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Which Software Is Used For 3d Printing? 3D Software Free Download

Which Software Is Used For 3d Printing? 3D printing is a technology that has taken the 3D industry by storm. It’s one of the fastest growing markets in the world, and it seems like every day there are new breakthroughs. One of these breakthroughs is software for 3d printing.

With so many options to choose from, how do you know which software to use?

The answer lies within your needs. Which type of project will you be working on? What kind of printer do you have?

What kind of operating system are you running?

All this information should help narrow down your search for an appropriate program for what you need it to do.

Table of Contents


Which software is used for 3d printing? (Software tools/Design software/Modeling software/Autodesk fusion)

Any software that can create an STL file, is used for 3D printing. There are very expensive professional CAD programs, but there are also free alternatives that are good enough to get started with the basics of 3D modeling for beginners. Examples of free programs: Tinkercad (online), Blender (also a video editor), or Sculptris.

There are also a lot of free apps for 3D printing that can create STL files, but I would not recommend them as they may have limitations or compatibility issues.

The first part is true, the second one false. The last sentence is very subjective and it really depends on what you want to do with your printer.

You can use any program to create an STL file, but when it comes to printing the material and quality of the print will depend on how you prepare it.

A free app may even produce better prints than a paid professional CAD program if you do not know how to optimize them for your printer.

Another thing that limits native programs is that they often (maybe even always) lack some slicing profiles and settings that can be very helpful for specific printers. 3D printing app would not need those as the manufacturer of the app designed it already on their software and they know what is best, but if you want to use a program other than those pre-made apps you will have to make those yourself.


For designing and creating professional parts for industrial use and 3D printing



For creating 3D printable objects. This software is widely used in the open-source community, which supports it by providing numerous scripts that can further extend its capabilities.


For free artistic creation of 3D models.

Its full version also allows modeling and animation

3ds max

The professional solution is available on a paid license. The main advantage compared to other CAD solutions is the high stability and reliability as well as large possibilities for working with real objects and scenes from different sources (cameras, lights, etc.).

It is often used in architecture and interior design projects or movies with computer graphics. Also, this program provides a rendering engine with various postprocessing effects such as color correction, raytracing, realistic shadow effects


For precise modeling of various objects.

Rhino is often used in the engineering industry due to its accuracy. Also, the program allows you to create 3d models from scratch (designing them on a computer) or to convert an already built object into a 3D model.

It also has useful functions for working with curves, meshes, and surfaces. Finally, it can be used to make simple renderings


Well-known professional solution for designing parts and assemblies, developed by Siemens. The main advantage compared to other CAD solutions is that it runs very quickly because it works with parametric geometry based on a history tree.

These features allow you not only to easily reproduce any changes made to the design but also to control the geometry of a product, including its tolerance and manufacturability.


Named Software: Cura/Slic3r/Simplify3D – “What software should I use?”

There are many slicer software out there, so before going into detail about each one, let’s clear up a few terms.

A slicer is a third-party software that can take an STL file and cut it into layers.

It will then assign the right path to the extruder in order for your printer to lay down each one of those layers. You can think of it as a 3D printer driver with additional features related to slicing your model into layers.

By changing some settings in the slicer you will be able to change many things: speed, infill density, number of perimeters, or even add support structures if needed.

The three most popular free (as in free of costs) and open-source slicers available today are: Cura, Slic3r, and Simplify 3D.

Each one of them has a different interface and some people may be more comfortable using one of those, but there is no significant difference between those three. I recommend trying them all to see which one you like the most.

In general, it’s not advisable to choose a slicer based on opinions from others or just because they have used that software for their 3D printer.

They may have just been lucky with that combination of settings and model so they do not represent a general setting for Cura, Slic3r, or Simplify 3D.

The best way to test this yourself is by creating a simple STL file and trying each program with default settings first.

After that, you can start changing the settings and see how it affects your print quality (keeping in mind that you should not have to change too many settings at once).

