Cad 3d printers

What is 3D Printing? | 3D Printing Software

What is 3D printing?

3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, is a family of processes that produces objects by adding material in layers that correspond to successive cross-sections of a 3D model. Plastics and metal alloys are the most commonly used materials for 3D printing, but it can work on nearly anything—from concrete to living tissue.

Featured 3D printing software

What is 3D printing used for?

Efficiently make one-off parts and create highly complex geometries that are only possible with 3D printing.

  • Prototyping

    3D printing has long been used to quickly create prototypes for visual aids, assembly mockups, and presentation models.

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  • Lightweight parts

    Fuel efficiency and emissions reductions are driving the need for lightweight parts via 3D printing in aerospace and automotive applications.

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  • Functionally enhanced products

    3D printing removes many of the constraints imposed by traditional manufacturing processes that prevent engineers from truly designing for optimal performance.

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  • Custom medical implants

    To achieve osseointegration, manufacturers are using 3D printing to precisely control surface porosity to better mimic real bone structure.

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  • Toolings, jigs, and features

    3D printed composite tooling and machining fixtures are often cheaper and faster to produce, and conformally cooled inserts for injection molds can dramatically reduce cycle times.

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  • Metal casting patterns

    Combining 3D printing with metal casting bridges the gap between generatively designed parts and proven manufacturing approaches for large metal objects.

3D printing processes & materials

Understanding the different additive manufacturing processes

Explore different additive manufacturing processes and technologies to help you find the right one for your workflow.

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What materials can be 3D printed?

Using the right material for your 3D printed project can make or break a product. This article will cover what materials can be 3D printed.

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How is 3D printing software used?

  • Granta

    Mexico City start-up disrupts medical-implant manufacturing

    Mexico City start-up Granta is changing medical implant design and fabrication for patients who suffer head trauma.

    Read story

    Image courtesy of Granta

  • Airbus

    Airbus bionic partition

    Airbus uses generative design and 3D printing to create a strong yet light cabin partition for the A320—and takes the first step toward the plane of the future.

    Read story

    Image courtesy of Airbus

  • Stanley Black & Decker

    A computer designed Stanley Black & Decker’s new tool

    Using generative design and 3D printing, Stanley Black & Decker’s Infrastructure Innovation Center is exploring new approaches to creating high-performance industrial tools.

    Read story

    Image courtesy of Stanley Black & Decker

Future of 3D printing

  • What does the future of 3D printing look like?

    3D printing has come a long way from the early days of desktop figurines. As technology continues to evolve, the future is brighter than ever.

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  • How 3D printing is revolutionizing the medical industry

    Amidst a global healthcare crisis, 3D printing has become a flexible solution to modern medical challenges.

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  • The future of additive manufacturing in aerospace

    Learn about how aerospace companies are buying into additive manufacturing and what it means for the industry’s ongoing success.

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3D printing tutorials

  • How to SLICE 3D Prints with Fusion 360

    Fusion 360 can slice models for 3D printing, without the need to save the file as an STL. In this tutorial, we'll take a design model into the Manufacture workspace. From there, we'll slice it, simulate the 3D print, and save the Gcode.

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  • Fusion 360 Additive for your Ultimaker 3D printer

    This video details the FFF workflow along with tips and tricks to utilize Fusion 360 Additive FFF for a Ultimaker 3d printer.

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  • Fusion 360 for 3D printing FDM technology workflow

    Learn more about the design process using fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printing technology through the power of a very flexible modeling workflow in Fusion 360 software.

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3D printing & sustainability

How sustainability and Fusion 360 can help you save money and the planet

Find out how you can use Fusion 360 software to drive efficiencies and innovation in your processes that will benefit your bottom line and the planet.

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Three environmental considerations for the FFF 3D printing process

Every manufacturing process, including FFF 3D printing, has an environmental impact. Learn how to reduce your parts' environmental footprint.

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Do your actions match your ambitions for success?

Get the right tools to achieve your new possible. Extensions amplify the functionality of Fusion 360 by unlocking advanced capabilities for machining, additive manufacturing, generative design, nesting, and fabrication. Discover Fusion 360 extensions.

Try Extensions

How long has 3D printing technology been around?

3D printing is much older than you might think! The first patents for an additive manufacturing process are dated all the way back to the 1970s. The first true additive manufacturing patent that led to a product is dated to 1984. The first real-world applications of additive manufacturing are in the dental industry, printing out masks of teeth as a replacement for plaster casting from molds.

What are the benefits of 3D printing?

3D printing is a rapid prototyping process, mass customizable manufacturing process, and a technology that enables the creation of complex geometries previously not possible through other manufacturing processes. It’s also a digital manufacturing technology that requires no tooling changes for revised parts, which means there’s no downtime between product revisions or manufacturing entirely new products.

How much does it cost to 3D print something?

3D printing a part is a combination of the material you wish to use, and the volume. Because 3D printing can output using a plethora of plastics and metals, the cost of a part can vary dramatically depending on what you are using, but it can be more affordable per part than other processes.

What 3D printing services does Autodesk offer?

Autodesk offers Netfabb as a dedicated additive manufacturing prep, analysis, and simulation tool, as well as Fusion 360, which has a dedicated additive manufacturing space, marrying design, engineering, simulation and manufacturing all together.

