3D Printing Software

3D Printing Software | TinkerCad

Make the Most of Your 3D Printer with 3D Printing Software

3D printing software is a necessity when you want to make anything with your 3D printer.  To 3D print something, your first need a 3D model.  3D models are created using computer-aided design (CAD) software.  You want to make sure you choose software that will perform the desired task – and at the level that you require. There are free and paid software programs out on the market, so choosing one (or more) for you to use with your printer should be a relatively easy feat. Learn about the various software programs, read reviews, and determine which ones are within your price range.

Why Do You Need 3D Printing Software?

The only way to tell your printer what to print is to have some kind of graphic design on your computer. There are various tools that you can download that allow you to print something without having to create anything. However, there are going to be times when you do want to create something on your own and the 3D printing software is going to be needed.

You will need to build a model with something. There are countless design tools on the market, so it’s a matter of choosing the best modeling software to meet your needs. Many are designed for beginners, so there’s no need to have a degree in engineering to figure out how to do some of the best 3D printing.

Slicing and Sending

Those that have been working with 3D printers for a while know all about slicing and sending. If you want to print any object, there are two operations that must be performed.

Slicing is the process in which a 3D file is broken into layers, generating the G-code necessary to feed into your 3D printer so that the model can be printed. If it is not broken into coding that the printer can understand, then it won’t be able to print it. After the slicing, there is the sending, which is when the code actually goes to the printer in order to print the 3D file that is desired.

Slicing and sending can be printer specific. This means that not all programs are going to communicate with all of the 3D printers on the market. You have to know about the 3D printing software that works with your printer.

Best 3D Slicers

Slic3r

Slic3r

  • Open source born from the RepRap community
  • Windows, Mac

Free

Simplify3D

Simplify3D

  • Fastest and simplest slicer on the market
  • Windows, Mac

Paid

Kisslicer

KISSlicer

  • Open source
  • Free and paid versions
  • The Keep It Simple Slicer

Free/Paid

Ultimaker_logo.svg

Ultimaker Cura

  • Open source
  • Mac
  • Capability up to 200 different settings

Free 

Do 3D Printers Come With Their Own Proprietary Software?

The short answer is, it depends on which 3D printer you purchase.

Best 3D Printing Software

Open Source 3D Printing Software

If you purchased an open-source 3D printer that didn't come with proprietary software you will need 3rd party open-source software in order to create, slice and send your 3D model to the printer.  The software that’s out there ranges from incredibly easy and user friendly to extremely complex and sophisticated professional design software.  You want to make sure you choose one that is simple to learn and provides you with the artistic effects that you need.

AutoDesk TinkerCAD

  • Easy to use
  • Web based software

Free

AutoDesk 123D

  • Powerful 3D Creation and Editing
  • Windows, Mac, iOS

Free

AutoDesk Fusion 360

  • Product design and fabrication
  • Web based software

Free

AutoDesk 3DS Max

  • Professional 3D modeling
  • Windows

Free / $Paid

AutoDesk is the leader in open-source software for people who make things.  If you've ever driven a high-performance car, admired a towering skyscraper, used a smartphone, or watched a great film, chances are you've experienced what millions of Autodesk customers are doing with AutoDesk software.  

AutoDesk AutoCAD

  • Flagship CAD tool for professionals
  • Windows, Mac, iOS

Free / $Paid

AutoDesk Inventor

  • Design 3D prototypes
  • Windows

Free / $Paid

Blender

  • Create animation and visual effects
  • Windows, Mac

Free

Onshape

  • Professional part and assembly design
  • Web Based

Free / $Paid

The difference between free open source software and professional software for 3D printers is going to come down to speed, design templates and features.  The professional software is going to render your designs faster, have a larger library of templates to begin your model from and going to have the features professionals need to construct world-class 3D models. 

Rhinoceros

  • Free form surface modeler
  • Windows, Mac

Paid

Google SketchUp

  • Google drawing application
  • Windows, Mac

Free / $Paid

Solidworks

  • Professional CAD engineering software
  • Windows

Paid

ZBrush

  • Digital sculpting tool
  • Windows, Mac

Paid

Pricing 3D Software

When seeking 3D printing software, you have to set your budget. This is going to depend greatly on whether you are making money from what you print off of your printer or if it’s something that you have around the house for fun. Once you set the budget, it will be a lot easier to determine which program is right for you.

Software programs range from being absolutely free to upward of $5,000. While it’s easy to say that you get what you pay for, this is not always the case. There are some open-source programs that give you a number of features where you don’t have to spend any money.

It’s a good idea to look through the features to determine if you are going to use all of them. If there are too many features on the software that you are considering, there’s likely a more affordable option that will better suit you.

Software Reviews

With so much software that’s out on the market, you have to familiarize yourself with the options. While each of the manufacturer websites will talk to you about features and even provide a video demo to show you what you can expect, one of the best things you can do is read reviews from real consumers who have already used the 3D printing software with their 3D printers.

  • The reviews will tell you a lot of things, including:- Price- Ease of use- Number of features- Value for the money- Problems encountered- Quality of program

When you read reviews about the various aspects of the software, you can decide whether you want to download or purchase it. What you want to avoid is buying software that doesn’t work the way you wanted it to work – or buying software that is so complicated that it requires you to take a course on how to use it.

The reviews are usually as honest as they can be. This allows you to learn about the software so that you can spend your money on the software that’s right for you.

Buying 3D Printing Software

You know you’re ready to buy 3D printing software once you have a printer and you know what features are important to you. Don’t buy the software without buying the printer first so that you can buy the best possible match. If the slicing and sending is not compatible, you won’t be able to send your designs to the printer, which means you may have wasted a considerable amount of time designing something that you will never be able to hold in your hand.

Do your homework and read the reviews that are out there. Set a budget for how much you want to spend and then make a purchase that you can be happy with.