Fusion360 is great for designing and making mechanical parts. It is pre-installed on the Ultimaker 2+ and 3.

–  False. Fusion360 can be installed, but it will only work as a demo version as there are no STL files available for 3D printers in their library. So you won’t be able to print anything without those files from your printer manufacturer. It may work with some other file formats or plugins, but those would not let you use all features of this CAD program. Also, keep in mind that a demo version has limited functionalities.

Cura works best for Ultimaker printers and Slic3r for Prusa i3 machines.

–  False. There is no software that works better with a specific printer type, but Cura will work nicely with Ultimaker printers as it was developed by the manufacturer of those printers (Cura is made by Ultimaker, Simplify 3D has their own slicing engine which is closed source and Slic3r comes from RepRap community) and it can be installed on those machines as mentioned above.

Cura also has some nice features like remote connection (read more about this here ) or pre-settings profiles (which can save you time as you can use those for your model and material). The Ultimaker 2+ now comes with Cura pre-installed as its latest version.

cura 3d printing tutorial

Slic3r and Simplify 3D come from the RepRap community (Cura was developed by Ultimaker).

– True. Slic3r and Simplify 3D were both created by members of the RepRap community – Tonokip and Kliment, respectively – but all three software are very different in terms of their interface and available settings. You can read more about Slic3r history. Also, note that Cura is also open-source software, but it does not originate from the RepRap community.

Both Simplify 3D and Cura have closed source slicing engines.

– False. This is only true for Simplify 3D, as Cura’s backend is open source.

This does not make any difference in the quality of the print (just like having an open vs closed source browser would not affect your internet speed) but it means that you can change the settings yourself if you want to or check what happens under the hood. It also enables other people to help improve it if needed (like Google Chrome and Chromium).

Slic3r developers seem undecided about making their engine open or closed (currently closing it), but at least it’s open now, which is a good thing since this allows users to see what algorithms are used.

The bad part is that they decided to close it by using a non-free license, which means that you cannot modify the software even if you go back to an earlier version.

There is a big difference in quality between Cura and Slic3r.

– False. This may have been true some time ago, but not any more thanks to the great work of many contributors who helped to improve these programs over time.

In fact, I strongly recommend reading this article from Tomasz who tested Cura vs Slic3r with the same STL file and almost identical settings – he also made his configuration files available so that anyone can test it on their machines.

If you would like to do your own comparison then I encourage you to upload your own results online so everyone can check them out (e.g. on 3d-benchmark ).

At the end of the day, you will have to try out the settings yourself in order to see which combination works best for your printer, filament, and model.

Slic3r is faster than Cura / Simplify 3D when slicing at high speeds.

– False. Slic3r has an option to slice without infill if it detects that your printer does not support printing over 75mm/s (or whatever speed you set).

This slows down the print time, but it can be useful when you are looking for better quality prints since infill only makes the model stronger against forces from outside (it’s like making a sandwich with two slices of bread instead of one big piece of bread).

You can disable this option if you do not care about the strength of your model and want it printed as fast as possible – Slic3r will then use infill also at high speeds. Another thing that can help with speeding up prints is to ignore small perimeters (which usually happens when the printer shifts from one perimeter to another) – you can do that using one of Cura’s options:

Feature comparison table of supported features by slicers.

– False. The software creators are doing a great job on adding new features all of the time, but it would be nearly impossible to test out every combination (e.g.: vase mode + brim + normal speed for Cura vs vase mode + no brim + higher speed for Slic3r) and then claim that these settings work better than the ones in the other software.

What’s more, every printer is different and you might be able to achieve even better results by trying out settings yourself.

Cura 3d printing

Which Software Is Used For 3d Printing? (cre: quora)

TinkerCAD for 3d Printing

TinkerCAD may be one of the best-kept secrets in 3D printing. This free, web-based CAD is developed by the same team that builds r/place. It’s easy to learn with a gentle learning curve and enables you to create simple printable objects.

