The need for exceptional 3D printing software has surged in many industries during the coronavirus pandemic. For this reason, I’m giving you 7+ of the best ones that you can use for your business.
As an entrepreneur of over 10 years, I know that keeping up with up-to-date and sustainable solutions for your company is very important. This is how I stumbled upon 3D printing and its applications in spaces involving eCommerce, manufacturing, robotics, healthcare, etc.
I’ve included both industrial-grade and open-source tools on this list so you can be sure that no matter the budget you currently have, you can find one that suits your needs.
- What Is The Best 3D Printing Software?
- 1. Autodesk.com – Top Pick
- 2. Ultimaker Cura – Most Versatile
- 3. SolidWorks – Best For Engineers
- 4. Sketchfab – Best For Online Stores
- 5. FreeCAD – Open Source
- 6. MeshLab – Best For Editing 3D Meshes
- 7. OctoPrint – Best For Remote Printing
- 8. Tinkercad – Most Beginner – Friendly
What Is The Best 3D Printing Software?
If you’re in a hurry, check out my top 3 picks at a glance: Autodesk, Ultimaker Cura, and SolidWorks
|Best overall. Industry-leading platform with 8 million global users. Starts at $60/month.||Best for ease of use. Intuitive dashboards and convenient tool navigation. Starts at $600/year.||Most features. Platform specifically built for engineering works. Starts at $60/year.|
|Try Autodesk||Try Ultimaker Cura||Try SolidWorks|
Don’t let this quick comparison decide for you. Every business is unique so I urge you to get to know the items on this list thoroughly before you make up your mind:
1. Autodesk.com – Top Pick
Most Versatile 3D Printing Software For Various Industries [Starts at $60/mo]
Autodesk is a big name in the 3D design, engineering, and entertainment industry.
Professionals and hobbyists alike love their software.
And that’s why it’s not unlikely that you’ll find their products on top of the ranks.
Pros And Cons Of Autodesk.com
Although it has some of the most widely-used programs in the market, there are notable advantages and disadvantages to using this 3D printing software.
|A wide range of products to choose from||Does not have a one-time payment option|
|Has free software (ex: Tinkercad – This is actually one of the items in this list!)||Plan can be pricey|
|Includes industry-specific tools||Customer support needs improvement|
Autodesk.com Pricing Plan
There’s a total of 82 Autodesk products that you can use. To give you a quick overview, I will share 4 of its most popular plans.
They are the following:
- Autodesk AutoCAD ($220/mo or $1,775/yr or $4,795 /3yrs): This allows engineers, construction experts, architects, etc. to create accurate 3D designs. It also enables annotation and draft creation for 3D models with surfaces, mesh objects, and solids.
- Autodesk Revit BIM ($320/mo or $2,545/yr or $6,870/3yrs): Autodesk Revit BIM or Building Information Modeling is solely used for construction purposes. It lets users craft sections, floor plans, elevations, etc. for their models.
- Autodesk Fusion 360 ($60 /mo or $347/yr or $935/3yrs): This is the most popular and one of the cheapest Autodesk 3D printing software that’s industry-grade. It is a platform that’s cloud-based and perfect for engineering items for function, fit, form, and aesthetics.
- Autodesk Maya ($215 /month or $1,700/yr or $4,590/3yrs): Animators can create 3D special effects, characters, and worlds with Autodesk Maya. It also has a top-notch animation toolset.
Note: There are items that do not offer a monthly payment option.
As I mentioned earlier, there are still a ton of 3D printing software that cater to different industries that I haven’t covered in this list.
In addition to that, I’ve barely even scratched the surface of what these products can do for you.
So, if you want to learn more about all of the features and other items that Autodesk has to offer, I recommend that you give their product page a look to see which one perfectly fits your business.
2. Ultimaker Cura – Most Versatile
User-Friendly Advanced 3D Printing Software For All Types of Businesses [Starts at $600/yr]
Ultimaker Cura is an advanced 3D printing software that has top-tier slicing capabilities, easy to navigate interface, an integrated workflow, and a plethora of third-party materials you can utilize.
Pros And Cons Of Ultimaker Cura
Ultimaker Cura is trusted by tons of users around the world.
However, as a business owner, you need to weigh its real-life advantages and disadvantages to see whether this is truly the right 3D printing software for you.
|Beginner-friendly interface||View tools need improvement|
|Can be used with various 3D printers||Has high system requirements|
|Minimalist layout||Can be slow with big files|
Ultimaker Cura Pricing Plan
Utimaker Cura has a free version that’s already being used by millions across the globe.
It supports Windows, MacOs, and Linux.
