EDUCATION

Simplify3D vs. Cura: Which is a better 3D Printing Slicer?

10 Mins read
3D printing process flows from (left to right) a CAD model, Slicing and 3D printing
Above: 3D printing process flows from (left to right) a CAD model, Slicing and 3D printing/Source: Ultimaker

Slicing is an integral part of the 3D printing process and has an impact on the quality of the output. As a result, it is critical that you use a dependable and powerful slicing software or slicer (as it is commonly called). Simplify3D and Cura are two of the most popular 3D printing slicers on the market today.

Both of these slicers have a large following, which puzzles many beginners about whether to use Simplify3D or Cura. Manufactur3D compares both of these slicers in terms of price, features, compatibility, sales support, user interface, and updates to help you take a better and informed decision.

Simplify3D vs. Cura

Simplify3D is a company in itself that only develops the Simplify3D slicer. Cura on the other hand is a free and open-source software (one of many free slicing software) that is developed and marketed by Ultimaker, a leading desktop 3D printer manufacturer.

Now, comparing the two slicers. 

1.    Price

Price is obviously an important consideration for many newcomers. Enthusiasts, hobbyists, students, and makers are not power users of technology and rely heavily on free and open-source software applications. However, as they progress in their use of technology they tend to seek a more reliable software that deliver consistent output. Professional engineers too, demand a powerful and reliable software solution. And to solve their need, both these user groups will seek out software that can assist them in achieving better results.

CURA: Cura falls into the earlier sub-segment of new users looking for a free solution to begin their 3D printing journey. It is a free and open-source software that is proven to be reliable and powerful at the same time that works with most FDM 3D printer brands.

SIMPLIFY3D: Simplify3D belongs to the second sub-segment, in which engineers and professionals use 3D printing more frequently to create products for their customers. Because these products must be strong, dependable, and accurate, they prefer a software solution that gives them greater control over the print. For such power users, Simplify3D. is the perfect option. The lifetime license of Simplify3D is priced at only $149 per license per user. Once you buy this license, you only need to pay a small upgrade fee whenever you want to upgrade it to a new version.

Simplify3D vs. Cura: Which one to Choose?

If you’re just getting started and don’t want to spend money on a slicer, then Cura is the way to go. Buy Simplify3D if you are a professional user looking for slicing software with advanced features and more control over you prints.  

2.    Features

Manual support generation panel in Simplify3D
Above: Manual support generation panel in Simplify3D/Source: Simplify3D

When it comes to getting the best results, features are critical. Features will help you improve print quality, ease of printing, simplify the process, and give you more control over your print.

CURA: Cura has a large feature set and, because it is driven by open-source developers, it is constantly adding new features to improve your printing experience. Some of its notable features include adaptive layers, which are a method of maintaining quality while increasing print speed. A Mould feature allows you to create negatives of CAD designs in order to create moulds later on. It also has an interesting tree support pattern that allows you to print features in difficult-to-reach places by using complex tree-shaped supports. It has other amusing features, such as spiral mode, which prints parts in a spiral pattern rather than the traditional layer by layer method.

SIMPLIFY3D: Simplify3D also has a slew of features that make it appealing. Its features, such as customised supports, are critical for saving material, reducing post-processing time, and preventing scratches on the part where the supports touch. Simplify3D also allows you to combine multiple printing processes into a single g-code file. That is, you can assign different printing parameters to different models in the same print job, and even different layer heights to the same model. This fantastic feature gives you complete control over your print.

Simplify3D vs. Cura: Which one to Choose?

If you are a beginner or are not too familiar with the printing process and are not concerned with controlling every aspect of your print, Cura will meet your needs. However, if you are a power user who wants complete control over your prints, even down to controlling each and every layer, Simplify3D is your best bet.

3.    Compatibility

Ultimaker Cura Slicer adding a compatible 3D printer
Above: Ultimaker Cura Slicer adding a compatible 3D printer/Source: Manufactur3D Magazine

It refers to the software’s printer and input format compatibility. This not only ensures good results, but also makes the slicing and printing process easier.

