Best 3D Printing Software
3D printing is the process of building up a real 3D object from a digital model by joining thin layers of materials (which might be in solid, powder, or liquid forms), normally one layer above the other in horizontal cross-section, unlike subtractive manufacturing methods. It is also known as AM (additive manufacturing), or freeform fabrication. 3D printing is the most common term in the consumer markets, while AM is more used in the industrial markets. Best 3D printing software is used for prototyping, tooling, and functional part of manufacturing. The manufactured functional parts are used in various industries, such as automotive, aerospace, healthcare, jewellery, education, tooling, consumer goods, and art and architecture.
Top 10 3D Printing Software Providers
- Fusion 360 3D Printing Software
- Onshape 3D Printing Software
- Tinkercad 3D Printing Software
- Solid Edge 3D Printing Software
- Ultimaker Cura 3D Printing Software
- Simplify3D 3D Printing Software
- MeshLab 3D Printing Software
- Blender 3D Printing Software
- Geomagic Freeform 3D Printing Software
- 3D Slash 3D Printing Software
3D printing, also known as AM (additive manufacturing), is the process of making a three-dimensional solid object from a digital file. The object is created through the additive processes wherein successive layers of materials are joined together. Several benefits of 3D printing over the conventional production techniques [such as computer numerical control (CNC) milling] include a reduced number of production steps for complex and customized products, fast delivery time, lower logistics and production costs, and high sustainability and efficiency in production due to reduced material and energy consumption. 3D printing software is used to produce prototypes, tooling, and end-user functional parts in various industries, such as automotive, aerospace & defence, healthcare, jewellery, education, tooling, consumer products, and architecture and construction.
Best 3D printing software bridges the gap between prototyping and mass production, which is an important aspect, especially for low-volume production. For these products, conventional mass production, with its costly molds and large plants, is expensive, and 3D printing would be the best feasible method to manufacture. Factors such as ease in development of customized products, reduction in manufacturing cost and process downtime, government investments in 3D printing projects, and development of new industrial-grade 3D printing materials are driving the growth of the 3D printing software market. However, limited availability and high cost of materials, limitation of product size, and lack of standard process control are restraining the market growth.
3D printing software players have opportunities in almost all the sectors owing to the potential benefits of this technology over other existing technologies. Some of the opportunities for 3D printing technology include its potential to enhance manufacturing and supply chain management, and untapped market in the verticals such as printed electronics, education, jewellery, energy, and food. However, it also faces challenges in terms of ensuring product quality and the threat of copyright infringement.
Additive manufacturing (AM), a substitute for conventional subtractive manufacturing, is an advanced technology wherein parts are molded into specified forms without using molds. 3D printing software holds significant potential for the manufacturing of various products, particularly for low-volume production. With the 3D Printing Software, components are created directly from a digital construction plan. The trend with the application of 3D printing is shifting from prototyping to the production of functional parts that can be used directly in various verticals, such as automotive, medical, aerospace, and consumer goods.
A few examples of the products manufactured in small batches are headlight housing for high-priced cars, steering components for vehicles driven from the right side, and housing for speciality machines. Additionally, lightweight construction for aircraft and automobiles is a key application area for AM. The lightweight construction is an undisputed construction principle in the transportation industry as it helps in reducing fuel consumption and emissions.In addition to low-volume production, another field of application for 3D printing software is custom-modified components. Examples of these devices include medical devices such as hearing aids, implants or surgical instruments, and drill guides for operations; helmets and shoes for sports professionals; and respirator masks. Until AM technology, the high cost of creating molds to produce a low volume of components through conventional manufacturing was not feasible in terms of profitability.
The competitive leadership mapping showcased provides information for the best facility management software. The vendors are evaluated on two different parameters: Product Offerings and Business Strategy.
This category of best 3D printing software includes:
This category of 3D printing software includes:
This category of 3D printing software includes:
This category of 3D printing software includes:
This section describes the major factors influencing the global 3D printing software market, including drivers, restraints, challenges, and opportunities.
Ease in development of customized products
Best 3D printing software enables the manufacturing of personalized products according to individual needs and requirements. 3D printing is still most widely used for prototyping purpose as it reduces scrap and reworks; however, the trend is currently shifting toward the manufacturing of functional parts and tooling equipment. Best 3D printing software also provides flexibility to the manufacturers to make crucial trial and error process possible for physical products owing to the ability to develop complex designs without the need to have any particular expertise.
Reduction in manufacturing cost and process downtime
The ability of 3D Printing Software to reduce the time required to design and produce functional parts leads to rapid production of prototypes without reconfiguring or retooling the manufacturing line. For the low-to-medium volume applications, best 3D printing software eliminates the need for expensive tool production, resulting in reduced costs, lead times, and labour associated with it.
Furthermore, AM technology enables its users to design the products and components with intricate geometry and complex features, which nullifies the need of relying on separate design specialists and any other costs associated with it. Also, any change in the products being manufactured using traditional methods requires large investments. In traditional manufacturing methods, the entire production line needs to be reconfigured and tailored if the manufacturing process is changed (due to outdated equipment or any other reason), which calls for large investments in tooling and can potentially lead to prolonged factory downtime. However, while using a 3D printer, such changes can be easily implemented in the CAD file, and the new product can be printed right away.
