3D printing has revolutionized the way we think about manufacturing and prototyping, allowing us to create complex and customized objects with a single machine. While 3D printers are the physical tools that bring our designs to life, there’s another crucial element to the 3D printing process: slicer software.
Slicer software is a type of program that takes a 3D model and prepares it for printing on a 3D printer. It does this by slicing the 3D model into hundreds or thousands of thin layers, which the 3D printer can then build up one by one to create the final object.
In this article, we will introduce you to the best slicer software programs and discuss how to choose the right slicer software for your needs. We’ll also explore the benefits of slicer software in 3D printing and show you how to troubleshoot common 3D printing issues with slicer software programs.
Here’s a table that compares the top 5 slicer software programs on the market.
|Tool Name||Best For||Free Plan||Cheapest Plan||Rating from users (G2/Capterra)|
|Cura||Beginners and Professionals||Yes||$50/month for Professionals||4.7/4.7|
|Simplify3D||Professionals||No||$199 for one time license||4.2/4.7|
|MatterControl||Professionals||Yes||$155 for annual subscription||4.5/?|
Cura is an open-source slicer software developed by Ultimaker. It is widely used by 3D printing enthusiasts and professionals due to its extensive range of features and compatibility with a wide range of 3D printers.
Cura is able to read and fix damaged STL, 3MF, and OBJ files. It displays estimates for printing time, material consumption, and tool paths. It is constantly being updated by Ultimaker, and users are also permitted to create third-party plug-ins.
Cura offers a range of customization options, including the ability to adjust the layer height, infill pattern, and support structure, as well as more advanced features like automatic bed leveling and real-time print simulation.
- Powerful slicing features
- Integrated workflow with Ultimaker products
- Colour Blind Assist
- Advanced wire printing functionality
- Spiral Mode
- Automatic bed leveling
- Real-time print simulation
- Plugin integration with other 3D CAD software
- Compatible with the following 3D formats: STL, OBJ, X3D, 3MF, BMP, GIF, JPG, and PNG.
- Beginner-friendly: Cura is great for both beginners and advanced users.
- Highly customizable features: It offers over 400 advanced settings in custom mode.
- Intuitive UI: Its UI is simple and super user friendly.
- Supports most printers: Cura is compatible with almost any 3D printer.
- Some functions are hard to locate: Cura’s minimalist design has this major drawback; it can be difficult to find several functions.
Cura is a free, open-source software, however it offers paid packages for enterprise users:
- Ultimaker Professional: $50/month
- Ultimaker Excellence: $1000/month
PrusaSlicer is another open-source, one-of-a-kind slicer software. It is suitable for both FDM and SLA/DLP 3D printers, with a large number of advanced features and more than enough settings for anyone to experiment with.
PrusaSlicer’s provides accurate print time estimates (especially for Prusa printers) and its newly redesigned interface makes it simple to use. In addition to having a large user base, PrusaSlicer is actively maintained by its creators at Prusa Research, who release new versions and answer user questions on a regular basis.
- Highly intuitive interface
- Custom Supports
- Full 3D rendering
- Print time analysis
- Smooth variable layer height
- STEP files support
- Pressure equalizer
- Built-in printer profiles
- Beginner-friendly: PrusaSlicer is easy to learn.
- Supports most printers: It is compatible with almost any printer on the market.
- Regular Updates: PrusaSlicer receives frequent software updates.
- Support functionality needs improvement: There are occasions when the support structures end up in the incorrect locations.
PrusaSlicer is free
Simplify3D is a 3D slicing software on steroids. It used by many professionals and offers granular control that is difficult to achieve with other slicers. Users can import, scale, rotate, and fix 3D model using the software until it is perfect.
With Simplify3D, you have access to a ton of settings, including different infill techniques, layer control, print speed and even extruder temperature settings. Also, importing STL, OBJ, or 3MF files is quick and easy, and even large meshes are displayed quickly.
- Automatic mesh repair
- Integrated 3D modelling
- Realistic pre-print simulations
- Multi-part customization
- Highly customizable support structures
- Powerful integrated scripting engine
- Adaptive layer height
- Dynamic extrusion sizing
- Highly customizable: Simplify3D offers a wide range of configuration options.
- Powerful simulation features: It offers advanced simulation features that allows users to preview the printing process layer by layer.
- Supports various printers: It currently supports over 600 different 3D printers.
- Does not support plug-ins and add-ons: Simplify3D does not offer plug-ins and add-ons like its open-source counterparts.
- X3G and X3D files are not supported: It is not compatible with X3G or X3D file formats and does not support them.
Simplify3D’s one-time license cost $199/user.
Slic3r is a free and open-source 3D slicer program that is known for innovative features. It is the result of years of community testing of various print settings, materials, and 3D printers.