Fusion 360 is an excellent choice for creating CAD models for 3D printing. It allows you to create not only “prismatic” models such as gears or brackets, but it also allows you create more “organic” models using T-Splines, including characters, plants, and vehicles. You can use Fusion 360 to create and then edit your objects for 3D printing. Bring in models from other software and make modifications, such as de-featuring them by removing small features or blends. Fusion 360 can export as an OBJ or STL file format that is read by most 3D printing software. It also has the ability to print directly to your 3D printer. In addition, Fusion 360 even allows you to edit mesh or STL data that is brought in from a laser-scan or other source. Before printing, you can reduce or increase the surface count, edit out features, fill holes, etc.

CAD 3D printing software allows you to conceptualize, design, and optimize your models for fitting production technologies

Free resources for 3D printing

  • Additive manufacturing resource center

    Access a variety of resources designed to help you identify how you can add value to your products with additive manufacturing.

  • Learn how to use Tinkercad to model, align and group parts, cut holes, add custom text, and specify dimensions. Tinkercad allows you to export and download designs for laser cutting and 3D printing to send designs to Autodesk® Fusion 360.

  • Learn how to take your ideas to reality through the use of design in Fusion 360 software, and how to utilize 3D printing to manufacture your idea.

  • Get product updates and enhancements, useful Fusion 360 tips and tutorials, roadmap updates and community stories.

  • Stay current with the latest in 3D printing trends and Netfabb software updates.

  • Learn how to print a PPE face shield in under four minutes and large-scale additive manufacturing.

The Best CAD Software for 3D Printing (for Hobbyists & Professionals)

Not all CAD software is created equal.

Some excel at technical modeling for applications in fields like engineering and architecture. Some are more geared towards artistic modeling. Others simplify the process of creating 3D models suitable for 3D printing.

This article will focus on the last category, bringing you recommendations for the best CAD software for 3D printing.

As always, we’ll cover most bases, offering a solution for everyone from the occasional hobbyist with little to no experience to the well-versed professional on the hunt for a program to ease the transition from a 3D digital model to physical print.

How Does CAD Software Work With 3D Printing?

CAD software gives you tools to create a 3D model from scratch that can then be processed, sliced, and sent to a 3D printer for printing.

It’s the starting point from which a fully formed 3D model emerges, a digital blank canvas that allows you to transform an idea or concept into a real-world 3D printed object.

On a more granular level, the best free CAD software for 3D printing allows you not just to create an object or model but export it to a file format, such as STL or OBJ, compatible with and ready for slicing.

3D slicing software then translates the model into a set of G-code instructions interpretable by a 3D printer.

The printer can then print a physical, real-world replica of the CAD software-created digital model.

Best CAD Software for 3D Printers


  • Price: Free, open-source
  • Supported 3D Printing File Formats: STL, OBJ
  • Operating System Support: Windows, macOS, Linux

Blender is an open-source CAD program that leans heavily towards the artistic side of computer-aided design. It’s one of the most expansive and feature-rich free modeling software for 3D printing.

The software features a potent trove of features and tools suited to creative applications, including modeling, simulation, animation, digital art, video editing, and much more.

Though not innately geared towards 3D printing, the relatively new 3D Print Toolbox and Mesh Analysis features take strides to make Blender a far more 3D printing-friendly program.

Here, the idea is to simplify and process the often very complex polygonal models made with Blender to achieve better 3D printer results.

These new features include a series of checks and fixes that refine and clean up any model for export with 3D printing in mind. These include checking scale and measurement, wall thickness, edges, overhang geometry, support positioning, and hollow areas.

Although not a new addition, Blender also offers export to a selection of the most popular 3D printing formats, including STL.

Aside from this, Blender features a full-fledged modeling and sculpting toolbox to create high-quality 3D models. If anything, Blender suffers from this versatility and comes sided by a hulking learning curve, which means beginners may be overwhelmed by what’s offered here.


  • Price: Free, open-source
  • Supported File Formats: STL, OBJ
  • Operating System Support: Windows, macOS, Linux

FreeCAD is a free CAD software best described as a Swiss Army knife for all kinds of 3D modeling.

It’s a parametric modeler, meaning every aspect of a model is updated when changing a single parameter, part, dimension, or rule. Despite FreeCAD’s drab interface, the program is a powerful design tool that lends itself well to 3D printing.

FreeCAD works based on Workbenches, or toolsets, with different functions.

In the case of 3D printing, the interesting ones are Part and Part Design, which have a range of sketching, constraint, and modeling functions to create 3D models based on a library of geometric shapes.

There’s also a Mesh Workbench, which contains analysis and repair tools to iron out any potential errors that could lead to a failed print.

From there, FreeCAD allows you to export your model to the STL format, among others, and send it to a slicer program to 3D print cad files.

Fusion 360

  • Price: Limited free version (non-commercial license) or $60/month
  • Supported 3D Printing File Formats: STL, OBJ
  • Operating System Support: Windows, macOS

Our top pick for the best CAD software for 3D printing, Fusion 360 is developed by AutoDesk, the company behind AutoCAD, Maya, and other leading CAD, animation, and visual effects programs.

Although intuitive to use and laid out for simplicity, Fusion 360 is a potent CAD tool that houses a dizzying array of professional 3D design, modeling, machining, schematics, and simulation tools.

