NOTE: This is a review of Simplify3D, the program I use for 3D printing slicing.
By Spencer Haggard
If you are involved in the 3D printing world, it’s likely you’ve heard of Simplify3D. If you have no personal experience with the program, it can be hard to know what it is and what makes it different from other slicing programs, or even what a slicing program is if you are new to the printing world.
A slicing program reads 3D model files and prepares them for 3D printing. It does this by “slicing” the 3D models into thin layers much like an MRI machine does in medicine.
There are many slicers on the market, and some of the most popular ones such as Cura and Slic3r are free. Simplify3D breaks this mold as a paid program. At $149, it isn’t out of range of most consumers, but it isn’t cheap either. Many makers and engineers swear by it, and it has earned quite a name for itself in the 3D printing world. So what makes Simplify3D so different? …
Simplify 3D does certain things far better than other slicing programs. It is known for giving the user a high amount of control over the slicing process, which in turn gives you more control over the end quality of the print. There are a lot of variables in a 3D print, and even relatively small changes to the settings can make big changes in print quality.
The most exciting part about Simplify3D to many people is its unique support system, which is much more detailed and customizable than other slicers.
In Cura, there are only a few different types of support structures, and the computer places them for you, there is no way to place support structures manually. This can sometimes cause a problem when the computer puts supports in places that are delicate or hard to reach. This makes it hard to create a clean 3D print, and can also cause print failures in some cases. The computer generally does a good job, but with complicated models manual support placement can often result in much better prints.
Simplify3D simply has the best support system of any slicer on the market right now. It is easy to add manual supports, and there are many types of support structures, including experimental settings like support trees. There is also a more intuitive control over the support process than Cura, Slic3r or any of the other common programs.
Simplify3D has great layer by layer settings, meaning you can change the infill, speed, and temperature settings at each layer. While some other slicers can do this as well, Simplify3D has a cleaner and easier-to-use interface and more custom options. This can be used by engineers and serious hobbyists to print faster and higher quality prints. By varying infill at large layers you can cut hours off your print time. It can also help with better bed and layer adhesion, and cleaner top and bottom layers on your object. This is an extremely useful feature that is either hard to use or completely absent in other slicing programs.
Simplify3D also offers faster processing times, and a useful profile system that makes it easy to switch between printers and materials without having to reset all your settings. Large, complicated 3D models can take several minutes to slice in Cura and Slic3r, but the same model will take only a fraction of the time in Simplify3D. The program’s profile system also makes it a convenient program for users who use many different printers and materials. You can share these settings profiles with other users, making sharing the best settings for certain printers and materials quick and easy. These two features save a lot of time and frustration for users who have many printers or print on a daily basis.
In a similar vein, Simplify3D offers one of the best toolsets for dual extrusion of any of the slicers. No other slicer supports dual extrusion with as few bugs and hiccups as Simplify3D does. Dual extrusion means printing 2 colors of plastic or 2 different types of plastic into the same object. This can be quite challenging and frequently results in a gloppy mess. Simplify3D streamlines the process and makes it easier for those experimenting with dual extrusion to get clean, consistent results.
Simplify3D does have some downsides, however, and this article wouldn’t be complete without mentioning them. The first and most obvious is that it is a bit pricey. For people who are just getting their feet wet in the 3D printing world, starting with a free software to learn the basics is probably the best option.
Due to the sheer number and variety of custom options, Simplify3D can also have a higher learning curve than slicers like Cura, which are quite simple and intuitive to learn. Simply3D’s basic settings are easy to use, but you can quickly get lost in the custom settings. A simpler slicer may help you learn which settings you do and don’t need to tamper with.
Lastly, Simplify3D is rarely updated and it can take a very long time for new features to be introduced. Due to the quantity of features already offered, however, this problem is pretty minimal.
All in all, I believe Simplify3D is a wonderful program, though it may not be for everyone. If you are just getting your feet wet in 3D printing, are teaching kids, or are just a casual hobbyist, then a free slicer may suit your needs better. While they don’t offer the same customization, both Cura and Slic3r are high quality programs that make 3D printing accessible and easy to learn, and there is definitely a place for that.
If you are a serious hobbyist, an engineer, or someone who wants to experiment with cutting edge 3D printing technology, though, then Simplify3D is the program for you. It is more than worth the money for the control and precision it offers. Hopefully this article will help you decide whether or not it is the right slicer for you.
Spencer Haggard of https://www.fusion3design.com/ is an industrial designer and writer with over 6 years of experience. Since quitting his job as a mailman in Truckee, California, Spencer has started his own design business with clients as diverse as Caesar’s Palace Las Vegas, the National Parks Service, and numerous other firms and startups. Specializing in 3D printing and product design, Spencer has an in-depth knowledge of the 3D printing industry and a passion for new and creative projects. In his off time he enjoys building musical instruments and going on hikes with his dog, Chewey.
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Bricknell, James. (2018, September 24) Ultimaker Cura vs. Simplify 3D: Which slicer should you use for 3D printing? Retrieved from https://www.windowscentral.com/ultimaker-cura-vs-simplify-3d-which-slicer-should-you-use-3d-printing