With Slic3r you can easily customize print settings like multiple extruders, brims and layer heights and even enable bridge detection for greater accuracy. Slic3r also supports command-line slicing for quick projects, as well as honeycomb infill and precise mesh cutting capabilities that take quality control to new levels.
- Fast G-code generation
- Powerful command line tool
- Visual preview of toolpaths
- Honeycomb infill
- Mesh repair
- Variable layer height
- Conditional G-code
- Multiple extruder support
Pros of Slic3r
- Excellent slicing performance: Slic3r’s offers outstanding slicing capabilities.
- Flexible configuration: It gives users a variety of configuration options.
- Intuitive UI: The UI is simple and straightforward.
Cons of Slic3r
- Complex supports often fail during production: It’s not uncommon for more complicated supports to be messed up during printing.
MatterControl was initially developed as a printer host software, and many of its features still reflect its original purpose. While the interface has undergone significant changes from the original to the current version, the overall structure has been maintained.
MatterControl’s basic mode offers you options to customize your 3D printing experience to meet the exact needs of each project. Layer height and fill density are easily adjustable as well as support material or raft that help achieve a high-quality print result every time.
Its advanced features enable a superior printing experience, from automated mesh repair to seamless support for multiple 3D printer extruders. Plus, you can get ahead of any potential issues by previewing the entire process in layers.
- Powerful design capabilities
- Adjustable slicer settings
- 3D and 2D layer preview modes
- Automatic bed leveling
- Multiple extruder support
- Automic mesh repair
- Manage multiple printing profiles
Pros of MatterControl
- MatterControl is a one stop shop 3D printing solution: It allows 3D printer users to design, prepare and and print their 3D models.
- Beginner-friendly: It is great for beginners because of the many available guides and tutorials.
- Intuitive User Interface: It has a classy and easy-to-use user interface.
Cons of MatterControl
- Irregular Updates: MatterControl’s free version is not regularly updated.
- Memory requirements: It consumes a lot of memory space.
The basic version of MatterControl is free, but a Pro Edition is available for a yearly fee of $155.
What Should You Look For in a Slicer Software?
Choosing the right slicer software for your 3D printing needs is important, as it can significantly impact the quality and success of your prints. Here are some factors to consider when choosing slicer software:
Compatibility With Your 3D Printer
Make sure that the slicer software you choose is compatible with your 3D printer. This typically means that it supports the printer’s firmware and communication protocols, as well as the materials and features of the printer.
Features and Capabilities
Consider the features and capabilities of the slicer software and how they align with your 3D printing needs. Some slicer software programs offer more advanced features, such as real-time print preview and simulation, automatic bed leveling, and customizable support structures.
Ease of Use
Choose slicer software that is easy to use and navigate, particularly if you are new to 3D printing. Look for software with a user-friendly interface and helpful documentation or support resources.
Consider the cost of the slicer software and how it fits into your budget. Some slicer software programs are free to use, while others require a subscription or one-time purchase fee.
User Community and Support
Look for slicer software that has a strong user community and good support resources, as this can be helpful for troubleshooting issues or getting tips and advice from experienced users.
By considering these factors, you can choose the slicer software that best meets your 3D printing needs and helps you achieve the best results from your 3D printer.
What is Slicer Software?
Slicer software is a tool that is used to prepare 3D models for printing. It takes a 3D model and “slices” it into layers, which can then be printed by a 3D printer.
Slicer software is an essential tool in the 3D printing process, as it allows users to optimize and customize their models for printing. It can be used to adjust the size and orientation of the model, as well as to generate the G-code that is needed for the printer to create the physical object.
In short, slicer software is like a translator that helps the 3D printer understand what you want it to print. It’s a very important part of the 3D printing process!
Benefits of Slicer Software in 3D Printing
Here are some of the most important reasons why you should use slicer software for your 3D printing projects:
Improved Print Quality
Slicer software allows you to fine-tune the print settings for your 3D printer, resulting in higher quality prints with better resolution and less defects.
Slicer software can help ensure that your 3D printer and the 3D models you are printing are compatible, reducing the risk of errors or failures during the printing process.
Greater Control Over the Printing Process
Slicer software allows you to adjust a wide range of parameters, including the layer height, infill pattern, and support structure, giving you more control over the appearance and functionality of your printed objects.
Slicer software can optimize the printer settings to increase printing speed, thereby, reducing the amount of time it takes to print an object. This can be particularly useful for large or complex prints that might otherwise take a long time to complete.
Enhanced Support for Overhangs and Bridging
Slicer software can automatically generate support structures for overhangs and bridging, which can be difficult for a 3D printer to print without assistance. This allows you to print objects with more complex geometries and shapes that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to print.
