From manufacturing to aerospace and automotive, 3D printing is completely changing the game as companies are able to stay on the cutting edge of technology to create customized tools and fixtures at a reduced rate while acquiring the best results.
However, intricate and detailed 3D prints require advanced and functional 3D modeling software that produces the best results.
But how do you pick the best out of the wide range of 3D printing software available to choose from?
This is why we’ve researched, ranked, and reviewed the best free 3D printing software you can try out this year, as well as the factors you should consider when making your purchase.
Let’s get started.
3D printing software, also known as slicing software, is used in 3D printing to covert a 3d object model into printing instructions for your printer. Basically, a slicing software cut 3D models into several horizontal 2D layers, which would be printed separately in the future.
Below are the best three 3D modeling software for 3D printing you can try out to get the best results for your 3D prints.
Tinkercad is one of the simplest and most effective online 3D printing software you can get your hands on. Whether you are old or young, a beginner, hobbyist, teacher, or learner, Tinkercad was made for you.
You can use Tinkercad to design anything, ranging from home and outdoor decorations, toys, jewelry, and lots more –the opportunities are endless with Tinkercad.
Tinkercad makes use of CAD software, and this software is what enables you to produce really complex models by integrating simple projects. This simply means: with Tinkecad, you can create complicated designs in simple ways, which is why it is widely enjoyed by many users across the globe.
Tinkercad is your go-to alternative to other 3D modeling software available, such as SketchUp or FusioN360. The advantage Tinkercad has over these two models is that it is free, and it also offers many unique features that the SketchUp and Fusion360 do not have.
Tinkercad has many unique features that make it stand out from other 3D slicing software. Below are some of its outstanding features:
Although Tinkercad software is popularly known to be perfect for complete beginners, it can also be of great help for professionals who want to create complex designs through the Tinkercad CSG feature.
The CSG feature lets you create solid models, so you can create complex designs when you add more shapes. This makes it easy for you, as a professional, to build complex designs in the easiest way possible.
STL, OBJ, and SVG Enabled
You can save, export, and print files with different models when you use Tinkercad software for your 3D prints. With your STL file, you can go ahead using the slicer. The slicing software helps you convert your model into thin layers and creates a G-code file that has instructions specific to the type of printer you use.
Tinkercad software lets you include electronic circuits in your 3D designs, which let you create 3D objects with light and movement.
Tinkercad software has a simple interface that enables you to make use of it with ease and without complications. You can input instructions and perform tasks efficiently without hassle through its simple interface that saves time and produces great results.
JJO, a systems manager and user on G2, considers Tinkercad software has a great introduction for beginners.
Tinkercad software has been designed to give its users maximum benefits and a great user experience. Below are some of the benefits Tinkercad offer:
Modify Shapes and Objects
Although there are ready-made designs available on Tinkercad, you can always select any of the ready-made designs to suit your taste. You can modify the shapes, sizes, and colors of objects to serve your purpose through the unique Tinkercad features available.
It Saves Money
Tinkercad is free, so you don’t have to worry about spending a lot of money to create the designs you love. All you have to do is install the software and start making use of Tinkercad; no payment is required!
Easy to Use
Using Tinkercard software is effortless and uncomplicated; many users have attested to this. For example, Ben M, Head of a company’s development Technology and a user on G2, finds Tinkercad’s simplicity incredible.
‘TInkercad is incredibly easy to learn and use. I, as well as several friends of mine, were able to go from no knowledge of the software to use it effectively for 3d printing simple parts in under an hour, which I can’t say about any other 3d printing/slicing software I’ve used so far.
Aside from how simple it is to learn, it’s extremely quick to throw new prototypes together, and that’s what it works best for. When you need something made up of simple shapes, and ideally, that doesn’t have to be professional quality or made to absolute perfection, there is nothing simpler than Tinkercad.
Below are some of the user’s experiences with Tinkercad you can learn from:
Adeline G, a user on G2, has shared his son’s experiences with Tinkercad software.
‘I’ve been using this software with my son (age 10) for the last six months. The GUI is incredibly easy to use, and there is loads of support via the help. I like the use of color to enable you to differentiate between different shapes and also lack of shape (i.e., a hole through a design).
We loved the lessons, which enabled us to get to grips with the concept of designing in 3D as well as giving us ideas for other creations. It’s fun to use and so makes something that could be a chore, a pleasure instead.’
