What are the best free programs for 3d printing

3d printing is a rapidly rising hobby in terms of popularity and also in the ability of what these machines can do.

While it isn’t the simplest hobby to get into and requires quite a bit of interest and technical skills to even learn about once you do the work you can really pull off some jackpot casino prints.

But getting there is easier said than done. Surprisingly in 3d printing, the actual printing part might be one of the easiest parts.

I mean, the printer does most of that work for you. But getting a file ready to print can be a whole other area of expertise.

You either have to find a model online that’s ready-made or you have to design your own (which is the much harder of the two options) and then when you have your model from whichever method you decided to get it from you have to set it up to actually print.

The process for this is different for every 3d printer you use. Each one has different settings it has to be tuned to and usually, you have to add your own supports and infill and rafts to keep the model stable while it prints.

Then the model usually has to be sliced, which means splitting it up into the hundreds of layers that your printer uses to print. This part is absolutely necessary because it’s how you turn a normal model into a file your printer can print.

Now depending on what you want to do or what printer you are using you can perform all of these steps in a single program or you’ll have to create a workflow where you use three different programs to do each step.

That all depends on the extent of editing to models you want to do though.

But finding the right program that works for you can really be a challenge. There are so many programs out there that technically do the job you need to get done but actually using them can be.. difficult.

Not all programs are created equal and finding the best ones can involve a lot of downloading and trying out and maybe you don’t want to spend that effort. So I’m going to compile a list just for you of the best programs (that are free) for every task on this list.

Buckle up and get reading.

Fusion 360

This one is probably one of the best-known programs on this list when it comes to precision modeling or designing.

Unlike sculpting where you’re trying to make an art piece something like Fusion 360 is a CAD (Computer-Aided Design) program. Something for turning things like blueprints and precise designs into models that can then be printed or produced by machinery.

A very large use for 3d printing is not just printing models, doodads, and random toys but also an extremely valuable prototyping method and for producing quick parts for manufacturing things.

This means you need precision and testing. CAD programs not only let you design things to exact measurements but also lets you run simulations on your parts to figure out if they can take the amount of stress you’re going to put them under.

You can find out exactly how much weight and force a part can take before it’ll snap and how exactly it changes when made from different materials all without needing to actually make and test said part.

CAD programs aren’t just for 3d printing either. If you are designing anything and are using any form of manufacturing machine there is probably a CAD program for it.

Whether it’s CNC, laser cutters, or anything else in between you can use Fusion 360 for making schematics for it.

One of the things it surprisingly isn’t good at is slicing for 3d printing. It can design models and designs for them but to actually convert it directly into a file your printer can print, along with adding supports and dealing with all the settings your printer needs it is rather lackluster.

Luckily there are other programs designed directly for that.


What do you use though when you want to create an art piece? You don’t need exact measurements or to run fancy simulations or anything of the sort.

You just want to sculpt and create. That’s where a modeling program like Blender comes into use.

You can create practically anything you would want to in Blender, it’s an incredibly diverse program.

While there’s nothing in it (not even a lackluster version) for converting what you create into a printable design you can still certainly create it and bring it into another program.

There are more professional programs out there that people would recommend using like Zbrush, but those cost a lot of money. Professional things cost professional prices.

But if you want to do anything related to 3d sculpting or modeling whether it’s for 3d printing, animation or anything else Blender is easily one of the best free options.


Now you can design, you can sculpt but you don’t really have anything yet that’s great for slicing up your model and converting it into something your printer can actually print.

This isn’t just as simple as literally slicing the model into layers. Some would wish it was though.

Almost every slicer shows you how big the area is that you can 3d print on so you have to align whatever you’re printing with that.

You have to make sure it’s oriented correctly and 3d printers usually can’t print that much of an overhang on things. So you’ll need to set up supports to get your part from falling and ruining the whole print.

Some programs can even do most of this for you. Meshmixer is one of those programs.

It’s simple, the menus are laid out with finding stuff easily in mind and it can do practically everything you’ll need it to do.

What more can you really want from a program?

Did I mention it’s completely free?


While Meshmixer works for practically everything it isn’t the best program if you are using Resin 3d Printers.

The difference between resin and filament printers or SLA and FLA printing is a lot but in the most basic form, it’s simply one uses a liquid resin that hardens to make whatever you’re printing and the other uses thin plastic wire it melts out in layers to form your part.

Slicing and setting up a model to print for these two printers is slightly different and the settings and functions for both are quite different.

While Meshmixer is practically everything you’ll need if you’re are doing anything with resin printing it doesn’t have the best support.

Luckily Chitubox, while not as advanced for editing and manipulating your models as Meshmixer it works great for setting something up to print for SLA printing.

If you really need to edit and manipulate you can use all of these programs together and be able to perform any task you’d ever want to complete. Your power would be unlimited.

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