Selecting the right 3D printing software is crucial to optimizing your model designs. The best 3D printing technology will help you reach your production goals, like cutting down on waste when making rapid prototypes or transforming 3D models into actual objects. This guide will review the market’s top 17 3D printing software programs.
Over the last decade, there have been exponential advancements in 3D printing software.
While 3D printing is still in its infancy, there have been exponential advancements in this field over the last decade.
Today, 3D printing technologies have the potential to revolutionize many industries, from manufacturing and construction to health and technology. You could use these software to print true-to-life models, improve product design, and speed up manufacturing otherwise complicated products.
However, advanced 3D printing software is required to develop and manufacture such complicated models. Fortunately, the latest 3D software has innovative features and can seamlessly connect with computer hardware.
Let’s start with the best 3D printing software on the market.
What is the Best Software for 3D Printing?
Here is a comprehensive review of the best 3D printing software on the market. We’ll also consider their features, pros, cons, and price plans.
1. Autodesk Fusion 360
Autodesk Fusion 360 tops this list because of its ability to integrate all the features you need. It is one of the most robust 3D printing software on the market, making it a favorite tool among many mechanical engineers and designers. The Autodesk Fusion 360 software is perfect for 3D printing, prototyping, product design, and more.
One of the greatest assets of this tool is its ability to consolidate the processes of design, engineering, and production into a single hub. Moreover, it simplifies the model development process, which guarantees smooth and fast delivery of superior products.
Autodesk Fusion 360 is perfect for the mass production of advanced mechanical components.
- It gives you complete control over object design, allowing you to print models of all shapes and sizes.
- Autodesk Fusion 360 has powerful features to enable you to design intricate and clean models.
- It has a History Tree function, which streamlines the editing process.
- Autodesk Fusion 360 software allows real-time collaboration between designers on one platform.
- It integrates simulation, which guarantees early testing of designs for modeling and functionality.
- Autodesk Fusion 360 produces top-quality designs by organizing material and processing limitations conveniently.
The price depends on the length of your term:
- $60/month – monthly payment plan.
- $42/month – annual payment plan.
With Autodesk Fusion 360, you can experience integrated CAD, CAM, CAE, and PCB on a single development platform.
2. Autodesk AutoCAD
AutoCAD, created by Autodesk, is an excellent software with powerful 3D printing features and great flexibility. It is perfect for designing any model, from small, straightforward objects to large-scale and complicated models. AutoCAD is ideal for professional users.
Its exceptional features allow you to add and upload PDF files, annotate graphics, and extract data from tables. These capabilities will result in a high-quality data presentation and a reliable real-time analysis if used correctly.
You can access this software from Mac and Windows devices, as well as industry-specific systems and tools such as AutoCAD Plant 3D, AutoCAD Map 3D, AutoCAD Electrical, AutoCAD Architecture, AutoCAD MEP, and more.
Autodesk AutoCAD is best for experienced 3D printing experts who need a complete set of tools.
- It is best for making detailed 3D models, perfectly designed for 3D printing.
- Autodesk AutoCAD is convenient for use on both the web and smartphones.
- AutoCAD can quickly turn 3D models into STL files to effectively plan files with different formats.
- It gives the latest edition of the DWG file format, allowing files in different formats to be produced quickly and easily.
- Autodesk AutoCAD comes with a lot of information and add-ons about building products, including doors and windows.
- It is easy to customize and create solid mechanical models for 3D printing.
Autodesk AutoCAD’s subscription is priced at $1449/year. It also has a free version that is entirely functional and can be used by students and educational facilities.
Get your Autodesk AutoCAD software today to access various industry-specific tools.
3. Ultimaker Cura
If you’re new to 3D printing, Ultimaker Cura is highly recommended. One of the most incredible things about Ultimaker Cura is that it guides new users on how to print their models depending on their sizes and complexity.
Furthermore, its modification mode provides highly configurable features to satisfy diverse needs and give you more control.
Ultimaker Cura is one of the most amazing 3D printing software for newbies who do not want to invest in expensive software.
- You can view all 3D printing tasks in one convenient interface.
- It has an adjustment tool, allowing you to scale the 3D model easily.
