Software Guide 2021
Slicers, what they are and what they do!
One of the things we are asked about most is software. There are a lot of options out there, and most of them depend on what you need to do with it and your application.
There are 2 main types of software that you will need for 3Dprinting, slicing software and CAD design software.
In this guide, we will look into what slicers are, what they are used for, and give you a few recommendations on what we think is best depending on your machine.
Slicers are the software that you will need to prepare the files that you want to print for printing. It basically breaks the file down into something your printer can understand and allows you to control how you would like it to be printed by changing things like wall thickness, infill percentage, the materials you would like to use and any specific settings that the printer needs to successfully print the object.
CAD software is used for creating the file you would like to print in a digital format that you can then take into a slicer to print. But we will cover CAD software in a separate guide.
Below we will break down the different types of slicer software into two sections (FDM and Resin printers), so you can easily find the software that is right for you.
Slicer software for FDM printers
There are quite a few different slicers for FDM printers. Most manufacturers have their own slicer software, and what’s best to use normally depends on what printer you have. But we have listed the most common ones with a bit of information on each below.
Ultimaker Cura is by far the most popular slicer for most FDM printers on the market today. Its free to download and use and it supports and has default profiles for most machines that are available today. Even if Cura does not have a profile set up for your machine, its normally quite easy to set a profile up as a custom FDM machine, or adapt a profile from a similar machine to get it to work with the more obscure printers.
We tend to recommend Cura as a good starting point for anyone looking to get into 3D printing. Even if you don’t have a printer yet, its well worth downloading Cura and giving it a try to get a better idea of if the printer you want is big enough for the parts you want to print and get a better feel for how it all works. We tend to recommend Cura for printers like Creality FDM machines, Artillery and Anet printers to name a few.
You can download Cura for free from the ultimaker website from the link below.
Simplify3D is a fantastic bit of slicing software that has in the past been favoured by people who do a lot of printing or people who want a more professional slicing software. Its not a free slicer, you can get it through the link below on our website for £148.99.
Simplyfy3D supports most machines, and does tend to give you more control over the slicer settings on face value. A lot of the settings on simplify can be found on other slicers such as Cura, but you normally have to dig quite deep through the advanced settings to find exactly what you are looking for in other slicers if you are doing something more complicated. We use simplify in house as our preferred slicer for most of the printers we sell. One strong point of simplify3d is the support material. If you have parts that need a lot of supports. It makes supports very easy to generate and edit and the results are very good. You can get custom supports on slicers like Cura as well, but you will need to download a separate plugin for this and it still does not give you quite as much control as simplify3D custom supports.
But weather you think paying for simplify is worth it or not ultimately depends on how much you think you will use it or need it. For most hobbyists and people who only want to print simple parts or a small number of test prints every so often, Cura is fine, and you most likely wont ever get the benefit of having something like simplify3D. Simplify3D really comes into its own when you are running multiple printers of different types or have very specific or complicated requirements that can be difficult in other slicers.
One other thing to note about Simplify3D, is that it has not actually been updated in quite a while. The current version 4.1, came out in 2018. It has had minor bug fixes and updates since then, but the current most up to date version is 4.1.2. Apparently there is a version 5 on the way, which will be a paid upgrade to all people who own the current version, but we haven’t heard anything about this for quite some time. Because of this, its difficult to say weather or not simplify is worth investing in, but I think personally I would hold off and see what happens with version 5 before spending any money.
Flahsprint is the own brand slicer for flashforge machines, If you are looking at a flashforge printer, Flashprint is probably what you will be using. Its simple and effective and does what you need it to do very well. It is not quite as widely configurable as slicers like Cura and Simplify but it does have an advanced settings tab where you get a bit more control over your prints if you need it. Its good for what it is, and if you have a flashforge printer it comes with the machine. I would not really recommend bothering with it for any other brand of printer, but you can download it for free on the flashforge website via the link below if you want to give it a try.
Like Flashprint, Ideamaker is the own brand slicer for Raise3D. It does have quite a few nice features like custom supports, cutting and separating STL files in the slicer and variable settings for different parts of the print. Again you don’t quite get as much choice as slicers like Cura and Simplify, but it has everything you should need and more. It also seems to be a bit more professionally focused. Normally I would not really recommend Ideamaker for anything other than Raise machines, but it can be used for other machines as an alternative slicer if you want use it. If you want to give it a go its free to download from the link below.
Slicer software for resin printers
Resin printers need a different type of slicer to FDM printers, and although the principle is similar in that it breaks the part down into layers that the printer needs to create the object. The method and the process for preparing the object is quite different.
Chitubox is by far the most commonly used slicer for resin printers. It supports most machines and is great for hollowing out parts and playing with slicer settings. The only thing that really lets Chitubox down is that the supports are not the best in the world, and it has a bad habit of putting supports through the part, or having them so close to the object that they fuse with the part and are very difficult to remove and clean up. For this reason, I normally generate the supports in a separate bit of software then import the pre-supported file into chitubox to hollow it if you need to and slice it for printing. You can see a more detailed guide on how to do this on the link below.
You can download Chitubox for free from the link below.
As mentioned in the video from the Chitubox section above, PrusiaSlicer is a great easy way of generating custom supports for resin prints. Its not perfect, but it is much better and much more easy to get good results with than the supports in Chitubox. PrusiaSlicer can also be used for FDM printers, but personally I have only every used it for the good resin supports and then export the files to slice in other software. You can download PrusiaSlicer for free from the link below.
Lychee is a newer to us than the other resin slicers mentioned in this list and we don’t have quite as much hands on experience with it, but it does seem to be the best option for resin slicers at the moment. It has by far the most options for slicing and preparing your print, and the supports are very good. So its nice to not have to jump between multiple bits of software to add supports. It has a very wide range of printers supported by it as well, so the chances of you getting a printer that it can’t work with are low. So far it looks like Lychee could offer the best of both worlds when it comes to resin slicers, but as always, there is a catch. Lychiee is a free slicer for the base version, and you can set it up and use it fine for free. But, a lot of the best features are locked behind a paid subscription so you might need to spend a bit of money to get the most out of it. You can download Lychee from the link below.
Halot Box is the Creality own brand slicer for there new range of Resin printers. This is a new addition for creality, as there previous printers have used Chitubox, with one other exception. Halot box does the job, works fine, and there is nothing wrong with it. But like Chitubox it is not the best in the world for generating supports. So if you want to use it, it might be worth generating the supports in another slicer and importing them into Halot box pre-supported for best results if you have something very complicated or that needs a lot of support material. You can download Halot Box from the link below.
Photon Worskshop, like Halot Box, is the own brand slicer from Anycubic for there resin printers. We have historically not recommended it for most of the Resin printers in Anycubics range, as they are normally quite well supported by better 3rd party slicers like Lychee and Chitubox. There are some machines in the range however, like the Photon Zero, that only work with Photon Workshop. Like the other own brand slicers, it works fine and there is no problem with it, but if you need it, it might be a good idea to pre-support your files in another slicer if you need complex supports.