When 3D printing, it's exciting to pick out a printer, search for 3D printer materials such as resin and filament, as well as scour the internet for 3D printable designs. However, arguably as important as snagging a 3D printer unit is selecting a 3D printer slicer. Learn all about which 3D printer slicer programs to use, from what is a 3D printer slicer, to the best 3D printer slicer software you can download!
What is a 3D Printer Software Option and How do 3D Printer Slicers Work?
Especially if you're new to 3D printing, you're probably wondering what a 3D printer slicer is. 3D printer slicing software is a program that allows you to prepare 3D printable file. For most filament 3D printers, this means converting an STL file into a g-code file which provides commads that a printer understands. But this could be taking an OBJ file and converting that to g-code, cbddlp, or another format depending on what printer you're using.
The process of using 3D printer slicer programs is pretty easy. Simply fire up your slicer for 3D printing, load up a file, STL, OBJ, or otherwise. Then, proceed to make any necessary alterations such as rotating your 3D printable model, scaling up or down, and a bevy or other options. When you're finished, go ahead and slice it, then save the resulting file for printing. Often, 3D printers come bundled with 3D printer slicer software. My Elegoo Neptune came with an Elegoo-branded 3D printer slicer Cura version, while my Elegoo Mars resin printer provided ChiTuBox instead.
There's a reason Cura remains one of the best-known 3D printing slicers on the market. And why it's often packaged with 3D printers. This free, cross-platform Windows, macOS, and Linux 3D printing slicer software is easy to use yet powerful. Therefore, it's suitable for use by beginners, experts, and everyone in between. The 3D printer slicer Cura integrates with a slew of CAD software options including Autodesk and SolidWorks, features tons of profiles, and receives regular updates. With its thriving community, Cura ranks as the best 3D printer slicer for most users.
Aside from running a 3D printing slicer on your desktop or laptop, it's possible to run a 3D printer slicer for Raspberry Pi boards. Easily the best option is OctoPrint. Aside from being able to slice 3D printer files on a Raspberry Pi, OctoPrint packs in tons of additional features and plugins. Notably, OctoPrint touts the capability to monitor and control 3D print jobs from afar, capture videos, pictures, and time-lapses, level 3D printer beds, and more. Where the free, open-source OctoPrint truly shines is its ability to load 3D print jobs and send them to printers without the need to swap SD cards. An integrated slicer avoids installing a slicer on your main rig. Aside from the Raspberry Pi, OctoPrint is available for Windows, Linux, and macOS systems.
Free, open-source, and cross-platform, Slic3r is a solid, intuitive 3D printer slicer for Linux, macOS, and Windows. Slic3r outshines its 3D printing slicer program competitors because of its frequent updates. Additionally, there's OctoPrint integration which lets you send sliced files directly to an OctoPrint set up. Various model previews including a neat honeycomb infill offer the ability to see three-dimensional infill views. Overall, Slic3r is hands-down one of the top 3D printer slicer programs you can download.
Although many 3D printer slicers online feature Windows, Linux, macOS, and even browser-based options, you may wish to use a 3D printer slicer for Android. In this case, the AstroPrint 3D printer slicer Android app is your best bet. AstroPrint Mobile includes a bevy of features such as a cloud-based file manager, remote printer monitoring, and printer status push notifications. Plus, you'll be able to print straight from the Thingiverse app.
Using the file manager, you can select STL files. Then, you'll be able to send print jobs to various destinations, change design names, move projects to new folders, and a host of other options. The mobile version isn't a full-blown slicer, but works well enough. Its desktop component is a fantastic alternative that is well worth using.
While Prusa makes some of the best 3D printers money can buy, its slicer too ranks among the best 3D printer slicer programs available. The aptly-named PrusaSlicer formerly was dubbed Slic3r Prusa Edition. PrusaSlicer boasts compatibility with both SLA/DLP and FDM printers for a variety of options. Despite the Prusa in its name, PrusaSlicer is completely free and open-source with Linux, macOS, and Windows clients.