- Ultimaker Cura prints over various networks and supports STL, 3MF, OBJ, and X3D file formats.
- It allows you to include printers and custom content in a comprehensive library.
- It has a low barrier to entry and a short learning curve for newbies.
- Its 3D viewer limits you from viewing your model from different angles.
- Ultimaker Cura takes a while to print 3D models.
Ultimaker Cura is a free, open-source software for creating 3D models.
TinkerCAD is famous for allowing users to combine multiple shapes to create a more complicated model. If you want to leverage the resources you have right now, you can group multiple shapes in TinkerCAD and build a more sophisticated model.
TinkerCAD is a 3D modeling and designing software you can use on the web. The software has a simple, user-friendly interface that makes the whole process of 3D printing more straightforward.
TinkerCAD is an excellent tool for designing both simple and complicated 3D models. So, whether you are a beginner or an experienced designer, TinkerCAD is a tool worth having.
- TinkerCAD works with STL files which allow you to start 3D printing instantly.
- It allows you to import 3D and 2D models for printing.
- TinkerCAD software is convenient for laser cutting.
- It has cloud storage where you can safely store your 3D designs and models.
- It offers a straightforward interface that you can use for various purposes.
- Its interface is easy to understand and has a wide variety of functions.
- It requires a short learning curve for you to utilize its features fully.
- TinkerCAD offers comprehensive tutorials which can familiarize you with its features if you are a newbie.
- Complete surface triangles of its 3D models cannot surpass the permitted value.
- TinkerCAD controls may be hypersensitive.
TinkerCAD is an open-source software you can access in your web browser or smartphone application.
MeshLab offers a range of functions and is super-versatile, making it the ideal software for anyone who regularly works with 3D meshes and models. You can use its features to edit, generate, add texture, and quickly transform into meshes. Additionally, it is open-source software so that you can change it to your liking anytime.
MeshLab software provides state-of-the-art features for processing and editing 3D triangular models.
- Its 3D designing capacity allows for quick and easy production of high-quality pieces.
- MeshLab software can do 3D color mapping/texturing.
- It is the best option for 3D printing, neutralizing, hollowing, and closing.
- MeshLab allows you to improve the speed of the 3D printing cycle.
- It gives convenient solutions for cleaning the mesh.
- MeshLab has a scaling feature that can read linearly to estimate the distance between points of the mesh.
- Its interface is cumbersome and notably lacks some key features.
- Some buttons have multiple functions.
Meshlab is free and open-source software.
This open-source software for 3D modeling has excellent abilities to develop real-life designs for objects of all shapes and sizes.
The software has many valuable tools, like geodata workbenches, BIM, experimental CFD, Path workbench, and Element Analysis (FEA). It also has a robot simulation system that allows you to assess robots’ movements.
Moreover, FreeCAD has learning features that can assist you if you’re an upcoming 3D modeler.
You can use FreeCAD as an effective 3D printing training platform.
- It comes with parametric parts that make editing 3D models faster and easier.
- It keeps track of each alteration so you can easily change a 3D model’s framework.
- FreeCAD allows you to create 3D models easily using geometry-constrained 2D objects.
- FreeCAD works well on Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux devices.
- It has many uses, including mechanical engineering and architecture projects.
- It provides various valuable tools, including BIM, Path workbench, and geodata workbenches.
- FreeCAD has limited features.
- Its user interface is too basic.
FreeCAD is an open-source 3D printing tool and is free to access.
Developed by Parametric Technology Corporation, Creo is a market-leading product design software.
The software’s incredible features, such as structural, motion, and thermal analysis, make it very popular among designers. Furthermore, it has other fantastic features that make it easy to design, replicate, and print 3D graphics. These features include designing, surfacing, tooling, and finite element analysis.
However, if you are a first-time user, you may find the vast number of features in this software too intimidating to navigate.
Creo software is one of the best tools for companies manufacturing 3D printing products.
- It utilizes augmented reality technology to simulate 3D designs more easily and quickly.
- It comes with many tools to make elegant designs.
- It uses data from real-world models to create better designs.
- Its Model-based definition function allows you to generate 3D models with all of the product’s data.
- It has many features you may find overwhelming if you are a first-time.
- You are required to modify the default template constantly.
The software comes with a $2,310 one-time license charge. It also offers a 30-day trial period to evaluate the product before purchasing.
Developed by Dassault Systems, Solidworks is primarily used by the 3D design community. It provides extensive resources for creating 3D models for industrial applications. Dassault Systems upgraded Solidworks’ 2020 edition with new performance functions to improve efficiency.
Additionally, Solidworks is preloaded with a slew of specialized tools that facilitate the development of cutting-edge 3D models.
Solidworks is perfect for experienced designers who need to create unique and reliable 3D models.
- Its exceptional features include validation and reverse engineering tools that make it simple to create 3D models.
- It uses the NURBS system to generate very realistic curves.
- Solidworks has dimensional sketchings that make resizing easy.
- The software’s 3DEXPERIENCE® module allows for comprehensive product creation and shipment management.
- Solidworks 2020 version comes with improved performance functions for more efficiency.
- It offers a straightforward design, recreation, and manufacturing process, simplifying the workflow.
- You will need a secondary program to download and edit STL files.
The subscription fee will be disclosed upon request.
CATIA was initially developed to meet Dassault Aviation’s specific needs. However, because it is a multi-platform suite, it has progressively gained tremendous appeal. The software also has a 3DEXPERIENCE technology, which helps designers work together by sharing ideas, information, and solutions on one platform.
Moreover, CATIA keeps records of every change made on the model to help you retrieve the model if you’re not sure of the alterations.
CATIA is one of the best options for people who want multi-platform features, like CAM, CAD, and CAE in the automotive and aerospace industries.
- It is the ideal option for engineers managing large organizations.
- CATIA records changes to their models, allowing you to revise the product efficiently.
- It manages all of the information well throughout the product development.
- It has a wide range of tools that are perfect for meeting the needs of different organizations.
- The software is suitable to be used by large organizations. For example, Boeing uses CATIA to develop complex systems.
- It is equipped with 3DEXPERIENCE, allowing you to collaborate with other designers and share your designs.
- CATIA is very expensive.
- It is not suitable for newbies.
CATIA has a free trial plan. However, you need to ask for a quote to know the software’s subscription cost.
OpenSCAD is free software ideal for developing high-quality and reliable 3D models. It also allows users to work together on one platform, speeding up the designing process.
However, the software is designed for experts taking on complicated tasks, so it is unsuitable for newbies.
OpenSCAD is designed to complete technical tasks, making it the best tool for professional designers. Working with this software requires a deep knowledge of the descriptive language.
- It has an Extrusion of 2D and Constructive Solid Geometry (CSG), which can be used to create 3D models.
- OpenSCAD is ideal for creating simple designs that are parametrically predefined.
- It provides a lively forum where you can share your experiences, learn from other 3D designers, and get prompt responses to your questions.
- It supports all major operating systems — Windows, Mac, and Linus.
- It provides quantifiable outcomes for the final 3D models based on the numbered design stages.
- OpenSCAD is a descriptive language, making it complicated for beginners
- It is poor at creating intricate shapes.
OpenSCAD is a free and open-source tool.
11. Rhinoceros 3D
Rhinoceros 3D is one of the market’s most flexible 3D modeling tools. It utilizes NURB, a mathematical paradigm, which allows users to edit points, curves, meshes, surfaces, and solids in various ways.
It also provides a wide range of design functions, such as displaying control points, which facilitate the editing of 3D models.
Rhinoceros 3D is a robust software program for creating various 3D modeling and printing projects.
- It has a recording feature allowing you to modify input shapes and upgrade the object.
- Its control points on the 3D model show you where to edit the designs, allowing you to produce precise models.
- It utilizes NURB, which allows you to manipulate surfaces, curves, and meshes by pointing at them.
- It allows users to import files from sources like SolidWorks, IGES, DXF, OBJ, SketchUp, STEP, AutoCAD, and more.
- It is compatible with 3D digitizers and can import 3D-scanned and point cloud data.
- The software allows you to include dimensions in all perspectives.
- It takes a long time to learn how to use the software.
- It doesn’t always accurately respond to your instructions.
