3D printing Software

Top 10 Best Free 3D Slicers software review

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If you are new to 3d printing, after having a 3d design file, this design cannot be used immediately to create 3d printed objects. To make a design printable, we need to slice it first.

Slicing is the process of using specialized software to help convert a 3d design (usually in STL format) into a design that can be 3d printed. The software will also generate the G-code, a programming language that humans use to tell the 3d printer how to do the print.

The process of creating a 3d printable design is quite complex depending on the design. Designs that have little contact with the printer bed surface need to have supports structures to keep the object stable during printing.

Also, for some filaments like ABS, it is necessary to create a raft for the object to avoid warping and increase adhesion. Previously you would have to create these supports (raft or support structures) manually by using 3d modeling software. Now, most slicer software can automatically generate these aids, you just need to do some small tweaks to improve the outcome.

In this article, I will summarize the best and most popular free 3d slicer software that are widely used by 3d users all over the world. I have personally experienced all the software in this article and I will give a very detailed and honest review of the features of the software.

For your quick reference, here’s the list of the best free slicer software mentioned in this article.

Website

Cost

Type

Skill

Rating

Visit website

1. Ultimaker Cura


Free/Paid

Standalone

(Opensource)

Beginner to advanced level

9.5/10

2. Slic3r

Free



Standalone

(Opensource)

Intermediate to advanced level

9/10

3. PrusaSlicer

Free

Standalone

(Opensource based on Slic3r)

Beginner to advanced level

8.5/10

4. Repetier

Free

Standalone

Intermediate to advanced level

8.5/10

5. Mattercontrol

Free

Standalone

(Opensource)

Beginner to advanced level

8/10

6. Selfcad

Free/Paid

Standalone & Web-based

Intermediate to advanced level

8/10

7. Ideamaker

Free

Standalone

Beginner to advanced level

8/10

8. Tinkerine Cloud

Free

Web-based

Beginner to advanced level

7.5/10

9. Craftware

Free/Paid

Standalone

Intermediate to advanced level

7.5/10

10. Octoprint

Free

Web-based

(Opensource)

Advanced level

7/10

If you want more details, just scroll down to the next section. I have covered all the details for each software I review in this article.

I hope you will find a slicer software that best suits your needs after reading this article.

Things you should consider when choosing a 3d slicer software

  • Slicing features: including slicing speed, ability to repair non-manifold objects, ability to automatically remove unnecessary parts that make 3d prints fail, the number of pre-configured 3d print profiles, precision in creating support structures….
  • Skill level: You need to determine your exact needs before choosing a suitable 3d slicer software. The software is easy or difficult to use, includes advanced features, or includes only features that are for casual use.
  • Community: when working with the slicing software, you may encounter some difficulties. At this time, online tutorials or forums will be a very useful source to help you overcome the troubles. A recommended slicing software is one that has a large and active user community.
  • Type of software: There are mainly 2 types of 3d printing software: Web-based and Standalone software. With standalone software, there are open-sourced and closed-source types. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages (I will explain in more detail in the next section), so you will have to take this into consideration.

#1: Ultimaker Cura

Ultimaker Cura

>Website: https://ultimaker.com/software/ultimaker-cura

Skill level Beginner to advanced level
Cost Free & Paid (From $50 to $1000 per month)
Community Very big and active community, Youtube tutorials, Forums, Facebook group
Type of software Standalone software (Opensource)
Pros – Easy to use, big and active community, many tutorials

– Opensource, users can add many extra plugins to tailor their needs

– Suitable for both beginner & expert users.

– Support many pre-built 3d printer profiles.

Cons – Free version has no support and cloud storage

– The software sometimes consumes a lot of memory

– Some official plugins only available in Pro(paid) version

– Free version does cannot open CAD files

Cura is an open-source 3d slicer software developed by David Brahm, the software was later acquired by Ultimaker – a Dutch 3D printer-manufacturing company. David Brahm later also joined Ultimaker to continue developing the software.

Ultimaker Cura is currently the most popular 3d slicer software with a large and very active community. What makes this software so outstanding is that Cura is completely open-source, users can add many extra features as per their needs.