Government investments in 3D printing projects
Globally, governments are undertaking initiatives and providing funding to educational institutions, research centres, and research and technology organizations to further explore the opportunities provided by 3D printing technology as well as to encourage its development. Countries such as the US, the UK, and Canada have implemented the national programs for promoting the university-level 3D printing research, which is driving technology advancement and the establishment of start-ups. The emergence of new applications for best 3D printing software has attracted industrialists and governments across the world toward technology.
Development of new industrial-grade 3D printing materials
The materials used in 3D printing are equally important as printers. Polymers have been the most commonly used materials in 3D printing in the past; however, metals, ceramics, and even biocompatible materials are now being made available for 3D printing. The development of new materials for Best 3D printing software would further help expand the application area of 3D printing methods into niche sectors, such as printed electronics, and energy and power industries. Other materials that are most widely used in 3D printing processes include thermoplastics, photopolymers, stainless steel, aluminium, metal alloys (such as Inconel and cobalt–chrome), strong and flexible plastics (such as carbon fibres and composites), frosted detail plastic, acrylic plastic, metallic plastic, brass, bronze, full-colour sandstone, porcelain, castable wax, and elastoplastic. The Virtual Foundry (US) has started using a unique filament—Filament—that consists of a mixture of polylactic acid (PLA) and up to 90% metal. Any FDM-based 3D printer can make bronze, brass, and copper items using this unique filament. Composites are another most emerging class of 3D printing materials, especially due to their rising popularity across the aerospace & defense industry. Development of such new industrial-grade 3D printing materials is further expected to open new growth avenues for AM, especially across the potential applications where material’s characteristic requirements are of utmost importance.
Limited availability and high cost of materials
A greater range of raw materials is available for traditional manufacturing than that available for the 3D printing-based manufacturing processes. 3D printing of products with mixed materials and technology, such as circuit boards, are still under development. Though technology is a major process breakthrough, the materials that can be used are still limited. Also, the accuracy and reproducibility of the products formed by 3D printing are hampered due to the lack of proper standards concerning the mechanical properties of the materials used. The characterization of material properties depending upon their suitability in the 3D printing process is another concern. Various available materials have characteristic mechanical properties, porosity, powder composition, particle homogeneity, size, and morphology. Therefore, material characterization and standardization for 3D printing are one of the important issues.
Further, the emergence of new entrants is likely to increase the competition among manufacturers and suppliers to provide materials at low costs to customers. The cost of materials has already started to become volatile, and the same trend is expected to continue in the near future with the rise in a number of new entrants and high investments in R&D activities to develop low-cost materials. Hence, with a reduction of costs, the demand and consumption of materials would grow exponentially at a higher rate than the expected growth rate in the longer run.
Limitation of product size
3D printing is an innovative technology having the potential to bring transformation in conventional industrial manufacturing practices. Its ability to print almost any shape with a variety of available materials (polymers, metals, ceramics, sand, paper, and living tissue) presents numerous opportunities for manufacturers. However, currently, the 3D printers are limited by the size of the products that can be printed. Parts created additively through 3D printing method are also limited by size. The most affordable 3D printers that are currently available in the market are small enough to fit on the desktop, having built chamber sizes of similar proportions. The 3D printers that are able to create larger parts are also available in the market, but they are much more expensive and, thereby, are the unrealistic option for many companies. Moreover, the printers take more time to develop the products with larger sizes, which further restricts their deployment across industries willing to mass-produce parts.
Lack of standard process control
The consistency of each 3D printing process varies due to the uncontrolled process variables and material differences based on machine and manufacturer. Currently, very few monitoring techniques meet specific criteria by rectifying the process inconsistencies of best 3D printing software. The capacity to develop detailed and accurate mathematical models through 3D printing is difficult, especially in complex and sophisticated applications (such as aerospace, military/defense, and healthcare) due to the limited data available for process control. The limitations in the planning phase, process control, and pre- and post-production procedures may lead to manufacturing failure and erroneous outputs.
Post-processing steps in the removal of built products play a major role in meeting the product specifications. These elements of process control extend the manufacturing process and increase the possibility of process variance along with the addition of extra cost, which are major issues with many machines and processes. Hence, the standardization of 3D printing machines (printers), technologies, materials, and related software becomes very important.
Potential to improve manufacturing processes and enhance supply chain management
From its initial applications in designing and prototyping, 3D printing is now shifting toward the manufacturing of functional parts. 3D printing can help overcome various challenges (such as higher tooling costs) associated with traditional manufacturing processes employed for rapid prototyping and short production runs, among others, as 3D printing eliminates the tooling requirement, unlike the traditional manufacturing process. Although traditional manufacturing would cost less per unit produced, it poses high initial cost in the form of tooling, leading to more expensive low-volume manufacturing. 3D printing technology also helps reduce the waste produced during the manufacturing process by building part layer-on-layer. Mass customization is another area where 3D printing has an advantage over conventional manufacturing, particularly for short production runs.
It is still uncertain what parts would be printable in the future using 3D printing, whose production might not be feasible with the conventional manufacturing methods. Despite this uncertainty, 3D printing has the potential to upgrade the supply chain management that may affect the logistics link between manufacturers and customers in certain types of products or parts. The 3D printing market has also been experiencing advancements in printers and printing technologies, improvement in printing materials, and development in the skill set of the associated workforce.