It’s also a potent tool for creating models for 3D printing and easily one of the best CAD program for 3D printing

Useful features include many you’d usually expect in slicers, such as automatic orientation, infill patterns, support structures, and a print simulation tool to verify the integrity of the build process before sending it to a 3D printer.

In essence, Fusion 360 covers every step from design to model and part preparation.

There’s a free limited non-commercial version available for hobbyists and personal use. Alternatively, you can pay $60/month for the full version, which throws in fully-featured CAM, CAE, and PCB tools along with collaboration features and access to an unlimited number of active projects.


  • Price: Limited free trial, $4,000/year
  • Supported 3D Printing File Formats: STL
  • Operating System Support: Windows, MacOS

SolidWorks is a professional-grade 3D printing CAD software launched way back in 1995.

Although it houses state-of-the-art modeling tools, SolidWorks is relatively easy to use and is often praised for its clean user interface and intuitive workflow.

SolidWorks allows you to adjust model settings in preparation for 3D printing.

These include resolution fine-tuning, tolerance deviations, and visualization tools to ensure a model won’t result in a failed print. You can export models to STL, ready for slicing.

SolidWorks costs a pretty penny at $4,000 a year for the most basic licenses, so it isn’t a viable choice for amateurs and hobbyists, who’d be better served with a less feature-rich but far more affordable alternative such as Fusion 360.


  • Price: 30-day free trial, $2,000-$3,000/year
  • Supported 3D Printing File Formats: STL
  • Operating System Support: Windows, Linux

Creo is CAD software designed for solid 3D modeling for the most demanding applications and industries.

It’s through and through a professional application, making it particularly suited to uses where high-quality, precise 3D prototypes and models are required.

Beyond a comprehensive suite of design and modeling tools, Creo allows users to optimize designs for 3D printing by detecting potential errors, providing optimal print positioning, and offering support simulation.

Creo can also export models in the STL file format.

Creo is notoriously challenging to master because it’s geared towards the most complex CAD needs and requirements. As such, we can’t recommend it for beginners, but only to seasoned professionals and businesses.

The price of entry is also very high – around $2,000 to $3,000 for a year-long license.


  • Price: Free
  • Supported 3D Printing File Formats: STL, OBJ, GLB, SVG
  • Operating System Support: Browser-based

If the thought of firing up a complex, professional free modeling software for 3D printing has you worried, then TinkerCAD should be your go-to first and best CAD for 3D printing.

Schools and educators favor TinkerCAD across the globe for its effortless ease of use, intuitive design, and colorful interface.

It’s no exaggeration to say it’s the most accessible CAD software for 3D printing.

The design phase is a walk in the park, using a Lego-inspired shape-based approach that’s easy to pick up.

You modify shapes, tune colors, adjust dimensions, add texts, include holes, and more effortlessly. If you want the quickest path from a simple idea to a 3D model to a real-world printed part, no program makes it as easy and fast as TinkerCAD.

Developer AutoDesk also provides an extensive library of tutorials, learning resources, and projects to help you make that first step to creating a CAD design for 3D printing.

As a browser-based program, TinkerCAD works on virtually any device and offers STL and OBJ exporting for slicing.

SketchUp Free

  • Price: Free
  • Supported 3D Printing File Formats: STL
  • Operating System Support: Browser-based

SketchUp Free is a free browser-based CAD program used to create high-quality 3D models and designs without navigating complex systems.

It’s particularly forgiving to beginners, thanks to being a fun and very predictable way to dabble in 3D design for 3D printing for the first time. Getting to grips with basic navigation and functions takes minutes.

Every model starts from a basic geometric shape, which can then be modified, scaled, added to, and subtracted from to create solid models for 3D printing.

Furthermore, SketchUp Free features a free library of user-generated and manufacturer-produced 3D models, the 3D Warehouse, which can be used to spark inspiration, find a part to fit a particular build volume, or remix a model that’s already been vetted for 3D printing success.

Because SketchUp Free runs on any browser and has a companion SketchUp Viewer app to visualize models from a mobile device, it’s the perfect CAD program if you’re often on the move.

It also exports to all your favorite 3D printing file formats like STL.

Best CAD Software for 3D Printing Buyer’s Guide – Things To Consider

What You Plan On 3D Printing

Simply put, this is about complexity and choosing a CAD Software for 3D printing capable of bringing your ideas to life.

While valuable tools for beginners, programs like TinkerCAD can only help you create pretty rudimentary models due to their reasonably limited toolset.

On the other hand, when using professional programs like Fusion 360 and SolidWorks stacked with advanced features, you’re only ever hemmed in by your skillset, experience, and the quality of your modeling ideas rather than the software itself.

In other words, if you plan on creating and 3D printing intricate, feature-rich models, be sure to use advanced CAD software.

The more beginner-friendly options will serve you well if you’re simply testing the waters or only have a basic print in mind.

Your 3D Printer’s Quality and Type

Spending hours modeling a pristine 3D model only to find out your 3D printer isn’t up to the task is not an experience we recommend to anyone.

As such, it’s essential to be well aware of your printer’s capabilities and choose a CAD Software that matches your 3D printing needs.

This is especially important if your model includes overhangs, sharp outward angles, precise surface details, or requires support structures. All these add complexity to the printing process, and not all printers are up to the task.

The type of technology underpinning your printer matters, too.

While cheaper and better suited to larger prints, FDM printers often fail when it comes to printing small, high-detailed models. On the other hand, resin printers excel at doing just that, prized for their ability to pump out high-resolution prints with plenty of fine detail and texture.

