20 Best 3D Printing Software Tools (All Are Free)

by Bulent YusufOctober 17, 2017

Looking for 3D printer software? Here are the 20 best 3D printing software tools for beginners to pros. All of them are free.

This article is about finding the best 3D printing software for every stage of your workflow. Which 3D printing software is best for preparing 3D models to print? How about designing 3D models from scratch? What if you’re an absolute beginner?

Have no fear, we’ve answered all of these questions, together with information on proficiency levels and where they can be downloaded. And the best thing is that all of them are either totally or free for students, educators and open source projects.

Don’t miss: 33 Best Sites for Free 3D Printer Models & STL Files to 3D Print

We’ve also added a section on the 3D printing workflow. This way, you can get a better understanding of how each 3D printing software fits into the process.

Have we missed your favorite 3D printing software? Let us know in the comments!

Best 3D Printing Software Tools

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Best 3D Printing Design Software for Beginners

1

Best 3D Printing Software TinkerCAD

For Beginners who want to Design 3D Print Models

TinkerCAD is an online computer-aided design (CAD) software for 3D printing that is a good entry point for beginners. However, its feature set is limited compared to Blender, FreeCAD and SketchUp, so many users switch over to a more powerful tool later.

Similar to 3D Slash, you can use this 3D printing software to build your model from basic shapes. Unlike 3D Slash, however, TinkerCAD allows you to create geometrical (vector) shapes in 2D and convert them into 3D models.

Visit: Autodesk TinkerCAD

Price: Free

Systems: Web Browser

Learn More: Tutorial on how to create a 3D printable name plate in TinkerCAD.

2

Best 3D Printing Software 3D Slash

For Beginners who want to Design 3D Print Models

Here we have a 3D printing software that’s both wonderfully easy to use and refreshingly different. With 3D Slash, you can design 3D models using a simple building-block concept.

Either start with a huge block and remove small cubes by using tools such as a hammer or a drill, which essentially act as virtual stone-cutters, or begin with an empty workspace and build your model by adding cubes or other shapes. You can also add colors and use images as templates.

Other features include a logo and a 3D text maker. The logo maker imports an image and creates a 3D model while the text maker allows you to enter and format text and turn it into 3D text.

This 3D printing software is highly recommended!

Download: 3dslash.net

Price: Free

System: PC, Mac, Linux, Web Browser

Learn More: ALL3DP review of 3D Slash plus a 3D Slash tutorial that takes you from beginner to expert.

3

Best 3D Printing Software Sculptris

For Beginners who want to Create 3D Print Models

Sculptris is a virtual sculpting tool, with a core focus on the concept of modeling clay. This is a fantastic 3D printing software if your primary goal is to create statues or figurines. For example, this 3D printing software would be great when creatinga bust of your favorite character from video games or comics books. Sculptris is completely free, and positions itself as a gateway to the more sophisticated (and expensive) ZBrush tool.

Download: Pixologic Sculptris

Price: Free

Systems: PC, Mac

Best 3D Printing Design Software for Intermediates and Pros

4

Best 3D Printing Software SketchUp

For Intermediate Users who want to Design 3D Print Models

SketchUp is a perfect mix of simplicity and functionality, offering a user-friendly interface and relatively flat learning curve. This makes SketchUp one of the most popular 3D printing software tools for designing 3D models.

The SketchUp Make edition is free and has everything you need for 3D modeling, so long as you download the free STL export module and install it. There’s also a professional edition for architects, interior designers, and engineers available for $695.

Download: sketchup.com

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

Systems: PC, Mac

Learn More: ALL3DP has an extensive beginner’s tutorial on how to use Sketchup, plus a tutorial on how to create 3D text.

5

Best 3D Printing Software Fusion 360

For Intermediate Users who want to Design 3D Models for 3D Printing

Fusion 360 is a professional 3D CAD program tool created by 3D software pioneers at Autodesk. Unlike other professional solid-body 3D modeling tools, this program is exceptionally strong in usability. Still, it covers the whole process of planning, testing, and executing a 3D design.

This 3D printing software has powerful parametric tools and analytic mesh tools that are well-suited to take on most challenges involving industrial design. Moreover, it is able to simulate both the construction of the designed components as well as the stresses they will face once they are actually manufactured and put to their use. Fusion 360 also sets itself apart by offering sophisticated collaborative features. It supports cloud-based file sharing, version control, and import/export of common CAD file types.