There are also premium versions of Cura with some extra features like: Cloud Storage, software support from Ultimaker, remote printing, exclusive plugins, and material… However, if you are a casual user, the free version is completely enough.

Ultimaker Cura has a user-friendly interface, new users can find almost every important setting at their first glance. For expert users, there are more than 220 settings to tweak. There’s a function called “Lay Flat”, allowing you to quickly orient and lay the object down on the flattest part that Cura can find.

Lay Flat Cura

You can find the most important slicing software on the right panel. When hovering on each function, you will see the tooltip explaining in detail how the function works. This is especially helpful for new users.

Cura Setting Panel

Users can quickly switch to advanced mode with more print settings. Below is an example of when we switch to expert mode. The Quality settings in expert mode have more than 11 lines, compared to 1 line in basic mode.

Switch Mode Cura

Once you’re happy with all the slicing settings, just hit the slice button to start the slicing process. The slicing process is quite fast, you can see the result in the Preview tab. This will be the actual look of your 3d printed object.

Preview Tabs

As previously mentioned, Cura is open-source software, you can add many extra plugins to Cura to tailor your need. Premium plugins require the subscription of Ultimaker Cura Premium ($50-$1000/month) while community plugins are free. You can also install the plugin package locally by dragging and dropping the plugins file into the Cura window.

Add Custom Plugin And Material To Cura

Although the software works best with Ultimaker 3d printer, Ultimaker has been adding many pre-configured 3D printer profiles (even their competitors) to the software. Users can add their 3d printer via the network, or add a pre-configured printer profile available in the list as below:

Add Printer Cura

Ultimaker Cura supports many file extensions, here’s the complete list:

  • 3D models: 3MF File (.3mf), AMF File (.amf), COLLADA Digital Asset Exchange (.dae), Compressed COLLADA Digital Asset Exchange (.zae), Open Compressed Triangle Mesh (.ctm), STL file (.stl), Stanford Triangle Format (.ply), Wavefront OBJ File (.obj), X3D file (.x3d), glTF Binary (.glb), glTF Embedded JSON (.gltf).
  • Images: BMP image (.bmp), GIF image (.gif), JPEG image (.jpeg), JPG image (.jpg), PNG, Image (.png)
  • Gcode: Compressed G-code file (.gz), G file (.g), G-code file (.gcode), Ultimaker Format, Package (.ufp)

#2: Slic3r

Slic3r

>Website: https://slic3r.org/

Skill level Intermediate to advanced level
Cost Free & Paid
Community Very big and active community, Youtube tutorials, Forums, Facebook group
Type of software Standalone software (Opensource)
Pros – Opensource, users can add many extra plugins to tailor their needs

– Light-weighted software, run smoothly on low-spec PC

– Contain a lot of features, expert users will definitely love this software

Cons – Not easy to use for beginners because there’re too many features and we can’t switch mode to beginner-expert like other software

Slic3r is one of the earliest pioneers in slicer software. There are many slicing features we are using today that were originally developed from Slic3r. Some developers even used Slic3r to make their own 3d slicer software. A famous name that should be mentioned here is PrusaSlicer (formerly known as Slic3r Prusa Edition or Slic3r PE).

Slic3r Preview

There are 3 main settings: Print Settings, Filament, and Printer

In Print Settings, you can configure Layer height, infill, print speed, multiple extruders…

Slic3r Print Settings

Multiple extruders settings allow you to configure 3D printing with multiple filaments, here’s an example of a dual extruders 3d print

Dual Extruders 3d Print

In Filament Settings, you can change settings like filament color, temperature of extruder or printer bed, changing Fan settings like fan speed or cooling threshold

In Printer Settings, we can specify some basic settings like printer bed size, the number of extruders, nozzle diameter…
The software supports 13 infill patterns, you can refer to this page to see their actual looks.
13 Infill Patterns
Slic3r has a lot of powerful features for slicing. This is a strong point, but also a limitation of this software. New users will easily get overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.
You won’t know exactly the bed size, or what nozzle diameter is. The software does not provide any prebuilt printer profile, you will have to look for the best option from other sources.
With Slic3r, you can generate support automatically, but there are not many options to deal with support.
Support In Slic3r
Slic3r works seamlessly with Octoprint, users can connect Slic3r with Octoprint for cloud printing. The plugin can be found here.

