Slicers and user interfaces for 3D printers

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Draft

1 Introduction

A so-called slicer takes a3D drawing (most often in .STL format) and translates this model into individual layers. It then generates the machine code that the printer will use for printing.

3D printers can be either controlled through a small on-board control screen or through a (USB) interface with a computer or through both. User interface/control software allows a user to send a machine code file from the computer to the 3D printer, change some parameters on run time (e.g. speed, flow and temperature), and move the print head manually around the x/y/z axis

Some programs, like the Netfabb engine, combine the functionality of a slicer and a user interface/control software. In addition programs like Netfabb, can add STL repair, STL merge and some simple 3D modeling.

See also:

2 Slicer software

Current low-end 3D printers extrude plastic like ABS or PLA from filament. The filament is pulled into the extruder and heated in its nozzle (hot end) and finally deposited. The extruder (also called print-head) will move while extruding, or move (or jump) without extruding.

A slicer program allows to calibrate printer settings for various types of "areas to print", like:

  • extrusion speed (rotations / minute)
  • head speed
  • temperature
  • Fan on/off

Furthermore, the program allows to define:

  • wall thickness
  • fill patterns
  • extrusion speed, head speed and temperature per type of area
  • Etc.

Deposited filament for a layer or a section of a layer depends on extrusion speed, head movement speed, and temperature. In addition, factors like movement patterns, plastic brand, fan on/off etc. also have an influence on the design.

3 List of slicer and control software

3.1 Pure slicers

(not complete !)

  • Skeinforge
    • Supports various machines, e.g. RepRap machines, RapMan, Ultimaker, etc.
    • Difficult to learn since you must parametrize a lot of parameters and figure out how they interact. But once you master it, it's a very flexible and powerful tool
  • SFACT slicer
    • A fork of Skeinforge that attempts to work with less parameters and "scalers".
  • Cura
    • Cura (github)
    • New kids on the block
    • While it is developed to be used with the Ultimaker 3D printer, it can be used with other RepRap based designs.
  • BFB Axon
    • Frontend for skeinforge, calibrated for BFB machines
  • Kisslicer
    • Quote: is a fast, easy-to-use, cross-platform program that takes 3D files (STL) and generates path information (G-code) for a 3D Printer. The FREE version has all the features needed for the hobbyist who uses a single-head machine. The PRO version essentially adds multi-head and multi-model printing.
    • For RepRap printers
  • Repsnapper ?

3.2 Pure control software

  • Repetier-Host
    • “Simple to use host software, which is be compatible with most firmwares around. You can add and position your STL files on the simulated printbed and slice them all together. For slicing you can use the built-in Slic3r slicer or use the well-known Skeinforge.” (at Reprap Wiki, retrieved July 2012).
  • ReplicatorG is the software that will drive your CupCake CNC, RepRap machine, or generic CNC machine. You feed it GCode, it parses the GCode, and then controls your machine via a driver. Its cross platform, easily installed, and is based on the familiar Arduino / Processing environments.

3.3 combined slicer and control/user interface software

3.4 CAD programs with integrated slicers

  • IceSL. Described as a combination of OpenScad (scripting is done with Lua) and skeinforge. As of oct. 2013 still under development, not yet tested.

3.5 Other

4 Links

Machine specific machine code