CURA: Cura was first released in 2014, and it has been continuously improved by the community and a team of dedicated developers since then. It was previously only compatible with the Ultimaker line of 3D printers, but in late 2017, the compatibility was expanded to include other 3D printers as well. Since then, the team has worked tirelessly to ensure that the software is compatible with as many 3D printers as possible. Cura is compatible with the following 3D printers, which are listed on GitHub.

Cura accepts the following file formats as input: STL, OBJ, X3D, and 3MF.

With regards to the desktop application, Cura application is available for Windows, Mac OS and Linux operating systems.

SIMPLIFY3D: Simplify3D has always designed its software to be compatible with all 3D printers on the market. It is a closed environment, but the company claims that it is compatible with 95 percent of all available 3D printers.

Simplify3D only accepts STL, OBJ, and 3MF files as input file formats (leaves out X3D).

With regards to the desktop application, Simplify3D application is compatible on Windows, Mac OS and Linux operating systems. The 64-bit Linux installers can be used on Ubuntu, Debian and Fedora-based distributions.

Simplify3D vs. Cura: Which one to Choose?

Both slicers have a wide range of printer compatibility, and if you have a printer from a well-known brand, chances are it is covered by both slicers. But in case of printers from local manufacturers, chances are that it may not be compatible with Cura.

So, select a slicer that is compatible with your printer, which you can determine by contacting the respective support team.

4.    Sales Support

Sales support is essential for all types of users because they may not be particularly familiar with the software or encounter bugs and even other issues that impede their productivity.

CURA: Cura is an open-source software system and free software, so there is little support available. You will get a lot of support from the community but the support from the software team is limited. It is important to note that Cura does not provide support to third-party 3D printers, and users have contact the printer manufacturer of for assistance.

SIMPLIFY3D: Simplify3D is a company that has developed software to work with all 3D printers since its inception. Simplify3D has created a comprehensive FAQs section, video tutorials, multiple guides, hardware support, and more as part of the after sales support to ensure your problems are easily addressed. If your problem is not resolved, you can contact the support team. It supports all printers and makes no distinction in providing support for any brand.

Simplify3D vs. Cura: Which one to Choose?

If you are more concerned about sales support and want assistance from experts and a dedicated team of engineers, Simplify3D is a great option. However, if you believe you will not require much assistance and support from the Cura community is sufficient, then Cura wil be a good option.

5.    User Interface

The user interface is especially important for new users. A good one may excite a user, whereas a bad one may irritate him. So, in the case of slicer software, the user interface refers to how the uploaded parts appear in the software, how simple it is to modify them, location of the various tools and parameters and how easy the overall experience is while operating the software.

CURA: Cura’s user interface is designed to be simple and straightforward. Over the years the user interface has only gotten better, with the current version feeling much lighter on the eye and having a lot of big visible buttons with simple icons to know its functions. Even the prepare screen, preview screen, and operations of the various buttons and settings are self-explanatory.

The process settings or parameters panel appears on the right side of the screen, displaying a plethora of options. At first, it will only display a few basic parameters that are suitable for beginners. However, if you are a seasoned user, you can activate advanced parameters from the settings panel. This overall structure appears to be simple to grasp and manage and new users don’t feel overwhelmed.

SIMPLIFY3D: Simplify3D’s user interface takes a different approach than Cura.  Simplify3D prioritizes functionality over a sleek and intuitive design. This had made the user interface to appear a bit dull and overwhelming at the same time, especially to beginners. This is a big turnoff, but the software compensates this poor UI with its industry-leading features (we discussed its features in an earlier section.)

Another frustrating point is that to check the layer view, you have to enter the preview mode and check the print. In case you want more modifications, then you have to exit the preview mode, make changes and enter the preview mode again. This back and forth irritates most users.  

Simplify3D vs. Cura: Which one to Choose?

Cura is very friendly to new users. The interface is sleek, simple, and easy to use, with a smooth workflow. And the user interface improves with each update.

Simplify3D, on the other hand, has a very basic and straightforward user interface. New users may find it confusing, overwhelming even. The workflow has a lot of unnecessary hurdles and feel rough to handle the software.

6.    Updates

All software applications require updates to stay in tune with the trends, to bring product innovation, to upgrade its features, to fix bugs, to improve its UI/UX, or to improve the product performance.