To sum it up, I recommend Slic3r to intermediate to advanced level users. The software is not the best option for newbies as it does not include any prebuilt settings.

#3: PrusaSlicer

Prusalslicer

>Website: https://www.prusa3d.com/page/prusaslicer_424/

Skill level Beginner to advanced level
Cost Free
Community Active community, Youtube tutorials, Forums, Facebook group
Type of software Standalone software (Opensource)
Pros – An improved version of Slic3r, the software contains a lot of improvements in terms of interface as well as features.

– The estimating table is extremely helpful, helping users cut down printing time and cost.

– Opensource, users can add many extra plugins to tailor their needs

– Suitable for both beginner & expert users, users can switch view mode.

– Support many pre-built 3d printer profiles.

Cons – Some users reported that the software sometimes consumes a lot of memory

PrusaSlicer was developed based on Slic3r opensource software. Compared to its original software, PrusaSlicer has a better interface with modern-looking, more prebuilt printer profiles & filaments.

The software provides various prebuilt printer profiles but mostly focuses on their own products.

Prebuilt Printer Profile

PrusaSlicer inherits most of the powerful features from Slic3r and improves many features to make it easier for new users to get along with this slicer software. Now you will see Slice Now and Export Gcode button at the bottom right corner.

Slice Now Prusal Slicer

An interesting feature of PrusaSlicer is the Estimating table. After slicing the design, you can see exactly every printing detail of each feature including Printing time, Percentage, Used Filament. For example, it takes 3h42m to generate support, 2h11m for internal infill. With this table, you can easily tweak your settings to get the best result.

Prusa Estimating Table

Prusa understands that many newbies to 3d printing have difficulty with Slic3r’s interface, so they added a display option with 3 modes: Simple, Advanced, Expert. The Simple mode will hide many advanced settings that beginners don’t need to care about.

3 Mode In Prusaslicer

With the release of the Original Prusa SL1 resin 3D printer, Prusa also includes masked SLA (MSLA) mode to their slicer software, making it the first high-quality open-source MSLA slicer available to the community.

Prusa Slicer Sla Support
If you own a Prusa 3d printer, there is no reason not to use this slicer software. Even if you don’t use Prusa printers, this is still a good choice because this software is developed based on Slic3r with many optimizations in both interface and features.

#4: Repetier

Repetier

>Website: https://www.repetier.com/

Skill level Intermediate to advanced level
Cost Free
Community Small but active community
Type of software Standalone software
Pros – Support various types of slicer engine: Slic3r, CuraEngine, Skeinforge.

– Easy to work with Gcode

– Suitable for both beginner & expert users.

– Ability to remotely manage multiple 3d printers.

Cons – This is an all-in-one solution for 3d printing, users who are looking for a slicer may find it a bit complicated to use

Repetier is an All-In-One 3d printing solution but it’s still very good if you just use the software for slicing your model. Instead of building its own slicing system, Repetier uses slicing engines from famous slicer software like Slic3r, PrusaSlicer, CuraEngine, and Skeinforge. These slicing engines are bundled within the software, so you can use them directly in the Repetier interface.

Right after importing your STL file into the software, you can start to configure the slicing options. In the Slicer tab, you can choose which slicer engine to be used. Choose Slicer Engine Repetier

Depending on the selected slicer engine, there will be different slicing settings. With Cura as slicing engine, you can configure slicing option directly on Repetier interface. If you choose Slic3r or PrusaSlicer, there’ll be an extra step to import settings from that software to Repetier.

When everything is set, click on the Slice button and the software will generate a printable version of the object with all stuff like Support and Raft.

Repetier Slicer

If you know how to work with Gcode, you can also directly edit Gcode generated by the software by clicking on Edit G-Code button.

Edit Gcode Repetier

An amazing feature of this slicer software is that it can handle up to 16 extruders with different filament types and colors simultaneously and visualize the result with individual filament colors. You can also Visualize extruders’ Travel Moves to see exactly how the model will be printed.