Look at your printer’s resolution and minimum layer height to get an idea of what level of detail you can expect.

File and Slicer Compatibility

Consider what file types a particular CAD software for 3D printing supports, especially export formats.

These largely determine compatibility with slicing software. Working hours on a model only to find out the program can’t export to a supported format is something you want to avoid.

As a rule of thumb, opt for CAD software for 3D printing that includes STL exporting at the very least.

Best CAD Software for 3D Printing – FAQs

What is the best CAD software for 3D printing?

Shoving the critical question of cost to the side for a moment, Fusion 360 is one of the best CAD software for 3D printing around.

It bundles all the features and tools you’d conceivably ever need to create any 3D model, along with easy exporting for slicing your work ready for 3D printing.

It’s widely used by professionals in numerous fields, rubbing shoulders with the likes of AutoCAD as one of the most respected and accessible fully-featured CAD programs available today.

What is the best free CAD software for 3D printing?

It depends on your aims.

For beginners looking for a fun and easy route into CAD design, little rivals TinkerCAD’s simplicity and user-friendly appeal. A complete novice will be designing within a matter of minutes.

For more advanced users and professionals, free open-source options like Blender and FreeCAD are better because they offer a vastly broader palette of tools and features. The resulting models are far more complex and hit a quality threshold suitable for professional applications.

Can CAD software export STL files for 3D printing?

Yes, most CAD software for 3D printing can export models in the STL file format for 3D printing, pending processing through a slicer program.

However, we recommend checking the respective feature list of the program you have your eye on to double-check this is indeed the case before committing to a purchase.

Other articles you may be interested in:

  • Cura vs Slic3r
  • The best free CAD software
  • The best 2D CAD software
  • Best 3D rendering software
  • Best 3D sculpting software
  • The best CAD software for beginners

Top 20 Free 3D Printing & 3D Printing Software

Looking for 3D printing software? We've rounded up the top 20 software tools for beginners and professionals alike. Most slicers are free.

What is a slicer? This is a program for preparing a digital model for printing. Models for 3D printing are usually distributed in STL files. To turn an STL file into G-code (a language that a 3D printer understands), a slicer program is required. It is called a slicer because it cuts (to slice - English) a 3D model into many flat two-dimensional layers, from which a 3D printer will add a physical object.

Which slicer should I choose? In this article, we will tell you which slicer is best for 3D printing for each stage of your work. Which one is better for preparing a 3D model for printing? But what if you need to create a 3D model from scratch? And if you are only taking the first steps in 3D?

Don't be afraid: we've answered all of these questions, including the required skill level for each program and where you can download it. The great thing is that most of these programs are completely free and open source.

  1. Cura
  2. CraftWare
  3. 123D Catch
  4. 3D Slash
  5. TinkerCAD
  6. 3DTin
  7. Sculptris
  8. ViewSTL
  9. Netfabb Basic
  10. Repetier
  11. FreeCAD
  12. SketchUp
  13. 3D Tool
  14. Meshfix
  15. Simplify3D
  16. Slic3r
  17. Blender
  18. MeshLab
  19. Meshmixer
  20. OctoPrint

#1: Cura

For beginners who need a slicer to prepare STL files for 3D printing

Cura is the default slicer software for all Ultimaker 3D printers, but can be used with most others , including RepRap, Makerbot, Printrbot, Lulzbot and Witbox. The program is completely open source, its capabilities can be extended using plugins.

This program is very easy to use and allows you to manage the most important 3D printing settings through a clear interface. Start in Basic mode to quickly get up to speed and change print quality settings. If finer control is required, switch to Expert mode.

Cura can also be used to directly control the printer, but then the printer and computer must be connected to each other.

Download: Cura

Price: Free

Systems: PC, Mac, Linux

#2: CraftWare

3D printers by the Hungarian startup CraftUnique to support their CraftBot crowdfunding machine. However, the program works with other printers.

Like Cura, CraftWare allows you to switch from "Easy" to "Expert" mode, depending on how confident you feel. It's a colorful application featuring a visual G-code visualization where each function is represented by a different color. But the most outstanding feature is the individual support service. As far as we know, only the paid program Simplify3D has this.

Please note, however, that this program is still in beta, so bugs may occur.

Download: CraftWare

Price: Free

Systems: PC, Mac

#3: 123D Catch

-systems, smartphones and tablets, which allows you to convert images of objects into a 3D model. Pictures can be taken with a smartphone/tablet or digital camera.

You need many photos of the object from different angles - the more the better - after which they will be compiled into a 3D model.

123D Catch is more of a fun app than a professional 3D printing tool, but after some tambourine dancing, you can get good results, especially when paired with an STL editor like MeshLab or Meshmixer.

Price: Free

Systems: PC, Android, iOS, Windows Phone

#4: 3D Slash

and surprisingly simple, and refreshingly new. With 3D Slash, you can design 3D models using your dice skills.

You can start with a large block and, like a virtual sculptor, remove small cups from it with tools such as a hammer or drill, or start from empty space and build a model from cubes and other shapes. You can paint with flowers or use template pictures.

Other features worth mentioning are tools for creating logos and 3D text. The Logo Wizard imports an image and creates a 3D model, while the Text Wizard allows you to enter and format text, and then turn it into 3D.



