G-code slicing. Slic3r vs Cura

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G-code slicing. Slic3r vs Cura.

G-code slicing Once a 3D model has been created there is an essential step before being able to print the object.  The 3D model must be sliced into layers and the output translated to a numeric control language called G-code.  Slicing software exists and is very user friendly.  Two of the most popular (as well as free) versions of this type of software are: Slic3r and Cura.

Slic3r Slic3r is a free 3D slicing software engine for 3D printers. Upon the initial run of the program users are asked to specify the G-code flavor, bed size, extruder nozzle diameter, filament diameter, extrusion temperature, and bed temperature. All of these items are readily available information and necessary for 3D printing. These are also adjustable if changes need to be made. Getting started you will need to add a 3D model (usually a .stl or .obj file) to the build platform.  Once that is in, the user can click and drag the part wherever needed.

The user can also manually rotate the part by typing in the amount of degrees. Scaling is also done by specifically typing the amount you want. The main controls are listed in the four tabs listed across the top of the program (plater, print settings, filament settings, & printer settings). The biggest plus for my printing needs was the ability to specify the number of solid layers on both the top and bottom of the print.

The infill density can also be specified, but only by selecting from a drop down of pre-set numbers. All of the related settings are group together for convenience. In the printer settings you can even edit the G-code before the file is saved.

Cura Cura is an open source 3D printer slicing application. Cura is used by over one million users worldwide and it is the preferred 3D printing software for Ultimaker 3D printers, but it can be used with other printers as well. Again, upon the initial run of the program, users are asked to specify all of the items mentioned before, which are readily available and necessary knowledge for 3D printing.

In Cura the user cannot click and drag the part across the platform, but can move along each of the X-Y-Z one at a time. Cura does have a Solidworks Integration plugin, which allows Solidworks files into the software for scicing without conversion.  All of the settings mentioned above are available to adjust, but they are somewhat hidden.

You must go into the settings drop down and select Configure setting visibility.  This will bring a menu with all of the options available (over 200).  The user must select each one (e.g. layer height, initial layer height, etc.), and once selected these options will appear in the printer settings on the left side of the screen when opening. Cura also has a number of Plugins available. These ease what would be considered regular tasks.  A few include; Auto orientation (to reduce the need for support material), make printable, and inch to metric conversion to name a few.    

Slic3r Pro’s

  • Logical layout of related properties
  • G-code can be edited before being saved
  • Accurate print times and costs
  • Fan speed can be set based on time or percentage

Slic3r Con’s

  • Some settings can only be selected from a drop down menu
  • No supported plugins available
  • Accepts only .stl and .obj files

Cura Pro’s

  • All numeric settings can typed in
  • Many plugins available to ease frequent tasks
  • Scaling can be done in X-Y-Z directions independently
  • Accepts .stl, .3mf, .obj, and .sldprt files

Cura Con’s 

  • Not very accurate print times (upto 40% difference)
  • Rotation of parts is done by dragging and only in 15° increments

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