What Software to Use for 3d Printing: 7 Most Popular Software

The software you require for 3d Printing depends on the extent of the 3D printing tasks you need to undertake.

To start a 3D print, you’ll need slicing software to prepare your model for printing. If your CAD tool has 3D printer integration or if you already have a printable file (like G-code), you may not need slicing software.

What Is 3D Printing Software

3D printing software is the essential tool that translates your design ideas into physical objects by preparing them for printing through a 3D printer. It encompasses two fundamental functionalities:

1. 3D Modeling Software: Designing Your Vision

What is 3D Modeling Software

3D modeling software is a specialized set of computer programs used to create the mathematical representations that define 3D objects and shapes. This software acts as your virtual sculpting studio. It enables you to create the digital blueprint of your desired 3D object.

Key Features of 3D Modeling Software

Here are the key features of 3D modeling software:

Modeling TechniquesDescriptionExample Programs
Solid Modeling (CAD)Precise creation of objects using geometric shapes for functional or engineering purposes.SOLIDWORKS, Siemens NX
SculptingIntuitive shaping of virtual clay for organic forms.ZBrush, Meshmixer
Polygonal ModelingBuilding objects from 3D shapes like vertices, edges, and faces.Blender, Maya
Editing and ManipulationTools for refining models through scaling, rotating, merging, and sculpting functions.Various modeling software
Texturing and PaintingAssigning colors, patterns, and textures for a more realistic appearance.Substance Painter, Photoshop
3D Model LibrariesAccess to pre-designed models for inspiration or integration into projects.Sketchfab, TurboSquid

2. Slicer Software: Preparing for Print

What is a slicer?

In 3D printing, slicer software acts as the translator between your 3D model and the 3D printer. It translates intricate 3D designs into executable instructions for the printer. It meticulously dissects the digital model into layered segments. This is akin to slicing bread, facilitating the printer to progressively construct the object layer by layer. Slicers offer unparalleled precision and customization, ensuring seamless translation of digital blueprints into tangible creations.

Key features of slicer?

Here are the key features of the slicer:

FeatureDescriptionExample Programs
SlicingThe slicer software divides the 3D model into numerous horizontal layers, akin to slicing a loaf of bread. Each slice represents a layer that the 3D printer will build upon sequentially.Ultimaker Cura, PrusaSlicer
G-code GenerationThe slicer meticulously translates the 3D model into G-code, containing instructions for the 3D printer. These instructions include precise paths for nozzle movement, extrusion settings for filament flow and temperature control, printing speeds, and infill patterns.Simplify3D, Slic3r, KISSlicer
Print Settings OptimizationSlicer software offers adjustments for various factors such as layer height, support structures (temporary scaffolding for overhangs), and printing profiles tailored to different materials. These optimizations ensure optimal printing results based on specific project requirements.MatterControl, ideaMaker

How to design parts for 3D printing?

  • Understand Requirements: Know what you need the part for and its specifications.
  • Choose CAD Software: Pick a suitable design program based on your skills and the complexity of the part.
  • Create the Design: Use the CAD software to make a 3D model that fits the requirements.
  • Consider Printability: Think about how the design will work for 3D printing, considering things like overhangs and support.
  • Optimize Design: Make adjustments to the design to improve how it prints, like changing thickness and density.
  • Check for Errors: Look closely for any mistakes in the design using the CAD tools.
  • Export File: Save the final design in a format the printer can use, like STL or OBJ.
  • Prepare for Printing: Set up the design in slicing software, adjust print settings, and check the preview.
  • Print the Part: Start the 3D printer and monitor the process, fixing any issues.
  • Post-Processing (Optional): Clean up the printed part if needed, like removing supports or adding finishing touches.

7 Most Popular Software to Use for 3d Printing

Here’s a breakdown of some popular 3D printing software solutions. We mention the pricing, good modeling skills, and target users. Let’s know about them:


  • Price: Free
  • Solid modeling: No
  • Intended for: Beginners

Tinkercad is a fantastic free software for beginners to dip their toes into 3D design. It doesn’t handle solid modeling. Its user-friendly building block interface makes it perfect for grasping the core concepts.


  • Price: Free (limited features), Paid ($119/year for Pro version)
  • Solid modeling: Yes
  • Intended for: Beginners & Amateurs

SketchUp offers a free version with basic functionality and a paid pro version for $119 annually. Thanks to its intuitive interface, it excels in user-friendliness, especially for designing buildings and furniture. SketchUp boasts a large online community for support and learning resources.


  • Price: Free & Open-Source
  • Solid modeling: Yes (Very Powerful)
  • Intended for: Beginners (with a learning curve) & Professionals

Blender is a completely free and open-source software. It is attractive to both beginners (who are willing to invest time in learning) and professional users. It boasts a vast range of features for 3D modeling, animation, and sculpting. You can keep developing your skills for free, with a vast amount of online tutorials available.


  • Price: Free (limited features), paid plans available
  • Solid modeling: Yes
  • Intended for: Professionals, collaborative design

Onshape is a cloud-based 3D CAD software that is perfect for professional use. It offers a wide range of features for creating complex models. It allows for easy collaboration between team members.


  • Price: Free & Open-Source
  • Solid modeling: No (Slicing Software)
  • Intended for: Beginners & Amateurs

Cura doesn’t handle modeling itself. It excels in a crucial step in slicing 3D models for printing. This free and open-source software is user-friendly for beginners and compatible with a wide range of 3D printers. It’s a great starting point for preparing your designs for printing.

Fusion 360

  • Price: Free (limited features), Paid ($49/month or $625/year for commercial use)
  • Solid modeling: Yes
  • Intended for: Professionals & Advanced Users

Fusion 360 offers a free version with limited features. But, its paid plans cater to professionals and advanced users. It allows for solid modeling and boasts powerful features for professionals. The cloud-based collaboration and ability to handle modeling, simulation, and CAM (computer-aided manufacturing) make it a great choice for those looking to create and manufacture designs.


  • Price: Paid (Subscription starts around $1,400/year)
  • Solid modeling: Yes (Industry Standard)
  • Intended for: Professionals (Engineering & Manufacturing)

SolidWorks is a paid subscription software typically starting around $1,400 annually. This industry-standard software is ideal for professionals, especially in engineering and manufacturing. It excels at creating complex mechanical parts with its advanced simulation tools.

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