Emerging applications in several industries
- Automotive - The 3D printing technology is increasingly being adopted in the industrial manufacturing sector, especially in the automotive, and aerospace and defense industries. 3D printing has potential opportunities in tooling, jigs and fixtures, injection molding, and production parts manufacturing. Among these, tooling and manufacturing platform application offers a huge potential market for 3D printing. Many new applications and use cases of AM across the automotive industry has been witnessed in the past 2–3 years; rapid prototyping for the verification of proof of concept and production of lightweight car spare parts, components, and others, with reduced lead time, are a few examples to list.
- Printed electronics - 3D Printing Software is in an early stage of development across several sectors such as printed electronics, textiles, footwear, and food and culinary; however, it is experiencing significant adoption from education, art and architecture, and jewellery industries. The market has been experiencing the advancement of printers and printing technologies, improvement in printing materials, and development of the skilled workforce. The advancements in printing technology, design tools, software, materials, and printed electronics will allow electronics to be embedded within the structure of the products, instead of mounting the printed circuit boards (PCBs) separately within the device. 3D printing finds potential opportunities with regard to eliminating PCBs and producing hearing aids, structural electronics, print sensors, cellphone antennae, batteries, solar cells, light-emitting diodes, and other active and passive devices.
- Education - The 3D Printing Software market is experiencing phenomenal growth in the education sector. It is further expected to have a significant impact on the education sector by providing better opportunities for students to learn to use 3D printing in various applications ranging from design to printing prototypes and end-user products. Several 3D printing companies are making efforts to integrate their 3D printing software systems in the education system. 3D printers are installed in various departments, such as computer science, engineering, architecture, chemistry, industrial design, and biology in several colleges and universities, across the globe. Also, several secondary and primary schools have integrated 3D printing into their curriculum, empowering their students’ creativity and engaging them with 3D printing technologies. This will further produce skilled employees to tackle the current challenge of sufficient skilled employees in the 3D printing industry.
- Jewellery - 3D printing software has been a disruptive technology in the manufacturing and healthcare industries and is gaining traction in the fashion and accessories industry, especially in the jewellery segment. The use of 3D printing in this industry is chiefly focused on the design of several patterns and models. With the advancements in printers and improvement in printing materials, producing miniature, detailed jewellery patterns and models are becoming affordable and reliable. Various jewellery models, such as bracelets, cufflinks, earrings, necklaces, pendants, and rings, are being designed and produced easily using 3D printers. In addition, several low-cost desktop and hobbyist printers have been released over the past 2 years for the custom jewellery designers and manufacturers. In addition, professional-grade 3D printers are also being launched to produce fine-quality jewellery due to the increasing demand for custom-made jewellery, especially to integrate two or more precious materials, such as gold and platinum, in the models. The increasing competition in the jewellery market encourages several players to invest in best 3D printing software to produce a variety of jewellery with a wide range of designs and price tags.
Ensuring product quality
Best 3D printing software provides highly customized designs and products, especially in the aerospace and medical device industries. However, material requirements for AM of functional products are limited, which restrains the potential opportunities of AM to produce highly customized products. The 3D printing industry faces the challenge with ensuring the quality of end products, particularly when repeatedly produced on the same printing machine or on different machines. The quality of products, especially in terms of exactness and performance, depends on several factors, such as materials, printing technology, and the environment in the printer, particularly temperature and pressure; any changes in these would affect the quality of the end product. However, technological advancements in the existing 3D printing technology and the introduction of new materials as per unique application needs are expected to overcome this challenge associated with product quality in the nearest future.
Threat of copyright infringement
3D printers are likely to become very common with the increasing use of this technology along with the expiry of patents. Companies have already started uploading their files on websites for customers to choose their products, followed by shipping of these products to the customers. Due to such augmented usage, customers may presume a higher degree of customization for the products they purchase. The rise in consumer acceptance may lead to an increase in 3D piracy, i.e., the ability of customers to manufacture the products by themselves instead of buying them from suppliers. Some companies have also started sharing 3D files on their websites, which has further increased the threat of piracy. This may result in the unauthorized replication of the copyright-protected designs, which is a major concern for designers in the industrial 3D printing software market.
Best 3D Printing Software, By Process
The best 3D printing software based on process has been segmented into binder jetting, direct energy deposition, material extrusion, material jetting, powder bed fusion, sheet lamination, and vat photopolymerization. 3D printing processes vary according to the way materials are treated. Different processes use light, laser, electron beam, or ionized gas as sources to cure the material. The powder bed fusion process is expected to dominate the best 3D printing software space, in terms of market value, during the forecast period.
Binder jetting is an AM process in which a layer of powder is evenly spread onto the build platform, and a liquid binding agent is deposited on the powder bed to bind the powder particles. After lowering the build platform, another layer of powder is spread, followed by the addition of a binder. This process is continued repetitively, and the layers of material are thus bonded to form an object. The binder jetting process does not require a support structure for the material as the object being developed lies in the unbonded powder bed. The entire build volume can thus be filled with several parts, including stacking and pyramiding of parts. The different parts of an object are then all produced together. Binder jetting works with all materials that are available in the powder forms, such as metals, plastics, glass, ceramics, and sand.
Binder jetting is a unique AM process that does not employ heat during the build process. Utilizing heat source for AM can create residual stresses in the parts, which then need to be removed during post-processing. Binder jetting has higher spreading speed than other processes. However, even though binder jetting has the ability to print large parts, it is not suitable for structured objects such as pillars, beams, and fenders due to the binding process, which essentially involves the production of the parts glueing the material together, resulting in fragile parts with limited mechanical properties.