Improved Print Preview and Simulation
Some slicer software programs offer real-time print preview and simulation, allowing you to see how your object will look and how it will be printed before you start the actual print. This can help you identify and troubleshoot any potential problems before they occur, saving time and materials in the long run.
How to Use Slicer Software in 3D Printing
Using slicer software is an important step in the 3D printing process, as it allows you to prepare and optimize your digital models for printing, resulting in higher quality and more successful prints.
Here is a more detailed look at how slicer software works:
Import the 3D Model
The first step is to import the 3D model into the slicer software. This is typically done using the software’s import function, which allows you to select and load the model from your computer or an external storage device.
Adjust the Print Settings
Once the 3D model is imported, you can adjust a variety of print settings to optimize the way the model will be printed. These settings may include the layer height, infill pattern, support structure, and more.
Slice the Model
The slicer software uses the 3D model and the print settings to slice the model into layers. These layers are typically very thin, ranging from 0.1 mm to 0.3 mm in thickness.
Generate the G-code Instructions
The slicer software generates step-by-step instructions (G-code) that the 3D printer will follow to build the object layer by layer. The G-code instructions specify the movements and actions that the printer should take at each layer, including the position and extrusion of the filament.
Save the G-code
Once the slicer software has generated the G-code instructions, you can save them to a file, typically in a .gcode or .stl format.
Load the G-code Onto the Printer
The final step is to load the G-code onto the 3D printer using the printer’s software or control panel. This will initiate the printing process, and the printer will follow the G-code instructions to build up the object layer by layer until it is complete.
Troubleshooting Common 3D Printing Issues with Slicer Software
Here are some common issues that may arise when using slicer software in 3D printing, along with some potential solutions:
Incorrect Slice Settings
Poor print quality could result from incorrect slicing settings. Check that you have selected the appropriate printer and material settings in the slicer software, and adjust them as needed.
Overhangs and Bridging Issues
Lack of support structures could cause overhangs and bridging issues (e.g. sagging or drooping) in prints. Try adjusting the support settings in the slicer software to add more support to these areas.
Filament Jamming or Extrusion Problems
If your printer is experiencing filament jamming or extrusion problems, it may be due to incorrect slice settings or a clogged nozzle. Check the slice settings and try cleaning the nozzle to resolve these issues.
Model Import Errors
Users may experience “error in file” and other compatibility issues while importing a 3D model into the slicer software. To fix this, make sure that the model is in a format that is supported by the slicer software, and check for any errors in the file itself.
Slow Slicing Times
If the slicer software is taking a long time to slice your models, it may be due to a large model size or a slow computer. Try optimizing the model or upgrading your computer’s hardware to improve slicing times.
Incorrect Print Orientation
Incorrect print orientation may cause your prints to come out poorly or with defects. Try adjusting the print orientation in the slicer software to find a better orientation for your model.
Inconsistent or Inaccurate Prints
Prints may come out with variations in size or shape if there are issues with the printer’s calibration or slicing settings. Check the printer’s calibration and try adjusting the slice settings in the slicer software to improve the accuracy of your prints.
By troubleshooting and addressing these common issues, you can ensure that your slicer software is working correctly and efficiently for your 3D printing projects.
Slicing software is used to prepare a 3D model file for 3D printing. It takes the 3D model and slices it into hundreds or thousands of horizontal layers, generating a G-code file that instructs the 3D printer how to create the model layer by layer.
No, a slicer is not necessary to 3D print. A slicer is a 3D printing software used to convert 3D models into a format that can be read by a 3D printer. If you’re using a 3D printer that has its own software, you may not need to use a slicer.
Slicing is a term used to describe the process of taking a 3D model and transforming it into a set of instructions that a 3D printer can understand. The slicing software will take the 3D model and convert it into layers that the 3D printer can print one at a time. The slicing software will also generate support structures, as well as other specific instructions for the 3D printer.
Yes, STL files need to be sliced in order to be 3D printed.
Yes, you can use any 3D printing slicer software to slice your 3D model. However, you should choose the slicer software that is compatible with your 3D printer and that offers the features you need. Popular slicer software includes Cura, Simplify3D, Slic3r, and PrusaSlicer.
Slicer software transforms a 3D model into a series of thin layers in order to prepare it for printing, which is a crucial step in the 3D printing process. It allows users to customize and optimize their 3D prints by adjusting various settings such as layer height, infill, and support structures.
Choosing the right slicing software for your project can have a significant impact on the quality and success of your prints. Popular options include Cura, Simplify3D, Slic3r, PrusaSlicer and MatterControl. Each has its own unique features that make them suitable for different applications.
Cura is highly recommended for beginners and professionals alike. Arguably the best slicer software out there, it has more powerful tools and features than other slicers and enjoys a rapid rate of development and update.