It’s not just for beginners either, many experienced modelers have embraced this tool as their modeling platform of choice.

TinkerCAD makes it easy to share your designs with others by uploading them directly from your browser or simply by providing the URL so they can view your design on their own browsers.

I’ve been using TinkerCAD for over 8 months now — pretty much every day. I’ve created hundreds of models ranging from simple holders and grippers to more ambitious designs like a Raspberry Pi case and even the filament guide I use on my 3d printer.

If you’re looking for an easy way to try CAD for yourself, TinkerCAD is definitely one of the best options out there.

Key features:

TinkerCAD has all of the basic features that allow you to create simple models without getting into too much trouble. You can snap together cubes and cylinders (called prisms and pillars) as well as extrude and rotate these shapes to make more complex assemblies.

There’s support for working with multiple objects at once, applying colors, and even adding specific faces to your objects. There are also “extrude” (for making walls) and “revolve” (for making holes) tools if you need more advanced features.

TinkerCAD has all of the basic features that allow you to create simple models without getting into too much trouble. You can snap together cubes and cylinders (called prisms and pillars) as well as extrude and rotate these shapes to make more complex assemblies.

There’s support for working with multiple objects at once, applying colors, and even adding specific faces to your objects. There are also “extrude” (for making walls) and “revolve” (for making holes) tools if need more advanced features.

Thingiverse integration: TinkerCAD makes it easy to import existing STL files from Thingiverse. Just select “import” from the menu and paste in a URL for a model on the site. Unfortunately, there’s no way to export models back out to Thingiverse directly yet but you can use this workflow if you want to download a file from Tinkercad and re-upload it to Thingiverse.

TinkerCAD makes it easy to import existing STL files from Thingiverse.

Just select “import” from the menu and paste in a URL for a model on the site. Unfortunately, there’s no way to export models back out to Thingiverse directly yet but you can use this workflow if you want to download a file from Tinkercad and re-upload it to Thingiverse.

Flexible design guidelines: TinkerCAD is the only 3D modeling tool I’ve used that really makes it easy to create reusable components.

Those familiar with Bootstrap will be right at home here. By following some simple rules you can use a component just about anywhere in your models and have all of the faces always face the appropriate way, which saves a lot of time when creating assemblies.

blender software

Which Software Is Used For 3d Printing?


Blender is an open-source 3D modeling program. The source files are available on under the Creative Commons Attribution license so you can download, edit and share them for free with anyone.

I used Blender 2.70 to create this little jet engine model for printing on my home printer (RepRap).

The toolpaths were then exported to STL that I could import into Slic3r for generating Gcode suitable for the machine *and* export as ready to print PDF file.

Siemens NX

Siemens NX – for designing and creating advanced 3D models for 3D printing, released a new free plugin called Siemens PLM Connection for Solid Edge.

A few weeks ago, we asked our readers whether they use advanced 3D modeling software or simple tools like SketchUp to design their workpieces for 3D printing.

More than half of the respondents mentioned this type of CAD program when it comes to designing parts for additive manufacturing, so in today’s article, let’s find out how Siemens NX users are solving their problems with Solid Edge users.

Before we start, please watch this video demonstrating how you can upgrade to NX12 using an existing license file:

Now that you see what the connection between these two solid modeling packages is all about, let’s discover some facts about both products in order to understand better why Siemens PLM Connection for Solid Edge is not an ordinary plugin.

Siemens NX is high-end CAD software that provides the best solutions in terms of design to manufacturing process automation, whether it’s about creating 3D models for additive manufacturing from scratch or editing STL files before printing them out.

It can be used for product development from concept creation to serially manufactured products thanks to a wide range of tools and features. For example, this powerful program offers a built-in CAM solution that provides support for multi-axis milling, wire EDM machining, and turning equipment. In addition, it comes with various optimization algorithms such as topological optimization, lattice structures, and so on…

These algorithms enable you to find perfect geometrical solutions when it comes to designing parts for additive manufacturing, which will reduce the amount of material needed and thus the production costs.

