Cura vs. Other 3D Printing Software


New to 3D printing, and I was wondering why some people choose to use other software (i.e. Slic3R, Simplify3D, etc)? Cura seems to have everything you would need to do your 3D printing. What advantages do these different softwares have over Cura? What do you guys use and what would you recommend?

Thank you!

I would recommend you to get familiar with your printer (learning by doing) and when you know all the “screws” in Cura, try other slicers. There is no best slicer out there, you have to find out which one fits your needs.

Cura is a simple slicer with basic functions, it’s easy to start with it. Most things will come out well, but sometimes you will hit it’s limitations, for example if it comes to bridging.
Slic3r is a very powerful tool with a lot of features and options, therefore not that easy to get into it. But if you need something special to squeese the last bit of quality out of your printer, it’s very likely you will find it in Slic3r.
KISSlicer is very special in terms of usage, with a very crowded interface maybe as a result of a long time where it wasn’t longer developed. Time will see if it has a great come back. But it has some unique features for example to smooth out start and end point of a perimeter, so it’s also worth a try.
Simplify3D is something between Cura and Slic3r. It has more functions than Cura and is quite easy to use, but not as powerful as Slic3r in some cases. As Slic3r, it has some anoying bugs which you should know when using it, for example if you need to print thin single walls. For me it’s OK for Slic3r as it’s an open source one-man show, Simplify is another story because it’s not quite cheap…

One thing I have seen Simplify3D do well is supports. They are very easy to cleanly remove and the default options generate enough support without going overboard. It also allows for custom supports, which can be handy. You can also set a number of options based on the layer you’re on. That can be handy for adjusting things on some prints.

That’s not to say it’s the end-all for slicers. It has issues just like every program. It’s also a bit pricey for what it is, IMO, but I do like it and the interface.

If you haven’t hit issues in Cura, keep right on using it. It works great for most things and generally results in good quality prints. There are some other programs like Simplify and Slicer that do a better job with some things, but Cura does a very nice job most of the time. And really, some of the people that like one over another just like the user interface better. Generally, I think Simplify is more “pretty” and has a cleaner layout than Cura. I wouldn’t recommend buying it based on that alone, but it’s a nice extra.

Thank guys, I really appreciate the feedback. I think I’ll stick with Cura as you recommend, but will definitely check out the others as my skills progress. This is good information.

Thanks for asking this question Bladerunner. I also want to hear opinions about this from others.
I have been using Cura since December and have grown to like it. I’m sure there are better platforms out there, but I’ve learned a few things about Cura that make it easier to use.

Use the “Layers” View Mode to see how it’s going to print the layers, fill, skirt, brim, etc. It may take a bit for it to generate the full preview, but sometimes you will see something that you want to change before you hit print.

I’ve had a few times where I had the Control Panel open in Cura and made a change in the settings that didn’t take. I’m not sure if it was something I did or didn’t do, but it sucks to have to abort a print because you added a brim and it ignored you.

If you click on the temperature graph, it will enlarge. Click again, and it goes back to normal. I found this by accident, but it’s actually kind of neat to know.

Setting your Z-offset will make things a lot better in the long run, and it’s a good place to start as that’s where it all begins. For mine, I printed the Nickle_Calibration stl file a bunch of times. My nickel still doesn’t fit the hole, but I have fine tuned the other parameters to what I wanted to see. I print a brim and make sure that brim is the right thickness. I used this thickness to slightly change my Z-offset to perfection. That makes the bottom layer look awesome, and the brim is nice and even. If anyone knows what I should change to get the nickel to fit, please let me know…

Changing the filament diameter and flow percentage may sound the same, but I had vastly different results with the same “percentage” of changes. Make changes, look at it under magnification, make adjustments and reprint. Eventually you will close in on it.

A previous poster suggested fine tuning the E-Steps, but I haven’t figured out how to do that yet. Do I need something other than Cura? Will any changes I make still work in Cura? Something seems to be missing.

