You have just bought a 3D printer and you are slowly starting to get passionate about this world. However, you have realized that you need different types of programs to be able to make your prints. In particular, you need software to design your creations and one to print them. You have seen that there are several such solutions, but you have no idea which one to choose. Is this the case? Then don't worry: if you want, I'll give you a hand.
In fact, in today's guide I will explain which are the best 3D printer programs dividing them into various categories, such as those for printing and those for drawing, and I will provide you with all the instructions you need to install and use them, both on Windows and on macOS. In short, at the end of the reading you should have quite clear ideas on what solutions to adopt and how to do it.
Courage: why are you still standing there staring at the screen? Are you going to find out what are the best programs you can use for 3D printing? I would say yes, since you are reading this guide with interest and you seem to have been "kidnapped" by this fascinating world. Come on then, all you have to do is take a few minutes of free time and follow the quick instructions below, which will lead you to your goal in no time. That said, there is nothing left for me to do but wish you a good read and a good time!
Free 3D Printer Programs
For someone new to 3D printers, the most important program is what it takes for start printing real of the objects created. In fact, very often, the first creations are made using 3D models found ready online. Therefore, I propose below the solutions that I consider the most valid among those available for free.
Ultimaker Cura (Windows / MacOS)
Speaking of 3D printer programs, I absolutely cannot fail to mention Ultimaker Cura, one of the most used software to print creations of this type. The software in question is often recommended by enthusiasts because of its ease of use and the countless compatible printers (sometimes it is even included in the sales package of 3D printers).
Ultimaker Cura is available for both Windows and macOS and is completely free. To download it, you simply need to connect to its official website, scroll down the page and press the button Download for free. At this point, you will be prompted to select the operating system on which you want to use the program.
If you are using a PC, then press the icon of Windows and fai clic sul tasto Download now. Once the download is complete, open the file Ultimaker_Cura- [version] .exe obtained and select the item Yes. Then press the buttons in succession forward, Accept, forward, forward, Install e end, but will conclude the setup.
Stai is invented using a Poppy, fai clic sull 'bitten apple icon and his bottone award Download now. Then, when the download is complete, open the file Ultimaker_Cura- [version] .dmg ottenuto e trascina l 'Ultimaker Cura icon inside the folder Applications.
Now, if you are using Windows, the program should have started by itself after the installation is complete, while for macOS, you have to start it manually.
When you first start, you just need to plug in yours Printer 3D to the computer (e.g. via USB) and press the buttons in succession Get Started, Agree e Next. After that, if you have a printer connected to the network, it should be automatically detected by the program, while if you have a printer connected via USB cable, you have to press on the item Add a non-networked printer and select the model (eg Prusa i3) from the huge list of supported printers.
Once you have correctly selected the model, press successively on the items Next e Finish. This will open the main interface of Ultimaker Cura: pressing theicon della cartella, top left, you can import a 3D model (the supported formats are many, but I recommend using .stl and .obj files, which are also the most popular online); pressing on the item Generic PLA you can change the matter used, depending on the coil you purchased; while clicking the box further to the right and pressing on the item Custom you can change all the others settings, From print speed to the quality, passing through thelayer height.
Once you have correctly adjusted all preferences, just press the blue button Slice at the bottom right, to start printing.
Some indications will therefore appear on the screen regarding the estimated time required to finish creating the print and you may need to press a blue button, to confirm the start of printing. You can also click the button Preview and see a preview of what will be the movements made by the printer.
Repetier-Host (Windows / MacOS)
Another program highly appreciated by 3D printing lovers is Repetier-Host. One of the most interesting aspects of this software is the fact that it has extensive official documentation (in English) which guides the user through all the available features. Its interface is a bit "old-fashioned" and there is the possibility of using manual controls: something that pleases people who have been hanging out in this world for a long time and seek maximum control over the operations to be performed.
Repetier-Host is free to download for both Windows and macOS. To install it on your computer, you just need to connect to its official website and press on blue button present under the item relating to operating system you are using.
Stai using Windows, open the file setupRepetierHost_ [version] .exe obtained and select the item Yes. At this point, click the button OK, put the check mark on the box I accept the terms of the license agreement and press in succession on the buttons forward, Install e end, to conclude the setup. You may have to wait a while, as the installer will need to run the download for free of the complete program. At this point, another window will open and you will have to press the buttons in succession forward, Accept, forward, Install e end, to complete the installation.
Se, invece, stai using MacOS, open the file Repetier-Host-Mac_ [versione] .dmg and drag theRepetier-Host icon in the folder Applications.
To change the print settings, simply press on the tab Slicer present at the top right and select speed, quality and so on. Pressing on the writing Print Preview you can control how your printer will work automatically, but if you are particularly experienced you can also take manual control of the device by pressing on the writing Manual control and using the appropriate virtual joystick.
To fix the advanced options, however, just press onicona dell'ingranaggio present at the top right, while if you are a beginner you can activate theEasy Mode (which allows you to see the filament and the path). After you have successfully configured your device (by connecting the printer and pressing the icon Connect located at the top left) and chosen the right settings, to start a print, just press the button Slice with CuraEngine present at the top right.