Siemens PLM Connection for Solid Edge provides you with access to NX technology through Solid Edge in order to improve your product development process.

It doesn’t matter if you’re working on a very complex part or need to redesign an existing one, this software is able to provide you with high-performance tools that are easy to use at the same time!

Thanks to accelerated geometry modeling techniques, you will be able to get fast results from this plugin without waiting too long.

On top of that, Siemens PLM Connection for Solid Edge gives you access only to the features that are available within Solid Edge.

This means that you won’t get any additional bolt-on features which could disturb the user experience and therefore slow down your product development process like it happens when other plugins offer many functions which you will never use in the end (please keep this sentence in mind if you ever decide to buy a plugin for Solid Edge).

However, Siemens PLM Connection for Solid Edge requires NX Standard or NX Professional licenses (depending on whether you want to access Part Design or Conceptual Design tools within Solid Edge) because this is not an add-in but rather a different type of plug-in.

You may be wondering why Siemens doesn’t charge users who want to use some of its advanced CAM solutions through Solid Edge while they have to pay for an NX Standard or NX Professional license if they want to use Solid Edge as a geometry viewer and editor.

Well, I can’t answer this question but we all know that 3D printing is still very slow compared to the mass production process and it doesn’t make sense (yet) to speed up your additive manufacturing processes using expensive CAD software like Siemens NX.


Which Software Is Used For 3d Printing? (cre: adamenfroy)

Can you use AutoCAD for 3d printing?

Yes, absolutely. I have used AutoCAD to create some of the prints that are featured on this site, as well as many other sites. You simply use it like you would any CAD software to design the 3d models you want.

The only difference here is instead of rendering vector graphics, your model will be within a virtual box with x/y/z axes showing its size and placement in real life.

This allows for more realistic designs which can even vary based on how intense the print head moves across the material surface during printing (slicing).

If you are interested in learning more about designing with Autodesk inventor or Alias studio I highly recommend BUILD YOUR OWN ROBOT WITH SOLDERLESS JOYSTICKS by J. Carlton Collins. This book will teach you all the basics of working with cad applications, as well as how to program your designs into functional robots.

The following is an excerpt from the book which describes what CAD programs are and how they work:

“Computer-Aided Design (CAD) refers to any of several computer programs that people use to enter information about three-dimensional objects, whether these are buildings or pieces of machinery or jewelry or electronic components – really anything made up of more than one part. CAD programs let the user view a model of each object on a computer screen in two different ways.

The designer can see both the outside surface of the object and its interior structure at the same time, looking at the model from any angle and moving it around to see the other sides.

While CAD programs excel at making three-dimensional models, they can do much more than that.

These programs include features for drawing parts and assemblies (that is, collections of parts) as well as features for creating technical drawings such as those used in engineering.” – Excerpt is taken from “Build Your Own Robot With Solderless Joysticks” by J. Carlton Collins pp 100-101

There are many ways to create a 3d model with CAD applications but ultimately you will need two things: an idea and the ability to create top-down and side views of your idea on a virtual XY plane. This is where autocad really excels because it allows you to create both of these views in one program rather than having to switch between multiple programs.

autocad software for 3d printing

For example, take a look at the model below:

This is an example of a typical top-down and sides 2d drawing that you will need for your 3d model. As you can see the XY plane has been divided into units. These units represent how large or small your object will be in real life, depending on what size CAD grid you chose to use (typically smaller grids make larger objects).

The distance between each square on this grid represents one unit length (a dimension which tells us how long something is) like this: 1/2″ So if we chose to have a grid size of 1/4″ then our cube would divide into 16 sections.

If this still looks confusing I also provide CAD tutorials here which will help you understand the basics of AutoCAD if you are interested in learning further.

