Do you want to get the best results from your 3D printer? Here are the best 3D slicer software tools – most of them are free.So, what does a 3D slicer software do? A 3D slicer is a piece of software, running on a computer. It acts like an interpreter for your 3D printer. You feed it a 3D file, usually, that’s an STL, M3F or OBJ file (which describe coordinates in a three-dimensional grid). The 3D slicer software then cuts the object in many horizontal layers and produces a path a printhead can follow – line by line, layer by layer.So, any decent 3D slicer software will create:
- a toolpath (more or less intelligently) based on the geometry of your STL-file.
- a percentage of infill to save 3D printing time and material.
- constructions of support material, if the geometry is difficult to print. These supports are meant to be removed after the print is finished.
After analyzing the file and offering you choices and settings, the software generates a „G-code“ file that‘s tailored for the machine you’re using. It describes coordinates, nozzle and bed temperatures, fan control, printhead speed and other variables.
Why is a 3D slicer software so important?
If you use a good 3D slicer software, you will get better results, even from a mediocre machine. If the 3D slicer software isn’t good, you will more likely encounter a misprint or run into generic 3D printing problems.
What separates a good 3D slicer software from the bad?
There are several variables you can check in search for the best 3D slicer software for your 3D printer:
- STL import speed: It doesn’t seem to be a big thing, but if you’re handling complicated files on a slow computer, you don‘t want to fetch a coffee until the software is finished displaying the file.
- viewer capabilities: If you don’t own some CAD software, you’ll probably see your printable file for the first time when you open it in the 3D slicer software. A good software should offer the possibility to turn and zoom to any point of your 3D model flawlessly and fast.
- STL repairing: A good 3D slicer software won’t leave you in the dark. If there are errors in your 3D model, it should bring them to your attention – and ideally, repair them automatically.
- Usability: How difficult is the 3D slicing software to use? Are there settings for beginners? More options for experts? Does it have a modification history? Does it store files locally or in the cloud? Does the workflow feel right? Can you use Undo and Redo? All these questions for a “good” 3D slicer are highly subjective – but you’ll get the idea.
- Preview: A good 3D slicer software will give you estimates on the duration of the print and the material used. These facts, of course, shouldn’t differ from the actual print itself.
- Cost: Is the software free or do you have to pay for it?
- Help: We’ve checked if beginners and pros alike get enough on-screen help – or if you can ask other users in a forum or user group.
If you want to know the best 3D slicer settings for beginners, please take a look at this article.
16 Best 3D Slicer Software Tools for 3D Printers
You can sort and search through this table. Alternatively, you can skip it and jump directly to the detailed list of the best 3D slicer software tools below.
Best 3D Slicer Software #1: 3DPrinterOS
3DPrinterOS is a cloud-based platform that integrates all the different components essential to 3D printing. The name tells you pretty much what it is all about: You plug your 3D printer into your computer and host it from within your browser or the desktop application. Apart from slicing, 3DPrinterOS includes different options to repair your mesh, downloading from Sketchfab.com or printing on an industrial machine, but some premium features are only available for a fee. The company has pledged, however, that slicing will always be free.
There are three 3D printer slicer apps integrated into 3DPrinterOS the standard 3D slicer software (dubbed “Cloud Slicer”), “Slicer 2” and a dedicated “Makerbot Slicer”. The range of supported 3D printers is very broad, as can be expected from a commercial solution.
“Cloud Slicer” and “Makerbot Slicer” are virtually identical in terms of their UI and functionality. Like in other 3D slicer software tools, you can choose between varying levels of complexity (“Simple”, “Advanced” and “Expert”). As a bonus, the app can also estimate the Price of the printed file. “Slicer 2” pursues another UI philosophy: You can choose from a list of presets that you can adapt to your needs or, if you like precise control over your prints, you dive straight into the intricacies of manually configuring your print from scratch.