Show Travel Moves Repetier

In case you want to print multiple parts or objects, Repetier allows you to duplicate objects and automatically arrange them neatly on the printing bed.

Manage Objects In Repetier

If you work with multiple 3d printers, or you want to remotely manage your 3d printing jobs, Repetier is the perfect solution. Here’s how Repetier works. You can install Repetier on a Windows or Mac PC, or even a small and cheap system like Raspberry Pi, and remotely manage all 3d printers.

Remote Printing With Repetier

Since Repetier is an All-in-one solution, some users who just need a slicer may find it complicated but overall, Repetier is a must-try solution if you are serious with 3d printing.

#5: Mattercontrol

Mattercontrol Slicer

>Website: https://www.matterhackers.com/store/l/mattercontrol/sk/MKZGTDW6

Skill level Intermediate to advanced level
Cost Free & Paid
Community Big and active community, many Youtube tutorials
Type of software Standalone software (Opensource)
Pros – All-in-one solution for 3d printing, cover all steps: design-slice-print.

– Opensource, users can add many extra plugins to tailor their needs

– The software is suitable for both beginner & expert users with an intuitive interface.

– Preview screen brings a lot of useful details like Filament Lenght, print time, estimated cost.

Cons – The software sometimes consumes a lot of memory

– Does not support Ultimaker Cura 3

MatterControl was made by Matterhackera 3d printing retailer with a wide range of 3d printing products from software to hardware, filament, resin…

MatterControl is a free, open-source, all-in-one software package for 3d printing. With Mattercontrol, you can design 3d objects, slice the design, and 3d print from the software interface. MatterControl has a modern-looking and user-friendly interface, even new users can get along with the software in no time.

In the Hardware tab, you can add printer profile. There’re many pre-built printer profile supported by the software.

Printer Setup Mattercontrol

After importing the model, you can open the slice setting to tweak Slicer setting. We have many settings on Slice Setting tab, by default there’re only some main settings shown here, you will have to switch to Advanced mode to display all settings

Advabced Mode

  • General: include Layer Thickness, Fill Density
  • Adhesion: Allow to generate Skirt, Brim, Raft
  • Support: Settings related to generating support.
  • Filament: Color, Fan, Extruder, Retraction settings

Slicer Settings Mattercontrol

When everything is ready, hit the Slice button and the software will generate a printable version of your model.

Printable Model Mattercontrol

The software also calculates Print time, Filament length, the estimated cost for you. This is very helpful to make the final decision.

Print Detail Mattercontrol

With a modern interface and full of tutorials, tooltips with Cloud storage integration, Mattercontrol is one of the best options at the moment.

#6: Selfcad

Selfcad

>Website: https://www.selfcad.com/

Skill level Intermediate to advanced level
Cost Free & Paid
Community Very big and active community, many youtube tutorials and Facebook group
Type of software Standalone software (Opensource)
Pros – Support both standalone and web-based version, withthe web-based version you won’t need to install the software to use.

– Drawing, Manifolding, and Slicing tools are available in just one software.

– SelfCAD is good at fixing models for 3d printing.

Cons – Slicing options are quite limited, lacking some advanced features

– The software sometimes consumes a lot of memory

Selfcad is another all-in-one 3d printing solution. It can do everything from designing to slicing, printing 3d objects. The software mainly focuses on 3d modeling functions, however, the slicing function is also very good. The slicing function is built on Cura engine, so you may find it similar to Cura.

The slicing interface is quite simple, you can choose 3d printer brand, set print quality, change infill percentage, configure support, and select filament. There are plenty of printer profiles from various brands, you can create a custom printer profile as well.

Here’s how a sliced object looks like in Selfcad

Sliced Object Selfcad

If you like to access advanced slicing configurations, hit the setting button. There are many settings to adjust like Speed, Layer Height, Adhesion. We can also save the slicing profile for later use.

Advanced Slicing Settings

Selfcad has both Cloud and Standalone software, both work the same way. However, I prefer the standalone version because we have more improved performance and advanced rendering features.