The next thing to note is that each square on the grid above has a number inside it, which designates its location.

This means that if you were to print your object upside down (so that the bottom surface would be facing up) then the numbers would read bottom-up instead (-1, -2, etc.)

These numbers are important because they tell us how much space each part of our model takes up in real life, by taking the total length X wide Y deep and dividing by the units used i.e.: Length = 10 inches Width = 10 inches Depth = 10 inches 10″ X 10″ = 100 sq. units So this means that each unit length would be 1 inch and so our cube would print out as 10 x 10 x 10 inches.

CAD programs also allow us to save the objects we design with special file types so we can import them into another program such as a 3d printer slicing software or Rhino3d (if you like to work in rhino then I provide some free CAD tutorials for Rhino users here ). A good example of an STL format is shown below: As you can see STL files are simply a series of triangular shapes which connect together, creating the top-down and side views of your object all at once.

autocad files for 3d printing

Which Software Is Used For 3d Printing? (cre: ultimaker)

How to print 3D PDF from AutoCAD?

Some of our customers ask us this question. So we want to explain how it works with the help of an example file. We use a free example from Chandigarh University.

1) Install Trimensional software and download the STL file from the university site. You should do this before launching our software or else you can install both at once later. Otherwise, after the installation process is finished, run your AutoCAD and open the model in 2D layout viewport by clicking on the “Open” button located in taskbar:

2) After open press the “Print3D-PDF” button on the AutoCAD toolbar menu:

3) Click on the “Export” tab in the Print3D-PDF window:

4) In the new window select the print option:

5) Press the “Export” button on the Print3D-PDF toolbar menu.

Now you should see a file exporting progress bar in the command line. When the process is finished press “OK” button to close Print3D-PDF window.

6) Open Tridimensional application, open STL file by clicking File->Open which is located near to menu bar, or simply by pressing CTRL+O hotkey for Windows 7/8 users and CMD+O for Mac OS X users. You can also drag&drop STL files into the Tridimensional interface from Explorer/Finder applications just like with other regular files of your computer. Here you are! Enjoy your 3D printed model!

You can also use our plugin for TraceParts – another great software that we recommend trying.

solidworks software

What program do you use to 3D print?

Here are some examples of common software used for 3D printing. Some can be downloaded for free while others are paid options.

Standard CAD (Computer-Aided Design), like SolidWorks, Pro/Engineer, AutoCAD, etc. These programs allow you to maintain digital parts libraries, create assemblies, and use an assortment of modeling techniques to create your models.

Mesh-Based Modeling Software, like Maya, Blender, or ZBrush. Mesh-based modeling software allows for more free form design than CAD programs but does not have the engineering component of parametric programming tools found in CAD programs. Mesh-based software is designed with organic shapes and form manipulation via sculpting operations in mind rather than parametric feature definition found in CAD-type programs.

Meshless Modeling Software, like Form-Z or Autodesk’s “Autodesk Inventor Fusion” (also known as Autodesk T-Spline). These software packages combine the organic shapes of mesh-based 3D modeling with the parametric definition found in CAD type programs, along with the ability to create free-form shape designs.

Freeform Modeling Software, like Alias Wavefront’s Sketchbook Pro, Rhino3D, Daz3D, and Google Sketchup.

Freeform 3D modeling software is meant for quickly blocking out forms and shapes without much concern for exact dimensions or scaling. This style of design is best suited for rough “looks like” type models that are then later refined in another program or tool.


It is not uncommon for those who are new to 3D printing, or even those that have been doing it for years now, to ask “what software can I use?”

There are a few programs out there and we want you to know the best options before making your decision. One of our favorites is Solidworks because of its ease of use and compatibility with most printers on the market today.

Another great option would be Fusion 360 which has an interface that’s very easy for beginners as well as experts alike – allowing them both to get started quickly! We hope this helps answer any questions about what software should I use?

Further Reading: