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Software & Tools - 3D Printing for Beginners

Software & Tools

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Looking for 3D printing software? Then you have come to the right place. We have compiled an extensive list with software for all your 3D printing needs: from 3D modeling to slicing, from beginner to professional, we have got you covered. Jump right to the section that you are most interested in: the 3D Modeling Tools section covers all kind of CAD software, the Slicers & 3D Printer Hosts section contains the latest print preparation applications and last but not least, the Other Handy Tools contains software that may come in handy when repairing a 3D model.

3D Modeling Tools

Listed below are the most common and widely used 3D modeling softwares. There are three main categories: CAD Tools, Freeform Modeling Tools and Sculpting Tools. Whereas the tools of each category can generate models suitable for 3D printing, the way the inputs are generated are different: CAD tools are largely based on using geometrical shapes to build models while Freeform modeling tools allow more freedom by allowing you to create freeform shapes. Sculpting tools are pretty much like using digital clay that you can push, pull, pinch and grab to form your models.

For beginners who are looking to get some quick results, we have included a section on Customizers. These work with pre-existing models that you easily customize by modifying some simple settings. A great way to get to your first custom-made 3D model – make sure to check them out!
SoftwareDeveloperUser LevelPriceComment
CAD Tools
Vectary Logo(Sponsored link)VECTARY Inc.Beginner to IntermediateFreemiumVECTARY is a free, online 3D modeling tool and community platform where you can create, share and customize 3D models. The Free Plan offers you a fully functional and easy-to-use toolset, with unlimited public models to create and share, and a limited number of private models.
123D DesignAutodesk Inc.BeginnerFreemium123D Design is a powerful, yet simple 3D creation and editing tool. The free version gives you access to most features and allows you to create and use 3D models for non-commercial purposes.
3DSlash3DSlashBeginnerFree - $20/month3D SLASH is a free, fun & fast 3D modeling app for non-designer people of all ages. Create your own design in no time like a modern stone-cutter. User-friendly experience with its Minecraft look & feel and great features : picture projection, import / export of STL files and more.
CubeTeamOtherlab Inc. BeginnerFreeCubeTeam is a multiplayer 3D painting and modeling program that lets you and your friends imagine worlds out of cubes and then print them in 3D. CubeTeam is free, runs in a web browser, and has powerful editing tools that let you create in a virtually limitless environment.
Cubify Invent3D Systems Inc.Beginner to Intermediate€39 ($49)Cubify Invent is an easy-to-learn 3D modeling tool aimed at helping users to quickly create 3D printable files. The software which comes with free tutorials does only run on Windows though.
Design Spark MechanicalRS Components/Allied ElectronicsBeginner to IntermediateFreeDesignSpark Mechanical is a 3D modeling software developed by the electronics distributor RS Components/Allied Electronics. The software equips all engineers with 3D design capability and it is said to be fast and easy-to-use.
Fusion 360Autodesk Inc.Intermediate to professionalFree - $25/monthFusion 360 is a cloud-based 3D modeling software tool that has professional capabilities but is far more user friendly than other professional modeling packages. Fusion 360 has become one of the go-to software options for makers and is seen as the next level software for users who have outgrown a basic package such as TinkerCAD.
FreeCADFreeCAD CommunityIntermediateFreeFreeCAD is a parametric 3D modeler built for product design and engineering. Feature rich and with a high learning curve, FreeCAD is rather for advanced users. The software is multi-platform, and runs flawlessly on Windows and Linux/Unix and Mac OSX.
Geomagic Design3D Systems Inc.Intermediate€1799Geomagic Design is a comprehensive and robust mechanical CAD design tools, allowing ideas to go from concept to production for professional engineers, makers, students and hobbyists. Geomagic Design is available in three versions: Personal, Professional and Expert, each tailored to the needs and budgets of the respective user base.
InventorAutodesk Inc.Intermediate to professional$7295Inventor 3D CAD software offers an easy-to-use set of tools for 3D mechanical design, documentation, and product simulation.
Makers EmpireMaker's Empire Pty Ltd.Beginner FreemiumMakers Empire 3D is very easy to use 3D design and printing software. It is built to be usable by kids as young as 5. The paid version includes a primary/elementary school learning program (Teacher's Dashboard, resource, curriculum and professional development). It runs on: iPad/iPhone/Android/Mac/Win/Chromebook.
Morphi AppThe Inventery Inc.Beginner FreemiumMorphi is a simple, powerful 3D design application currently available for iPad and Mac. Morphi empowers people of all skill levels to create 3D models from anywhere with touch, online or offline, using 3D shapes, text, hand drawing, high contrast images and streamlined 3D modeling tools.
Rhino 3DRobert McNeel & AssociatesIntermediate to professional€995Rhinoceros (aka Rhino) is a stand-alone, commercial NURBS-based 3D modeling software commonly used for industrial design, architecture, marine design, jewelry design, CAD / CAM and rapid prototyping. Rhino's popularity is based on its diversity, low learning-curve, relatively low cost, and its ability to import and export over 30 file formats, which allows it to act as a 'converter' tool between programs in a design workflow.
