3D printers (people) have a bad habit of wasting their print improvement effort on the shiny and new instead of the useful.
I get it, I do. 3D printers (machines) are cool, and it’s fun to make them look cool. A big part of the fun is customizing and talking shop about mods. We spend days designing and printing “upgrades” whose only real utility is matching color schemes or, at best, hiding the sound activated LED lighting.
Yes, it’s cool that 3D printers (machines) can print their own parts—they’re like living, growing organisms—but some folks are obsessed with this, taking it to the extreme in the name of independence and/or frugality. Others take the opposite approach, throwing money at fancy nozzles, touch panels, or home/office additions with the idea that this is the path to consistent quality.
Have you thought though, that perhaps the best way to up your print game isn’t by modifying your hardware at all, but by better understanding the software that controls it?
3D Printing Slicer Software (The Race Car Driver)
Slicer software. What is it anyway? The cutting edge algorithm behind automated, perfectly paper-thin deli meats? The artificial intelligence used in amoral cyborg ninjas? Maybe. But the slicer software I am referring to is the kind that translates 3D models to a language understood by FDM printers (machines). Slicer software is what converts the faceted solid model (STL) into layers and into G-code for printing on your FDM printer.
The 3D printer (machine) is a beautiful, wonderful and yet also totally dumb machine. It does what it’s told. If instructed, (or sometimes for no apparent reason), it will go to a fixed point in space and endlessly ooze out a mountain of useless, curly waste. The 3D printer (machine) is also like a race car, a finely tuned machine. The Slicer is like the race car driver, deftly controlling the machine. No winning team focuses on just one and not the other. You’re welcome for that perfect analogy.
Can My Benchy Get a Slicer?
Currently, there is a glut of slicer programs available. We have (to name a few): 3DPrinterOS, Astroprint, CraftWare, Cura, IceSL, ideaMaker, KISSlicer, MakerBot Print, MatterControl, Netfabb, OctoPrint, Repetier, SelfCAD, Slic3r, SliceCrafter, Tinkerine and Z-Suite *deep breath*. A rising tide raises all Benchies, as the saying (I just created) goes.
But with all the options, where do you start? If you’re new, start with the most basic and integrated slicer option. This is probably the slicer recommend by the printer manufacturer and is, in some cases, made by the same manufacturer. For discerning SolidSmack readers, you’ll want the maximum feature set for ultimate control and leverage of your printer’s (person and machine) capabilities.
One slicer consistently comes out ahead on features and print quality. So, I went deep to peel back the functionality, layer by layer, of…
The UI/UX and features of slicing software is as varied as the amount of slicer software available. I’ll take a quick look at the features that set Simplify3D apart, but also at what makes it an exceptional experience for the 3D printer (person). Let’s start, where you start.
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