Directed Energy Deposition
Directed energy deposition is an AM process where the material is directly deposited onto a specified surface and is allowed to solidify. The material is deposited by jetting the build material onto the surface heated by a laser, electron beam, or ionized gas. The product material can be changed easily in the directed energy deposition process, which allows the use of graded functional materials. A directed energy deposition machine has a head that consists of a nozzle affixed to a multiaxis arm, which is used to deposit the material onto the desired surface. The head can move in multiple directions, and the material can be deposited from any angle from 4–5 axes. Metals in the form of filament or powder are used in the directed energy deposition process.
As directed energy deposition process allows a high-degree control of the grain structure; this process can be used for the repair of parts. Directed energy deposition provides greater control over the whole AM process by optimizing the speed, to get a highly accurate microstructure. The finishing of the product varies according to the materials, and the post-processing operations are required to achieve the desired results.
Material extrusion is the most commonly used 3D printing process due to a simple printing technique involved. The material extrusion AM process uses a nozzle where the material is heated, and the heated material is then deposited in a layer-by-layer manner. In this process, the nozzle can move horizontally, and a platform moves vertically after each new layer is deposited. Material extrusion uses plastic filament as the printing material. The fused filament technology, most commonly known as fused deposition modelling (FDM), is used in the material extrusion process for 3D printing. Material extrusion is the most commonly used process for personal 3D printers as it can be used in almost every environment.
The material extrusion process is comparatively inexpensive. Moreover, the ease with which the filament can be changed is another feature that makes this process more popular. However, material extrusion has certain disadvantages since the radius of the nozzle may affect the quality of the final product to some extent, and the constant pressure of material is required to improve the quality of the finish.
The 3D printers based on the material jetting process have inkjet heads that deposit the melted material layer-by-layer on the build platform, and the material solidifies after cooling. In this process, the material is released from a nozzle, which moves horizontally across the build platform. The degree of control over depositing the material on the build material varies from one printer to another. After the deposition of the material, the layers are cured using ultraviolet (UV) light. Plastic, metal, wax, and biomaterials, such as polycaprolactone and polylactic acid polymers, are the ideal materials used in material jetting additive manufacturing.
The material jetting process is also known as multijet modelling, drop on demand, thermojet, inkjet printing, and photopolymer jetting. The reduced wastage of material due to the higher accuracy of deposition of materials and the ability to use multiple materials and colour used are the major advantages of this process.
Powder Bed Fusion
The powder bed fusion 3D printing process uses an electron beam or laser to melt and fuse the material powders together. Powder bed fusion requires a controlled printing environment. The process is used with 3D printing technologies such as DMLS, EBM, SHS, SLM, and SLS. Similar to other 3D printing techniques, the heating device is held by a tray driven by motors.
The powder bed fusion process requires post-process operations for the removal of excess powder, cleaning, and computerized numerical control (CNC) work. The post-process operations are also performed to increase the density and structural strength of the produced parts. Plastics, metals, ceramics, sand, and carbon are used in their powder forms in the powder bed fusion-based 3D printing. This process is used to manufacture functional parts for the aerospace, dentistry, medical, and industrial verticals, which have small-to-medium and highly complex part requirements.
The sheet lamination 3D printing process is mostly used where metal or paper are used as printing materials. There are 2 types of sheet lamination processes: ultrasonic additive manufacturing (UAM) and LOM. In the ultrasonic AM process, sheets of metal are bound together using ultrasonic welding. The process also requires the removal of unbound metal and CNC machining. LOM uses paper as the material and adhesive instead of welding, while UAM uses metals such as aluminium, steel, titanium, and copper as the material. LOM is used for aesthetic and visual models rather than for structural use. This process uses heated rollers to heat the materials and has lower energy requirements than other processes, due to the need for melting the materials.
Low cost and ease of material handling are the major advantages of the sheet lamination process. However, the strength and quality of the finished product depend on the adhesive used. Post-processing is required to achieve the desired finish depending on the paper or plastic material being used.
Vat photopolymerization is a process in which a light source is used to cure the material in the form of resin. In this process, a platform is immersed in the resin material, close to the surface, where a beam of light traces the shape of the object. Once this object solidifies after the resting period, the platform is lowered again, and the process is repeated. The photopolymerization process uses SLA and digital light processing (DLP) technologies. Plastics, ceramics, and waxes are materials that are generally used in this process.
The post-processing operations involve the removal of developed parts from the resin. The process of scrubbing to remove the additional materials completely that stick to the final object makes the whole process lengthy. After the removal of additional parts, the final product is dried and is finally cured in UV light to ensure the desired quality.
Superior surface finish and high accuracy are the major drivers of the adoption of the vat photopolymerization process. However, the disadvantages include the lengthy post-processing steps and the tendency of materials to become brittle over time. The wastage of materials is another factor limiting the deployment of this process.
Best 3D Printing Software, By Technology
The 3D printers available in the market are based on different technologies such as stereolithography (SLA), fused deposition modeling (FDM), selective laser sintering (SLS), direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), polyjet/multijet printing (MJP), inkjet printing, electron beam melting (EBM), laser metal deposition (LMD), laminated object manufacturing (LOM), and digital light processing (DLP). DMLS, SLS, and FDM are the most widely used 3D printing technologies.
