So you’ve got your 3D printer all set up and ready, but there’s something missing. A good quality 3D printer software package is what’s going to help you to be able to bring your designs to life.
There is a lot of 3D printer software on the market to choose from but it can sometimes be tricky to know what’s going to work best for you.
Thankfully, we’ve covered all the bases and brought you this guide about some of the best 3D printer software. We’ve also written a handy buyer’s guide to help you to narrow down your decision.
Best 3D Printer Software - Reviews
AutoCad is a pretty well known software for CAD that’s used most often in a professional setting, but it’s also very good for use with 3D printing.
It’s a very well rounded software that has a lot of nifty features that you are sure to enjoy.
With Autodesk AutoCad, you can create 3D models with ease. You can also import and attach other data from PDFs, you can add annotations onto your drawings and you can even extract the object data onto tables.
The tools can be used both on Windows and on Mac, and with it you will also have access to some extra industry specific tools such as AutoCad Plant 3D, AutoCad Architecture, AutoCad Map 3D, AutoCad MEP, AutoCad Electrical a so much more.
AutoCad is ideal for those who are already quite experienced with programming models and for those that want an extensive range of tools at their disposal. You are able to use the tool both on the web and on a smartphone app so you can take your designs on the go.
It utilizes the latest DWG file format, and it has a bunch of information already loaded onto it. It even has plugins about making product designs such as windows and doors.
It’s pretty expensive but for such an intricate tool you really can’t go wrong with this.
If you are looking for an easy to use 3D printing software, then you will be happy with TurboCAD Deluxe.
This software features an easy to use interface that makes customizing your 3D designs a piece of cake. It is an efficient and powerful tool that is perfect for users of all skill levels.
With TurboCAD deluxe, you are going to have a whole range of different tools to use when you are editing your designs.
There’s an extrude tool for converting 2D designs into 3D designs, you are able to use polar tracking to help you move aspects of your design to precise locations to make editing much easier, and there are so many more features than just this that are well worth the cost.
The tool is also pretty good in regards to compatibility. You are able to use a range of file formats, including WMF, PDS and DWG. You can also import and export SKP and DXF files, which can be used with Google SketchUp and Autocad.
When you want to save your design into an image format, you can turn it into a BMP, JPEG, PNG or a GIF image file.
If you’re looking for one of the most powerful 3D printing software tools out there right now, then you’ve found it with Autodesk Fusion 360.
It’s actually one of the main choices for mechanical engineers, machinists and designers. This is a very powerful and efficient tool that will allow you to create high quality products in no time.
With Fusion 360, you will get complete control over any shape designs, so you will be able to effectively print objects of any shape and size.
It comes with a bunch of fantastic features which allows you to make some incredibly intricate models with a lot of detail. You can edit your designs quickly and easily too using the History Tree feature.
If you have a team of designers working on products with you, Autodesk Fusion also allows you to work with other designers on your team using the same platform at the same time.
It also has an incredibly useful simulation feature that you can use with VR to test the design both for functionality and simulation. This is an easy to use software that’s perfect for any design team, and for what it offers it’s very inexpensive.
Rhinocerous 3D is actually quite well known for being one of the most versatile 3D modelers out there, and it’s incredibly precise as it uses NURB.
This is a mathematical model then allows the user to be able to alter any points, curves, meshes, surfaces or solids in any way that they please. It also provides a bunch of design features too.
This is an incredibly capable tool that will allow you a lot of freedom with creating 3D models.
With it, you can edit any curves inputted easily using the leverage history recording feature. Manipulating designs has also never been easier!
The tool allows you to import files from a number of locations, from DXF, to SolidWorks, IGES, AutoCAD, OBJ, SketchUp, MicroStation, STEP and STL.
You can add dimensions from pretty much any viewpoint too.
SketchUp is actually most known for its uses in architectural design. The tool will allow you to be able to truly bring your models to life in effortless 3D, and can be used by a range of professionals to create wonderful models.
With SketchUp, you can document 3D designs in 2D. You are also able to collaborate with teammates, and can share 3D model designs among a team.
You can use a VR experience with it to be able to simulate the design before you print it.