Fusion 360 has excellent support for 3D printing. CAD files can be directly imported into the Autodesk Printing Studio. Although its technically a commercial program, Fusion 360 is effectively free CAD software for students and educators, as you can apply for a 3 year educational license.

Download: Fusion 360

Price: Free for students, $300/year for commercial use

Systems: Windows and Mac

6

Best 3D Printing Software FreeCAD

For Intermediate Users who want to Design 3D Print Models

FreeCAD is a CAD software that’s rich in features, and is a great resource for developing your design skills. The more technical description is that it’s a parametric 3D modeler, which allows you to easily modify your design by going back into your model history and editing its parameters.

Download: freecadweb.org

Price: Free

Systems: PC, Mac, Linux

Learn More: ALL3DP has an extensive step-by-step tutorial on how to use FreeCAD, plus a tutorial on how to create 3D printable text or nameplates.

7

Best 3D Printing Software Blender

For Professional Users who want to Design 3D Models for 3D Printing

Blender is a popular computer-aided design (CAD) software with a steep learning curve. It’s really not the best choice for newbies, but it’s ideal when your skills have fully developed and you need more sophisticated 3D modeling/3D printing software.

In a nutshell, Blender is one of the most powerful 3D printing software tools you can use. It has a very helpful community and a huge amount of tutorials. And it’s open source, so people are often writing extensions for it to make it even better and more capable.

Download: blender.org

Price: Free

Systems: PC, Mac, Linux

Learn More: How to create a 3D printable nameplate in Blender.

8

Best 3D Printing Software Onshape

For Professional Users who want to Design 3D Models for 3D Printing

Onshape is a mighty enterprise-grade CAD software suite that is free for open-source projects. It is aimed at professional level users who want version control and easy collaboration. You can access Onshape from the web browser. It works on pretty much every system you can imagine – even on iOS, and Android phones.

One of the most interesting features of this free CAD software is its collaborative mode. Unlike installed CAD and PDM, Onshape gives everyone on the team instant access to the same CAD workspace and same CAD data in one central place in the cloud. Another nifty feature is the ability to manage a master design without the need to save copies or keep track of numerous different file versions.

Visit: Onshape

Price: Free for students and public/open source projects, $125/month for commercial use

Systems: Web Browser

Best 3D Printing Software to View, Edit and Repair STL Files for Intermediates and Pros

9

Best 3D Printing Software Netfabb

For Intermediate Users who need Slicer Software to prepare STL files for 3D Printing.

Netfabb is 3D printing software for slicing that comes with some nice features, where you can analyze, repair and edit STL files before you get to the slicing stage.

This is an ideal choice if you need something more than just slicer software, and you want to be able to quickly repair STL files without having to learn to use additional tools like MeshLab or Meshmixer.

Netfabb used to be known as Netfabb Basic. Now, instead of downloading Netfabb Basic as a separate product, all you have to do is download the free Netfabb trial. For the first 30 days, users will have access to all the features of Netfabb Premium, including advanced packing, support structures, and support for metal additive manufacturing systems.

When the trial expires, the software will continue to run with the same functionality that was previously Netfabb Basic. The full version, on the other hand, is quite expensive.

Download: Netfabb

Price: $125 / month

Systems: PC, Mac, Linux

10

Best 3D Printing Software 3D-Tool Free Viewer

For Intermediate Users who want to View and Check STL Files

3D-Tool Free Viewer is a sophisticated STL viewer that also allows you to check the structural integrity and printability of your file. The “Cross-Section” feature, for example, lets you take a look inside the model and check the wall thickness. This is very useful when you want to check your STL file for show-stopping errors before you start 3D printing.

Download: 3D-Tool

Price: Free

Systems: PC

11

Best 3D Printing Software MakePrintable

For Intermediate Users who want to Check and Repair STL Files

This web service checks your STL files for any mistakes that might corrupt the print and fixes them. Unlike most of the free online services though, MakePrintable gives an impressive level of control. You can choose a quality level (prototype, standard and high), hollow and repair the mesh and optimize the polygon count. It even allows you to merge multiple meshes into one.

In the free version of this 3D printing software, users can repair non-manifolds, flipped-faces, boundary edges and intersecting objects on 3 models a month. For advanced options like instant repairs, texture support, hollowing support and adjustable wall thickness, the paid commercial option ticks the box. It also boasts plug-ins that connect it seamlessly with Blender and Sketchup.