If you just want to do a quick slicing, you can use their web-based version. To access the slicing tool, hover over the product tab

Access Selfcad Webbase Version

With simple objects like the headphone stand in my example, there’s not much slicing speed difference between the cloud-based version and the standalone version.

Selfcad is the perfect choice if you want a complete solution from design to slicing, printing. With a very easy-to-use interface and cloud integration, this is a great choice for beginners to intermediate users.

#7: Ideamaker

Ideamaker

>Website: https://www.raise3d.com/ideamaker/

Skill level Beginner to advanced level
Cost Free
Community Small community
Type of software Standalone software
Pros – Easy to use

– Strong repair tool to fix non-manifold models.

– Suitable for both beginner & expert users.

– Easy to create texture for 3d models.

– Support multi-extruder

Cons – Small community

Ideamaker is a product by Rise3d, a manufacturer with various types of 3d printing products. The software obviously works well with Rise3d’s 3d printers, however, it also supports many other 3d printer brands.

When you start the program for the first time, you will be able to add a printer profile and filament profile.

Add Printer Ideamaker

The software has an intuitive interface that aims to provide a faster slicing process.

The main menu provides you with all the necessary functions to prepare the model before slicing. You can scale the model, add auto or manual support, add texture to the model. Max Fit function can quickly fit your model to the printer bed.

Main Menu Ideamaker

One feature that I especially love when using Ideamaker is object repair. This feature helps users to fix common mistakes with a 3d object such as non-manifold geometries with just a single click.

Auto Repair Ideamaker

You can also generate support automatically with this software. Compared to some other software, I highly appreciate Ideamaker’s support creation feature. This feature works quite smart and saves materials and printing time quite well compared to manual supports. The software will evaluate the most important areas that need a support structure. Here is an example when using Ideamaker’s auto support feature

Auto Support Ideamaker

Dual-extruders are also supported in this software. You can configure each extruder independently.

Dual Extruders Ideamaker

Another interesting feature that can’t be found in other slicer software is Texture. You can apply texture to the model by applying different patterns to the selected model’s surface. ideaMaker will automatically apply the pattern image across the surface of the model and generate the 3D texture. Here’s an example of the Texture function

Apply Texture In Ideamaker

ideaMaker gives users a detailed preview of the final printing result through its slice preview screen which simulates every extrusion thread on the screen. You can now export the Gcode file to a Local disk or import the Gcode file to the printer and start printing right away.

Sliced Object Ideamaker

Although the software is not open-source, users can freely share their slicing template to the Rise3d community or download templates shared by other Ideamaker’s users as well.

There’s also an STL library section on this site, you may find your favorite designs here for free. The academy page is extremely helpful you have any trouble using this software.

#8: Tinkerine Cloud

Tinkerine Cloud

>Website: https://tinkerine.com/tinkerine-cloud

Skill level Beginner level
Cost Free
Community Small community
Type of software Web-based
Pros – Easy to use

– Web-based, you won’t need to install the software to use

– Fast slicing

Cons – Lacking advanced slicing features

– Does not support multi-extruder

– There are only 3 pre-built printer profiles

Previously, Tinkerine was a standalone software, not a cloud-based solution. With this new version, Tinkering users won’t need to install any software. Instead, users can slice design right on their cloud website.

After registering a new account, you just need to upload your STL file to Tinkerine to start cloud slicing

Upload Design To Tinkerine

The software has only 3 pre-built printer profiles including Dittopro3d printer, Dittopro3d-R printer, Trifecta 800. If you are not using those printers, you will need to make custom configurations like changing Filament dimension and Extrusion Width.

Slicing Option Tinkerine

Tinkerine Cloud does not support Multi-extruders, so if you can forget about this software if you need that function.

Tinkerine cloud is a great solution that allows users to slice objects right on the web platform. However, this solution still has many limitations such as only supporting some Tinkerine printers, and there are not many options for slicing. If you want to experience new technologies like cloud slicing, this is still a worthwhile solution.

#9: Craftware

Craftware Pro Slicer

>Website: https://craftbot.com/craftware

Skill level Intermediate to advanced level
Cost Free & Paid
Community Small community
Type of software Standalone software (Opensource)
Pros – Beautiful and intuitive interface, can be compared to paid software like Simplify3d.