Furthermore, it’s very good for beginners that aren’t quite used to printing and 3D modelling yet, and the interface is very intuitive.
If you don’t know what to make yet you can also use some of the templates included with the program.
Best 3D Printer Software - Buyers Guide
What Is 3D Printing Software?
To put it simply, 3D printing software will turn your 3D models you create using the software into real live models that you are able to use in the real world and physically touch.
The 3D model will be taken as an input and then it will be directed to the 3D printer which will create a copy of that model in real life. Before you make the final print it’s also optimized so that the model doesn’t end up deforming or breaking during the printing process.
With modern 3D printing software there are also usually a bunch of extra handy features such as the ability to collaborate over the cloud and there’s also virtual reality compatibility. You can even use it if you aren’t technical as the software is so user friendly.
How Does 3D Printing Operate?
To begin with and as we’ve already briefly mentioned, to start off with you will have a 3D model. You will make this on the computer. From here, you are going to need a few extra things such as a 3D scanner, an app, a code, a haptic device or, as we’ve mentioned, some 3D modelling software.
Essentially, making a 3D printed object happens when you put down a number of layers of material and then the printer will turn it into a 3D object. Every layer is essentially a thinly sliced horizontal cross section of the object you are going to get.
Before getting started with selecting a 3D printer though, there are a few different things you should be familiar with.
Slicer (or slicing software)
Slicing software is what is used in the vast majority of the 3D printing process. It’s what converts the 3D objects under the instructions of the specific 3D printer you use.
Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM)
This is a process used in 3D printing that uses a continuous filament consisting of thermoplastic material. This is what is used to make the printed shape of the objects you create in the 3D printer.
Parametric 3D Printing
Parametric 3D Printing is when the model is defined by set parameters, such as certain lengths, heights and widths. This is then able to be edited during and after the modeling process.
This is the programming language that is used for 3D printers. This consists of commands to move the parts inside of the printer.
Choosing the Right 3D Printing Software
So now that we’ve covered the key terms to know about 3D printing and software, it’s time to take a look at some of the key things to look for in 3D printing software.
There are so many 3D printing software options on the market that it can sometimes be tricky to know which software will work the best for you, your needs and your team requirements. There are just a couple of things that you should consider before choosing a 3D printing software.
It’s worth looking for customization features to add more intricate 3D models. Some things that are especially helpful include sculpting, edit history and being able to leverage 2D models in order to make 3D models.
If your 3D printing software has cloud capabilities then it means that you and your team will be able to work together to efficiently make 3D models and other design tools. In fact, with cloud access, you are able to use the software from pretty much anywhere to help with the printing and 3D modeling.
It’s very useful to have design software that’s able to support a number of different file formats. Basically the more file formats that the tool is able to support, the more simplified the process of importing and adding new elements into the 3D model becomes. This is a really handy time saver that you won’t want to miss out on!
This is also something particularly handy. Some 3D printer software comes with a simulation feature. With this, you can use VR to find any errors or gaps in your design before it goes to print. This means you are able to check over any histories, so it will save you a lot of material and time.
You should try to opt for a 3D modeling software that is able to provide you with intricate adjustment tools so you can quickly scale the design of he 3D model in any way you want. This helps you to be able to make 3D models at any size and shape.
In addition to the above, there are also a few other things you should consider on a more general basis:
Software can become pretty expensive, so it’s important that you ensure that the cost of the subscription is going to lie within your budget all while you are still meeting the base requirements you need for you and your team.
If you are a beginner though, it may be best opting for more open source options that don’t cost anything to give you a feel for 3D printing and whether it’s going to be right for you.
Some 3D printing software tools are ideal to be used in an industrial setting, and they tend to come with a number of different advanced features.
In this case you need to ensure that the features will be useful to you and if it’s going to be worth your money to pay for these advanced features. If that is the case then you can go ahead and buy.
Some 3D printing software options are very intricate and require some script writing, which is going to require you to do a lot of learning so you know how to use it. If you aren’t all that familiar with 3D printing to begin with then you will need to look into the amount of learning you are going to need to be able to use the software option of your choice.
It’s important to know beforehand how capable you are of learning the intricate details of 3D printing and scripting.