A 3D printing slicer is software that allows you to take a 3D model and transform it into a file form that your 3D printer can understand.
Slicer software read your 3D model and slice the model into layers while allowing the user to control various print settings.
The slicer software interprets these settings to give instructions to the printer what to do and when.
After the user has selected all of the print settings the slicer software automatically determines the coordinates of the 3D printer head to tell the nozzle exactly where to go.
This output is usually in the form of a GCODE, which is simply the code language that most 3D printers use to control the motors, heating elements, and fans.
Define the printer volume and set nozzle origin location
Orient 3D model on the printer bed (multiple models can be added)
Slice model into vertical layers
Receive user inputs such as print temperatures, speeds, infill settings, support settings, etc
Determine the need for support structure / automatically add supports where needed
Output code to control motors, heating elements, fans based on users inputs
Output print time, print volume, and cost estimates
In addition to the high-level function of a slicer listed above, many slicer software offer 100+ customization settings to dial in the exact print configuration desired.
This allows the user to tweak the print settings to get an optimized print with the best possible quality. Listed below are some of the common slicer settings which you can select.
Layer Height – The height of each layer of the print. The more layers the higher the resolution, but the longer the print will take.
Infill Density and Style – How much material is printed on the interior of your print for structure and support. The higher the density the more material used. The style defines the pattern of the infill. Click here for more information on infill settings.
Print Speed and Temperature – How quickly the print head will move in the X-Y direction and what temperatures the nozzle and print bed are assigned.
Shell Thickness – The number of outer layers of the print
Retraction – The speed and distance at which filament is retracted during long travel motions of the nozzle. Retraction can prevent stringing and oozing.
Support Type / Platform Adhesion – Settings to turn support on or off to aid in the stability of a print as it build layers vertically. Some slicers allow you to customize settings for the supports. Skirt, Brim, and Raft are types initial layer supports.
There are MANY slicer software options available on the market. While some slicer software must be purchased (with either one time fees or subscriptions), the good news is that there are PLENTY of FREE options available that are more than sufficient for most people.
Below is a list of some of the top rated 3D printing software available.
It is important to note that some slicer software are more compatible with certain 3D printers, and that the best slicer program for you will depend on your level of experience and personal preference of the user interface and setting options.
I personal recommend Cura to everyone as it is the best FREE option in my opinion based on its user interface, options, and ease of use.
This post was published on July 14, 2019