What‘s great? Once your G-Code is generated, you can preview it in the “Toolpath Viewer”. Also if you are really confident in your abilities, you can enter your Slicer settings as JSON code.
What’s not so great? Of course, we would like to use the premium features for free. But that would just unfair to the company, right?
Suited for 3D printing beginners and semi-pros who want a reliable environment to print their 3D models.
Where can I get it? On the 3DPrinterOS webpage.
OS Browser, Windows, Mac
Best 3D Slicer Software #2: Astroprint
This cloud-based platform is built around a similar philosophy as 3DPrinterOS and Octoprint. The actual hosting of 3D printers is achieved through a dedicated device, called Astrobox (basically a Raspberry Pi). This allows you to monitor and control your printer from any web-enabled device in the world. If you are into that sort of thing.
If you don’t have a 3D model to print, you can either download from one of the integrated web-services, like the search engine Yeggi, download from the repositories CGTrader and Thingiverse. Or design a 3D model from scratch in the web-based 3D modeling tools 3DSlash and Leopoly. In case your 3D model won’t print properly you can connect Astroprint to 3DPrintCloud to get it fixed. Finally, if you don’t have a 3D printer of your own, you can have your files printed via i.materialise.
The 3D slicer software itself is very straightforward. In simple mode, you choose your material and the desired quality. In the advanced mode, you can leave no stone unturned to achieve your goal.
What‘s great? The integration of many other web services promises to be a great gateway exploring the world of desktop 3D printing.
What’s not so great? Maybe it’s just us, but initially, we had a hard time finding the 3D slicer software! It’s hidden in the File Manager, where it is not listed among the other options like downloading. You have to click on the little preview rendering of the 3D model to get there.
Suited for beginners who shy away from investing time and money in dedicated 3D printing software suites.
Where can I get it? On the Astroprint webpage.
OS Browser, Raspberry Pi, pcDuino
Best 3D Slicer Software #3: Craftware
Another 3D slicer software developed in-house by a 3D printer manufacturer — in this instance Hungarian startup CraftUnique — to support their crowdfunded CraftBot 3D printer. However, it can be used by other 3D printers, too.
Like Cura, the CraftWare application can be switched between “easy” and “expert” modes, depending on how confident you’re feeling. It’s a zippy application, with some outstanding G-Code visualization, where each feature is represented as a different color. But the real standout feature is individual support management. To our knowledge, this is only available elsewhere in the paid application Simplify3D.
However, please note that this 3D slicer software for 3D printers is still in beta, so bugs can still occur in day-to-day use.
What‘s great? The interface is nicely designed. The 3D slicer software operates fast and is very easy to use. If you change settings, you’ll get live visual feedback to what part of the print will change – that’s a terrific feature.
What’s not so great? There are minor bugs in the software – it‘s still in beta.
Suited for beginners to pros who need 3D slicer software to prepare STL files for 3D printing
Where can I get it? on the Craftware webpage.
Price As of today, the software is free. This can change if it gets out of Beta.
OS Windows, Mac
Best 3D Slicer Software #4: Cura
Cura was developed, hosted and maintained by 3D printer company Ultimaker and it’s community. As the company has its roots in Open Source, the 3D slicer software came out as a freebie – and it stayed that way ever since. Over the years, Cura even added profiles for competitor 3D printers. Many companies wouldn’t do that.
It can be fed STL, 3MF, and OBJ file formats – which the 3D slicer software will also repair if needed. It will show a toolpath, printing time and material estimates.
Don’t miss: Cura 3D Tutorial (Free Slicer Software for 3D Printing)
What‘s great? It‘s suited for novices and experts alike as a beginner, you’ll just see the most important settings. For experts, there are over 200 settings to fiddle with. The graphical user interface is fast; with some workarounds, you can even handle dual material prints. The 3D slicer software handles huge STL moderately fast. We found Cura gave us good, not necessarily excellent results.
What’s not so great? There are some minor features missing (i.e. Octoprint support) and the print time estimates are sometimes off around 10 – 20 percent.