SLA is a laser-based 3D printing technology that uses UV laser to cure and solidify thin layers of a photo-reactive resin. In this technology, a UV laser beam is projected on the photopolymer resin held in a vat, which hardens where the laser is directed. On the completion of one layer, the vat drops, and the subsequent layer is similarly cured by the UV laser. This process continues until the creation of the desired model. SLA is ideal for concept models, form and fit studies, and investment casting patterns as the technology provides a high-quality surface finish.
SLA-based 3D printing is used in the creation of anatomical models, lightweight concept models, architectural models, urethane casting patterns, and large investment cast patterns, among others. 3D Systems (US), Form Labs (US), Autodesk (US), and 3D Ceram (France) are some of the major companies offering 3D printers based on the SLA technology and services related them.
Fused Deposition Modelling
FDM technology is also known as fused filament fabrication (FFF) and plastic jet printing (PJP), is used to create concept models, functional parts, and end-use parts. The FDM technology uses strong, stable, and durable thermoplastic materials in filament form. The technology involves the layer-by-layer deposition of molten plastic material through an extruder onto the built platform; the model being built hardens after each newly added layer binds to the previous layer. Removable support material is deposited in the tray for organic shapes that require support. This support material can be removed easily through post-processing.
FDM is a clean, simple-to-use, and office-friendly 3D printing technology. It supports production-grade thermoplastics, which are mechanically and environmentally stable, and the technology is used to develop complex geometries and cavities. The applications of the FDM technology include manufacturing aids, jigs and fixtures, carbon fiber lay-up tooling, functional prototypes, and low-volume production parts.
Selective Laser Sintering
The SLS technology uses a laser beam to fuse powdered thermoplastics. Compared to the technologies such as SLA and FDM, SLS does not require support for materials as the powder bed itself acts as a support. SLS is an affordable 3D printing technology that can be used to build durable and stable production parts in low volumes. The SLS-based 3D printers are also effective in producing high-volume components, which are too complex to build via a traditional manufacturing process. SLS has the ability to produce complex features, undercuts, and internal features, such as screw threads and threading tapped holes, with ease; moreover, these all can be produced in a single-step process. The printers based on SLS are capable of producing movable parts and parts with joints, snap fits, and living hinges. SLS-based 3D printing is deployed in the aerospace & defense, electronics, and automotive industries as well as in the healthcare, energy, and engineering sectors.
Direct Metal Laser Sintering
The printing process of the DMLS-based 3D printers is similar to that of the SLS-based 3D printers. The difference lies in the materials used in these printing technologies; DMLS is used for building metallic entities, while SLS is used for the printing of plastic-based entities. The parts developed from DMLS are durable and resistant to heat as it uses materials such as Inconel, aluminium, stainless steel, and titanium. The DMLS-based 3D printing process is ideal for developing complex oil and gas components, custom medical guides, consolidated aerospace parts, and tough functional prototypes owing to its ability to provide fine feature details.
Polyjet Printing/Multijet Printing
The PolyJet/MultiJet Printing (MJP) technology is an inkjet 3D printing method that is used to develop highly accurate models with intricate details and complex geometries. In PolyJet 3D printing, a layer of liquid photopolymer is deposited onto a build tray; the deposition is then cured by UV light to create a solid plastic-like material. The layers of UV-cured photopolymers accumulate on a build tray to create a 3D model. The printer also jets a gel-like support material to support the complex structures. A PolyJet 3D printer has 2 or more jetting heads. This technology is used by designers and engineers to develop and demonstrate final products with a smooth surface finishing. The printers based on this technology are used to develop presentation models; form and fit models; medical device prototypes; master patterns; flexible, rubber-like models; and prototypes for fittings, valves, and parts with complex interior features.
Inkjet 3D printing technology, also known as binder jetting technology, involves the selective deposition of a liquid binding agent to join the powder particles, and the layers of a powder material are bonded to form an object. Inkjet printing does not employ heat in the printing process, unlike other technologies wherein heat can create residual stress in the parts. Inkjet printing enables the building of multiple different parts on a single print bed. This technology is used in the development of castings, filtration, pumps, and prosthetics. It is used in the fields of aerospace, automotive, decorative/art, education, energy, foundries and pattern shops, heavy equipment, and research and development labs.
Electron Beam Melting
In EBM, the 3D printing process takes place in a vacuum and high-temperature conditions, and an electron beam selectively melts down the metal powder. The printers based on the EBM technology produce high-density parts and have relatively good mechanical properties such as low fatigue and high yield strength compared to traditional manufacturing technologies. EBM works with a limited number of materials and is an expensive 3D printing technology. The products developed using EBM include small series parts, prototypes for form/fit and functional testing, and support parts such as jigs and fixtures. EBM is used in industries such as aerospace, automotive, and healthcare.
Laser Metal Deposition
LMD involves the use of a laser beam, which is used to form a melt pool on the surface of existing tools and components, over which one or more metal powders are sprayed through a nozzle. The powder then melts and bonds with the base material. A computer numerical control (CNC) robot or gantry system is used to guide the laser and nozzle that delivers the powder. LMD 3D printing technology 3D printers benefit by reducing the material waste, lowering the tooling costs, repairing the parts that are costly to replace, minimizing the lead time, and customizing the parts according to the requirement. The LMD technology involves the repair, cladding, and production of parts. Some of the common applications of the printers based on this technology include repairing mold tool surfaces and high-value parts such as aero-engine components as well as military vehicles; tipping turbine blades with protective coatings; and surfacing oil and gas drilling components.