For businesses, however, it is best to get the enterprise version, which has three types of plans. Here are the features as well as their costs:
- Ultimaker Essentials (Comes for free with Ultimaker 3D printers): If you didn’t know, aside from their top-notch 3D printing software, this company also manufactures high-quality printers. Ultimaker Essentials, which has enterprise security, digital library, user access management, slicing, long-term support, etc. is the software that comes with the purchase of an Ultimaker 3D printer.
- Ultimaker Professional (Starts at $600/year): This plan has all of the features of the Essentials plus the ability to open native CAD files, share projects with teams, full fleet reporting, and many more.
- Ultimaker Excellence (Starts at $12,000/year): This is the most comprehensive plan for Ultimaker Cura, with various support features in the following: data engineering, IT, API, and application engineering. You can also learn from its expert e-learning courses, set up federated single sign-on, and many more.
If you want to learn more about the features for Ultimaker Cura’s different pricing plans, I suggest that you head over to their site.
3. SolidWorks – Best For Engineers
Best 3D Printing Software For Engineers [$60/year]
Although SolidWorks is a go-to 3D printing software in many spaces such as in manufacturing, simulation, and marketing, it’s best known for its superb application in the engineering industry.
It allows users to create complex 3D design assemblies and parts with accuracy.
It also lets you collaborate with teams and has a cloud-based solution.
Pros And Cons Of SolidWorks
SolidWorks is a reliable tool for a wide range of companies.
With that being said, it’s not perfect. Let me share with you its perks and quirks:
|Easy to utilize||System can crash without warning|
|Can convert 3D models to 2D||Costly pricing|
|Amazing product support||Program can be buggy due to its size|
SolidWorks Pricing Plan
For the majority of SolidWorks’s pricing plans, you’ll need to contact their sales team to get a quote.
There’s only one exception.
This is the Student version of the 3D printing software. Here are its following costs:
- 3DExperience SolidWorks ($60 per year): This is powered by cloud-based technology that enables collaboration, plus lets you see data in real-time wherever you are.. It lets you use the following features: 3D Creator, 3D Sculptor, 3D SheetMetal Creator, Project Planner, and so much more.
- SolidWorks Student Edition ($99 per year): This plan has everything in the 3DExperience with the added benefits of Academic Certification Program and the following functionalities: pipe routing, electric cable, reverse engineering, photorealistic rendering, etc.
I do have to mention that both of these plans are only for individual students.
If you plan on using them for teaching, research, etc., contact their sales team to get a personalized quote.
Also, there’s still so much to learn about the two plans I mentioned above, should you want to know more, follow this link.
4. Sketchfab – Best For Online Stores
Best 3D Printing Software For eCommerce Companies [Starts at $15/mo]
Sketchfab is mainly a platform where creators can showcase their work. It can also serve as a marketplace to buy and sell 3D models.
It’s also more focused on the eCommerce arena, is AR and VR ready, and works with all devices, browsers, and operating systems.
If you want to use this 3D printing software, all you have to do is create using the service and download it using this checklist.
Pros And Cons Of Sketchfab
Sketchfab is a popular platform for millions of artists, but it has its flaws and strong points that as an entrepreneur, you should be aware of.
|Seamlessly integrated to other platforms||Customer support needs improvement|
|Minimal learning curve||Has security problems|
|Worldclass visualization quality||Needs more features installed|
Sketchfab Pricing Plan
There are two types of plans available in Sketchfab.
The first one is for individuals, which is mainly for creatives looking to showcase their work as a form of a portfolio.
- Basic (Free): This lets you upload 10 images on a monthly basis, with a maximum file size of 100 MB. It also allows you to have unlimited store and downloadable uploads and 10 annotations per model.
- Pro ($15/month or $180 – billed yearly or $24/month – billed monthly): This one allows you to share your work with clients and more features compared to the former. The number of uploads you can make is 50, the annotations per model is 20, and the maximum file size is 200 MB>
But, if you’re a business owner, the second type of plan is more suited for you.
There are also two under this category.
- Premium ($129/month – billed monthly or $79/month – billed yearly): This is more suited for smaller studios, agencies, and companies. It enables you to remove the controls and header in embed, have 200 uploads per month, and have 10,000 views.
- Enterprise (Personalized quote): This one is for larger companies. You need to get in touch with their sales team to get multiple seats, unbranded viewer, customer view and uploads, dedicated account management, and more.
If you want to compare the features of all these plans, go to Skethfab’s product page to learn more.
5. FreeCAD – Open Source
Best Free 3D Printing Software For All Industries [Free]
FreeCAD is a 3D printing software that allows you to do a vast number of things for no charge.
Here are some of its key features:
- BIM or architectural modeling
- CNC and CAM
- Industrial robot trajectory designs
- FInite Element Analyses
- NURBS surfaces
- CSG modeling
Its interface is also coded in Python and it allows you to export and import models in a variety of formats.
