How to Install 3d Printer Software
There are several programs involved with the 3D printing process. First of all, there's the 3D modeling software for 3D modeling and design. Then there's the slicer or slicing software which converts the 3D model to a language the printer can understand. And the last category we'll talk about is the host and control software, used with the slicer to prepare 3D models for printing.
In each of these categories, there are many different options to choose from. This article provides knowledge on how to install one software from each category.
You know how a real estate agent stands as a middleman between the seller of a house and the buyer, which practically sums up the role of the slicer. Just that in this case, the slicer stands as the middleman between the 3D model and the 3D printer, converting the former to a language the 3D printer can understand.
One of the most commonly used slicing software is Ultimaker Cura. This program is compatible with most desktop 3D printers. It can also take files in the most famous 3D formats like .STL, .OBJ, .3MF, .X3D, including image file formats like PNG, JPG, BMP, and GIF. Now, let's take a look at how to install this software.
- Go to your search engine and search for the Cura website.
- Click on the site and wait for it to load. Then click on the download option and select your OS (Operating System).
- When that's done, proceed to run the installation wizard. Make sure your OS is compatible with the Ultimaker Cura.
- Once it's installed, open it from your applications or programs folder.
- If you're opening Cura for the first time, you will be met with the welcome setup. Then you'll have to either accept or deny the user agreement, as well as grant permission to the program to collect anonymous user data.
To get information on the user data to be shared, click on "more information".
- The next step involves adding your printer. Both networked and non-networked 3D printers can be added to Ultimaker Cura. If your printer and Ultimaker Cura are connected over the same local network, then you can connect the printer directly to the Cura. The options provided on the Ultimaker Cura interface after the welcome set up and their functions are listed below.
- Add a networked printer: You're provided with a list of networked printers. Clicking on this displays all the printers the program has found on your local network.
- Refresh: Clicking on this will refresh all the printers the software has found. You can do this when your printer (which is connected to the same local network as the Ultimaker Cura) isn't visible on the list provided for the networked printers.
- Add a non-networked printer: As the name implies, this enable you to add a custom printer or select any available third-party printer.
- Troubleshooting: This is a link to the Ultimaker website, precisely the resources page.
When all of these are sorted out, that is when you have successfully found your printer, then click next to add your printer to Cura.
- Lastly, sign up or log in if you already have an Ultimaker account. This is necessary because you're provided with cloud-based tools for a seamless 3D workflow. Then again, you get access to print profiles from the Ultimaker marketplace.
An added benefit of using Cura that adds to its versatility is that it is absolutely free and available in several languages(up to about 15 languages). The cloud allows for direct transfer of printing instructions to 3D printers without the regular storage media like micoSD cards or USB sticks. With the Cura cloud, you're also given access to quite a number of plugins. All you need is one free account. These and many more make Cura one of the most widely used slicing software there is.
As the name implies the 3D modeling software is used in the 3D printing process to produce or create 3D models.
One of the most popular software used for 3D modeling is Blender. It is an open-source and free graphics program. Blender is commonly used for animations, video games, art, 3D printed models, and visual effects.
Some very important features of Blender are 3D modeling, UV unwrapping, match moving, motion graphics, particle simulation, texturing, compositing, rigging and skinning, soft body simulation, and video editing. Blender supports Linux, Microsoft Windows, and Mac Operating Systems. The software is also available in 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Below are the steps for Blender installation.
- Check if your operating system meets the requirement to be compatible with Blender. The system requirements for Blender are as follows:
- A minimum of 32-bit dual-core CPU with a processor speed of at least 2GHz as well as SSE2 support. A 64-bit quad-core CPU is mostly preferred.
- At least the system should operate on 2GB RAM. However, 8GB RAM Is recommended for the software.
- Although it is advised to use an Open GL 3.2 Graphics card with 2GB Video RAM, a minimum of Open GL 2.1 Graphics cards with 512MB video RAM can be utilized.
- A minimum display of 1280×768 pixels with a 24-bit color process.
- Lastly, a Visual C++ 2013 Redistributable package is required.
- Search for the Blender website on any search engine and click on the website.
- Then click on the download option (like we did for Cura) and also select your operating system.
- Run the download installer. You'll most likely find this in the download folder.
- To start the installation process, click on next both at this point and when you're asked to continue the process.
- At this stage, you can change the default location of the software and click install to continue. Then wait for Blender to install.
- To complete the installation process, click on finish. At this point, you have successfully installed Blender.
The Blender software gives users the freedom to make or create almost anything with its numerous features and tools. Blender, arguably the most famous 3D modeling software, has a large and active community that shares STL files, 3D models, and information online.
If you do a quick search on Google and YouTube, you'll find many Blender enthusiasts who are most willing to show off their 3D designs or teach how to navigate and utilize the Blender 3D program.
The software in this category plays the role of displacing traditional storage media like USB sticks for sending files to the 3D printers. Octoprint is one of those software.
Octoprint is an open-source and free program that can act as a slicer as well as control software. This program is used in conjunction with a wifi-enabled device like Raspberry Pi. It offers the ability to remotely control your 3D printing process. Octoprint supports Linux, Windows, Mac OS, and Raspberry Pi.
Firstly, you'll need the Raspberry Pi(Octoprint recommends 3B, 3B+ or 4B), power adapter (for the Pi), micro or full-size SD card, USB cable (to connect the pi to your printer). Here are the steps for installation:
- From the Raspberry Pi foundation site, download the Raspberry Pi imager and install it.
- Next, insert your SD card (one that fits in your pi or an SD adapter) into your computer.
- Open the already installed Raspberry Pi imager and click on " Operating Systems", then select "Choose OS".
- On the Imager still, go to " Other specific purpose OS>OctoPi". The latest version should be provided.
- Now, on the main windows, select the default storage by clicking on "Choose Storage".
- Then click "Write". The Raspberry Pi image will proceed to download the Octoprint image and install it. The software will run a quick verification after the installation process.
If you're using Windows or Mac OS, you can use Etcher -- an open-source tool that helps in writing files like .img to make a live SD card -- for the installation process. Here are the steps involved.
- From the GitHub repository, download the most recent version of OctoPi.
- Next, unzip the image you downloaded. The image file should end in ".img".
- Insert your SD card into your device and open Etcher.
- From Etcher, select the SD card and then the OctoPi image. Then click on "Flash" to install the OctoPrint.
To connect the Pi to your 3D printer,
- Disconnect the Pi from the power source.
- Then, connect the Pi to the 3D printer using a USB cable ensuring you use the right USB type for your printer (preferably the original one included in your printer). The Raspberry Pi uses USB type-A.
- Now, you can power up both the printer and Raspberry Pi.
Octoprint can upload G-code files from the slicer wirelessly to a connected 3D printer. This program works with almost all 3D printers and takes out the inconvenience of having to insert your SD card or USB stick whenever you want to load a G-code and then insert it in the printer to print something.
The 3D printing process involves several steps, and each step has software that makes it easy. This article has details of the most common software in each category and quick and easy steps to install each of them.