Rhinoceros 3D comes in different paid packages starting from $495.
BlockCAD was primarily designed to educate people. The principal idea was to use the software to teach people how to use OpenSCAD, industry-standard software for making 3D models for physical objects. Its code is compatible with OpenSCAD, so you can finish your models using advanced software.
The best part of this software is that it offers helpful YouTube tutorials to facilitate effective learning.
It is the best educational resource for learning every aspect of 3D modeling and printing.
- Its code is fully compatible with OpenSCAD, enabling you to complete your projects using more sophisticated professional tools.
- It has a YouTube channel with tutorials on how to operate the software.
- BlockCAD has an intuitive design that makes it easy to get started
- Its restricted features prevent it from producing quality 3D models.
- You can’t sketch parts that are partially inside each other.
BlockCAD is open-source and free software.
13. SketchUp Make
SketchUp is a powerful software application with vast features vitally suited for designers, builders, architects, makers, and engineers, among other professionals. This platform also allows you to collaborate with others and exchange ideas for a project, all on one platform.
SketchUp is ideal for professionals who need to design 3D models to display to clients.
- It lets people record 3D designs on 2D platforms
- The software provides room for collaboration by sharing 3D design ideas, among other information.
- Its virtual reality experience allows you to try out your designs before they are printed.
- It offers several templates that you can use as a base to start creating 3D designs.
- It is an excellent option if you’re new to 3D modeling and printing.
- It offers an exciting and user-friendly interface.
- The software doesn’t have many options for designing complex 3D models.
- The paid versions are expensive.
You can try out the free trial version first. After that, premium plans range from $119 a year to $1,199 per year.
Sculptris uses digital sculpting to design unique 3D models. The software enables you to create 3D objects by sculpting any mesh using different brush strokes. The procedure is similar to molding a clay lump in real-time.
Furthermore, the software is straightforward, so you can quickly learn to navigate its interface if you’re new to designing.
Sculptris is best suited for creative professionals and artists.
- It allows you to construct 3D models digitally.
- Sculptris provides a more organic learning experience with a straightforward user interface.
- It uses many triangular surfaces to reduce the risk of producing twisted figures.
- The software allows you to add details to different parts using various brush sizes.
- Its Symmetry Mode ensures that 3D models are symmetrical on both ends.
- Sculptris is an entry-level software ideal for beginners; therefore, it has limited features.
- It is used to design detailed 3D models and prints.
Sculptris is accessible for free.
This cloud-based software is considered one of the best 3D modeling and printing tools. The software is user-friendly and has a solid foundation compared to other options on the market. Since it is entirely web-based, it helps you save space on your device.
OnShape is hosted in the cloud, making it ideal for groups who often need to collaborate on ongoing projects.
- It is cloud-based and allows end-to-end cooperation.
- It works on all devices and platforms, like computers, smartphones, and tablets.
- It was constructed with designers, engineers, and producers in mind.
- OnShape is the best choice for agile teams who need to collaborate and integrate closely.
- It includes tools for creating detailed and lifelike 3D models that are printable.
- The software delivers a single master version, avoiding license and file duplication.
- It is challenging to locate commands for Onshape products.
It has a free lite edition with the essential features you need to design an excellent 3D model. However, a premium subscription is available for as little as $125 per month if you need access to more sophisticated features.
Meshmixer is a popular software among designers. Its main selling point is its compatibility with triangular meshes. The software also comes with features for editing and sculpting 3D models effectively.
Meshmixer is the ideal tool for designing 3D models.
- It allows you to create .stl from .obj files to make fast adjustments and format in the 3D model.
- Meshmixer has a user-friendly interface.
- It can smooth down the texture for a more polished 3D model.
- Meshmixer can transform any type of mesh into a solid 3D object.
- It automatically stores the most recent version of the 3D model.
- Meshmixer offers sophisticated selection methods such as brushing, surface-lasso, and constraints.
- The Meshmixer software crashes frequently.
- Its 3D components viewer tends to get confusing and hard to scrutinize.
Meshmixer is free.
