Software It's Not So Hard
Slicing Software the only program you need to print!!!
Once you have the item you want to print the only program you need is Slicing Software. You can look at the slicer as a detailed step by step set of directions for the printer to follow to build an object. The slicing program changes the STL file into G-Code. G-Code is the step by step directions (tool path) that the printer follows to create its model. In the slicing software you decide the speed, infill, which extruder to use, layer thickness, and all the rest of the settings that are going to be laid down by the printer.
Using existing files
Using existing files is the easier of the two options. There are sites online which you are able to download the STL file to your computer or 3D Printer. For 3D printers that are capable of slicing natively, all you need to do is wait for the slicing to complete then push print. For slicing on a computer, once your slicing program is finished slicing you need to export the file to your 3D printer via SD card or connected with a cable. Once these steps have been completed just sit back and wait for your item to print.
Making your own
To make your own file, 3D CAD software is needed. CAD (computer aided designs) software is used by 3D printing aficionados, engineers, architects, and drafters. CAD is used for 3D modeling and 2D layouts of physical components. In CAD software you can draw, view, and change STL files. STL files are the format that the slicing programs read. Unlike using someone else’s 3D drawings, there is much more pride it taking a blank page and filling it with whatever your mind can imagine.
Is Fast & Easy
is Challenging & Fun
There are some printer manufacturers that don’t use open source programs to run some or all of their printers. There are some definite advantages to this type of printer. The software is generally really easy and straight foward to use. There are also some things that you can do with them that can’t be done on open source because it is specific to that printer. The down side to a proprietary software is if there is something that you want to do with it and there isn’t an options to do it then you are stuck. Overall proprietary software is great for any consumer that is getting into 3D printing, and looking for the ease of plug and play.
- Ease of Use 95%
- Limitations 10%
Open source Software
Open source is what the Maker is all about. This is the movement that brought us desktop 3D printers. Open source software is a lot more in depth. You can get into the code (known as G-code), and start to tweak settings to do almost anything you want the printer to do. This type of software can be used with almost any printer on the market that is an open source printer.
- Ease of Use 85%
- Limitations 5%
Native Software to printer
Some printers have what is called Native software build into them. This is when you don’t need a computer to make minor changes in a slicing program because the printer has a slicer built into it. This is a very nice option because there are always those face palm moments when you realize you made a mistake in the slicing program. So what do you have to do, load the file back into the slicing program and fix the problem then get the file back on the printer. When there is native software this is not that big of an issue. You can make the change right from the printer. This is a big time saver.
Recommended Slicing Software
Developed by Ultimaker, Cura has everything you need to prepare and print your 3D objects.
Is well designed slicer that delivers reliable performance on a broad range of objects.
Great compatibility with a large range of printers, fast G-code generation and intuitive UI Slic3r is a primer option.
Is a easy to use slicer that is capable for any maker with a single extruder printer.
Free 3D Software
Autodesk 123D Designs
Easy-to-use yet powerful modeling tool with library of existing components or the ability to create from scratch. Also available for the iPad.
Windos, Mac, Online Service
Drawing-based tool for architects, designers, builders, makers and engineers who design for the physical world.
A fantastic beginner program, that leads you to learn complex things through simple quests. Runs right in your browser, and the skills you learn are easily transferable to more advanced programs.
An open source parametric 3D modeler, great for both the home user, hobbyist and experienced designer. Parametric modeling allows for easy editing of your design.
Windows, Mac, Linux
A powerful application with full-fledged professional tools, Blender has a wide community and resources to help you learn.
Windows, Mac, Linux
A free, introductory digital sculpting tool, a great stepping stone for digital sculptors.
Commercial 3D Software
An advanced design and documentation tool. Ideal for architects and design engineers.
An advanced modeling tool that is great for mechanical, precise product design.
A massive, complete suite of tools for professional all aspects of 3D design including modeling, rigging, dynamics and animation.
3D Studio Max
An extensive suite of 3D design tools, with a unique and intuitive interface.
A classic 3D graphic software, which includes powerful rendering, animation and modeling tools.