- 2023 Update
In this latest 2023 update, we add a couple of new software to the list of best free slicing software for 3D printing. You already know that a slicing software is an essential element of the 3D printing process. Over the years we have seen a rise in the number of free slicing software for 3D printing. Some extend basic features in their free versions while some are completely free and provide complete access to their package. We will explore some of the best free slicing software for 3D printing in this article.
What is a Slicing Software?
A 3D printer cannot convert the 3D model directly into a print. It needs a geometric interpretation of the model and a slicing software does just that. A slicing software or simply a Slicer converts a 3D model into a set of geometric codes or a set of paths which the 3D printer understands and can trace to create the print.
A slicing software is a necessary mediator between the CAD file and the printer.
Best Free Slicing Software for 3D Printing
Cura is one of the most notable free slicing software for 3D printing developed by Ultimaker, a 3D printer manufacturer. Cura Software was developed as a slicer option to use with its Ultimaker range of 3D printers but being open-source it is customisable to include a wide variety of 3D printers. Over the years, the community has evolved boasts of one of the most active user community. The easy-to-use software is perfectly designed for both, new and experienced, users from all sectors. It regularly releases new intent profiles in CURA.
In case you wish to deep dive into this software then do check out our dedicated article on what is Cura software and who should use it?
This free slicing software is specifically designed to suit the MakerBot range of printers. As a result, you will get the highest possible quality from a MakerBot printer by using this slicer. Moreover, it is easy to use and its monitoring feature makes it the best free slicing software for 3D printing with the MakerBot printers.
Kiri:Moto is 100% open source and provided as service for free on grid.space. It runs entirely in browser with no cloud service dependencies. User data stays local/private to the operating browser. It’s been around for years and gets updates roughly every week.
Running entirely in-browser and thus always being up-to-date is one great feature. But what really sets Kiri apart is that it has multiple modes of use. It supports 3D printers, CNC tool path generation for 2.5 and 3 axis milling, as well as SVG output for laser cutters. Soon it will be getting another mode to support SLA printers.
Another unique aspect of being completely browser-based is that it’s natively integrated into both Onshape and Thingiverse. From a workflow perspective, it’s great to be able to do CAD modelling and from within a tab in the same app access slicing with direct-to-print or CNC mill spooling.
It has some interesting features like support for classroom settings where you want to provide default or locked profiles. If anyone gets stuck, reload the page and it reverts to your desired profile. And a few other hidden gems that the community is making use of.
PrusaSlicer is created and marketed by Prusa Research, a Czech manufacturer of 3D printers. It was based on Slic3r at first and was marketed as Slicer PE (Prusa Edition) as Prusa’s own slicer version. Prusa rebranded it again in 2021, this time as PrusaSlicer.
PrusaSlicer is a free and open-source slicer that is based on the well-known Slic3r. It was initially released as Slicer PE (Prusa Edition), but it was primarily aimed at Prusa printers. The new PrusaSlicer is compatible with all 3D printer brands and can be used by any user on a daily basis.
PrusaSlicer has a clean and simple user interface and a number of noteworthy features such as resin and multi-material support, smooth variable layer height, custom supports, and the ability to repair models via Netfabb, among others. Each new upgrade improves the features, with the most recent version being PrusaSlicer 2.5.0.
You can learn more about this software by visiting the official PrusaSlicer website.
Craftware was developed by a Hungarian 3D printer manufacturer CraftUnique to support their own 3D printers. This free slicing software can be used on other printers too. You can do all kinds of basic operations that you would do in any other competing slicer. In addition to the basic operations, the slicer has some unique features like bisect where you can bisect/cut a large object along a plane to form two separate objects. These two objects can then be oriented separately and printed.
It is however best known for its two features: 1. Colour differentiation between different features and, 2. Excellent support structure management.
It has both free and paid versions for users to choose from.
MatterControl is an all-in-one printer control software developed by MatterHacker, a high-quality 3D printing supplies provider from the USA. This really is one of the best free slicing software for 3D printing as it acts as a host. So it basically controls the printer and lets you queue the jobs all the while you slice and adjust the settings as per the print.
It is not as mature as other software like Cura and Slic3r, but it is a great tool for beginners as well as advanced users.
Slic3r also is open-source slicing software with a reputation for bringing out unique features not found on any other competitor. It constantly updates its software to add new features at regular intervals. It is one of the best free slicing software for 3D printing for advanced or professional users.
It first came up with the incredible honeycomb infill pattern which was then quickly adopted by many competitors as it gave astoundingly strong prints with less material.
Over the years the software has developed into a workhorse and it most of its features (and those available with other software) are actually born here.
The infill and dual extrusion features are superior than other competing software. It can also directly integrate with OctoPrint. But new users may need some time to get a hang of this software.
It is one of the best free slicing software for 3D printing because it is a web-browser based slicer and but is also available for Mac users. Though it is not the most attractive slicer but it can function efficiently for small files. It is perfect for users that love to tweak their prints down to the last bit of detail. Interestingly, the STL files can be uploaded via a link.
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This list of the best free slicing software for 3D printing will give new learners wholesome knowledge on the criticality and complexities of 3D printing. A lot more free slicing software are available or being developed but we have compiled the most popular ones.
Editors Note: This article was originally published in February 2018 but is revamped and updated regularly for relevance, accuracy and comprehensiveness.
About Manufactur3D Magazine: Manufactur3D is an online magazine on 3D printing which publishes the latest 3D printing news, insights and analysis from all around the world. Read more such informative articles on our 3D Printing Education page. To stay up-to-date about the latest happenings in the 3D printing world, like us on Facebook or follow us on LinkedIn.