3D Printing Software

3D Printing Software

Like an office printer, 3D printer also requires some 3D printing software/tools to convert your designs (3D models) into machine readable instructions. Two types of tools are required.

1.  CAD Tools
2.  CAM Tools

CAD Tools

CAD (Computer Aided Design) tools are used to make 3D models of your design.

Most 3D printers require 3D models in STL format. Make sure that CAD tool you are using saves the object in STL format otherwise you need to convert your 3D model into STL format.

There are many CAD tools that are free. Some of them are:

1.  Autodesk 123D Design
2.  Blender
4.  FreeCAD
5.  3DTin
6.  OpenSCAD
7.  K-3D
8.  Sketchup
9.  Tinkercad

Some of the above sites also offer premium features, please visit the respective sites to know more. There are also many commercial CAD software available.

If you have no experience with 3D modeling, we would advice you to check Autodesk 123D Design and Blender first. Modeling with these two software is easy and you can easily export your models to STL format.

You can also download 3D models from online repositories like Thingiverse, GrabCAD or Yeggi.

CAM Tools

CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) tools are used to translate CAD files to machine readable format (G-code).

Two categories fall under CAM tools.

1) Slicing Software

Slicing software generates G-code (machine readable format) from STL files (CAD files). For this, you can use one of the following applications:

1.  Cura
2.  Slic3r
3.  Repetier 
4.  MatterControl
5.  Simplify3D

2) Print/Host Software

After generating G-code, you need to send the file to the printer to start printing. To do this, connect the printer to your computer using USB connection and use one of the following applications:

1.  Cura
2.  Pronterface
3.  Repetier
4.  ReplicatorG
5.  MatterControl