Visit: MakePrintable

Price: Free

Systems: Web Browser

12

Best 3D Printing Software MeshLab

For Professional Users who want to Edit STL Files for 3D Printing.

MeshLab is an advanced STL editing software. It allows you to delete parts of your 3D model, to merge two models into one, and to repair holes. When you need 3D printing software to change the 3D print model or make some repair jobs, MeshLab is a solid option.

Download: MeshLab

Price: Free

Systems: PC, Mac, Linux

13

Best 3D Printing Software Meshmixer

For Professional Users who want to Edit STL Files for 3D Printing

Meshmixer is super advanced 3D printing software for viewing, checking, editing, AND repairing STL files. It’s especially good for spotting potential problems and automatically repairing them. For example, highlighting paper-thin walls that might cause problems when 3D printing. It’s part of the Autodesk 3D printing software family, so it should play nice with tools like TinkerCAD.

Download: Autodesk Meshmixer

Price: Free

Systems: PC, Mac

Learn More: Meshmixer tutorial on checking and repairing STL files before 3D printing.

Best 3D Printer Slicer and 3D Printer Control Software for Beginners

14

Best 3D Printing Software Cura

For Beginners who need Slicer Software to prepare STL files for 3D Printing

Cura is the benchmark slicer software for all Ultimaker 3D printers, but it can also be used with many other 3D printers, including RepRap, Makerbot, Printrbot, Lulzbot, and Witbox. It’s fully open source and can be extended via a plugin system.

This 3D printing software is very easy to use and allows you to manage the most important 3D print settings in a clear interface. Start in “Basic” mode for rapid on-boarding, where you can choose reconfigured printer quality settings. When you need more precise control over the print quality settings, switch to over “Expert” mode.

You can also use Cura as 3D printer host software for direct control over your machine, but the 3D printer needs to be connected to the PC for the duration.

Download: Cura

Price: Free

System: PC, Mac, Linux

Learn More: ALL3DP has a Cura tutorial that guides you through all the steps when slicing a 3D model for your 3D printer.

15

Best 3D Printing Software CraftWare

For Beginners who need Slicer Software to prepare STL files for 3D Printing

This is another 3D printing software for slicing developed in-house by a 3D printer manufacturer — in this instance Hungarian startup CraftUnique — to support their crowdfunded CraftBot 3D printer. However, it can be used by other 3D printers, too.

Like Cura, the CraftWare application can be switched between “easy” and “expert” modes, depending on how confident you’re feeling. It’s a zippy application, with some outstanding G-code visualization, where each feature is represented as a different color. But the real standout feature is individual support management. To our knowledge, this is only available elsewhere in the paid application Simplify3D.

However, please note that this 3D printing software is still in Beta, so bugs can still occur during day-to-day use.

Download: CraftWare

Price: Free

System: PC, Mac

16

Best 3D Printing Software KISSlicer

For Beginners who need Slicer Software to prepare STL files for 3D Printing

Don’t be fooled by the acronym of this program. It may be called “Keep It Simple Slicer”, but depending on which version you choose, it can be actually a pretty sophisticated 3D printing software tool. Some have hailed it as a worthy alternative to the other 3D slicer software tools, others complain about the confusing interface.

While the free version is sufficient for amateurs that print with only one extruder, the pro version enables multi-head printing. G-code can be generated with a minimum amount of settings. For advanced settings, you’ll need to purchase the pro version. This version allows users to combine multiple STL files into one print.

Download: KISSlicer

Price: Free, $25 (educational), Pro $35 (commercial)

System: Windows, Mac, Linux, Raspberry Pie

17

Best 3D Printing Software MatterControl

For Beginners who need Slicer Software to prepare STL files for 3D Printing

MatterControl is a 3D printer host for your desktop computer, that means the two will have to be connected for the entire print. Alternatively, you can save the G-code file on an SD Card. The interface is remarkably well structured. To the left side, you can reorder the print queue with your mouse (That’s right! Now you can open your own hub!). Toggle to the right and slice the prints to your liking.

MatterControl features three slicing engines (MatterSlice, Cura, and Slic3r), making it easy to experiment and compare the results. In basic mode, you can adjust layer height, fill density, support material, and raft. You can also save the settings and apply it to successive prints. The advanced mode of this 3D printing software tool includes helpful features like auto mesh repair and support for multiple extruders. In order to foresee possible hiccups in your print, you can preview the entire process layer by layer.