Price: Free

Systems: PC, Mac, Linux, browser

#5: TinkerCAD

- A computer-aided design (CAD) system for 3D printing, which is a good starting point for beginners. Since its capabilities are limited compared to Blender, FreeCAD and SketchUp, many users switch to more powerful tools after some time.

As in 3D Slash, here you can build models from basic shapes. At the same time, unlike 3D Slash, TinkerCAD allows you to create vector shapes in 2D and convert them into three-dimensional models.

Come in: Autodesk TinkerCAD

Price: Free

Systems: Browser

#6: 3DTin

For beginners who want to create 3D printable models

another easy and intuitive online tool choice for beginners in 3D modeling. All you need is a Chrome or Firefox browser with WebGL enabled.

Choose from a huge library of 3D shapes and add them to your sketch. All sketches are stored in the cloud, access to them is free if you honor the Creative Commons license. Everything can be exported to STL or OBJ formats.

Enter: 3DTin

Price: Free

Systems: Browser

#7: Sculptris

For beginners who want to create 3D printable models

clay. This is a fantastic 3D modeling program if figurines are your main task. For example, you can make a bust of your favorite video game or comic book character. Sculptris is completely free and bills itself as a stepping stone to the more complex (and expensive) ZBrush tool.

Download: Pixologic Sculptris

Price: Free

Systems: PC, Mac

#8: ViewSTL

For beginners who want to view STL files

ViewSTL is the easiest way to view STL files . Simply open a web page and drag the STL onto the dotted box.

The STL online viewer allows you to display the model in one of three views: flat shading (for a quick view), smooth shading (for a high-quality image), and wireframe.

Enter: ViewSTL

Price: Free

Systems: Browser

#9: Netfabb Basic

some nice features that allow you to analyze, "repair" and edit STL files before moving on to the model cutting stage.

A good choice if you need more than just a slicer and want to be able to quickly fix STL files without having to learn programs like MeshLab or Meshmixer.

Don't let the 'Basic' in the title fool you, Netfabb Basic is actually a very powerful 3D printing tool. It's "basic" only in the sense that it doesn't cost €1,500 like Netfabb Professional!


Price: Free

Systems: PC, Mac, Linux

No. 10: Repetier

For advanced to prepare STL files for 3D printing

9002 the next level of 3D printer slicer software, but if you want to stay open source, you should look into Repetier. It is the great grandfather of 3D printing software and a favorite of the RepRap community.

Today the program is moving by leaps and bounds from the level for beginners to advanced users. Packaged in an all-in-one configuration, it supports up to 16 extruders, multi-slicing via plug-ins, and virtually every fusing 3D printer on the market. Get ready to tinker!

What's more, Repetier Host works remotely via Repetier Server, so that the 3D printer can be controlled via a browser, tablet or smartphone.

Download: Repetier

Price: Free

Systems: PC, Mac, Linux

#11: FreeCAD

The program is a great option for developing your design skills. More technically, this parametric 3D modeling program allows you to easily change the project by rolling back through the history of the model and editing the parameters.


Price: Free

Systems: PC, Mac, Linux

#12: SketchUp

For beginners who want to create 3D printable models

SketchUp is the perfect combination of simplicity and the perfect combination functionality, with a user-friendly interface and a relatively flat learning curve (i. e., as experience grows with the time spent), the ideal program for developing three-dimensional models.

The Make SketchUp version is free and will include everything you need for 3D modeling if you also download and install the free STL exporter. There is also a professional edition for architects, interior designers and engineers.


Price: Free (SketchUp Make), $695 (SketchUp Pro)

Systems: PC, Mac, Linux

#13: 3D-Tool Free Viewer

view and validate STL files

3D-Tool Free Viewer is a sophisticated tool that, among other things, allows you to check the structural integrity and printability of your file. With the Cross-Section function, for example, you can look at the model from the inside and check the wall thickness. Very useful if you want to check your STL file for killer errors before printing.

Download: 3D-Tool

Price: Free

Systems: PC

#14: Meshfix

your model for errors.

Price: Free

Systems: Browser

#15: Simplify3D

For professionals to prepare STL files for 3D printing print. A flexible algorithm checks the model for problems, fixes them, shows a preview of the printing process (ideal for identifying potential problems), and then slices it.

This slicer offers the best infill pattern options in the competition. For models that require supports, Simplify3D will create the appropriate structures on its own and give you full control over their placement. For printers with a dual extruder, when printing with different materials, the Dual Extrusion wizard will help, as a result of which, for example, it will be easier to remove the dissolving filament.

Simplify3D supports 90% of today's commercially available desktop 3D printers and is compatible with Marlin, Sprinter, Repetier, XYZprinting, FlashForge, Sailfish and MakerBot firmware. Simplify3D can also be used to directly control the printer, but then the printer and computer must be connected to each other.


Price: $149

Systems: PC, Mac, Linux

#16: Slic3r

source code, which has a reputation as a carrier of super new functionality, which you will not find anywhere else. The current version of the program is able to show the model from multiple angles, so that the user gets a better preview experience.

There's also an incredible 3D honeycomb infill, the first of its kind that can extend over multiple layers rather than repeating itself like a stamp. This significantly increases the strength of the internal filling of the model and the final printout.

Another option is direct integration with Octoprint. Once the files on the user's desktop are sliced, they can be directly uploaded to Octoprint with one click.

