Top 10 Free 3D Printing Software For Beginners and Experts

Free 3D Printing Software

Every human is born with a creative mind. One of the most modern ways to transform our imagination into reality is 3D printing.

We can easily materialize our vision into a tangible figure using this technology. Even though it has emerged as a strong backbone for many businesses, you can get started with it for free!

How, you ask?

Just rely on a free software based on 3D printing technologies to help you begin your journey! Here we discuss ten of the free 3D printing software systems available in the market now.

3D Printing Free Software List in 2020

1. Ultimaker Cura

Ultimaker-Cura

A. What Is It?

Ultimaker Cura is one of the most widely used 3D printing softwares in the world. It currently has over a million users around the planet and comes in 15 languages to serve its global customer base. Every week, this software is used to print about 1.4 million 3D objects.

B. History

The open-source slicer software named Cura was developed by David Braam, the talented software engineer at Ultimaker. Although it was initially released with the open-source general public license, now it operates under the LGPLv3 license to allow more third-party integrations.

C. How Does It Work?

Cura works with the popular operating systems of Windows, Linux and macOS. It slices the original 3D model file given by the user into many layers. This sliced version is called g-code which the 3D printer can understand easily. It is compatible with file formats like STL, OBJ, XMF, X3D, JPG, PNG, GIF and BMP.

2. TinkerCAD

TinkerCAD

A. What Is It?

Tinkercad is an application that enables the newbies of 3D printing to explore various features and functionalities of this process. Targeting amateurs and young users including children, Tinkercad has proved itself to be a capable and responsible platform for inspiring the next generation of 3D printing enthusiasts.

B. History

It was launched in 2011 as an online program to run on web browsers. A visionary engineer named Kal Backman and his partner Mikko Monen founded the titular company to make 3D modeling easy for everyone. Within a year of its launch, Tinkercad helped users to publish more than 100,000 3D designs!

C. How Does It Work?

The main attraction of Tinkercad is that it doesn’t require the user to have any prior experience in 3D printing. It is an application that you can use online through the web browsers which have WebGL. All you have to do is place materials, adjust its shape and combine several finished shapes to create a new model.

3. SketchUp

SketchUp

A. What Is It?

This is an online program that enables you to create 3D models for many purposes including architecture, interior design, engineering, video editing and of course, 3D printing.  Along with its free version for personal use, you can also use it for commercial or educational uses too if necessary.

B. History

SketchUp is one of the oldest 3D modeling programs to exist online. It was launched way back in 2000. In its long run surpassing two decades, it has changed ownership three times between @Last Software, Google and Trimble Inc. Joe Esch and Brad Schell developed this software in 1999 for their startup.

C. How Does It Work?

The free version of SketchUp is a web-based application which means you can only access it online. This is not a standalone software system that you can download on your particular device. You can draw the 3D models here, save them locally or export them as STL files.

4. Slic3r

Slic3r

A. What Is It?

As you can guess from the name, Slic3r is a free software dedicated to slice up the 3D CAD files and convert them into G-code. Along with being free of cost, it is also an open-source software which means you can check out their repository on GitHub and make some contributions of your own like its thousand forks.

B. History

The project of Slice3r was undertaken by RepRap in 2011. Being a community of 3D printer enthusiasts themselves, their main goal was to inspire the amateurs by removing the burden of restricted budgets. The main developer among them was Alessandro Ranellucci.

C. How Does It Work?

Slice3r’s main job is to translate the 3D model file into G-code which your 3D printer can understand. Additionally, this software also offers useful and authentic functionalities like micro-layering, variable layer heights, command line slicing, AMF support, sequential printing, distinct extrusion widths and honeycomb fill.

5. OpenSCAD

OpenSCAD

A. What Is It?

You can use this free software to build solid 3D model designs. However, it has limited modifications pertaining to basic geometric shapes. That is because this software aims at helping the individuals involved in automotive businesses. The solid shapes help by simplifying the designs for mechanical parts.

B. History

It has been a decade of OpenSCAD being in the industry. Clifford Wolf and Marius Kintel developed this piece of software. They used several programming languages like C++, Qt, OpenGL and CGAL to code it. Now OpenSCAD comes in seven languages including French, Russian, Spanish and German for its global user-base.

C. How Does It Work?

The software relies on constructive solid geometry principles to create each solid 3D model. Primitive geometric shapes like boxes, spheres and cylinders help you to make many combinations for the required part. It is compatible with multiple operating systems like Windows, OS X, Linux, FreeBSD, OpenBSD and NetBSD.

6. Sculptris

Sculptris

A. What Is It?

Sculptris boasts to be the perfect place for budding artists. Staying true to its name, this software can help you to sharpen your digital sculpting skills. So if you have been looking for a 3D printing software that has an artistic spirit like yours, your search may end here!

B. History

This software was first released in late 2009. Since then, it has gone through many iterations and currently offers a stable edition named Alpha 6. Its original developer Tomas Pettersson supervised its features and functionalities under the ownership of Pixologic until 2014.

C. How Does It Work?

Instead of the other 3D modeling softwares, Sculptris functions like a virtual platform for sculpting. By being its user, you can manipulate the structure in any way you want, just like a real ball of clay! Such manipulations include pulling, twisting and similar movements you usually observe in sculpting.