Download: MatterControl

Price: Free

System: Windows, Mac, Linux

Best 3D Printer Slicer and 3D Printer Control Software for Intermediates and Pros

18

Best 3D Printing Software Repetier

For Intermediate Users who need Slicer Software to prepare STL files for 3D Printing.

If you’re ready to graduate to the next level of 3D printing slicer software but want to stay within an open source framework, then Repetier is a compelling option. This is the great-grandaddy of 3D printing software and the favored choice within the RepRap maker community.

Now, the thing to note is that this application straddles the intermediate to advanced user spectrum. Pitched as an all-in-one solution, it offers multi-extruder support (up to 16 extruders!), mutli-slicer support via plugins, and support for virtually any FDM 3D printer on the market. Be prepared to do a lot of tinkering!

Moreover, Repetier Host also offers remote access features, via Repetier Server, so you can access and control your 3D printer from anywhere via a browser on your PC, tablet or smartphone.

Download: Repetier

Price: Free

Systems: PC, Mac, Linux

19

Best 3D Printing Software Slic3r

For Professional Users who need Slicer Software to prepare STL files for 3D printing

Slic3r is open source slicer software with a reputation for adding bleeding edge features that can’t be found anywhere else. The current version of the 3D printing software includes multiple views so users can better preview how their models will 3D print.

There’s also an incredible new honeycomb infill that’s created in three dimensions: the first time that an infill pattern that can be varied across layers instead of repeating the same pattern. This can greatly increase the strength of the internal infill and your final print.

Another feature of this 3D printing software tool is direct integration with Octoprint. When files are sliced on the user’s desktop, they can now be uploaded directly to the Octoprint box with the click of a button.

Download: Slic3r

Price: Free

Systems: PC, Mac, Linux

20

Best 3D Printing Software OctoPrint

For Professional Users who want to Control their 3D Printer Wirelessly

Octoprint is a “pure ” 3D printer host software that allows you to start, pause or interrupt 3D printing jobs. Combined with a Wi-Fi enabled device like the Raspberry Pi, it’s perfect for monitoring the 3D printing process remotely via an internet connection.

Octoprint accepts G-code from virtually any 3D printer slicer software and incorporates the gCodeVisualizer that allows you to visualize G-code files before and during 3D printing.

If you want to banish your 3D printer from your desktop and to control it wirelessly, Octoprint is the best 3D printing software currently on the market.

Download: octoprint.org

Price: Free

Systems: PC, Mac, Linux

Learn More: Detailed video tutorial on getting started with Octoprint

Appendix : The 3D printing workflow

The 3D printing workflow

If you are new to 3D printing, you might be left wondering what all these 3D printing software tools do and how to make sense of it all.  You should know that the 3D printing workflow consists of four major types of software which do their work in series and make 3D printing possible.

3D modeling software, 3D design software, and 3D CAD software let you design 3D models on the computer. You can design anything from a screw driver to a model of a car.

Of course, if you don’t want to design your own 3D model, you can also download 3D models made by others from Thingiverse and other 3D model marketplaces.

Jump to the best 3D design/CAD software list

STL file viewing, editing and repairing 3D printing software: Whether you make your own 3D model or download it from the internet, you will most often end up with an STL file. However, not all STL files are perfect and some may have defects. Defects lead to poor printing or outright print failures.

STL file viewing, editing and repairing software let you visualize, change and fix STL files to ensure that they are ready for 3D printing.

Jump to the best STL viewing, editing and repairing software list

Slicer software: A slicer then converts the STL file into G-code, which happens to be the language that 3D printers understand. It’s called a slicer because that’s literally what it does; it chops up the 3D model into thousands of flat 2D layers and provides G Code instructions to the printer about how to print each layer.

3D printer host: Finally, a 3D printer host connects your computer to the 3D printer and handles all communication between the two devices. In particular, it is responsible for transmitting G Code instructions to the printer. It also allows you to monitor the printing process and change settings in real time.

Very often, the functionality of a slicer and the host are bundled into the same 3D printing software.

Jump to the best slicer and printer host software list

These four classes of 3D printing software work together in unison and lets you go from a 3D model to a 3D printed object.

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License: The text of "20 Best 3D Printing Software Tools (All Are Free)" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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