Now that you have your handy 3D printer, you must be excited to get started! However, to begin your printing projects, you will need to invest in 3D printing software. This will enable you to print various objects. There is a wide selection of 3D printing software available; however, to get the most out of your 3D printer and to print the most flawless 3D designs, you need the best 3D printing software, which this review will help you with.
The following 3D printing software options have been approved by both professionals and beginners alike as the best 3D printing software in the market.
A 3D modeling free software and available for Linux/UNIX, MS Windows, and Mac OSX. Unlike most of free 3D modeling Software (such as blender) OpenScad doesn’t have an interface for artistic aspects instead you have a 3D compiler that reads scripts of files that describes the object and render it’s in a 3D model form, in other words, you don. This premium CAD CAM software from MecSoft Corporation is a standalone package that has a host platform for CAM and 3D printing. It will address all the CNC machining needs in the market. Open SCAD for Mac. This freeware is compatible with the Mac platform and can be used to create solid 3D models. It focuses on CAD aspects to create 3D models of machine parts with a 3D compiler. Beginners 3D Builder 3D Slash 3D-Crafter Leopoly ScultGL LibreCAD QCAD K-3D LeoCAD Wings 3D TinkerCAD BlocksCAD Antimony Meshmixer Smoothie 3D OpenSCAD Blender FreeCAD SolveSpace eMachine Shop Sculptris Meshlab HeeksCAD Art of Illusion DraftSight NanoCAD.
What is 3D Printing?
3D printing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file.
The creation of a 3D printed object is achieved using additive processes. This means that an object is created by laying down many layers of material until the final object is created. Each layer can be seen as a very thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the final object.
3D printing is the opposite format of subtractive manufacturing, which involves cutting out or hollowing a piece of plastic or metal using machinery such as a milling machine.
3D printing allows people to produce very complex shapes using much less material than the traditional manufacturing methods.
How Does 3D Printing Work?
You start off with a 3D model. This is something that you create yourself on your computer. When you create your own 3D model, you will need to use a 3D scanner, an app, a code, a haptic device, or some 3D modeling software. Our list below shows you some of the best 3D modeling softwares that are available on the market today.
Tinkercad is considered one of the best 3D printing software programs for beginners due to its easy learning curve, and it only contains three easy tools that enable you to print a wide range of 3D designs, including prototypes, home decor, toys, Minecraft models, and more. It even enables you to make 2D geometrical shapes and change them into 3D models, and it utilizes STL file format, which is the most common file used in 3D printing, so it can be used by a wide range of users.
Tinkercad is an online 3D design and 3D printing app that is available for free, so all you need is a web browser.
SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD software is used by over 2 million engineers and product designers across the globe. It has 3 different packages available for the beginner, the intermediate, and the pro and is rated one of the best 3D printing software programs due to its strong design operations with intuitive user interface, which allows for a speedy design process. It also includes CAD animation, PhotoView 360, revision control, and more.
SOLIDWORKS packages vary in price; however, free trials are available. For more details concerning the cost of SOLIDWORKS, you will need to contact a sales representative.
SketchUp is rated one of the best 3D printing software programs for pros and intermediates due to its wide range of tools for geometric objects. In fact, users report that it is the perfect combination of simplicity and operation. This makes it easy to use and why it is rated as one of the best 3D printing software programs available. And since it utilizes STL files, it can be used by used by a number of users.
SketchUp is available for free and is compatible with Linux, PC, and Mac systems.
Blender is one of the most powerful computer aided design (CAD) software programs you can use, which is why it is often recommended for professionals or those with advanced skills. However, it also has one of the largest communities of followers who are big on sharing resources, via various popular online sites, to help make it easier to navigate.
Blender is available for free and can be used with PC, Mac, and Linux systems.
Cura 3D printing software makes it easy to mange much needed 3D settings in a simple interface. This slicer software was originally designed for use with Ultimaker 3D printers; however, it can also be used with other 3D printers, including Witbox, RepRap, Printrbot, and more.
Users love this software for its ease of use, which includes a “Basic” mode that enables swift configuration of print qualities, while the “Expert” mode allows for more control over the print quality settings. It can also be used as 3D printer host software for direct control over your equipment.
Cura is available for free and is compatible with Mac, PC, and Linux systems.
Repetier takes your 3D printing to the next level with multi-slicer support via plug ins, multi-extruder support, and support for just about any FDM 3D printer available, which is just perfect for the intermediate to advanced user. And with the Repeteir Host, you can use your tablet, PC, smartphone to control your 3D printer from anywhere.