SketchUpTrimble Navigation Ltd.Beginner to IntermediateFree - €378SketchUp is a 3D modeling program for applications such as architectural, interior design, civil and mechanical engineering. Its powerful yet easy to use interface make it ideal for beginners in 3D modeling. A freeware version, SketchUp Make, and a paid version with additional functionality, SketchUp Pro, are available. Note that the free version does not allow you to export to *.stl for 3D printing, you'll need to install a plug-in to do so.
SolidworksDassault Systèmes Solidworks Corp.Intermediate to professional$3995SolidWorks is a 3D mechanical CAD program widely used amongst engineers and designers. The software features powerful simulation, motion, and design validation tools, advanced wire and pipe routing functionality, reverse engineering capabilities, and more.
TinkerCADAutodesk Inc.BeginnerFreemiumTinkerCAD is a browser based 3D modeling program ideal for beginners. You can save your designs online or share them with others. Export *.stl files to print with your own 3D printer or send your designs to one of popular 3D printing services.
Freeform Modeling Tools
3ds MaxAutodesk Inc.Professional$36753ds Max 3D modeling software provides a comprehensive modeling, animation, simulation, and rendering solution for games, film, and motion graphics artists.
BlenderBlender FoundationIntermediate to professionalFreeBlender is a free and open source 3D animation suite. It supports the entirety of the 3D pipeline—modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking, even video editing and game creation
Cinema 4DMaxon Computer GmbHProfessional$3695CINEMA 4D Studio is a 3D modeling, animation and rendering application for professional 3D artists wanting to create advanced 3D graphics. The software is capable of procedural and polygonal/subd modeling, animating, lighting, texturing, rendering.
MayaAutodesk Inc.Professional$3675Maya, is 3D computer graphics software offering a comprehensive creative feature set for 3D computer animation, modeling, simulation, and rendering. It is used to create interactive 3D applications, including video games, animated film, TV series, or visual effects.
Scultping Tools
Geomagic Sculpt3D Systems Inc.Intermediate€99Geomagic Sculpt is an organic modeling tool that enables sculpting with virtual clay. The software has mash-up capability and exports 3D print ready *stl files.
LeopolyLeonar3Do International Inc.BeginnerFreemiumLeopoly is a web-based, social 3D sculpting application. Each of the created and saved models are available for the entire Leopoly community for shaping them further. Note that you cannot export your 3D models unless you have a paying account.
SculptrisPixologic Inc. IntermediateFreeSculptris is a virtual sculpting software program, with a primary focus on the concept of modeling clay. Currently available for MacOS and Windows.
SculptGLStephane GinierIntermediateFreeSculptGL is a browser-based 3D sculpting application well suited for intermediate users. The application does allow you to export in *.stl format, an interesting feature for anyone who has their own 3D printer.
ZBrushPixologic Inc. Professional$795ZBrush is a digital sculpting tool that combines 3D/2.5D modeling, texturing and painting. It uses a proprietary "pixol" technology which stores lighting, color, material, and depth information for all objects on the screen.
3DRacers3DRacers Ltd.Beginner Free3DRacers is a 3D printed indoor racing game, based on Arduino. Use the browser-based editor to configure your car and have the finished design emailed to you, all in .stl format. 3D print the car parts, assemble the model and go racing!
Cookie CasterDreamforge Inc.Beginner FreeCookieCaster lets you design, share and create custom cookie cutters. If you have your own 3D printer, you can download the 3D model of your design for for printing at home. If you don't own a printer you can have your design printed via the 3D printing service, Shapeways.
Candle CasterKurt & Manuel MeisterBeginner FreeCandle Caster is a super easy to use tool that lets you create molds to cast your own candles. Extrude your favorite shape, adjust the height and width then set the wick diameter. Once done, your design can be exported in .stl format, then 3D printed.
CharmrAutodesk Inc.Beginner FreeAutodesk Charmr is a customizer that lets you turn a photo into a one-of-a-kind customized, 3D-printable piece of jewelry. The finished design can be 3D printed either via a 3D printing service or downloaded as .stl for home 3D printing.
Lithophane GeneratorMark DurbinBeginner FreeThe Lithophane Generator allows you to create a 3D printable lithophane in a just a few seconds. Simply upload photo of your choice - anything you want whether it be a wedding photo or a photo of your favorite scenery - into the browser window, modify the settings and generate an STL file for 3D printing.


Slicers & 3D Printer Hosts

This section lists all software required to prepare and execute a 3D print. The Print Preparation column indicates whether the software allows you to prepare your 3D model for printing by such actions as scaling, rotating and placing the model on the print bed. Slicing generates the G-code necessary to feed into your 3D printer.
Note: the Cross Platform Tools work with all 3D printer brands making them ideal if you own a 3D printer without any native software. All the programs listed here require you to install a piece of software on your computer. The Cloud Based Solutions are browser based, they all require an internet connection such that the slicing, mesh repair and print queue management can be executed in the cloud.