Pros And Cons Of FreeCAD
FreeCAD is a 3D printing software beloved by many.
However, it does have its upsides and downsides.
|Superb sketching and 3D visualizations||Needs more features|
|Powerful scripting environment feature||The software can be buggy|
|Tons of videos on YouTube to study from||Difficult to learn for beginners|
FreeCAD Pricing Plan
As its name suggests, FreeCAD is open-source software that is available for everyone at absolutely no cost.
It can be installed via Linux, Mac, and Windows.
If you want to learn more about its recent developments, as well as addons that you can use along with it, hop onto its web page.
You can also donate to FreeCAD’s developers who are continually making efforts to make the software free for everyone.
6. MeshLab – Best For Editing 3D Meshes
Best For Processing, Editing, & Converting 3D Meshes [Free]
Meshlab is another free open-source 3D printing software.
However, its primary function is to edit and process 3D triangular meshes. It also has the following tools:
- PerMesh color scattering
- Raster alignment
- Quality mapper
- Radiance scaling
- Points selection
- Compute planar sections
It also functions at a good speed and is easy to install.
Pros And Cons Of MeshLab
Meshlab is utilized by many companies and individuals alike.
But, it is worth mentioning that it does have its pros and cons.
|Extensive number of features||Frequent system bugs|
|Excellent for cleaning up complex geometry||Sudden crashes result to loss of work|
|Easy to import, export, and view files in different formats||Poor customer assistance|
MeshLab Pricing Plan
Meshlab does not have a paid plan.
You can download this 3D printing software for free on their website, as well as sample meshes and other sources.
7. OctoPrint – Best For Remote Printing
Best 3D Printing Software For Remote Printing [Free]
Aside from being a free 3D printing software, what I love about OctoPrint is how you can use it remotely.
You can access it from your browser and control every aspect of printing this wherever you are.
You’ll be able to receive feedback on your printing progress, monitor the temperature of the print bed and hotends, and so much more.
Pros And Cons Of OctoPrint
This free 3D printing software is a gift to its users. But, along with its upsides, there are potential drawbacks to it.
|User-friendly interface||Can have printing failures|
|Minimal learning curve||Has a few software bugs|
|Webcam allows you to see potential printing flaws||Needs more features|
OctoPrint Pricing Plan
You can use OctoPrint for free since it’s a 100% open-source software.
To download and set it up, click this link to be redirected to their website.
8. Tinkercad – Most Beginner – Friendly
Best User-Friendly 3D Printing Software [Free]
Tinkercad is an online 3D printing software that is completely free and a great tool for beginners.
You can use it using your web browser and there are tons of resources you can view on their site.
Pros And Cons Of Tinkercad
As I talked about in the first number of this post, Tinkercad is a free software from the top tier company – Autodesk.
Here are its pros and cons:
|Free to use||Can only be used online|
|Best entry-level tool for slicing||More suited for students|
|Easy to use plus lessons for beginners||No advanced slicing and CAD features|
Tinkercad Pricing Plan
Tinkercad doesn’t have any cost or paid plans for you to use.
If you want to utilize it for your business or learn more about 3D printing, it has lessons for you on its website.
On this list, Autodesk.com is the best 3D printing software. It has a wide range of respectable and top-quality products that I highly recommend for any type of business in the market.
Their prices are also reasonable and they have bundles that you can check out.
If you want more details on their services, click this link to head over to their site and learn more.
3D Printing Software – FAQ
If you want to learn more about the world of 3D printing software, here are 5 frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding the subject:
What Is 3D Printing?
3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, involves printing three-dimensional items using cross-sections or layers. Using this technology, you can create sophisticated objects with more accuracy and speed compared to traditional printing methods.
What Industries Use 3D Printing?
The top industries that utilize 3D printing are as follows: medical, marketing, automotive, construction, mechanical engineering, aerospace, aircraft, jewelry, and dentistry.
How Is 3D Printing Different from Subtractive Manufacturing?
With subtractive manufacturing, the process usually begins with blocks of materials that will be reduced, reshaped, etc. depending on the desired results. 3D printing, on the other hand, includes slowly and precisely building an object layer by layer.
Does 3D Printing Use Less Materials?
Because of 3D printing’s high-accuracy technology, there are less materials used compared to subtractive manufacturing. This involves fewer raw materials needed, as well as waste products after the printing has been finished.
What Materials Can Be Used In 3D Printing?
The most common materials used in 3D printing include plastic (PLA, ABS, PC, & PVA), powders (Alumide & polyamide), resins (transparent, paintable, & high-detail), metal (titanium nickel, aluminum, bronze, gold, & stainless steel), carbon fiber, graphene and graphite, paper, and nitinol.