Understanding 3D Printers – Software

It is always a good thing to understand the available options in 3D Printing software – their advantages, their limitations, their specialties, which group of people the software is most liked by, etc., After all, the software is the heart of the 3D printing.

There are countless 3D printer software available today. This article will explore the most common and useful ones with keeping in mind the following basic criteria the software has to pass to be eligible for our little round up here.

  • Proficiency level required for using the software. This can be defined in many terms – Cross platform compatible, User friendly navigation, easy to install and use, etc., but let us stick to the overall idea of being easy to use.
  • Whether the software is free or at premium.
  • Type of Software – Modeling software or slicing software. Type of software is explained in more details in next section.

 Two types of Software for 3D printing

When it comes to 3D printing there are two main parts or types of 3D printing.

  1. 3D modeling software

In simple terms, 3D modeling software are any software which are used to model the desired 3D object in a 3D rendered workspace and can be exported into a .stl format. There are difference varieties of software available with different systems of operation, level of details, additional functions etc., but the bottom line is that the software should be able to produce the 3D model and export into a STL format.

Most of the software that is supplied with the 3D printer doesn’t come with 3D modeling software. You can download the free software or purchase a more advanced featured software at your convenience in order to create 3D models.

  1. Slicing Software

Slicing software takes STL file of a 3D model as input and creates g-code file with line wise codes generated by slicing the 3D model bottom-to-top in the thinnest layer increments. The slicing software essentially doesn’t create 3D models but depends on the output of a 3D modeling software to function.

Most of the software that comes with the 3D printer from the manufacturer is typically“slicer software” that takes STL file as the input and creates g-code command for the printer. There are a few printers which run on open source slicers also.

Below is a simple illustration to understand the 3D modeling and slicer software.

Understanding 3D Printer software

Here is the table of 3D printer software which have been listed in Retnirp3D. The list will grow as we come across more software. You can click on the columns to sort with specific parameters. Use the search button to filter the words / function you want to see in software.

The list is very simple and every printer name has the link which takes you to the page where the software can be accessed. You can use this list as the starting point to shortlist the software before moving to further evaluation.

SOFTWAREProficiency LevelCostType
123D Design BeginnerFree3d modelling
3Dtin BeginnerFree3d modelling
Cubeteam BeginnerFree3d modelling
Cubify Invent IntermediatePremium3d modelling
Design Spark Mechanical IntermediateFree3d modelling
FreeCAD IntermediateFree3d modelling
Geomagic Design IntermediatePremium3d modelling
Inventor AdvancesPremium3d modelling
Rhino 3D AdvancedPremium3d modelling
Sketchup BeginnerFree3d modelling
Sketchup Pro AdvancedPremium3d modelling
Solidworks AdvancedPremium3d modelling
TinkerCAD BeginnerFree3d modelling
Blender IntermediateFree3d modelling
Slic3r IntermediateFreeSlic3r
Netfabb Pro AdvacedPremium3d modelling & slicer
OpensCAD BeginnerFree3d modelling
3Dcrafter BeginnerFree3d modelling
3Dcrafter Pro AdvancedPremium3d modelling
3Dcrafter Plus IntermediatePremium3d modelling
BRL-CAD IntermediateFree3d modelling
AutoCAD IntermediatePremium3d modelling
3DS MAX AdvancedPremium3d modelling
Ultimaker Cura BeginnerFreeSlicer
KISSLicer BeginnerFreeSlicer
KISSLicer Pro IntermediatePremiumSlicer
Repetier Host IntermediateFreeSlicer
ReplicatorG BeginnerFreeSlicer
Slic3r BeginnerFreeSlicer
Skeinforge BeginnerFreeSlicer
SculptrisBeginnerFree3d modelling
3D model to print BeginnerPremium3d modelling
Cinema 4D AdvancedPremium3d modelling
Lightwave AdvancedPremium3d modelling
Autodesk Maya AdvancedPremium3d modelling
Photoshop CC BeginnerPremium3d modelling
Zbrush AdvancedPremium3d modelling
Shapesmith BeginnerFree3d modelling
Honeycomb BeginnerFree3d modelling
ProgeCAD IntermediatePremium3d modelling
Fusion IntermediatePremium3d modelling
Form Z Pro AdvancedPremium3d modelling
Form Z Jr IntermediatePremium3d modelling
Form Z Free BeginnerFree3d modelling
Cheetah 3D IntermediatePremium3d modelling
ViaCAD IntermediatePremium3d modelling
Spaceclaim AdvancedPremium3d modelling
Mudbox AdvancedPremium3d modelling
Revit AdvancedPremium3d modelling
Alias AdvancedPremium3d modelling
Inventor AdvancedPremium3d modelling
123D Sculpt IntermediateFree3d modelling
Cubify Sculpt IntermediatePremium3d modelling
Leopoly IntermediatePremium3d modelling
SculptGL IntermediateFree3d modelling

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