7. Blender

Blender

A. What Is It?

The open-source software toolset Blender comes with an impressive range of features and functions catering to various industries. It simultaneously satisfies the needs of 3D printing, animations, motion graphics, visual effects, interactive applications and similar projects.

B. History

Blender began its journey over two decades ago in January 1994. It was originally developed by Ton Roosendaal and is currently operating under the supervision of the Blender Foundation. The main programming languages used to build it include C, C++ and Python.

C. How Does It Work?

You can rely on this software to meet most of your 3D printing requirements. It is equipped with a comprehensive array of tools that will help you to build and modify the model. Its sculpting section offers you a dynamic topology, 20 different brush types for different textures and similar exciting features.

8. 3D Slash

3D Slash

A. What Is It?

This software is dedicated to modeling unique and artistic 3D structures. Its compatibility is not limited to the mainstream operating systems like Windows, macOS and Linux. You can also use it with Raspberry Pi or access it from a modern web browser enabled with Web GL.

B. History

3D Slash was created by Sylvian Huet – French engineer, entrepreneur and one of the pioneers of 90s virtual technology. Their 3D modeling software was launched in 2014 with a mission to make this technology easily accessible to the public. Now it is being used by individuals and professionals alike for various projects.

C. How Does It Work?

The highlight of using 3D Slash over most other 3D modeling softwares is its refreshing intuitive interface inspired by the Minecraft game. So whatever you do here, it will feel like playing a similar game of building 3D structures! Its free version allows creating models with eight standard colors and storing them online.

9. MatterControl 2.0

MatterControl 2.0

A. What Is It?

The original software of MatterControl was aimed at making it easier for small business owners and individuals to manage their 3D printing jobs. However, its latest stable release of 2.0 brings in the advantage of designing models for 3D printing as well.

B. History

MatterControl is a property of the company named MatterHackers whose founders Kevin Pope, Michael Hulse and Lars Brubaker are all equally passionate about technological advancements. They released its original version in 2013 and then upgraded it to meet the popular demands of 3D printing capabilities.

C. How Does It Work?

This is basically an open-source software package that builds, modifies and slices the 3D models. Its advanced features include software bed leveling, customized support generation and dual extrusion with integrated controls. Additionally, you can organize and manage the 3D printing tasks of existing projects with it.

10. FreeCAD

FreeCAD

A. What Is It?

FreeCAD can be a great software for beginners who are not accustomed to the 3D printing world. It is an open-source parametric 3D modeler relying on geometric shapes as the base. You can both import and export a wide variety of 3D files here including STL, SVG, DXF, OBJ, DAE, IFC, VRML, STEP etc.

B. History

This software was launched about 20 years ago in late 2002. Three talented programmers named Jurgen Riegel, Yorik Van Havre and Werner Mayer developed it. They used two popular coding languages C++ and Python to write the code. FreeCAD now holds an LGPLv2+ license to allow integrations.

C. How Does It Work?

Since it is a parametric 3D modeler, you can modify any design here by accessing its history and adjusting the required parameters. FreeCAD provides a 2D shape based on geometric constraints and uses it as the foundation for designing the rest of your 3D model.

Free 3D Printing Software At A Glance

Still wondering which of them will be the most suitable one for your projects? Here is a summary of all the software for 3D works we discussed above. Take a look to see how they fare against each other and end up being the best choice for you!

SoftwareCompatible FilesRunning SystemWebsiteBest Used For
1Ultimaker CuraSTL, OBJ, XMF, X3D, JPG, PNG, GIF, BMPWindows, macOS, Linuxultimaker.comSlicing
2TinkerCADSTL, OBJWebGL enabled browserswww.tinkercad.comModeling for beginners
3SketchUpSKP, STLOnline programwww.sketchup.comModeling
4Slice3rSTL, OBJWindows, macOS, Linuxslic3r.orgSlicing
5OpenSCADSTL, PNG, AMF, OFFWindows, OS X, Linux, FreeBSD, OpenBSD,NetBSDwww.openscad.orgSolid models for mechanical parts
6SculptrisOBJ, STLWindows, Mac OS Xpixologic.com/sculptrisVirtual sculpting, artistic projects
7BlenderSTL, SVG, X3D, DXF, FBX, 3DS, VRMLWindows, macOS, Linux, Steamwww.blender.orgModeling, Sculpting
83D SlashSTL, OBJWindows, macOS, Linux, WebGL enabled browsers, Raspberry piwww.3dslash.netModeling
9MatterControl 2.0STL, AMF, X3GWindows, macOS, Linuxwww.matterhackers.com/topic/mattercontrolDesign, Slice, Organize
10FreeCADSTL, SVG, DXF, OBJ, DAE, IFC, VRML, STEPWindows, macOS, Linuxwww.freecadweb.orgModeling for beginners

Conclusion

These ten softwares must have given you loads of ideas to put your imaginative mind to good use!

Each of these programs targets a particular industry or user group. It can be a basic 3D printing free software for beginners or a polished one targeting professional users. Either way, you can find one suitable for your individual needs.

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