Also, for Slic3r, what else do I need to load? Cura slices and prints. Slicer doesn’t seem to print. I’ll admit I know very little about this, what do I need to complete the picture if I want to try Slic3r?

Sorry if I hijacked your thread, but hopefully we can both learn from this.

Hey Rhoderman,

No problem! I’m here to learn so any extra info is always good. :smiley:

Thanks for the tips on Cura. I didn’t know about the temp window or the layers window. Where did you find the nickle file? I don’t seem to have it on my tumbdrive that came with the printer.

For the flow% and the filament diameter… do you recommend just leaving the flow at 100% once you have the diameter dialed in?

Also, have you figures out in Cura how to rotate the image platform without rotating the actual image on the print platform? For example, if I want to view all angles of the 3D image, the only way I know how to do it is actually rotate the 3D orientation of the 3D image. But I would like to be able to be able to rotate the 3D without effecting the actual orientation on the print platform. Does that make sense?

Appreciate your response.

A lot of questions…

A previous poster suggested fine tuning the E-Steps, but I haven’t figured out how to do that yet. Do I need something other than Cura? Will any changes I make still work in Cura? Something seems to be missing.

For e-steps fine tuning, see this guide:’s_Calibration_Guide#E_Steps_Fine_Tuning
As the esteps are a FW thing, they are slicer independet. Cura has nothing to do with them. But be shure to have the flow rate set to 100% or you will fool yourself…

Also, for Slic3r, what else do I need to load? Cura slices and prints. Slicer doesn’t seem to print. I’ll admit I know very little about this, what do I need to complete the picture if I want to try Slic3r?

You have the choice to save the gcode to SD card or use a host software like Pronterface for printing.

For the flow% and the filament diameter… do you recommend just leaving the flow at 100% once you have the diameter dialed in?

Flow %, filament diameter and esteps are working hand in hand. The result in extruded volume is the combination of all three. Basicaly, you don’t need the flow % override if you entered the right diameter and your esteps are set properly.

lso, have you figures out in Cura how to rotate the image platform without rotating the actual image on the print platform?

Do you mean view rotation? This is done by click and hold the right mouse button. Now move your mouse…

I found the nickle [sic] file on thingiverse.

On mine, I found I like to leave the diameter at 2.95 which is what I measured, and change the flow %. I had pretty good luck with 95 or 96%.

Like Sebastian says, right click and move to rotate. You can also shift right click and it will pan your part.

I guess I should have mentioned, I have a mini like bladerunner. I can’t figure out how to follow Triffid’s tuning guide with a mini.

I could save my gcode to an SD card but my mini wouldn’t know what to do with it. I have Slic3r and Repetier Host, but I haven’t been able to get them to work. Maybe Repetier isn’t set up right? Or slic3r? If someone with a mini could post a step-by-step, I’d be very grateful.

I’ll put in a good word for S3D. I started out with Slic3r on my previous printer. After struggling to get a particular part to print properly, I switched to S3D (bypassing Cura). The exterior finish of the problematic part was night and day. I was sold, and continued to use S3D when I got my TAZ.

I’ll caveat if you with spending enough time to familiarize yourself with all the settings in Cura can yield equally impressive prints… including removable supports. While I believe Slic3r can also be tuned, its more difficult than Cura.

The S3D Youtube channel demonstrates some many of the unique features. Using different print process within a single print allow you to vary parameters which are normally constant. They use an example of a self-uprighting figurine (weeble-wobble), which requires a higher density of material at the bottom. I believe this feature is also available now in Cura through a plugin, but to my knowledge it can’t be applied infinitely many times as in S3D.

Here’s another demonstration of the process feature applying to different parts on the print bed rather than a single print:

Simplify3D, in my opinion, is the most powerful and feature rich slicing software available. For an advanced user well worth the $150. For a casual user, maybe not… but definitely mitigates the frustration level. As mentioned above, the “best” slicing software is/will be the one you know the best. All the slicer settings work together and often times dependent upon each other. If you understand how each setting affects each other and the print, that slicer will benefit you the most.