Digital Light Processing
DLP 3D printing technology is similar to SLA as both technologies use photopolymers as materials. However, DLP uses convenient light sources such as a digital micromirror device, while SLA uses a laser. DLP 3D printing technology produces accurate parts with smooth surface finishing. Compared to SLA, DLP requires a shallow vat of resin, which results in less material wastage and lower running cost. The applications of DLP-based 3D printing include rapid fit and function model prototyping, tooling and metal casting mold manufacturing, hearing aids and medical implant manufacturing, dental restoration, jewellery casting, automotive component manufacturing, and aerospace component manufacturing.
Laminated Object Manufacturing
The LOM-based 3D printers implement the sheet lamination process, which generally involves paper as the printing material and adhesives for binding the sheets. In this technology, the material is rolled on the building platform and coated with an adhesive layer, which is then heated by a heat roller to melt the adhesive so that the layers are bound to one another. The technology uses a blade or a laser to draw the geometry of the object which can be extracted as the final object. Cubic Technologies (US) is a major player in the 3D printing market offering printers enabled with LOM. This technology is ideal for developing prototypes, models, and molds.
The other technologies used in 3D printing include continuous liquid interface production, selective heat sintering, nanoparticle jetting, multiphase jet solidification, and various other proprietary technologies, such as Multi Jet Fusion by HP (US).
Best 3D Printing Software, By Application
3D printing technology is used in 3 broad application areas: prototyping, tooling, and functional or end part manufacturing. Depending on the application, 3D printers can be used for creating or producing prototypes, tools, or end parts. Since the introduction of 3D printing technology, prototyping has been the preferred application compared to tooling and functional parts. The tooling application helps produce various tools used in several industrial applications and injection molds that aid in mass production. With the development and improvement of metal powders along with the printing technology, there has been a shift in the adoption of the 3D printing software to the production of short-run functional parts with a tool-less production method.
3D printing or AM helps produce prototypes and models from 3D computer-aided design (CAD). This helps several companies to reduce wastage during prototype transitions in traditional manufacturing and also helps them to bring down their operational costs. Best 3D printing software also enables the quick production of cost-efficient prototypes based on the customers’ requirements regarding the geometry of the structure, accuracy, and well-defined smoothness of the products used in any industry.
Best 3D printing software plays a vital role in the manufacturing industry from creating prototypes and tooling to the short-run production of end parts. Tooling is one of the major requirements of the manufacturing industry for the large-scale manufacturing of products. Best 3D printing software reduces the time and expense associated with the design and manufacturing of molds for computer numerical control (CNC) machines employed to mass-produce products. For example, manufacturing complex design tools can be costly and time-consuming; however, 3D printing technologies help create the aluminium molds for vacuum-forming, which can be used in conventional manufacturing for mass production.
Functional Part Manufacturing
The market for best 3D printing software is witnessing rapid growth. Best 3D printing software is now being used for the production of end parts, owing to the technological developments in this field, and easy and wide availability of metal powders. There has been rapid advancement in this market in terms of printers and printing technologies, improvement in materials used, and employment of the skilled workforce.
Best 3D Printing Software, By Offering
The total market for 3D printing software has been derived by considering the estimates of the markets for 3D printers, materials or consumables used in the printers, services, and software.
The 3D Printing Software market is segmented on the basis of printer type into desktop printers and industrial printers. These printers can be used for personal, professional, and production purposes. The industrial 3D printers are expected to account for a major share of the market and is expected to grow at a higher CAGR during the forecast period.
- Desktop - The desktop printers are suitable for a wide range of applications, including personal and professional uses at homes and offices. The desktop printers are used in the consumer electronics, architecture, jewellery, education, and food and culinary industries. There is an increase in the demand for desktop printers in schools and universities, allowing students to experience more inspiring and practical 3D modeling experimentation. The use of desktop printers for personal tasks to develop sculptures, custom avatars, characters, and figurines is also on the rise. Reduction in price and increased availability of new materials, such as precious metals powder and wax, are driving the market for desktop printers.
- Industrial - Industrial printers are used for professional and production purposes in industries such as aerospace & defense, automotive, healthcare, consumer products, energy, jewellery, and engineering. Industrial printers are used to generate concept models, precision and functional prototypes, master patterns and molds for tooling, and real end-use parts.
The materials used in best 3D printing software are broadly classified into 4 main groups: plastics, metals, ceramics, and other materials. Each material has a unique set of properties when used individually or in combination with other materials to suit various applications. Depending on the process and application, these materials are also supplied in states such as powders, filaments, granules, resins, and pellets. Specific materials are developed for specific platforms, serving particular applications (e.g., medical implants) with material properties that more precisely suit that application. Here, plastic materials have been broadly classified into thermoplastic materials and photopolymeric materials. Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) and polylactic acid (PLA) are the common examples of thermoplastic materials. Thermoplastics are used in filament form in the extrusion process or powder form in the bed fusion process. Most of the photopolymer materials are used in the vat photopolymerization process where these polymers are cured by light radiations, such as ultraviolet (UV). Most of the metals are used in powder form in the powder bed fusion process. With growing technological advancements, manufacturers are investing in the R&D for developing new materials to catch up with the new advancements in printer technologies to meet the growing demands for 3D printed products.