– Support a lot of printer profiles

– Strong CAD features

– Can switch between basic and pro mode

Cons – The software consumes a lot of ram and CPU compared to other slicer software

– The free version lacks some important productitity features

Craftware is made by CraftBot, a well-known 3d printer manufacturer. The software works well with both CraftBot printers and their competitor’s products. You can find a lot of pre-built printer profiles when adding a new printer

Printer Profile Craftware

Craftware provides a complete slicing solution with a lot of control over slicing settings. The software has a friendly unique-looking interface, there are 3 tabs CAD, Manufacturing, and G-code.

  • CAD tab: This is where you can work with your design, like rotate, scale, duplicate objects. In this tab, users can also create 3d shapes like cuboid, Icoshpere, Cylinder…
  • Manufacturing Tab: In this tab, you can tweak all the parameters related to the 3d printing process like Printer setting, Filament setting, setting extruder dimension, changing Bed size, control temperature…

Manufacturing Tab Craftware

  • Gcode tab: in this tab, you can manage Gcode produced by the software. There are slicing bars to preview how every line of Gcode works.

Gcode Tab Craftware

Besides the basic features that most other slicer software have, Craftware provides some special slicing features that make your 3d printing much more economical and efficient.

  • Multi-tray function: You can create and manage multiple printers slice all the designs simultaneously. It simplifies the operation of farm management.

Multitray Function In Craftware

  • Multilayer contraction: Enables users to slice various areas of the objects with different parameters – you can save a lot of time and cost of printing if you can take advantage of this feature.

Multilayer Contraction

With many modes available, the software is suitable for all types of users, from Beginner to Advanced users and even Expert.

#10: Octoprint

Octoprint Slicer

>Website: https://octoprint.org/

Skill level Intermediate to advanced level
Cost Free
Community Big and active community
Type of software Web-based (Opensource)
Pros – Allows to remotely manage printers, support webcam

– Slicing engine based on Cura and Slic3r, so the quality is guaranteed.

Cons – Not easy to use for beginner

– The slicer plugin is quite simple, missing advanced slicing features.

– This is not a packaged software with a setup.exe file, it’s quite complicated to install Octoprint

Octorprint is not a slicer software, it’s a solution to help users manage and work remotely with 3d printing. You can use Octorprint to connect with many slicer software like Cura, Slic3r, Prusaslicer and after uploading your model and slicing it, you can send your newly-generated G-code straight to your printer.

Recently Octoprint also integrated the slicing function into their web interface, allowing users to slice the design and remotely print the object.

Slicing Plugin On Octoprint

To enable this feature, first you will need to download and install Octoprint on a device. Then install the Full-featured slicer plugin to Octoprint

Install Slicing Plugin In Octoprint

The slicer plugin of Octoprint runs on Cura Engine and Slic3r Engine, so you won’t have to worry about slicing quality. Although the slicer plugin on Octoprint offers quite limited functions, it covers almost all the essential options for basic slicing like setting up temperature, fill density, travel speed…

Remotely Print With Octoprint

Octoprint slicer is recommended if you don’t need to use advanced slice features like multi-extruders, multi-filaments. If you want more tweaking, use the specialized slice software introduced above like Cura or Slic3r.

Wrapping up

If you’ve read this far, I’m sure you’ve picked the slicer software that’s right for you.
Please note that not every software has the more features the better, you have to consider based on your needs. If you are a basic user, do not want to set up too many slicing options, then Cura, Prusaslicer is the most suitable choice.
If you are an advanced user and need more advanced slicing features, consider using Scli3r or even the paid solution Simplify3d

Another thing to remember is that: always use the right density and number of supports when you create supports in slicer software to ensure easy removal of supports from 3d printed objects and avoid damage to the object.

If you have any questions, or you want to share the slicer software you’re using with the community, leave a comment below. Thank you very much for your contribution

Hung Tran is the founder of 3dsage.com, he loves sharing 3d printing experience.

1 Comment

  1. Ultimaker Cura is my best choice because they simplified everything for beginner user like me.
    Thanks for sharing the list!

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