Suited for 3D printing beginners and semi-pros
Where can I get it? On the Cura webpage.
OS Windows, Mac, Linux
Best 3D Slicer Software #5: IceSL
IceSL is beyond any doubt one the most remarkable tools available for 3D printing. It is not merely a 3D slicer software, but also a 3D modeling tool. In the left window, you can edit your mesh directly in Lua code. At first glance, this may seem like a frightening prospect, but as in OpenSCAD, this enables some nifty parametric modeling. The center window is a live preview.
Finally, on the right, you can find a wide array of slicing settings that is sure to dishearten any beginner. Besides the usual features we expect from a 3D printer slicer (supports, dual color printing etc.), IceSL boasts ooze shielding, that protects your model against “extruder drippings”. Ugh! Another useful feature is the layer by layer view of GCode.
What‘s great? Die hard coders will love the amount of control IceSL gives them.
What’s not so great? Why is there no Mac version of this gem?
Suited for intermediate to advanced users who like to keep their 3D printers close, but their G-Code closer.
Where can I get it? On the IceSL webpage.
OS Windows, Linux
Best 3D Slicer Software #6: KISSlicer
Don’t be fooled by the acronym of this program, it may be called “Keep It Simple Slicer”, but depending on which version you choose, it can be actually a pretty sophisticated piece of software. Some have hailed it as a worthy alternative to the other 3D slicer software tools, others complained about the confusing interface.
While the free version is sufficient for amateurs that print with only one extruder, the pro version enables multi-head printing. GCode can be generated with a minimum amount of settings. For advanced settings, you’ll need to purchase the pro version. This version allows for combining multiple STL files into one print.
What‘s great? KISSlicer is a worthy alternative to the other 3D printer slicer software tools on this list.
What’s not so great? While this 3D slicer software supports most desktop 3D printers on the market out of the box. If you happen to need GCode for a printer that is not on the list, you have to manually adapt the program.
Suited for beginners and advanced users who can take advantage of the pro features.
Where can I get it? On the KISSlicer webpage.
Price Free, Pro $35 (commercial), $25 (educational)
OS Windows, Mac, Linux, Raspberry Pie
MakerBot Print is dedicated to the MakerBot line of 3D printers. Unlike general 3D slicer software tools that cater to a broad range of 3D printers, MakerBot Print’s algorithm automatically adjusts slice settings for your specific 3D printer mode and extruder type. The engineers included a very nifty feature that is useful when preparing a whole series of components, it will automatically arrange meshes across one or more build plates. You can access and print Thingiverse objects from within the program. Plus, this program has a feature known from OctoPrint: you can monitor and control your 3D printer via webcam built into your printer.
What‘s great? With MakerBot Print you will get the highest possible quality from you MakerBot printer. Beginners will love its ease of use, while advanced users will appreciate the help in printing on a larger scale.
What’s not so great? If you decide to switch to another 3D printer manufacturer, you will have to learn a new 3D slicer software as well.
Suited for Beginners to advanced users who want to print without hassle.
Where can I get it? On the MakerBot webpage.
OS Windows, Mac
Best 3D Slicer Software #8: MatterControl
MatterControl is a 3D printer host for your desktop computer, that means the two will have to be connected for the entire print. Alternatively, you can save the GCode file on an SD Card. The interface is remarkably well structured. To the left side, you can reorder the print queue with your mouse (That’s right! Now you can open your own hub!). Toggle to the right and slice the prints to your liking.
MatterControl features three slicing engines (MatterSlice, CuraEngine, and Slic3r), making it easy to experiment and compare the results. In basic mode, you can adjust layer height, fill density, support material, and raft. The settings can be saved and applied to successive prints. The advanced features niceties like auto mesh repair and support for multiple extruders. In order to foresee possible hiccups of your print, you can preview the entire process layer by layer.
What‘s great? This is the sort of 3D slicer software that will still be relevant as your expertise in 3D printing matures.
