This section deals with the indispensable software for 3D printing.
The necessary programs can be subdivided into three main categories: three-dimensional drawing applications (read 3D modeling), applications for the transformation of design into machine-language (read slicers) and programs that take care of controlling the printer remotely (read dialogue ).
This blog is written by non-professionals and oriented to an audience of amateurs / amateurs for which most of the software that we will consider and analyze will be licensed free or otherwise purchased with a few euros. For this reason, in the final part of each product considered, there is the price item, to help in the evaluation of which software to use based on your budget to invest in 3D printing.
3D modeling: Go to this section
This section lists the most common and popular 3D modeling software. There are mainly three main categories in which you can divide these applications for the creation of digital models: CAD programs, free-hand modeling tools and tools for digital sculpture. Keep in mind that every software of all these categories can generate models suitable for 3D printing, but they are very different conceptually in fact: the CAD are based on the use of geometric shapes to build models, while the modeling tools by hand free allow more freedom, allowing us to create undefined forms. And finally, the programs that emulate the sculpture are practically the digital version of the manual processing of clay or plasticine: you can create cavities, pull, tighten and grasp in all the ways imaginable to form the models.
For beginners who are trying to get quick results through this last method we point out that these software have pre-existing models that can be customized very easily by modifying just a few features.
Slicers: Go to this section
This section lists all the software needed to prepare and run a 3D print. These software can normally only do basic operations with our models such as resizing, rotating and positioning the model in the favorite spot in the print bed; The fundamental task of these programs is to transform STL files into G-code: machine-language (3D printer) necessary to order the machine how to move.
A very interesting option that possesses practically all these applications called “Slicer” is to show us our “sliced” layer-by-layer model. This option is particularly useful in case of printing of particularly complicated models to verify the printability layer by layer.
Dialogue: Go to this section
To end the spectrum of 3D printing software we find the dialogue program, basically the software that allows you to control the printer remotely.
It is an interface where you can give any order to the printer and it becomes fundamental since the printer does not have the typical LCD screen for pre-press adjustments or just during printing.
With such software you can stop, pause the printing process, as well as set the temperature of the extruder nozzle and heat the bed. It is also possible to extrude a whole filament (which is important if you are facing particular problems), or try the movement of the axle motors.
Most dialogue software has some slicing options and when the client is in use, its main function is to send instructions to the printer via a Wi-Fi or USB connection.