Download: Slic3r

Price: Free

Systems: PC, Mac, Linux

#17: Blender

For professionals who want to create 3D printable models

Blender is a popular computer-aided design (CAD) system with a steep learning curve. Not at all the best choice for beginners, but what you need if you are quite experienced and need something more complex for modeling and printing.

In short, Blender is one of the most powerful tools out there. Its community is always ready to help, there are a lot of educational materials. It's also open source, so enthusiasts often write extensions to make it even better and more powerful.


Price: Free

Systems: PC, Mac, Linux

#18: MeshLab

For professionals to prepare STL files for 3D printing

MeshLab - advanced editor. It allows you to remove parts of a 3D model, merge two models into one, patch holes. If you need a program to modify models for 3D printing or some kind of "repair" work, MeshLab is the right choice.

Price: Free

Systems: PC, Mac, Linux

#19: Meshmixer

For professionals to prepare STL files for 3D printing files. It's especially good for identifying potential problems and fixing them automatically. For example, it will show paper-thin walls that can lead to problems with 3D printing. Meshmixer is part of the Autodesk family of 3D printer software, so it should work well with tools like TinkerCAD.

Price: Free

Systems: PC, Mac

#20: OctoPrint

start, pause or interrupt 3D print jobs. Combined with Wi-Fi capable devices, it makes for a great monitor for remotely monitoring the 3D printing process.

Octoprint understands the G-codes of almost all 3D printers and slicers and includes a gCodeVisualizer to visualize this code before or during printing.

If you want to work away from your 3D printer and control it remotely, Octoprint is the best you can find.


Price: Free

Systems: PC, Mac, Linux


Top Free 3D Printing Software in 2021 zero? What software is best for beginners? All these questions can be answered in our article. The applications presented in the review are completely free or have free versions for students, teachers and open source projects.

Why did we put this section before all the others? The answer is very simple. By knowing the whole 3D printing process, you can better understand how each software is involved in the preparation and printing of 3D parts.

If you have become a happy owner of a 3D printer, but have absolutely no idea what to do with it and how to get started, then this part of the article is for you.

Different programs are used to print 3D models:

  • 3D modeling/design/CAD software;
  • Software for editing, viewing and restoring STL files;
  • Slicing software;
  • 3D printer host.

Before starting work, you need to create a 3D model. To do this, you can use different programs for modeling. We wrote in detail about free versions of software for 3D modeling here.

A small life hack for beginners. If you are not ready to create a model on your own, you can choose and download the right one from the marketplaces. There are also free download links in the maker communities - sometimes the proposed 3D models can be not only interesting, but also useful.

Once a 3D model has been created, it must be converted to a printable format. For desktop 3D printers, this is the STL format. Some created or downloaded files have defects that lead to failures during printing. It is for editing STL files that there is special software that helps prepare the model for playback on the printer.

The slicer program helps to convert the STL file into a printer-friendly G-code. The functionality of such programs allows you to split a 3D model into thousands of flat 2D layers, which will be sequentially reproduced on a printer.

Finally, the 3D printer host provides communication between the computer and the printer. It allows you to receive information for printing, as well as change the parameters of the device in real time via a PC. Often the Slicer and host are combined into one 3D printing software that is supplied by the printer manufacturer.

Dear readers of the 3DToday portal, we want to inform you that a new section "Knowledge Base" has been opened on our website of the LIDER-3D online store. In this section, we share owls, experience, settings and secrets of the world of additive technologies, go to the section at this link.

Examples of some already posted articles in the Knowledge Base section: Post-processing of models after 3D printing, 10 calibration models for your 3D printer, How and what 3D printers print, Printing with HIPS plastic, ABS printing settings, Recommendations for Resin Post-Processing HARZ Labs, Best Free 3D Modeling Software for Beginners.


One of the popular slicer software that comes with all Ultimaker printers. However, its functionality is suitable for use in conjunction with other 3D printers. Since this software is one of the most popular among makers, you can not waste time on profile settings - for most printers they can be found in the program itself.

The software is designed to change important print settings. Start with the “Recommended” mode to select improved quality settings for your printer and easily adapt to the program.

More precise control of all parameters is possible in the “Custom” user mode. By switching to this mode, you can manage more than 400 different settings.

Cura is not only a simple and intuitive slicer for home users. The software can be used as the main software for your printer, as well as integrated with CAD systems such as SolidWorks or Siemens NX.

The program is constantly updated and supplemented, which allows you to make 3D printing on your printer better.

►►►Link to office. site Cura


This software is based on Slic3r and, unlike the prototype, has gained great popularity among users. The main difference is a large list of customizable parameters and additional features that make the work more convenient.

An easy-to-use user interface, built-in support for Prusa printers, and multi-plastic settings make it easy to get started with your 3D printer. The slicer also allows you to place additional supports, work with different materials and use smooth features with variable layer height.

The PrusaSlicer can be used with both FDM and resin printers. Settings panels for users with different experience in 3D printing help to significantly improve the quality of finished models.

A great bonus for those who have worked with Slic3r before - PrusaSlicer supports most of the original features and accepts Slic3r configuration packages when importing profiles.

►►►Link to office. website PrusaSlicer

MatterControl 2.0

MatterControl is a CAD modeling software, slicer and simultaneous host for a 3D printer. With host functions, you can directly control printing by connecting the printer via USB. The program also allows you to cut STL files for export to an SD card for offline printing and, of course, create projects in a separate section of the CAD software.