Just as Prusa provides its own slicer, so too does MakerBot offer a slicer. Tailored for MakerBot printers, MakerBot Print is neat in its automatic slicing settings feature. It's capable of arranging across multiple build plates, printing Thingiverse objects straight from the MakerBot Print slicer, and a range of other functionality including remote printer management and monitoring. Unfortunately, it's only for MakerBot printers, but it's nonetheless a superb pick. Disappointingly, MakerBot Print is Windows and macOS only, no Linux support.
Chromebooks and Chrome OS devices are fantastic in their ability to present alternatives to macOS, Linux, and Windows operating systems. Unfortunately, the majority of 3D printing slicers don't tout Chromebook support. Yet for workarounds do bring 3D printer slicer for Chromebook compatibility. There's a method for installing Simplify3D using Crostini on Chromebooks. Unfortunately, Simplify3D does cost money. It's $150 USD for use on two computers. But this excellent 3D printer slicer packs in unparalleled compatibility with virtually every 3D printer on the market. You'll find more than 100 different profiles, and it's easy enough to create your own.
Despite its high price tag, particularly when compared with the plethora of free 3D printer slicers on the market, Simplify3D is an awesome 3D printer software option that results in superb quality prints.
Cross-platform with installers for Linux, macOS, and Windows, MatterControl is an excellent choice that touts MatterHackers integration. As such, you can benefit from tutorials, accessories, and more. Additionally, there's a cloud repo for saving projects to the cloud and accessing them anywhere. And MatterControl even allows for remote print monitoring. Since it functions as both a slicer and printer host software option, MatterControl is an extremely versatile 3D printing software suite similar to OctoPrint.
Based on IceSL, SliceCrafter runs entirely in-browser. Therefore, you can run SliceCrafter virtually anywhere. It's arguably the best 3D printer slicer for Chromebooks since you can just pull it up in your web browser. Plus, it's a superb 3D printer slicer for macOS devices. But it's limited in that SliceCrafter can't edit OpenSCAD code unlike many desktop 3D printer slicers. Still, you can upload STL files through links, and generate G-code sans a software installation.
Abiding by the Keep It Simple Stupid acronym, KISSlicer is pretty easy to use. Confusingly though, certain versions of KISSlicer are a bit difficult. Its free iteration is solid for basic use, but the paid pro version gets complicated. While most hobbyists should be fine with the free release, premium features such as multi-head printing are relegated to the pro version. With excellent 3D printer support, as well as clients for Windows, macOS, Linux, and Raspberry Pi boards, KISSlicer is an awesome 3D printing slicer alternative.
Resin 3D printers differ from filament-based 3D printer. I've used a ton of different printers, and my go-to is the Elegoo Mars resin 3D printer. By far the best resin 3D printer slicer is ChiTuBox. For one, you'll find ChiTuBox proves snappy and has a ton of different options for loading up specific SLA/DLP 3D printer presets, as well as creating your own settings. There are tons of options for resin printing such as hollowing out prints and generating supports. Overall, it's the best resin 3D printer slicer on the market. The only downside is that it's not compatible with filament printers, and instead it's exclusively an SLA/DLP/LCD 3D printer slicer.
Best 3D Printer Slicer Software Options - Which 3D Printer Slicer Program Should You Use?
There's no shortage of 3D printer slicers. Which slicer you should use somewhat boils down to what printer you're using. Often, the default slicer is an excellent choice. I highly recommend using OctoPrint for its suite of tools including not only a slicer but 3D printer control, management, and monitoring plugins. Cura is a great pick as well. For resin printing, I'm pretty partial to ChiTuBox. What host PC you're using also dictates which slicer you can use. Thankfully, the majority of slicers are cross-platform. But Chromebook users might need either an in-browser slicer, or to follow a workaround for installing a slicer locally.
What 3D printer slicer are you using and what are you 3D printing?