Whether you are new to 3D printing or a seasoned veteran, the slicing software you use is a crucial step in the creation of your projects. The software is used to set up every project before it goes to be 3D printed and it’s best to use a package that you like. There are many different choices out there to choose from, and I will show you some here today.
What Is Slicing Software?
First off, what is slicing software?
Slicing a 3D model translates the model into a language that a 3D printer can understand and print.
This language is referred to as GCode (a generic name for a control language). This G-code can be understood and translated by the printer to create your 3D models. G-codes contains the instructions (or paths) for the 3D printer, how it will move, print and extrude during the printing process. These paths are instructions for geometry, so by following the path of the code the printer will eventually create your 3D model into real life.
A model is sliced into layers set by the user. Those layers then have a path created for the nozzle head to follow. Where the is geometry or infill on this path, the printer will extrude the required filament. After a few hours, you will have your 3D model.
Hobbyists use basic (and often free) slicing software, if you were working in an engineering workshop you might be using a more professional package. But this all depends on what you are making and the printers you are using. Regular FDM printers like the ender 3 will be very different to a professional metal printer and will require a more robust solution for their slicer. These professional packages are often not free, so, therefore, would require investment to be used.
Now that you know what a Slicer is, let’s have a look at your choices:
Slicing Software Options
I have used PrusaSlicer, Cura and Slic3r. My go-to slicer at the moment is PruisaSlicer. I find I can do a lot more model manipulation like cutting and layer heights changes in PrusaSlicer compared to the likes of Cura and Slic3r. But that is only because I do a lot of test prints on certain parts of models. I wouldn’t need to print the entire model just a piece of it, so the PrusaSlicer works great for me.
You, on the other hand, might just want a slicer that will just print, you models like Cura, and that’s great. Finding the right slicer for yourself will require so trialling. I used Cura for two years before I tried PrusaSlicer, all thanks to the input from other creators in the 3d printing space.
PrusaSlicer is an open-source 3d printing software, by Prusa. The package is constantly being updated to improve the user experience and most important to add new features and improve print quality and speed. You can follow the development process via Github because it’s an open-source project. I love open source and you should too.
Cura is probably the most beginner-friendly software that I have used while 3d printing. Its interface is super friendly and allows for a very quick pick up time. Not to mention the amount of material and youtube content online that you can learn from.
Now it’s not that I have had a bad experience with that slicing part of Slic3er, I just have been able to use some of the other features of the package without it crashing. I had some models that I wanted to cut and I wouldn’t be able to do it. My machine would crash before it would actually complete the task. Now, this could just be a user error. I got so frustrated with what I was trying to do that I gave up on the project as a whole. So don’t take my word on it, go and try Slic3r for yourself, you might have way better luck than I did.
OctoPrint is a high-quality supporting product that you can use to make your 3d printing easier. It is a browser-based platform that is open-source (Woohoo!) and completely free. Octoprint allows you to control and monitor multiple 3D printers at once. It connects your printer to the wifi using a Raspberry Pi. You don’t have to worry about taking your SD card out of your PC and bringing it over to your printer because of this.
You simply drag the G-Code and drop it directly into your 3D printer, the print starts and away you go. As long as your bed is clear, level and stocked with filament you are fine. Having a system like this allows you to control and monitor your work from anywhere, you might just need someone to remove the print afterwards though, I found this method to be very useful if you have long prints and a full-time job. you can monitor your print progress from work and take the required action if needed from there.
Personally, I would start with Cura and once you have become very familiar with that software, then migrate to PrisaSlicer. Eventually, I found Prusa to be better than Cura, but it has a very different layout than most packages and would require some knowledge before you start. I also found it to be faster, and that really helps with slicing time. I hate waiting around for ages for slicing software to compute, especially if you don’t have a powerful machine, making tiny changes and re-slicing can be a real hassle.
PrusaSlicer has defiantly improved my knowledge of printing too, I don’t know if this is just me gaining more experience in general or if it has really helped. Either way!
There is much different living software you can use for your projects. Ultimately it’s up to you to try and find the one you like the most. One software that you try might not be the best fit depending on features, time and quality, so you just have to try them all. 3D printing is a journey, pick the best slicer to suit your needs and it will really improve your time in the Hobby.
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Freelance designer & Mechanical Engineer.
Over Engineering Prop Designer.