Structured interface makes it easy to create models and prepare them for printing. A file browser and a library of geometric primitives make it easy to import data into print. Geometric figures can be used as supports, which helps to achieve high quality printing of complex details.

Advanced print settings and a user-friendly viewer make this software one of the best for comprehensive control of the 3D printing process. In addition to the host and slicer functions, MatterControl has design tools that allow you to design parts. The resulting 3D models are easy to export to a slicer and print. Thus, the program allows you to control the entire process - from creating a model to cutting it and sending it to print.

►►►Link to office. PrusaSlicer 9 website0005


3DPrinterOS is a cloud-based 3D printer management software. It combines the functions of a slicer, a host, and an STL file editor. The program can create a print queue, manage the printer and plug-in system based on STL data analysis and recovery applications, and perform cloud slicing.

The free Starter package allows users to download G-codes and send them to print, remotely control the printing process, and get support on a like-minded forum. For a modest fee, you can access additional features, including the ability to collaborate on a project.

In fact, this program is a universal tool for converting files for printing in the STL format. That is why 3DPrinterOS is suitable for small businesses, education, production and design.

►►►Link to office. website 3DPinterOS


The abbreviation of this application “Keep It Simple Slicer” can confuse inexperienced users. It's actually quite a complex 3D printing tool. Conflicting user reviews, however, allow us to conclude that the program is popular and has sufficient functionality to work with 3D printers.

The free version of the program is suitable for most users who work with printers with a single extruder. KISSlicer helps simplify certain aspects of slicing with Profile Wizards for printer-specific settings and Tuning Wizards for optimizing materials. The paid version of the program allows you to work with printers with 2 extruders.

Although the application settings are quite complex, it's worth the effort - the slicer allows you to have full control over the entire printing process.

►►►Link to office. KISSlicer website


This software is for open source slicers. Its main difference is advanced features that are not found in any other application.

Despite the fact that Slic3r releases almost no updates to its program, it is the base for many other open source software. For example, many programs use 3D honeycomb cavity filling, which is a special merit of the Slic3r developers.

In 2018, a new version of the software was released with new integrated functions. So, this version has new fill patterns, experimental support for SLA and DLP printers, 3MF format, and USB printing.

On the software website you can find a detailed manual that gives an idea of ​​all the functions of Slic3r. A great bonus of the program is the direct integration with OctoPrint for printing at the touch of a button.

►►►Link to office. website Slic3r


Browser-based slicer from IceSL developers. Using the program, you can quickly load STL files, cut them, and then prepare the G-code for printing. In the browser program, you can use almost all the options that IceSL offers.

Although many users find this version less powerful, it is suitable for beginners who do not want to set up more complex 3D printing programs.

►►►Link to office. website SliceCrafter


IceSL is an excellent tool for 3D modeling and printing. Several working windows allow you to edit the model directly through a Lua script, select different settings for slicing the model, and view the result in real time. Despite the apparent complexity of working with the software, IceSL allows for elegant parametric modeling.

Slicer settings menu allows beginners to easily and quickly prepare a 3D model for printing. In the latest version of the program, it became possible to specify different values ​​for print settings at a certain layer height. All this allows you to make smooth transitions from dense to light filling and gradation of the thickness of the layers from fine to coarse.

►►►Link to office. site IceSL


This program is a host for 3D printers that allows you to control printing and change settings. The software also allows you to remotely control the printer using a Wi-Fi module connected to the device.

OctoPrint accepts G-code from almost any slicer, while the host allows you to visualize the received files before and during printing. In addition, cutting files can be done directly in the program, using it as a slicer.

OctoPrint offers not only a wide range of tools for remote print management, but also several ways to keep track of your tasks. You can set up push notifications or send alerts through different messengers.

The software is open source and has an active user community that offers many plug-ins to extend the program's functionality. On the community page, you can find many add-ons that will be useful when printing.

►►►Link to office. site OctoPrint


Rep-Rap developers favorite host - Repetier is a high performance print management and file preparation software.

Repetier-Host is positioned as a universal software that helps manage printers with a large number of extruders (up to 16 extruders), and also supports almost any 3D printer on the market.

The program has remote access functions through the Repetier Server, which allows you to control your printer through a browser on a PC, tablet or smartphone.

►►►Link to office. Website Repetier-Host


Like 3DPrinterOS, this program is a cloud-based solution for controlling and managing your 3D printers. Also, using AstroPrint, you can change slicer settings, manage printer and material profiles. A free account allows you to save print information and access all settings through a browser or the AstroPrint mobile app.

This software is unique in that it is compatible with Thingiverse and MyMiniFactory as well as free versions of CAD programs such as 3D Slash and Leopoly. The application also has tools for cutting 3D models with the ability to send files for printing from a smartphone.

The software will be useful for those who work in large scale networks such as 3D farms, enterprises and universities.

►►►Link to office. website AstroPrint

3D-Tool Free Viewer

3D-Tool Free Viewer is designed to check the structural integrity of STL files and the ability to print a document on your printer. Additional functions, such as "Cross Section" also allow you to look inside the 3D model and evaluate some parameters.

This program can be useful if you want to check your STL file for errors. The user-friendly interface of the software allows you to measure the size, surface area and volume of all parts of the figure, as well as change the distance, angles and radius at the touch of a button.