The 3D printing process starts with the generation of a 3D digital model using 3D Printing Software programs such as CAD or scanning software. The 3D model is segmented into layers, leading to the conversion of designs into files that can be read by the 3D printer. The materials are processed in the printer in a layer-by-layer manner according to the design. The best 3D printing software has been segmented on the basis of software into design, inspection, scanning, and printing.
- Design - In 3D printing software, design software is used to create drawings of parts and assemblies. The design software provides CAD designs for professional engineers, mold and diemakers, students, consumers, and hobbyists to realize a concept into a product. Best 3D printing software is available for mechanical and freeform designs. Sculpting software enables users to create designs for products, sculptures, and artwork, which cannot be achieved through CAD. Freeform software allows users to create freeform shapes. Based on the user, the software is further differentiated into personal, professional, and production.
- Inspection - The inspection software is developed to inspect prototypes to ensure their compliance with the required specifications. This software allows the users to evaluate the physical object and match it with the digital files. It also facilitates the identification and fixture of design-related problems before preparing the object for production. The software enables the streamlining of the process by reducing human involvement in measurements and recording, thereby decreasing the measuring time and providing high-quality products. The inspection software is mainly used in automotive, aerospace, defense, consumer products, metalworking, and healthcare industries.
- Printing - The printing software includes tools to ensure precision in the working of the printer during the development of parts. 3 types of printing software are available on the market: file preparation, part preparation, and controller software. The file preparation software prepares stereolithography (STL) and SLiCe file extension (SLC) files to develop the product design. The software can import data in various file formats, repair and prepare files, and enhance and edit data. The part preparation software prepares to build files for the system controller software and provides users with the control of the development of the design. It takes input files that are available in formats such as STL and STC and prepares them for developing the design on the printer. The controller software provides real-time control and monitoring of the printing process. This software is capable of tracking and tracing of the complete production process, real-time monitoring and data logging, and real-time processing of data.
- Scanning - Scanning software allows users to scan a physical object and create a digital model or design, which can be stored for future use. The digital model created from the physical object can also be used to improve the original model and initiate designing around it. Through the scanning software, the physical object can be used to conceptualize the idea, especially using designer clay or with foam design.
The market for 3D Printing or AM has been growing at a significant rate with rapid progress in the industries such as healthcare (including medical, orthopaedic, and dentistry), aerospace, and automotive as these industries were the early adopters of the technology. However, with the advancement in the printing technology and materials, the 3D Printing Software service sector is garnering significant traction as a source of profit generation, compared to the sales of printers and materials. As the 3D printing technology facilitates the manufacturing of products with complex geometries and offers competitive pricing compared to traditional manufacturing methods, a number of companies across several industries are expected to outsource everything, from design to production of customized products, in the future to sustain in the highly competitive markets. As a result, the market for 3D printing services is expected to witness the highest growth rate in the nearest future.
The 3D printing software services are broadly classified into 2 types: after-sales, and custom design and manufacturing. After-sales services include a warranty, maintenance, software, training, and other services; however, custom design and manufacturing services include contract manufacturing (outsourcing of quick parts or end parts production); design services; online platform services including content creation tools, cloud or online printing services, licensing, and others for third parties.
This Autodesk 3D Printing Software doesn't let the present tool dictate the workflow. It engineers the products with a whole set of 3D modeling tools that include parametric, freeform, direct and surface modeling, investigates over 100 concept iterations in the period it would usually want one complete, and evites expensive rework, faults and missed deadlines impacting the underside line with fully integrated CAD+CAM. It aims to align the design and engineering to get unified manufacturing. Having a single platform simplifies the process of designing.
Onshape 3D Printing Software combines computer-aided design and data management tools to streamline the product designing process. It allows users to assess and update data in real-time without leaving the platform through its built-in data management tools thus allowing engineers to attribute more time to the designing process by working together or parallelly to each other without affecting each other’s work thus reducing costly manufacturing errors.
Tinkercad 360 3D Printing Software is a good tool to start with 3D modeling. Even though the users are not an advanced 3D designer, users might find it easy to use. Tinkercad mainly solves primitive design needs and simplifies the process of 3D design. It contains a lot of features for a maker or a STEM teacher. Tinkercad 3D Printing software is made up of several modules including electronics(Arduino), coding, school, Minecraft, Lego bricks.
Divergent 3D Printing software is a technology development and licensing company which implements a 3D-printed auto manufacturing platform for automobile manufacturers. It replaces traditional vehicle construction, tooling, and related factory properties with a proprietary, patented, end-to-end vehicle design and development framework, production and assembly volumes, creates a new architecture based on computer-driven optimization and additive manufacturing by expanding the space frame into a significantly lighter, higher performance, safer, and lower cost vehicle structure.
NX 3D Printing Software is an integrated product design system that streamlines and accelerates the method of product creation for engineers needed to supply creative products in an exceedingly collaborative environment. Compact file structure, full assembly, and drawing are included within the same file, making it easier to trace transfer and style storage without file management issues.
Stratasys GrabCAD 3D printing software that streamlines the 3D printing engineering workflow. It makes 3D printing easy, so the user can get quality 3D printed parts faster. GrabCAD helps to save your time that can be wasted trying to keep track of 3D print requests. It gives print operators the ability to view, organize and manage all incoming orders.