He goes further to share some challenges he encountered with Tinkercad software below:
‘I haven’t found a way to rip a design directly to my printer; we have to use third-party software to do so. Otherwise, I find it a great tool. I recommend accessing ‘Thingiverse’ for a catalog of other people’s uploaded designs, which you can then use and adapt within TinkerCAD’
Grayson H reviewed on G2 that he found the Tinkercad a basic, easy to use program and effective for anyone wanting to 3D print.
‘I really enjoy the easy to use interface. It makes it so people without any prior experience and beginner students can do what they want and design things they never thought they could before. I was able to teach my younger brother, someone with zero background in virtual design, how to use this program within minutes of showing it to him.’
However, Grayson H further reviewed that he found it a bit limiting because of some things he couldn’t design.
‘I am not a huge fan of how limiting it can be. There are few things that I cannot design, but those few things can sometimes be frustrating without.’
Cura is completely a free software that covers your computer into a set of instructions for your 3D printer to follow. It is one of the most common 3D printer software you can rely on for an easy to use the experience as it lets you input instructions and perform tasks with an easy to navigate interface.
Cura software comes with its uniqueness, which sets it apart from other 3D software printers. One of its uniqueness is its ability to accommodate different types of 3D printers.
This means you can include different types of machines in the Cura software profile and change its settings to suit the 3D printer you want to use. This outstanding feature lets you use the Cura software irrespective of the type of 3D printer you use.
The Cura software is equipped with many features, which make it a highly functional and widely acceptable option by users. Below are some of its unique features:
Cura software lets you create amazing, complex prints through its unique wire printing feature. The wire printing feature creates a G-code set of instructions for your 3D printer, which in turn makes it possible to produce a single layer wireframe from any 3D CAD file.
Spiral mode prints from the edge of a print part and consistently moves upward spirally. By including the spiral mode feature with rainbow filament, you will not only create spiral vases but would also be able to create other types of colorful transitioning models you would love.
Fuzzy Skin Feature
Cura software enables you to improve, change and edit the outlook of your models, and one of the effective ways to do this is through the fuzzy skin feature. With the fuzzy skin feature, you can change the outlook of your models to a fuzzy skin outlook that is pleasing to behold.
The fuzzy skin feature also has an interesting ability to turn the outlook of black plastic into a metallic appearance so you can get more creative with your designs to produce amazing results.
The adaptive layers help you retain the quality of your prints even at the highest speed limit. When you properly set up your 3D printer, your 3D printer is bound to take its time when printing at higher resolutions and less time when it’s not by analyzing the geometry of your CAD model.
This ensures that curved areas are printed with thinner layers, and areas with minor differences are printed with thicker layers, thereby making curved areas look amazing even at a shorter print time rate.
Color Blind Assist
This feature lets you distinguish between colors through the Colorblind Assist Light and Colorblind Assist dark options. It also lets you switch your theme to dark mode whenever you want.
There are many benefits that come with making use of Cura software for your 3D printer. Below are some of them:
Simple to use interface
Cura software makes designing with 3D prints really easy through its clear interface. Its easy to use interface allows you to select between two settings from the beginning, which makes the entire process smooth and hassle-free.
The two settings include the recommended and custom mode. The recommended mode lets you achieve the best results with your design through few clicks, while the custom mode lets you explore over 400 settings available on the Cura software.
Input instructions quickly
With Cura’s cloud, you don’t have to send instructions using the traditional method of saving your files using the USB stick, as you can always send instructions directly to your printer from the media stored in your Cura’s cloud.
Cura software lets you print with different printers at the same time through Cura Connect. Through this, you are able to save time and get more done in a short period.
Access your files from anywhere
The Cura software lets you store your files in the Cura cloud, which gives you the ability to access your files from anywhere.
Free to use
You don’t have to pay to use the Cura software as it is free. All you have to do is install and start enjoying the unique benefits the Cura software has to offer.
Ultimaker Cura Community
The Ultimaker community is always available to give you tips and suggestions on how to use the Cura software effectively to achieve maximum results.
Below are some of the users’ personal experiences with the Ultimaker Cura software
AA, on G2, describes the Ultimaker Cura Software as the best free software printer; he further goes on to say this:
‘The best thing about Cura is that it is valid for all 3D printers; for example, if you have an Anet A8 that does not appear in the predefined printers, you can take a Prusa I3, and with changing the size of the hotbed, you already have it configured. It also allows multiple configuration options for the filament’’
However, he commented that what leaves little to be satisfied is that he was not able to edit his 3D models with the software.