CURA: The Cura software is constantly being updated, and new versions are released at regular intervals. This allows the software to run with minimal bugs, to keep up with current trends, and ensure its users enjoy using the software. Like the software, the updates in Cura are also free of charge.

SIMPLIFY3D: Simplify3D’s software is not updated frequently, and the updates are not even scheduled. This puts users in a bind about the next software update. As a result, bugs, if any, are not eliminated, and users must continue to use buggy software until the next update. Furthermore, when updates are released, users must pay a small fee to upgrade.

Simplify3D vs. Cura: Which one to Choose?

Because of its free and faster updates, the software keeps up with the latest slicing trends, releases new features to users more quickly, and ensures users are happy and satisfied with the software.

Simplify3D’s updates are too infrequent, and when they do arrive, users must pay for them, albeit for a small fee.

FAQs on Simplify3D

  • Is Simplify3D Free?

    Simplify3D is a paid slicing software, but it provides a 14-day free trial for users to familiarize themselves with the software.

  • Is Simplify3D a one-time purchase?

    Yes, Simplify3D is a one-time purchase that includes a one-year free upgrade license. After one-year, all upgrades are charged a small fee. However, because it is an individual license, it can only be used on one system at a time.

  • What does Simplify3D Do?

    Simplify3D is a slicing application that converts a 3D model into a g-code file that a 3D printer can read and understand. The 3D printer gets printing instructions from the g-code file and prints the part you designed.

  • What is the latest version of Simplify 3D?

    The most recent version of this software is Simplify3D Version 4.1. This new version gives you more control over the printing process and unlocks new features for the latest 3D printers.

FAQs on Cura

  • Is Cura Free?

    Yes, Cura is a free slicing software that can be downloaded from the official Ultimaker website.

  • What does Cura Do?

    Cura, also known as Ultimaker Cura, is a widely used 3D printing slicing software. Cura allows users to prepare prints for 3D printing by slicing them according to the software’s multiple parameters. This sliced CAD model is saved in a g-code format that the 3D printer reads and then uses the instructions in the file to print the part you designed.

  • How do I download Cura?

    Cura can be downloaded from the official Ultimaker website. Follow the below steps:
    1.     Visit https://ultimaker.com/
    2.     Navigate to Software page
    3.     Find ‘Ultimaker Cura’ and click on ‘Learn More’
    4.     On this page, Click on the ‘Download for Free’ button

  • What does red mean in Cura?

    The red colour in Cura slicer software means two things. In the prepare mode, red indicates overhangs where support structures will be needed. Whereas in preview mode, red indicates shell (the outmost layer of the model).

Simplify3D vs. Cura: Which is a better 3D Printing Slicer?

Simplify3D vs. Cura - The competing 3D printing slicers
Above: Simplify3D vs. Cura – The competing 3D printing slicers/Source: Manufactur3D Magazine

As you may have noticed, there isn’t much of a difference between these slicers. Both of these slicers are quite popular, with large communities supporting them. The majority of the important features are available in both slicers, and both have good quality output for basic settings, good compatibility for printers and input file formats, and can be used on any operating system such as Windows, Mac, or Linux-based systems.

As a result, the decision is entirely dependent on what you, as a user, value the most.

Ultimaker Cura: If you want to work with software that is free and open-source, simple to learn and use, frequently updated, has all of the major features that a typical slicer needs, does not require advanced features, and does not require greater control over your prints, Ultimaker Cura is an excellent choice.

Simplify3D: If you are a power user who prefers greater control over your prints, does not mind spending money on high-quality software, and regularly requires efficient support from the developer, are extremely picky about your print outputs, and mostly work on printing parts for clients (who require high-quality output every time), Simplify3D should be your slicer of choice. Professional users will like that you can change the support manually and control the layers, so you should definitely think about Simplify3D.


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. Visit our 3D Printing Education page to read more such informative articles. To stay up-to-date about the latest happenings in the 3D printing world, like us on Facebook or follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Manufactur3D is an Indian Online 3D Printing Media Platform that reports on the latest news, insights and analysis from the Indian and the Global 3D Printing Industry.
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