PrintRun (Windows / MacOS)
If you want to get the most out of your 3D printer and feel you can handle your creations better, I recommend you give it a try through: it is one of the most sophisticated 3D printing software around, but clearly using it is not easy.
To download PrintRun on your computer, just connect to its official website and press on the writing related to operating system that you use on your PC (eg. Through-win- [date] .zip, for Windows). Once this is done, extract thearchive .zip got it and if you're using Windows, start the file pronterface.exe. If you are using instead MacOS, start the file PrintRun-Mac- [version] .app. If you don't know how to extract a zip archive, I invite you to check out my tutorial on how to unzip a ZIP file.
Once the program is open, you will find yourself in front of its main screen: on the left is the virtual joystick, to give manual commands to the printer; on the right there is theeditor to view the 3D model; at the top left are the settings to connect the Printer 3D, while in the lower left you can manage the speed and other print settings. To load a 3D model, just press the button Load file: the supported formats are many, but the most used is that .stl.
As you may have already guessed, this is a much more difficult program to use than Ultimaker Cura and Repetier-Host. However, if you are an expert in the field, you may find advanced features that are right for you and create higher quality constructions. For more details on how to use PrintRun, I recommend that you take a look at the official documentation (in English).
Other Free 3D Printing Programs
Obviously there are also other programs for 3D printing in addition to those mentioned: below you can find some of the most interesting.
- Slic3r (Windows / macOS): one of the most popular free programs for the final printing phase with 3D printers. It has an entire encyclopedia (in English) explaining how to use it.
- MatterControl (Windows / macOS): a program praised by many especially for its modern graphical interface. It is completely free and supports several 3D printer models.
- IceSL (Windows): an "all in one" solution. It allows both to create 3D models and to print them. It is one of the most versatile free programs around. However, it may be complex to use.
3D Printer Design Programs
How do you say? Would you like to make your own i 3D models? No problem: below you will find the programs that may be right for you.
FreeCAD is a program appreciated by many users due to its clean interface and the fact that it is completely free. It is available on both Windows and macOS.
To install FreeCAD on your computer, you need to connect to its official website and press on blue button related to the operating system you are using. When the download is complete, if you are using Windows, start the file FreeCAD- [version] -installer.exe ottenuto, awarded his Yes and select the buttons in succession forward, Install e Close, but will conclude the setup.
If, on the other hand, you are using MacOS, you just need to open the file FreeCAD_ [version] .dmg got and drag theFreeCAD icon in the folder Applications.
Once the program has started, you can create a new project by clicking on the icon + or go to the path File> Open (top left) to open a model already exists (I recommend file .stl or .obj, although the supported formats are many others).
On the right is the3D model editor, which is quite simple to use: at the top right there are all the buttons for rotate e very the item; in the lower left are the details on the model (mesh, labels and so on); while at the bottom right there are dimensions of the 3D model.
Of course, to edit the template, you have to use all the buttons in the toolbar top of the program. For more information, I recommend that you consult the FreeCAD encyclopedia (in English).
AutoCAD (Windows / MacOS)
When it comes to CAD programs, I absolutely cannot forget to mention AutoCAD. It is the most famous program for creating 3D models. It is clearly also very useful for creating your own creations in 3D printing and certainly does not need too many presentations.
It is definitely not among the lightest programs in the industry, but very few rivals can keep up with its countless features. AutoCAD is compatible with both Windows that with MacOS, but it is paid and, being an advanced professional solution, it is not affordable for everyone (we are talking about over 250 euros / month).
If you want to check out the program, I recommend that you download his free trial version, which allows you to test all its functions without limits for a period of 30 days. For more information on this, I suggest you consult my guide on how to download AutoCAD for free.
The easiest solution to use to create 3D printed models is definitely Tinkercad. It is fully guided and does not require any kind of expertise, just a lot of goodwill. It is also a tool accessible from a common browser for Web browsing, therefore it does not require the installation of real programs on the computer.
To use it, connect to its official website and click on the button Start Tinkercad, which is located in the center of the page. At this point, you need to create yours account Autodesk (essential to use the service) by filling in the module that is proposed to you.
Successively, pigia sul pulsating Let’s Go! and theeditor of the service: at the center is theworking area, on the right are the three-dimensional elements to add to the project, while on the left are the Instructions for Use. The toolbar it is located at the top and allows you to modify the display mode and edit the 3D objects added to the project.
- three-dimensional elements added to the workspace can be modified by selecting them and using the relative ones options in the menu that appears on the screen, while using the selection rectangle you can change them dimensions e perspective. To save a 3D model, simply press the button Export which is located at the top right.
Other Programs for Designing 3D Printers
Clearly, there are also other valid solutions for designing 3D models: here are some of the most valid.
- 3D Builder (Windows): is a software for Windows 10 made by Microsoft itself. It allows you to quickly and easily modify 3D models. It's not exactly the most advanced program available, but it has everything most people need. It is completely free.
- Blender (Windows / macOS): one of the most used free programs for making 3D models. It is also used a lot by video game creators, but it is also excellent for 3D printing thanks to its not too complex graphical interface. More info here.
- SolidWorks (Windows): Direct competitor of AutoCAD. It is an advanced software used mainly in the business environment. To buy it you need to ask the company for a quote, or you can take advantage of a free trial.