Learn Cura, it will serve you well. When you need more advanced features, look into S3D… IMO, skip Slic3r.

Regarding the Nickle Calibration, I don’t recommend to use this for a flow or esteps calibration. It’s the same like printing a cube and measuring the width of it: You measure a lot of things with this procedures, but not (or not only) flow rate. You will get much better prints with the procedure described by Triffid Hunter. If your dimensions are off after that, it’s not due to flow rate, then there are other things going on…

I don’t know Repetier Host, I’m using Pronterface. But if your printer is working with Cura, you should be able to connect using the same Port and Baud rate (important!) as in Cura (see Machine settings).

If you don’t know how to set the esteps through Repetier Host / Pronterface, have a look here:

M92 Exxx sets your Esteps.
M500 stores your tuned values to EEPROM.

IMO, the best option for a Mini is a raspberry Pi running Octoprint. You upload gcode to the pi using a web interface, and have it go. It has controls for manually moving the print head around and such, and if you add a camera you can get a live feed and it will generate a timelapse for you as well. I’m using the rpi camera module and some 3D printed cases for it and the pi itself. I recommend the Pi2, as it’s a fair bit faster than the original. The 3 should work as well, but that one is hard to get right now and pre-made SD images probably aren’t ready yet. The setup is pretty simple, write an image to an SD card, and hook it all up. Now my nicer, more powerful, computers can sleep, reboot, whatever without messing up the printer.

I used the method Sebastian posted for esteps/flow calibration and am quite happy with the results. Things like hole sizes being off a few thou aren’t really a big deal to me. I actually prefer it most of the time, makes it easier to thread things into/onto them. :smiley: And it’s consistent, so if I print a bolt and a nut, they thread together fine. If you need really precise holes, you should probably print them small and ream them out.

That’s because the volume of filament extruded is directly proportional to the flow rate, but is proportional to the SQUARE of the diameter.

Okay, so yeah diameter change is not a percentage change. Thanks for reminding me.
I just completed an E-Step calibration on my mini. I found another thread started by bladerunner that guided me towards how to do the E-Steps with Cura. That was very helpful.
I changed from 833 to 820.7 and it seems to hit the 100mm extrusion amount very close now. It was doing 101.5mm when I first tried it.
I did learn that I need to do a G91 before the G1 E100 F30 command. This only holds true the second time. G91 changes to relative. When you’re done, do a G90 or restart the machine.
I plan on getting a Rasp Pi and running Octoprint. After my PC did a download and reboot in the middle of the night, I was definitely more enthused to do this.
I will dump the Slic3r and think about Slicer3D. Not that Slic3r is bad, but if it is “about the same, but different” I don’t want to spend time learning it only to discover it has shortfalls as well.
I made a real simple 5mm x 10mm x 15mm brick I use for a lot of test prints. It prints fast (15 minutes maybe) and lets you see where you can improve. I would like to get the nickle thing to fit, but that might require some x an y stepper motor changes, and I’m not sure I want to do that just yet. Extrusion seems to be the name of the game for the most part.
Thanks for all the feedback so far! I’ve learned a LOT.

The x-steps and y-steps are typically set very accurately from the factory. They tend not to be as variable as the e-steps figure (which can vary depending on filament type, print speed, and possibly age/condition of the filament). If you’ve got a problem with x and y dimensions, the first place I would look is your extruder settings: e-steps, possibly z-offset (which can cause bulging on the first layer or two if set too low). It’s also possible you have binding or some sort of mechanical linkage problem which is throwing off your dimensions, but I’m guessing that would generally only cause an undersized condition.

I’ll second that! Anytime I need to reprint or print something new, I now always close Cura and restart it. otherwise, it ignores any changes.