the FLIGHT software suite, a 3D modeling and CAD solution that helps users turn PCB into 3D geometry, verify 3D design manufacturability, and enable 3D printing.
The FARO RevEng Software platform empowers users with a comprehensive digital design experience. The reverse-engineering software helps create and edit high-quality meshes and CAD surfaces from 3D point clouds for reverse-engineering workflows. Industrial designers can then use these…
Fictiv is a Digital Manufacturing Ecosystem that delivers high-quality parts. The platform manufactures parts for early-stage companies and large enterprises alike, helping them innovate with agility.
Markforged's Blacksmith is 3d printing software used to deliver precision parts to customers. Its AI feature detection enables users to select from critical part features that are automatically detected for detailed inspection and determine if they meet requirements. Users can view…
Markforged offers the Eiger suite of 3D printing software solutions. Eiger Core is designed to take users from CAD to strong, functional parts quickly that can be shared and iterated. With Eiger Fleet, users get the same security features of Eiger Core but with additional corporate…
GrabCAD Software is 3D printing software for additive manufacturing at scale, from Stratasys.
3D Slash is a 3D modelling software designed to engage non-designers and children in 3D content creation. 3D Slash offers a solution to fast-developing industries relying on 3D content (consumer 3D printing, modular Internet of Things, AR-VR...). The solution boasts strong value…
nTopology was founded in 2015 to enable engineers and designers to create any geometry — no matter how complex — and to meet the requirements of high-performance products. The software is used from research through production to create breakthrough processes and products for the…
What is 3D Printing Software?
3D printing software is the program that allows 3D printers to function. They allow for the reading of 3D model files and the accurate transmission of model data to the printer. More advanced 3D printing software will analyze model designs to ensure print integrity, adjust mechanical parts, map texture and color, allow collaborative workspaces, provide simulation features, inform printing progress in real-time, and troubleshoot issues.
There are two main types of 3D printing software. The first is 3D modeling software, which allows you to use computer-aided design (CAD) to manipulate the sizing, geometry, features, details, and other structural aspects of the object you are printing. The second is slicing software, which “slices” the finished model into separate instructional parts for the 3D printer to make the object layer by layer. 3D modeling software may not be necessary, as there are a plethora of downloadable files for the most common 3D printing objects, but all 3D printers need slicing software in order to transmit printing instructions to the printer. Some 3D printer software combines both modeling and slicing software, and some modeling software allows integrations that perform slicing functions.
3D printing software combines slicing software with elements of 3D modeling and computer-aided design software, which means that you can find a high number of cross-compatible software in this field. Some 3D modeling software have much broader applications, so keep in mind that if the software does not provide a way to slice the model, then it is not a viable 3D printing solution.
3D Printing Software Features
These are the most common features of 3D printing software:
- Slicing features and support
- Dynamic 3D model manipulation and sculpting
- Texture and color mapping
- Cloud, web, or desktop-based applications
- Generative design
- Potential print error identification
- Print scaling options
- Freeform, solid, and mesh modeling
- End-to-end collaboration between multiple users and objects
- VR modeling support
- Ability to read, import, or export multiple 3D model file types
- Model and action histories
- Network and printer integration
3D Printing Software Comparison
When you are selecting the best 3D printing software for you, consider the following:
Skill level: Your level of comfort with 3D printing will determine which software is best for you. The features, terminologies, techniques, and processes of 3D printing can be overwhelming to beginners. To learn about 3D printing software, it is advised that you learn from Ultimaker Cura, which is free software that combines modeling and slicing in an easy-to-use interface. For more advanced features, such as VR visualization and object hollowing, Autodesk Fusion 360, Materialise MAGICS, and Parametric Creo provides robust suites for both modeling and slicing.
Cloud vs. desktop software: Due to the complex rendering required to show and manipulate 3D models, 3D printing software can be very taxing. If you have concerns that your primary operating machines will not be powerful enough to manipulate models, cloud- or web-based software like OnShape, 3DPrinterOS, and Fusion 360 may be efficient solution to reduce stress on your machines. Fusion 360 and OnShape also allow for collaboration in the cloud, allowing for multiple people to work in the same 3D spaces efficiently. Be aware that you will not be able to control server uptimes with cloud-based services.
Industry: Some 3D printing software has built-in tools and integrations specific to certain industries. While this won’t necessarily limit your ability to use your 3D printer, you may find that the tools or techniques may not synergize with the objects that you make. For example, FreeCAD specializes in architecture modeling, Materialize MAGICS is best used for industrial purposes, and SOLIDWORKS is designed for the creation of machine parts.
Machine type: Depending on whether you are using a filament or SLA 3D printer will determine which files you can use with your printer and your 3D printing software. Generally speaking, STL files are universally read by most 3D printing software, but more specific or advanced modeling or slicing requires different file types that must be compatible with your software in order to print the model. Rhinoceros3D and Ultimaker Cura are the most versatile software options in this regard.
Compatibility with multiple printers: If you need to use multiple 3D printers at once, such as in a classroom, you will need software that connects to all networked printers in the network. You may also need software that allows printers to communicate with each other. Repetier specifically offers this feature, but you may want to speak to vendors directly about their products’ compatibility with multiple printers.
There are many free, open-source 3D printing software for both modeling and slicing. Professional software can range from $75 to $2390 a year. Some professional software offer free trials, as well as free or discounted plans for students.
For more information on 3D printing software, visit the TrustRadius blog!