SoftwareDeveloperPrint PreparationSlicingComment
Cross Platform Tools
Ultimaker CuraUltimakerYesYesCura is a free slicer and host software developed by Ultimaker. As Cura is open-source, its use is not limited to Ultimaker 3D printers. Intuitive, fast and easy to use, Cura is our pick for 3D printing beginners looking for a robust yet simple to use 3D printer front end.
CraftWareCraftWareYesYesCraftWare is a free, fast, and easy-to-use slicer software that can also prepare and manage your prints. CraftWare's impressive gcode visualizer and manual support setting mode make it an excellent alternative to many of the more established 3D printer host softwares.
KISSlicerKISSlicerLimitedYesKISSlicer is a cross-platform G-code generator for 3D printers. Generates excellent slicing results albeit a somewhat dated user interface. Exists both in free and premium versions.
Repetier HostHot-World GmbH & Co. KGYesYesRepetier Host is an open-source 3D printer front-end. It uses Slic3r as default slicing engine but Skeinforge is also available.
ReplicatorGReplicatorGYesYesReplicatorG is an open-source 3D printer front-end using Skeinforge as slicer. The software will drive MakerBot, Thing-O-Matic, CupCake CNC, RepRap printers or generic CNC machines.
Simplify3DSimplify3D YesYesSimplify3D is a widely used premium slicer and 3D printer host. The software combines several powerful features allowing you to repair, prepare, preview and slice your 3D models. Its lightning fast slicer combined with advanced support generation and a feature rich preview mode make this software a very interesting option for slightly more advanced users.
Slic3rSlic3rYesYesSlic3r is a popular cross-platform slicer. This open source slicer is fast, generates good results but its settings needs some tweaking initially.
OctoPrintGina HäußgeYesYesOctoPrint is an open-source web interface for your 3D printer. It allows you to control and monitor every aspect of your 3D printer and your printing jobs right from within your browser: follow your print via the webcam feed, get constant feedback on the progress of your print, monitor and adjust temperatures and start, stop or pause your print job. Powerful plug-ins even allow Ocotprint to send you push notifications, integrate Octoprint messages into your messaging tool of choice or gather advanced print statistics.
Cloud Based Solutions
3DPrinterOS3D Control Systems Ltd. YesYes3DPrinterOS is a platform that gives users the ability to search or upload 3d printable content, quickly and easily repair designs, customize settings, slice in the cloud and send files for printing anywhere in the world. 3D Printer owners and new users alike can share CAD files and multiple 3D printers all from a single cloud interface.
FormidePrintr BV.YesYesFormide is an online platform that enables you to control 3D printers and manage projects. It allows you to organize different printers, files, materials and slice profiles via its built-in cloud-slicer Katana. Through the power of the cloud, Formide enables you to queue print jobs, remote monitor your prints and receive instant feedback – wirelessly and effortlessly. Note that you need 'The Element', a piece of hardware to enable Formide's capabilities.
AstroPrint3DaGoGo, Inc.YesYesAstroPrint is a browser-based software application that lets you slice, store and print your 3D files from any web enabled device. In addition, you can monitor your 3D printer and organize designs in the cloud. With AstroPrint you can manage from your printer from any web enabled device, the responsive UI makes it simple to 3D print from your phone, tablet, or computer.
MatterControlMatterHackers, Inc.YesYesMatterControl is a free, open-source 3D printer front-end that lets you organize and manage your 3D prints. MatterControl features an intuitive approach to 3D printing, allowing users to queue multiple parts for printing without pre-slicing, preview and manipulate designs, as well as integrating a library that enables users to organize and search their design files. You can connect your 3D printer to the cloud via MatterControl Touch, a touchscreen tablet that acts as a dedicated 3D printer control console.


Other Handy Tools

Below are a few more tools that can come in very handy, be it for fixing 3D models or preparing them for printing.

MakePrintableMixed Dimensions Inc.Free - $25/monthMakePrintable is a web service where you can upload your 3D model before printing. The software will then analyse the design and give you statistics on its printability. You then configure the output characteristics and the algorithm will re-mesh your model for 3D printing removing all problems, providing you with a model ready for 3D printing.
MeshFixMarco Attene FreeMeshFix is an open-source 3D model repair tool that fixes various defects in meshes, such as holes, non-manifold elements and self-intersections. The output is a water-tight triangle mesh, ready for 3D printing. Only available for Windows.
MeshmixerAutodesk Inc.FreeDescribed as “Swiss Army Knife” for 3D meshes, Meshmixer is a state-of-the-art software for editing triangle meshes. The software has mesh repair capabilities but also functions like scultping, hollowing, scaling, mirroring, cutting and building support structures making it invaluable for 3D printing. Best of all, Meshmixer is free and available for Windows, OS X, and Linux.
NetFabbAutodesk Inc.30 day free trial - $150/monthNetfabb is 3D print preparation tool that offers a wide range of pre-print features such as repairing meshes, adjusting wall thickness, reducing file size, merging or subtracting parts. The software also has a powerful function to create, analyse and adjust supports for 3D prints.