So you’ve got a 3D printer — great, right? You plug it in (or put it together if you’ve got a DIY 3D printer kit) and it’s ready to go, filament loaded. But wait, how do I send the model I have to the printer, and make sure it’s set up so it comes out looking perfect? That’s where a 3D slicer comes in.
A 3D slicer is a 3D printer software program that you can import models into — for example in .STL, .GCODE or .OBJ file format. These 3D printer models form the basis of your print; they contain the edges, heights and basically every dimension of your print.
- For all software for 3D printers, beyond just 3D slicers, check out our ranking of the best 3D printing software.
Note: this article focuses on 3D slicers for FDM printing. For resin 3D printing, check out our guide to the best resin 3D slicers
Best 3D printer slicers for effective 3D printing
|Name||Free or Paid||Open source?|
|KISSlicer||Paid with free option||No|
|SelfCAD||Paid with free option||No|
What should I look for in a good 3D slicer?
That’s what this guide will help you find out — we haven’t just listed a group of 3D printer slicers we thought were good, but created a list of slicers which are the best in each area, for example the best free 3D slicer, or best 3D slicer for education in schools. We hope this provides all the info anyone will need to find the best 3D slicer for their needs.
To be considered one of the best 3D slicers, a slicer should offer:
- Speed: Any great 3D slicer should save you time by importing STL files (or any other 3D printer file) in record time, no matter how large or complex the model is.
- Repairing and warning features: An advanced 3D printer slicer will alert you if your file there are glaring errors in your file that could cause errors in your print, and fix them for you if necessary. This saves you time in preventing wasteful failed prints, and money in wasted 3D printer filament.
- Easy to use: There is no point having infinitely advanced slicing tools (or any other great features) if nobody can find them, or work out how to use them. The interface should be simple and easy to learn, with appropriate guides for professional 3D slicing tools.
- 3D printing data: Most good slicers now, during printing, inform you of the expected remaining time, and how much required filament remains (so you can estimate if you have enough left).
- 3D slicer price: many tools are free, and even open source, so if a program if paid, it needs to offer notable advantages of its free slicer peers.
1 — Cura Slicer — Best Free 3D Slicer Software
- 3D printer software price: Free!
Ultimaker Cura, the 3D printer software developed by the Dutch 3D printer manufacturer, is the most popular 3D printing software out there. It’s free and open source, and is designed to be able to integrate with 3D CAD software tools like SolidWorks and Autodesk Inventor for an easier workflow.
Since it’s made by Ultimaker, Cura is the perfect 3D slicer for those who have an Ultimaker printer, though it features settings for many other printers too. It also has a set of recommended settings for beginners, so those without much experience will still find it usable. Beyond this, a number of advanced settings for supports and infills make Cura a viable 3D printer slicer for advanced users, too.
- We also have a guide to the best open source 3D printers.
Most impressive however is it’s simple yet effective three stages of printing. The first stage, Prepare, allows you to choose your printing parameters and slice the 3D printer model; then the Preview stage lets you simulate the print to identify any areas which may fail. This is amazing as you can identify faults without having to waste time, materials and energy making those mistakes in real life. Lastly is the Monitor stage, where you can monitor print progress — including remotely.
Massive quality of life improving features in Cura include the estimated time of print and estimated amount of filament required for a certain print. This is incredibly useful, for example if you are running short of filament and want to make sure you’ll be able to finish that 3D printed miniature, rather than running out of filament while your model is headless, or if you’re in a rush and need to finish printing before a certain time.
For those new to 3D printing, this handy tutorial covers the basics of printing parameters and more:
Reliable lower cost printer options:
|Name||Build Volume (mm)||Price||Best price available at:||Alternative purchase option|
|Anet A8||220 x 220 x 240||$180-220||Gearbest here||Amazon here|
|Monoprice Select Mini V2||120 x 120 x 120||$220||Amazon here|
|Creality Ender 5 Pro||220 x 220 x 300||$379-$429||Gearbest here||Amazon here|
|Creality CR-10 V2||300 x 300 x 400||$499||Amazon here||3DJake UK & Europe here|
|Qidi Tech X-Pro||230 x 150 x 150||$639||Gearbest here||Amazon here|
2 — Simplify3D — Best 3D Slicer For Experienced Makers
- 3D printer software price: $149
Undoubtedly up there for most expansive and technical 3D slicer tool, Simplify3D is said to be compatible with more 3D printers than any other 3D printer software. The slicing tool is used in education, as well as by both novice and experienced makers and in businesses for rapid prototyping and iterating.
The caveat is the price — $150 for use on two computers. The price tag comes with a number of key benefits however. For example, Simplify3D excels in an area where most 3D slicers struggle — in supports. You can effectively customize your support thickness, material, and builds them so they can be removed extremely easily. This saves time, and leads to parts with better surface finish as they’re less likely to be scarred during post processing.
Simplify3D features very precise and advanced settings for extruders, infill 3D printing settings, extruder temperatures, cooling and fans, rafts and brims, retraction, and especially supports. If you have already spent several hundred dollars on a 3D printer, it may be worth considering a paid 3D slicer as an investment in fulfilling your 3D printing potential with the most advanced 3D printer slicer on the market.
It also excels in pre-print simulations so show potential weak points that could cause the print to fail, which is said to be more advanced than Cura’s. This feature can potential save hundreds of dollars in wasted filament from failed prints, using Simplify3D’s advanced tools to pinpoint and fix errors.
3 — Slic3r — Best Open Source 3D Slicer
- 3D printer software price: Free!
Slic3r is a 3D slicer first started back in 2011 by Alessandro Ranellucci and champions the open source philosophy alongside RepRap 3D printers. It’s a completely nonprofit project, which is very commendable considering it is definitely one of the best 3D printer slicer options out there.