What’s not so great? Depending on your 3D printer, the quality does not yet compare to other, more mature 3D slicer software.
Suited for beginners to advanced users who want to print a lot.
Where can I get it? On the MatterControl webpage.
OS Windows, Mac, Linux
Best 3D Slicer Software #9: Netfabb Basic
Netfabb Basic is 3D slicer software for 3D printers with some nice features, that allow you to analyze, repair and edit STL files before you get to the slicing stage.
It is a good choice if you need something more than just 3D slicer software, and you want to be able to quickly repair STL files without having to learn to use additional tools like MeshLab or Meshmixer.
And don’t let the “Basic“ in the name fool you; Netfabb Basic is actually very powerful 3D printing software. It’s only “basic” in the sense when compared to the €1,500 Netfabb Professional edition!
What‘s great? Netfabb Basic is a true swiss army knife for 3D printing.
What’s not so great? The advanced features of the professional edition are available in free 3D slicer software tools such asSlic3r.
Suited for Intermediate Users who need 3D slicer software to prepare STL files for 3D Printing.
Where can I get it? On the Netfabb webpage.
OS Windows, Mac, Linux
Best 3D Slicer Software #10: OctoPrint
The OctoPrint is a nifty piece of machinery that hosts your 3D printer, allowing you to control and monitor all its activities from your web browser and handheld devices. The application itself is installed on a Raspberry Pi, that you can extend e.g. with a webcam and a plethora of plugins. This way, 3D printing jobs can be loaded onto your printer without the pesky shuffling of SD cards. Among the many great features that we have discussed elsewhere, is an integrated 3D slicer software based on the trusted CuraEngine. Which basically means that you won’t even need to slice your files on a computer anymore, you can just send over the STL model and the printer will do the rest.
Don’t miss: Setup Guide to OctoPrint on the Raspberry Pi 2
What‘s great? This testament to human ingenuity is completely Open Source and gaining more and more followers every day.
What’s not so great? What is there not to like?
Suited for Intermediate and advanced users want to stay in control of their equipment.
Where can I get it? On the OctoPrint webpage.
OS Raspberry Pi, Windows, Mac, Linux
Best 3D Slicer Software #11: Repetier
If you’re ready to graduate to the next level of 3D slicer software but want to stay within an open source framework, then Repetier is a compelling option. This is the great-grandaddy of 3D printing software and the favored choice within the RepRap maker community.
Now, the thing to note is that this application straddles the intermediate to advanced user spectrum. Pitched as an all-in-one solution, it offers multi-extruder support (up to 16 extruders!), multi-slicer support via plugins, and support for virtually any FDM 3D printer on the market. Be prepared to do a lot of tinkering!
Moreover, Repetier Host also offers remote access features, via Repetier Server. Similarly to OctoPrint, you install it on a
Raspberry Pi, so you can access and control your 3D printer from anywhere via a browser on your PC, tablet or smartphone.
What‘s great? It’s the favorite open source 3D slicer software of the RepRap maker community.
What’s not so great? Print quality is reportedly better on newer 3D slicer software, like Cura.
Suited for Intermediate Users who are not afraid to tinker.
Where can I get it? On the Repetier webpage.
OS Windows, Mac, Linux
Best 3D Slicer Software #12: Simplify3D
Simplify3D is a 3D slicer software for pros. It supports nearly all available 3D printers – you can download and import over 100 3D printer profiles. If your model isn’t on the list, it’s relatively easy to add a profile on your own.
The software allows you to import, scale, rotate and repair your 3D model until it is just right. The import of STL, OBJ or 3MF files is very fast, and even huge meshes are displayed in no time.
There are a ton of settings which you can fiddle around with: Extruders, layer control, various infill methods, temperature and cooling settings, even raw G-code and scripts can be edited. These settings can be saved in so-called “Processes”, which can come in handy if you’re experimenting with different settings, 3D printer nozzles or different filaments. Help is available by hovering over the buttons.