Craftbot is formerly known as CraftUnique, develops ground-breaking new hardware and software technologies in a cost-effective manner. Craftware 3D printing software is a fast and easy-to-use slicer software freely available that converts your digital 3D object into a .gcode toolpath format.
Markforged offers revolutionary, affordable metal and carbon fiber 3D printers. It is powerful and very easy to use. The components can be quickly optimized with the right settings and perform fibre orientations to designs your component based on the applications. The user can easily load the component created on the CAD program as an STL file and from there they can easily manage and catalog their files.
3D Slash is basically a 3D modelling software that offers an original and instinctive experience to 3D model effortlessly imitating the stone-cutter and his block: 3D Slash expands its idea on preassembled Cuboid forms of various sizes according to the octree model.
OctoPrint is a free and open-source web interface for your 3D printer. It monitors and controls every aspect of your 3D printing machine. It enables you to extend the functionality with plugins. OctoPrint displays printers' status and key parameters and allows users to remotely control the printer.
IceSL is a state-of-the-art slicer that has advanced modeling capabilities. It is one of the most remarkable tools available for 3D printing in the market. IceSL gives the full power of control to advanced users. The user can edit their mesh directly in Lua code.
The Repetier-Host is a simple to use all-in-one software solution, compatible with most firmware all around. It includes 4 different slicers: Slic3r, Slic3r Prusa Edition, CuraEngine, and Skeinforge. Repetier-Host runs on Windows XP, Linux, and Mac OS X. The user can add and position STL files on the simulated printbed and slice them all together. It gives you countless benefits.
Autodesk’s Meshmixer is a useful 3D software for 3D printing that works with triangle meshes. Meshmixer has a lot of 3D tools, such as 3D sculpting tools, remeshing or mesh smoothing features. It creates 3D models on the basis of existing volumes. Meshmixer easily combines multiple models in several creative paths and join them together in a few clicks.
Ultimaker Cura is one of the world’s most prevalent 3D printing software. It helps businesses prepare prints with just a few clicks, integrate with CAD software for a simpler workflow, or dive into custom settings for a comprehensive control. Ultimaker Cura is also a powerful, open-source slicing engine that has been built through years of skilful in-house development and user contributions.
MakePrintable is a cloud-based solution developed by Mixed Dimensions. The software analyses validate and repair any 3D model for 3D printing. It fixes the most common mesh errors that can take place while preparing a 3D design file for a printing solution.
Materialise Magics is a smart, versatile data preparation and STL editor software for Additive Manufacturing equipped with a customizable, intuitive user interface. It converts your files to STL, repair errors, edit designs and prepare your build platform. Materialise Magics efficiently guides you through every step of the 3D printing workflow.
3D-Tool File Viewer software is free for private and commercial use. 3D-Tool File Viewer is built to open DDD models published with the 3D-Tool CAD viewer. The 3D-Tool CAD-Viewer supports the most common CAD systems and 3D file formats. The 3D-NativeCAD Converter is a professional interface for converting and exchanging 3D data with customers.
XYZprinting Da Vinci 3D printer software is the reliable and economical 3D printer for today’s 3D printing solution. It has easy-to-install filament cartridges for quick refills and filament swaps. Da Vinci 3D printer is perfect for printing ABS and PLA filament. It is CE certified printer that has a fully enclosed design that protects you from the high temperatures required to print and internal temperature can be systematically managed for better print quality.
Geomagic Freeform is a 3D design software that is combined with touch-based haptic devices which transform old-style handcraftsmanship into organic, digital design for custom manufacturing. Geomagic Freeform is the industry’s most complete, organic, hybrid design software that allows businesses to solve complex, precision design and manufacturing trials and effortlessly address perplexing tasks within existing scan-to-print or CAD-to manufacturing workflows.
Simplify3D delivers excellent results by providing users with a complete control over the printing process. Users can take total advantage of the powerful software controls that reveal new competences and take their designs to the next level. Simplify3D works well with more 3D printers than any other software available in the market.
3DPrinterOS offers a premium end-to-end platform for handling files, machines and users across the entire business. With the help of 3DPrinterOS users get a simple-to-use workflow management interface that functions across the majority of 3D Printers.
MeshLab is an open source system that helps businesses with processing and editing 3D triangular meshes. It provides them with a set of tools for editing, cleaning, healing, inspecting, rendering, texturing and converting meshes. It also provides features for processing raw data that are produced by 3D digitization tools/devices and for making models for 3D printing.
3YOURMIND is an online platform that transforms data into a 3D-print service. It is an automated software that standardizes, controls, and evaluates additive manufacturing data, connects teams to production locations, and enables companies to make data-driven product decisions.
Slic3r is an open-source application software tool that helps you to convert a 3D model into printing instructions for your 3D printer. Slic3r is the most widely used 3D printing tool that offers a visual preview before you receive a hard copy. It includes real-time incremental slicing, 3D preview, and more and enables you to print on more than one machine simultaneously.
MatterControl is a free and open-source all-in-one software package that helps you to design, slice, organize, and manage 3D prints. By using Design Tools or the Design Apps, you can design your parts from scratch. MatterControl offers customization and personalization of 3D prints.
OpenSCAD is a free software application for creating solid three-dimensional CAD objects. OpenSCAD is a script-only-based modeller that uses its own description language. It enables you to quickly preview the parts of objects. It is available for Windows, Linux/UNIX, and Mac OS X.