With a wide variety of features that advanced users will enjoy, including effective, strong infills and many different preview views for ensuring you’re happy with your model before you press print, Slic3r is versatile enough to handle almost anything you throw at it.
Slic3r can handle printing on multi extruder 3D printers with different support materials, and can even print on multiple 3D printers simultaneously. It can import STL, AMF and OBJ files, and exports GCODE files for 3D printing. What’s more, Slic3r integrates seamlessly with OctoPrint, a 3D printer host program for remote 3D printing and monitoring.
Some more premium printing options:
|Name||Build Volume (mm)||Price||Best price available at:||Alternative purchase option:|
|Flashforge Creator Pro||227 x 148 x 150||$699||3DPrintersOnlineStore here||Amazon here|
|Dremel Digilab 3D45||254 x 154 x 170||$1,899||Dynamism Store here||Amazon here|
|Raise3D Pro2||305 x 305 x 605||$3,999||Dynamism Store here||Amazon here|
|Ultimaker S5||330 x 240 x 300||$5,995||Dynamism Store here|
4 — KISSlicer — Great 3D Slicer For Experts
- 3D printer software price: Free version, with $42 PRO version and $82 Premium version
KISSlicer — or Keep It Simple Slicer — is a 3D printer software tool that is definitely for more technically adept makers. The software is very detail oriented, and focuses on technical aspects of 3D printing that experienced makers will be more drawn to.
The free version of KISSlicer is limited to single extruder 3D printing, and to unlock dual extruder 3D printer options it’ll cost you $42. There’s also a Premium $82 option with more advanced tools, such as the ability to combine multiple STL files into one print. Even if you only have the free version you still have access to all the content and updates, with new types of 3D printer, print styles, mesh topologies and 3D printer filaments being added all the time.
Some will not enjoy the less beginner-friendly interface however.
5 — Tinkerine Suite — Best 3D Slicer For Education / Schools / Beginners
- 3D printer software cost: Free!
Tinkerine is a Canadian 3D printer manufacturer that specialize in 3D printers for education, and their Tinkerine Suite 3D slicer is built for education too.
That means Tinkerine Suite is super easy to understand and use, even if you’re not good with computers or haven’t done much 3D printing before. This makes it perfect for uses in classrooms where younger children may not have much experience with technology, with the simple UX making learning Tinkerine Suite a breeze.
Moreover, alongside the printing parameters there are tips that explain what changing each setting will do to the print. This helps students to learn as they tinker with their models. Tinkerine Suite also features accurate estimates of how long a print will take, which is very useful when factoring in lesson plans of a certain length. Overall, it’s the perfect 3D slicer for education.
6 — Prusa Slicer — Best 3D Printer Software For Prusa Printer Owners
- 3D printer software price: Free!
Anyone who has ever owned a DIY 3D printer kit will know just how good Prusa 3D printers are, and having forked Slic3r’s open source 3D printer software, Prusa Slicer is specially designed for Prusa printers. So for those who either bought or built their own Prusa printer, the Prusa Slicer is optimized for you.
Despite being aimed towards Prusa users, it’s a versatile 3D slicer which can handle many different printers and over 60 different 3D printer filaments and resins. It’s also updated to include SLA/DLP/LCD printing, so if you’ve bought the new Prusa SL1 resin 3D printer, it works with that too.
It’s also open source, so anyone with the skills and the time to develop new tools and features can improve PrusaSlicer for the whole community. The time estimates are known for their accuracy, especially on Prusa printers, and any Prusa 3D printer owner will tell you it’s a great 3D printer slicer.
7 — Repetier-Host — Great 3D Slicer For Remote 3D Printing
- 3D printer software price: Free!
Repetier is a free 3D slicer which allows you to easily import your 3D models and then rotate, scale or move them however you need to before 3D printing them.
Repetier don’t just make a 3D slicer, but have a suite of tools that complement the slicer, such as Repetier-Server which helps with remote 3D printing and monitoring prints. It works like OctoPrint, installed on a Rasbperry Pi so you can remotely access your prints via a laptop or smartphone. If you just want to use Repetier as a 3D slicer, you can still easily print via USB or SD card, or directly to your 3D printer. It’s not used as commonly as some 3D slicers, but it’s still a good free 3D printer software option.
If you’re a manufacturer and looking for a good 3D slicer to use for your 3D printers, Repetier also offer a branded option to have your own custom version. You get your own branding and digital signature, as well as all Repetier’s custom print settings and filament settings to reduce time spent answering your customers’ questions.
8 — OctoPrint — 3D printer host for remote printing & also a 3D printer slicer
- Price: Free!
Although not a specialized 3D slicer, OctoPrint does feature a slicing tool for slicing STL files in addition to its incredible main features. OctoPrint allows for simple and effective remote monitoring of in-progress printing, so you could be in a different city and seamlessly check on how your 3D print is going.
You can monitor your print’s progress, temperature, estimated remaining time, and install a webcam to get video footage of the print to check if any errors have occurred. And if they have, you can remotely pause or stop the print to save on wasted filament!
9 — SelfCAD
- Price: $14.99/month but with big discounts if used in education, and with a free version
SelfCAD combines artistic, technical and 3D printing features under one 3D modeling software tool, and while being easy to navigate is designed for all levels of skill — from beginner to professional. A standout feature is that it’s completely cloud-based; there are no downloads and you need just an internet connection to connect and edit your STL files.
Obviously, this also means you won’t be able to access your models if your internet goes down, or if you’re on the move to a place with no internet. But in 2020 this is becoming a rarity.
It’s easy to adjust print quality, infill, supports and materials for your preferred print settings. SelfCAD also has presets for most FDM 3D printers, so unless you’ve got a very obscure machine they should have you covered.