Important Attributes of 3D Printing Software

Parul Saxena

Parul Saxena

Senior editor

Parul Saxena

Chief editor

Last updated: June 15, 2021

What is 3D Printing Software?

Every 3D print begins as a 3D model, which is generated with the help of modeling programs. These modeling programs are browser-based 3D design systems. The software is like a building block for users who want to develop 3D models by using a set of basic shapes. It lets users access the library of millions of shapes and lets them find shapes that suit them to further manipulate them.

3D printing is commonly referred to as additive manufacturing. The software offers feature-rich tools for sculpting, rendering, video editing, animation, simulation, and motion tracking. 3D Printing Software encompasses a huge variety of products such as slicers, computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), computer-aided design (CAD), design automation, and others.

Looking for 3D Printing Software? Check out SoftwareSuggest’s list of the best 3d printing software solutions.

CAD covers the part wherein designing, scaling, and adding features take place. A few of the CAD software are Autodesk Inventor, Siemens NX, and others. Through this phase, a 3D digital model is acquired. Whereas CAM takes care of the preparation and manufacturing process, and through this phase, the real 3D object is acquired.

What role does the 3D printing software play?

3D printing is made up of three components, which are hardware, material, and software. No matter how good your hardware you would not get the best results without advanced software. The 3D printer takes instructions from the 3D printing software, executes them, and returns the final 3D object. Over time, the software has evolved significantly, offering users greater flexibility and accessibility.

Good software must provide the following functionalities to its users:

  • Flexibility for a range of workflows
  • Reliable by delivering the accurate results
  • Efficient process to optimize the duration
  • Support for multi-extrusion printers
  • Reduce the cost of production by enabling users to print various parts of the object at one site. It eliminates the need for assembly lines to an extent and hence is highly beneficial for manufacturing industries. 
  • Ease of prototyping, be it because of a better new idea or due to any flaw that users wish to make changes to. Thus, users might need to check a prototype at any point in time to find out how the object would turn out.
  • Reduce wastage because 3D printing software uses only those materials needed for the outcome of the 3D object.
  • The software must allow users to print the 3D object step-by-step, ensuring that different elements are not mixed, which could hamper the quality of the product.

These qualities can make the printer accurate and fast. It will offer certain advantages such as eliminating confusion by maintaining a log of roles and responsibilities, enhancing visibility across different projects, and letting users share project status. As 3D printing software is a centralized platform, it offers standardized processes.

3D printing comprises two phases carried out with the help of 3D printing software called Computer-aided Design (CAD) and Computer-aided Manufacturing (CAM). 

Concept/Idea

A sketch of the idea with the help of software.

Design

Using (CAD) software to prepare a 3D model with accurate dimensions.

Preparation

The digital model is further exported for printing purposes with the help of slice software.

Fabrication

A compatible file is sent to the 3D printer for the process of fabrication.

Post-processing

Support materials/adhesives are removed during this process. For the proper execution of the above process, we need to ensure that our 3D printers can perform efficiently by focusing on their speed, accuracy, and durability for providing the desired output. 

This is possible if we have the right software, which has the following attributes:

Attributes of a 3D Printing Software

1. Centralization

3D printing allows printing various parts of the object as well, which means it eliminates logistics costs by reducing the need to order parts from an external source.

2. Compatibility with Machines

Software that is involved in manufacturing execution must be able to integrate with machines easily. The large quantity of data must be easily transferred.

3. Fabrication Process & Mending Services

In the fabrication process, the CAD file is converted into an STL file for the final printing of the object. These files are further handled by slicer software, where users can also configure the software to support a few actions such as overhangs and supports (needed in FFF printing).

Sometimes the STL could be poorly exported, leading to unnecessary troubles. Hence, to avoid this, there must be some backup tools that rectify the problems.

4. Customizable

The software must be able to adapt and meet unique cultural/language requirements depending upon the need of users and their workflow.

5. Integration

Today, all industries are heavily dependent upon various software to keep running everything seamlessly. Hence to maintain the workflow, the 3D printing software must be able to integrate with other software. For example, using a compatible file format that can easily be integrated with other software. It is important to ensure the seamless flow of data among different areas of the organization.

6. Identify Bottlenecks

It is common while working with MES software that there will be situations where our immediate attention will be required. Such situations are often referred to as bottlenecks. The insightful report is a feature that the software must include because it helps the user by informing about such situations and helps fix them.

7. Planning, Scheduling, & KPI Dashboards

Planning & scheduling is an important part of any job; hence 3D printing also plays an important role. For any workflow to be smooth, users must be able to plan and schedule their actions. Along with this, users must also be able to keep an eye on the activity. The KPI Dashboard lets the user be more productive by sharing a report of their activities. Data has become the heart of any process; hence software must be able to perform analysis for better productivity.

8. Scalability

With the rapid use of 3D printing across industries, users will need advanced 3D printing software that can handle growth. It would help in scaling the operations and handle an increase in production volumes as well. 

9. Communication

While working on a large scale, proper team communication is required; it helps keep everyone connected. The 3D printing software eliminates the part where everyone had to be informed manually by sending mails. Now teammates are notified through the software.

Not only teammates but clients are also involved as they need updates too; hence it is expected that the software facilitates communication with ease. As 3D printing software offers a centralized platform, maintaining clients and team communication logs are easily handled.

10. Flexibility in Making Changes

Good software will let users make changes easily without any interruptions in the workflow. It reduces version control errors (version control is a part of the system responsible for making changes in the system).

11. Software Interoperability

As we move towards a faster and easier design preparation workflow, we need greater software integration. Interoperability helps reduce the number of tools, steps & efforts needed in designing a model. Now, this is happening in multiple ways, such as software integration, acquisition, or the development of capabilities internally.

12. Support for 3D Printers

The 3D printing software must be able to integrate with various 3D printers. Users are advised to check if their 3D printing software supports the printer.

13. Preprint Preparations

Some advanced software allows users with preprint simulation; it shows the exact actions that would take place during the 3D printing process.

14. Avoiding Distortion

Software must be able to indicate early in the process about possible distortions. It should be able to anticipate distortion and fix the geometry of the object before the actual printing takes place.

If the 3D printing software includes the above-mentioned attributes, it will fetch you ideal results. Talking about attributes, here is a list of things you can expect to be trending in 3D printing and related to 3D printing in the upcoming years.

Upcoming Trends in 3D Printing

1. Replacing STL Files

The STL files are a little difficult to use because they have many limitations, such as the inability to define large and complex geometric shapes accurately. The format does not specify color, texture, and many other factors. Hence, the 3MF file was introduced and can be expected to be used widely.

2. Increase in the Usage of Polymers

As 3D printing involves the use of plastics, there will also be an increase in various kinds of polymers.

3. Growth of Simulation Software

It is an excellent choice for minimizing the print failures that happen in the later stages. It is used at the design stage to digitally reproduce how a material would behave during the printing process.

4. Combining the Software with AI

This integration would further enhance the design and workflow process on the design front itself. AI gives engineers the option to explore unexpected design options.

5. Increased Productivity

The software helps in automating the entire process, streamlining the whole process, and reducing labor costs. Hence it will be easier to maintain track of productivity.

6. Wide usage in the medical industry

It will be a huge revolution in the medical industry as it is now capable of creating fully functional human organs.

Parul Saxena
Parul Saxena is a writer and editor with experience in various genres of writing in various industries. A content creator who loves to write on the latest technologies and their impact on businesses and everyday life.

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