17. 3D Slash
3D Slash is perfect for non-technical individuals who want to learn more about 3D modeling. The software has an easy-to-use interface, making it fun to use for everyone. Moreover, the software incorporates a VR mode, allowing you to see the 3D models in virtual reality.
3D Slash is an excellent choice if you’re a beginner or don’t know much about technology.
- 3D slash allows you to insert OBJ/STI in 3D models.
- The new edition has features for both newbies and professional users.
- Its High Definition Mode allows for more precise designing and editing of 3D models.
- The syringe tool allows you to apply color below the block.
- Its VR mode enables you to see the 3D model in virtual reality.
- It allows users to edit STL files effectively.
- It is not ideal for professionals needing more complex features and outstanding personalization options.
- It is not good enough for industry use.
The pricing ranges from $2 to $20 per month.
Note: Tools such as Blender, Pixologic ZBrush, Netfabb, and Repetier are yet to be reviewed.
What Is 3D Printing Software?
Initially, developing 3D modeling software used to cost a fortune. Worse yet, you needed a particular set of skills to be able to use it. Luckily, the design and engineering tools for 3D printing have been made easier to use.
With the help of a 3D printer, models created in a computer-aided design (CAD) tool can be printed out and used in the real world.
The software takes the 3D model as the input and commands the 3D model printer to make replicas of the original model. The 3D printing process begins with loading the print model into the printer’s cartridge and selecting the appropriate printing medium and color palette.
Furthermore, the 3D model is optimized before the final print to rule out the possibility of the design being damaged or altered.
Modern 3D modeling and animation software provides helpful extras like cloud-based teamwork and virtual reality support for realistic model simulation. Besides these perks, you will also get an intuitive user interface that has helped many people with little technical background get into the industry.
Here are some terms you need to understand:
- Slicer (also known as slicing software): Most of the 3D printing process is done with software that turns 3D objects into instructions for the printer.
- Fused deposition modeling (FDM): This 3D printing approach requires melting and extruding thermoplastics to assemble a model, often cross-sections.
- Parametric 3D printing: This model is designed with different parameters — lengths, width, and heights — which the designer can change during or after modeling.
- G-Code: This language for 3D printers includes commands to move parts within the machine.
How Do You Select the Best 3D Printing Software?
With the influx of many 3D printing tools on the market, it is essential to identify the one that will best satisfy your needs.
Here are some factors to keep in mind before settling on a 3D printing tool:
- Customization: Look for modification features, including sculpting, editing history, and the ability to use 2D models to develop 3D models. Good customization tools will help you to design top-grade 3D model prints.
- Collaboration: 3D design software that works with the cloud will make it easier for you and your team to collaborate. With this feature, users can work together from anywhere in the world.
- File Format: Look for a tool that supports many file formats. This will make it easier for you to import and integrate new components into your 3D model.
- Simulation: Virtual reality’s simulation capabilities help to determine gaps and flaws in the early stages of the designing process. This significantly reduces the resources and time used to build a model.
- Scalability: Go for 3D modeling software with sophisticated adjustment capabilities for scaling the 3D model concept to any size. This will enable you to create 3D models of different shapes and sizes.
This article has outlined some of the best 3D printing tools on the market. Each tool here is more than adequate to handle everything you throw.
There’s no clear winner. To make the right choice, analyze each tool carefully to confirm if it’s the best option for you. You have a wide variety of 3D CAD options.
Here are several critical factors to consider:
- Your Budget: Check if the software’s monthly membership fee is affordable. For instance, if you are a beginner, it is recommended that you use open-source, free solutions.
- Functions: Some of these tools are equipped with cutting-edge capabilities and are designed specifically for commercial and industrial settings. However, tools with such high-end features are more expensive. So, if you’re a beginner, it’s best to look for cheaper alternatives that offer the basic features.
- Learning Curve: Most 3D modeling software comes with many functions that help in scripting. Therefore, you’ll face a steep learning curve if you’re unfamiliar with 3D modeling and printing technology. To understand the tool’s learning curve, start by finding out if you have background knowledge and the ability to pick up on such intricacies.
If you keep these things in mind and do your research, you’ll have no trouble choosing the best 3D printing software for your needs.
The brilliant brains behind the programs on this list have made 3D printing simpler than ever before.