‘What I don’t like about Ultimaker Cura is not being able to touch up the 3D models in the software itself. For example, if you want to cut the head to a figure you cannot cut it with this software, you need another to perform this operation.’
Matthew B describes the Cura Software as a powerful slicing package for all additive applications and goes further on his review below:
‘The package is free, intuitive, and every update seems to make it better. I implement this software with an Ultimaker 2, and even using the default settings, create high-quality 3D printed item.’
PrusaSlicer software is one of the widely sought-after 3D printing software for perfect printing designs due to its unique functionalities. Apart from the fact that it is free to use, it is also equipped with many unique features that set it apart from other 3D printing software.
One of the many unique things that distinguish the PrusaSlicer software from other 3D printing software is the fact that it can be used to slice both resin and FDM printers and is equipped with different modes that enable you to tweak the settings based on your level of expertise unlike most 3D printing software available.
The PrusaSlicer software is equipped with a number of advanced features that enhance its functionality. These features include:
The PrusaSlicer software has a variable layer feature that helps you create quality prints at a shorter time frame. You can choose automatic options that enable you to analyze the specific model and input the most suitable layer height settings, which let you save more time while creating quality print results.
The meshes feature lets you make crucial adjustments to your designs. Meshes are shapes that are available on your application but can’t be printed. Although these shapes can’t be printed, they can be used to effect some changes. The changes include changing infill patterns, adjusting layer heights, and many others.
The G-code feature lets you pause and make inputs during your design. For instance, you can pause at different layers to change filament colors or do other things to achieve the best results with your prints.
There are many benefits associated with using the PrusaSlicer software for your 3D print designs. Some of these benefits are listed below:
Easy to use interface
The PrusaSlicer comes with an efficient and simple to use interface. It is well organized and makes of categories, views, modes, and categories to enhance a seamless and effective use.
Free to use
You can access the PrusaSlicer software for free as no payment is required. This lets you save money while you enjoy the several benefits the PrusaSlicer has to offer.
Effective for printing multiple parts
The Prusaslicer software has an arranged command system that arranges the models on default in the best way possible, which makes it more effective to print multiple parts at the same time.
Many users reviewed their experiences with the PrusaSlicer software by making a comparison with the Cura Slicer software. Below are some of the reviews:
‘I use Slic3r (Prusa edition) pretty much all the time! I have only installed CURA for my 10yo daughter as the interface is a bit simpler to use when she wants to print on her own.
Overall I find Slic3r just much more intuitive and simpler to play around with the different complex parameters… You should give it a try and see for yourself!’
BMG Volcano MK3S, a user on Reddit, reviewed he loved the fact that the PrusaSlicer has bridging settings for the first solid layer.
‘The really big thing for me is that it uses bridging settings for the first solid layer over infill. So it can increase fan speed, adjust the flow, and slow down. This means I can print other top layers’ way faster w/o worrying about the print failing. For large parts, this can save hours.
The other is section/height modifiers. You can use more walls/infill/etc. On certain areas and/or heights of a model’.
When making your purchase for your 3D modeling software for your 3D printing, there are certain factors you should keep in mind and look out for to ensure you make the right purchase. These factors are listed below.
A good 3D slicer should have great speed. It should be able to import STL files or any other type of 3D printer file quickly, irrespective of how large the model is.
Easy to use experience
A good 3D printing software shouldn’t give you a hard time. You should be able to navigate its settings, input instructions, and perform tasks easily without hassle.
A good 3D printer should be able to inform you about the activities going on in the 3D printer so you can be proactive and take preventive measures. For instance, it should be able to notify you of how much printing time is left and if the filament is about to get exhausted.
There is much 3D printing software that is free to use, just like the ones mentioned here. However, if you are going to make use of a paid version, it should be able to deliver on its promise and within your budget.
Warning and Alert Features
A good slicer should notify you if you are doing things the wrong way so you can fix the errors, which would save you wasting your time and printing, error-filled models.
This review examined the best three 3D printing modeling software for 3D printing, their unique features, their benefits as well as user’s stories. This review also explained certain factors you should consider when buying your 3D printing software so you can make the best decision with your purchase. Have a great time printing!