Repeteir is a free download and is for use with PC, Mac, and Linux systems.
Slic3r is open source slicer software that includes an awesome honeycomb infill that is generated in three dimensions, which can significantly increase the strength of the interior infill of your final design. It is also well known for its bleeding edge features that are unmatched. Another benefit of this software is that it can be directly integrated with OctoPrint.
Slic3r software is available for free and can be used with PC, Mac, and Linux systems.
MeshLab allows you to change or make repairs to your 3D print model. With MeshLab’s advanced STL editing tool, you can fix holes, delete portions of your 3D model, or even merge two models into one for the perfect design. It also helps with raw data processing produced by 3D digitization tools or devices.
MeshLab is available for free and is compatible with PC, Mac, and Linux systems.
MatterControl is considered the granddaddy of all 3D printing software programs because it features three of the major slicing engines, including Slic3r, Cura, and Matterslice. This allows users to experiment with each feature and compare the results.
This 3D printing host for your desktop computer is very well structured for ease of use. It also enables you to preview the complete process layer by layer, so you can fix any issues in your print. It also includes an advanced mode, which includes features like mesh repair, and a basic mode where you can adjust the fill thickness, layer height, and more. You can also save the settings for future prints.
MatterControl is a free download for use with Windows, Mac, and Linux systems.
In the end, the 3D printing program you choose will ultimately help shape your 3D printing experience. Don’t be afraid to try various software until you find the best 3D printing software for you. A good 3D printing program will also provide different levels of use, which will allow you to get a lot of use out of it before moving onto more advanced software.
Which is the best CAD software for 3D printing? Whether you are a beginner or expert 3D printing professional, there is something for you.
Using the right CAD software will make your 3D printing project easier. The right software to use will depend on what you are trying to print.
3D Design Software
There are two main categories of 3D design software: CAD software and 3D modeling software.
Generally, CAD (Computer Aided Design) software is used when creating industrial objects, such as mechanical objects.
On the other hand, 3D modeling software is used in video games and films to make organic animations. However, the software can also be used to create 3D print models.
Using CAD Software for 3D Printing
CAD software are highly technical tools that are used in industrial design, architecture, aerospace engineering, mechanical design, and other fronts.
Typically, a CAD model contains data such as tolerance, dimensions, material properties, specific information about the manufacturing process. Some CAD applications also have advanced animation and rendering capabilities, which make it easier to visualize the final product.
When making 3D printable models with CAD software, you can save the prints in stereolithography file format (STL). This is the default CAD file format for additive manufacturing (AM).
However, there are also other file formats that are used for additive manufacturing.
Which CAD Software Should You Use?
When I started using CAD software with my first 3D printer, I had no previous experience of 3D modeling. If you are a beginner, you shouldn’t really be scared of using CAD software. There are lots of tutorials on YouTube on how to use specific CAD software.
Over the years, I’ve become more experienced in 3D printing and have tested various CAD software programs. Here is an overview of the best CAD software for 3D printing, for both beginners and experts.
Best CAD Software for 3D Printing (For Both Beginners & Experts)
The first program I downloaded and familiarized myself with was Blender– a full-featured modeling program with a physics engine and animation capabilities. The software has hundreds of settings and menus, which you will not need as a beginner.
With Blender, as is the case with most CAD 3D software, you will need a powerful machine to run it. Getting started with the software is easy, thanks to the many tutorials on YouTube.
After days of watching tutorials, I was more than pleased with what I managed to accomplish in Blender.
This is an awesome program with many capabilities. However, the program requires some computer power and may not be the ultimate beginner program.
Watch Blender Tutorials
TinkerCad is a bit of a straight opposite of Blender: it’s incredibly simple, educational and runs directly in your browser.
On the software, there’s a menu full of basic shapes that you can puzzle together as if it were Lego. However, it is impossible to round off the corners of the shapes you create with the program.
TinkerCad makes it very easy to import vector graphics and make them three-dimensional and ready for printing.
However, the software is relatively limited. There is not a lot you can do with your 3D object with TinkerCad.
Watch TinkerCad Tutorials
FreeCAD is an open-source 3D modeling tool that allows you to design real-life objects of any size. The free software has parametric component, which makes editing easier. For instance, when you are creating your model, you can go to its history and change the parameters (color, dimensions, etc.) to get a different model.
