Printing & 3D Slicer Software
Printing Your 3D Items
Once you have a 3D model file (.stl or .3mf) of the item to be printed, you're ready to print it. If you don't have a model file, learn how to create or download one on our Model Sources & Modeling Software page.
What you do next depends on your 3D printer and the software that comes with it. The main steps are:
. Turn the 3D model into a set of simple step-by-step "g-code" commands that your printer can understand.
Your 3D masterpiece is "sliced" into tens or hundreds of thin layers. For each layer, a slicer program generates 100's of "g-code" commands telling the 3D printer exactly what to do (move here, draw a line of plastic, move, draw another line, move up a little and do the next layer).
. Get the g-code file to the printer and have it print the item.
Some printers connect directly to the computer. Once the g-code file is created, it's sent directly to the printer thru a USB cable or over WiFi.
Other printers use a memory card like the one pictured here. You save the g-code file on the memory card and then insert the card into a slot in the printer. A small control panel on the printer allows you to select the g-code file to print.
Your 3D printer will include recommendations on which program(s) to use and instructions on how to go from an .stl file to a completed print.
How to make a 3D print
This video gives you a quick look at the steps needed to take an .slt file (downloaded in this case) and turn it into a printed object using Repetier-Host.
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Cura is probably the most popular slicer program in use. It will create g-code files and can even be used to control your 3D printer directly.
While maintained by Ultimaker (a printer manufacturer), there are configuration files for just about any 3D printer out there. It's free to download and use and is the recommended slicer and control program for many printers.
FYI, there are many different versions of Cura available. Start with the one that came with your printer. Once you have things working, you can try upgrading to the latest versions.
Setting Up Cura and Your Printer Profile
This video goes thru the steps needed to download and install Cura on your computer and how to set up your printer profile. While the latest versions of Cura have profiles for many printers already built-in, it's nice to know what all the values mean and what they do.
Check your printer manufacturer's web site for the printer values for your 3D printer.
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There are a lot of variables when 3D printing. Proper 3D slicer settings can mean the difference between a successful print, and a failed print. These slicer settings are stored in what's called a Printer Profile. Think of it like a recipe car telling your slicer how best to "bake" or create the 3D print.
All these settings on slicing software can be intimidating, especially for beginner makers. Sometimes even advanced makers make mistakes and end up with failed prints. This post goes thru 8 slicer profile settings that will help you create better prints.
ideaMaker is another slicer program that's maintained by a printer manufacturer (in this case Raise3D), but is totally free to download and use with any printer.
This is our webmaster's preferred choice for everyday printing. The program starts up much quicker than Cura and makes organizing and printing multiple items simple and quick. Printing profiles work slightly differently that other slicer programs (profiles are organized first by filament, not printer), but changes can easily be identified and copied. This program does not include a printer control panel. Not a problem if you are using memory cards with your printer.
Worth checking out.
While it looks a little intimidating, Repetier-Host takes you thru the process of slicing and printing your .stl file 3D creations step-by-step. More importantly, it gives you a nice control panel to operate your 3D printer and send custom g-codes to your printer. It's free, with versions for both PC and Mac.
This is the program makes it easy when you need to control or update your 3D printer settings and the printer's built-in control panel is not able to do what you need.
Check with your printer manufacturer to see which programs they recommend.
Other Areas To Check Out ...
• Getting Started And Happy Endings
• Printing 3D Topography Maps
• Laser Cutter vs. 3D Printer
• 3D Printing Examples & Ideas
• Model Sources & 3D Modeling Software
• Assembling A 3D Printer From Parts