For those who do not have sufficient knowledge and experience in CAD, the program offers a quick way to check the STL file and prepare it for 3D printing.

►►►Link to office. website 3D-Tool Free Viewer


This useful web service allows you to check STL files for errors and correct critical values ​​that may affect printing. Unlike other free programs, MakePrintable gives you complete control over the process. You can choose the level of print quality, make the mesh hollow, fix the polygon count, and even merge multiple targets into one.

Although the program no longer offers a free version with limited functionality, users may find several ways to use the program. The program has different payment options - for a single file download (about $ 2 per file) or a “Maker” package with the ability to upload up to 30 files per month (monthly price about $ 15).

The advantage of the program is the compatibility of plug-ins with Blender and SketchUp.

►►►Link to office. MakePrintable 9 website0005


Meshmixer is a super modern and free 3D printing software from the Autodesk family for viewing, checking, editing and repairing STL files. This program helps you identify potential problems and fix them automatically. For example, the program identifies insufficient wall thickness.

The program is positioned as a universal tool for 3D meshes, offering many tools for working with mesh, 3D modeling, surface embossing and others.

Whether you're trying to fix an STL file, prepare a model for printing, or construct multiple objects, Meshmixer is ideal for all of these purposes.

►►►Link to office. website Meshmixer


MeshLab is an open source application that allows you to edit STL files and also has tools for working with 3D triangular meshes. The software's capabilities help you check, render, repair, and transform meshes, and even solidify models and close holes.

The application is great for editing 3D models created in CAD. Despite the fact that the latest version was released in 2016, the program is still popular with makers.

►►►Link to office. website MeshLab


NetFabb is a slicing software that includes advanced analysis and recovery of STL files. One of the most powerful tools, NetFabb aims to streamline the user experience by offering support creation, mesh repair, and a wide range of generative design tools.

The program is free for students, as part of an Autodesk subscription. The 3-year student license allows you to choose one of the following versions:

  • NetFabb Standard allows you to quickly prepare a model for printing;
  • NetFabb Premium with advanced options for creating grids, supports and automatic packaging of parts;
  • NetFabb Ultimate allows you to calculate assembly failures, provides modeling tools, customizable toolpath strategies, and helps automate the process of preparing a model for 3D printing;
  • NetFabb Simulation helps you simulate certain metal printing technologies prior to production.

►►►Link to office. NetFabb site

About programs for 3D modeling, which even a beginner will understand, we wrote in this article. Here are equally useful, easy-to-use, and most importantly, free programs for three-dimensional modeling and 3D printing.

3D Builder

3D Builder application offers its users to quickly visualize and edit 3D models. The software helps to create and import files in 3D printing formats. Using simple editing tools, even entry-level users can create 3D images.

The application has its own extensive library of 3D models. You can also upload an external file or use the Kinect V2 sensor to scan and import a new 3D image. By joining the 3D Builder community and downloading the 3D Printing SDK, you can expand the capabilities of this free program.

►►►Link to office. website 3D Builder


This browser-based modeling software combines the accessibility of TinkerCAD with the power of more advanced 3D modeling tools. The program is suitable for those who want to improve their design skills without going too deep into details.

The creation of objects in Figuro is based on the principle of polygonal modeling - you generate polygons by modifying them and combining them with each other. If you are using the program for the first time, we recommend using additional tools for checking and repairing STL files.

The program has a simple and pleasant user interface. An extensive gallery allows you to evaluate the capabilities of the software and get inspiration for creating new objects.

►►►Link to office. Figuro 9 website0005

Fusion 360

Fusion 360 is a professional 3D modeling CAD program. Unlike other software, the software allows you to cover the entire process of planning, testing and 3D design.

The program has powerful tools for solving industrial design problems. Fusion 360 allows you to simulate the design of objects under design as well as the loads that they will face after commissioning.

Design collaboration, cloud file sharing, and import/export of various CAD file types make the application easy to use.

Fusion 360 is free for students, startups and hobbyists. At the same time, amateur projects must not be commercial, startup income must not exceed $ 100,000 per year, and the student license of the program is limited to three years.

►►►Link to office. site Fusion 360


Multifunctional CAD software allows you to perfectly develop design skills. Parametric modeling software creates models according to the given parameters. The big advantage is the ability to drag and control objects directly with the mouse.

A feature of this program is the ability to return to the history of the creation of an object and edit its parameters. Despite the fact that the software is free, it has all the necessary tools for full-fledged work.

FreeCAD allows users to draw 2D shapes as a basis for creating additional objects. The program is suitable for product design, mechanical engineering, architecture and other areas.

►►►Link to office. FreeCAD website


Unlike other presented programs, OpenSCAD focuses more on the CAD aspect of 3D modeling. The software works as a 3D camillator that reads a script file describing a 3D model and then converts the object into a 3D model.

The open source program is constantly updated with new features. For example, the latest update has a new Customiser panel. Get support and advice on using the application and working with updates in the user community.

The software does not have interactive components, but it helps to better control the modeling process and manage the design parameters settings. OpenSCAD is considered to be the ideal tool for students.

►►►Link to office. OpenSCAD website


A popular CAD program with a steep learning curve. This software is not the best choice for a beginner, but is ideal for those who are familiar with 3D modeling concepts and want to create more complex models.

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