A 3D printer does not work on its own. In the same way that it is necessary to create documents to print in a conventional one, we also need to do it in these models. Although, obviously, we are going to need specialized applications. That is why we have decided to make a quick guide about the 3D printer applications you need to be able to work with these devices.
One of the common myths when using a 3D printer is that when it comes to printing it is the same as with a normal document. That is, we create the composition and send it directly to the printer by giving an option. However, with 3D printing this is not the case and there is an additional level of complexity. This is because you need to create a document that tells the 3D printer how to print the figure. Actually, the concept is the same as the PostScript format for conventional printing. That is, a series of instructions that tell you how to do your job.
What is the software we need for our 3D printer?
When we send a document to print, the file that our conventional printer receives is not the same with which we save the file. Since while one describes the file, the other describes what has to be done to generate a paper version of the document. Well, the vast majority of 3D design programs are not based on the same principles to compose a figure as a 3D printer and that is why a series of additional applications are necessary that what they do is transform said information so that the printer can do your job properly. So, when it comes to designing for 3D printing, we have a series of key stages that are always the same. This means that we need a different type of application for the different stages of creation.
Applications to design for a 3D printer
The first of them creation of the 3D model through a specialized application for it. We must start from the fact that in the world of 3D design you can see that there are a large number of different applications. So, unlike in other worlds, it has not tended to a monopoly as has happened with Photoshop in design or Office in office automation. This is due to the fact that there are applications that, although they are very good for designing video game characters, are disastrous for mechanical parts. An example of this type of application is Autodesk TinkerCAD.
Applications for model slicing
The second step is what in English is called slicing or sliced. Let’s not forget that 3D printing is based on accumulating hot particles to create a substrate that accumulates until the final figure is achieved. Which requires the use of applications take the information from each model and create a sliced version for the 3D printer. An example of these applications Ultimaker Cure.
This type of application allows us to control a series of key parameters such as preprogramming the way in which the printer will work in the different parts. The amount of material, the speed of operation and many others. The most novice users will not need more than this section and give all the confidence to the 3D printer that will be in charge of printing what we have previously designed.
Applications to control the 3D printer
To finish, we have the final impression. Less knowledgeable users will let the system print on its own and not worry about what happens during part printing. However, due to the nature of the different filaments or materials used in 3D printing, it is necessary control the 3D printer while it is working. We are talking about real-time control over the fan, the heated bed, and so on. And more so when we have a large number of different filaments and materials. An example application for this task is Octoprint.
Monitoring is not mandatory for all printing materials, but in some cases it is necessary to control it. Since certain materials need real-time control while they are being printed. As you can see, it is not as simple as sending to print and forgetting, since a much more exhaustive knowledge is required.
How to make the right choice?
Therefore, the use of several different applications brings with it a key problem that has to do with the work chain. From our point of view, it will be much easier for you if, given the enormous number of applications available, you sift through:
- What is the operating system you normally use or plan to use for 3D printing?
- What are your knowledge? If you are proficient in a 3D design program, then we do not recommend starting from scratch. Otherwise, value what you want to do and the time you have available to learn.
- If you are going to use several applications in the process, make sure that they all support the same file formats, at least from one stage to the next.
- What is your capital? This is important, because if you are looking to learn to test, then you should not pawn your kidneys.
With all this, you will be able to choose the application that best suits you among the different ones on the market.