I wouldn’t recommend FreeCAD for professional 3D printing artists since it has just basic options. However, it is a good CAD software for beginners.
Watch FreeCAD Tutorials
BlocksCAD is specifically designed for educational purposes. When you have mastered the software, you will be able to use OpenSCAD, a more advanced CAD program. With BlocksCAD, the commands for developing and transforming objects are represented by color blocks.
The software’s code is compatible with OpenSCAD’s code. Therefore, after developing your models on BlocksCAD, you can polish them up on OpenSCAD. You can export your models as either STL or OpenSCAD.
Check BlocksCAD YouTube channel to learn how to use the software.
Watch BlocksCAD Tutorials
One of the market leaders in product design is Creo CAD software. This program has many functionalities, such as direct modeling, freestyle surface generation, motion generation, parametric generation, structural generation, thermal generation, among others.
With this complete additive manufacturing software, you can perform all your dimensioning calculations while modeling your final idea.
The software comes with a 30-day fully-functioning trial.
Watch Creo 3D Tutorials
Cost: $2,310 for each license
6. Autodesk Fusion 360
Autodesk Fusion 360 is a popular CAD program designed forproduct design. On the software, there is a button that you can press to send your finished item directly to any 3D printer or slicer.
Autodesk Fusion 360 is quite an advanced CAD software. I did not really know how to use any of the features until I got a crash course in SolidWorks, a commercial program with similar features.
There are two modes to work in Fusion 360: a CAD mode with logic, and a modeling mode, where you can easily turn your stylish symmetrical model into organic models.
Fusion 360 offers a mix of features found in both Blender and TinkerCad. As a result, it is the software I prefer and use the most.
Watch Fusion 360 Tutorials
Cost: $60 per month or free for students, educators & academic institutions
Solidworks is one of the best CAD software for professional 3D designers. This parametric feature-based software has various features, including design validation tools. The software is practical and detailed, which makes it an excellent choice for designing industrial objects.
Most CAD software mimics curves by gently inclining flat structures. However, Solidworks uses a system of NURBS, which allows it to create detailed curvatures. Moreover, the software using dimensional sketching rather than polygonal modeling. Dimensional sketching makes resizing less of a hassle.
However, Solidworks has limited support for importing .STL files. If you want to download and edit .STL files, you will need a different program.
Watch Solidworks Tutorials
Cost: $3,995 for each license
AutoCAD is a professional 3D modeling software that is mainly used in industrial and architectural design. The software is great at 2D drafting but not really much at 3D modeling. As a result, it is not as widely used in the 3D printing community as some of the software I’ve presented above. Moreover, the software has a steep learning curve when you want to make complex models.
AutoCAD is primarily designed for professionals with experience in programming models algorithmically. The software’s models can be converted into STLL files for 3D printing.
Watch AutoCAD Tutorials
Cost:From $185/month or $1,470/year
-Free and fully-functional version to download for students and faculties.
CATIA CAD is not just a CAD software but a multi-platform software suite for CAD, CAE (Computer-Aided Engineering), CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing) and more. CATIA enabled advanced product design and development through different stages. This makes it an excellent program for systems architects, mechanical engineers, and creative designers.
CATIA also has a 3D design environment through which different parties can collaborate on product modeling and share designs.
Watch CATIA Tutorials
Cost: From $10,000
Best 3d Printer Cad Software
OpenSCAD is an open-source software for making solid 3D models. This free software is aimed at experienced users looking to use advanced features. Programmers and coders love the software’s Extrusion of 2D outlines and Constructive Solid Geometry (CSG).
You can use OpenSCAD to create simple shapes that are already parametrically defined.
However, since the software is completely based on description language, it may not be suitable for everyone.
Watch OpenSCAD Tutorials
Rhino3D is a commercial 3D computer graphics and CAD program that is known for versatility. The software used NURB, a precise mathematical model that enables manipulation of solids, surfaces, meshes, curves and points in different ways.
Free 3d Printing Cad Software For Mac Free
Rhino3D comes with various design features and can create complex 3D models. However, it has quite a learning curve.
Watch Rhino3D Tutorials
Cost: Includes different bundles; Rhino 6.0 starts at 995€ for Windows and Rhino 5.0 at 695€ for Mac
Sooner or later, you will find the best CAD software for 3D printing for you. However, if you are a beginner, I would recommend TinkerCad.
Want help finding the right 3D printer? Then read our guide to buying 3D printers!