Slic3r is an influential part of hobby 3D printing and a big player in the pool of slicing programs. Let's take a look at some of its main features and settings!
A slicing software (commonly referred to as a slicer) does exactly what its name suggests: It cuts a 3D model into “slices”, which in essence are all the layers that will eventually be 3D printed. After slicing (and before 3D printing), the software converts each layer into a special language (called G-code) that your printer uses to determine tool head positioning and other settings during a print.
Slic3r is one of the most known and widely-used slicing programs available, offering some powerful features to its users. It steadily ranks in the top positions of every slicing software list.
In order for a 3D printer to work properly, the G-code needs to carry some specific information, which the slicing software is responsible for producing. For example, every layer requires some kind of coordinates, connection information to the layers before and after, the optimal route for the hot end to follow, layer height, and even temperature settings (if they need changing).
The slicing program, in this case Slic3r, is able to convert a solid 3D model into G-code by running various calculations to determine the best (or almost best) way for a printer to produce the part given a list of required settings.
Another important function of slicing software is the calculation and suggestion of infills and supports. Both of these features greatly impact the quality and mechanical endurance of the final print.
In this article, we’ll explore Slic3r, a software that is considered to be on the front end for experimental features and new slicing algorithms. We’ll look at function and use of various features, and a few “obscure” features will be uncovered.
Slic3r is a great piece of open-source software which originated from the RepRap community in 2011. We owe its birth to Italian software developer Alessandro Ranellucci and its continuing development to many other contributors ever since.
Slic3r boasts 48 official releases since 2011 and is currently in Version 1.3 (which is discussed here). All previous releases are archived on Slic3r’s official page or in the GitHub repository, which is quite active. Being an open-source project, it’s free of cost.
It’s widely accepted that many cutting-edge features that currently exist in modern 3D printing software were first tested, developed, and introduced in Slic3r. And this is still true; Slic3r has a sizeable and helpful development community, which is very important in open-source projects.
Slic3r is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, and all features and functions remain the same between platforms.
While not as sleek as in other tools, Slic3r’s user interface (UI) is very utilitarian and wastes no time in presenting relevant features and settings, ready for quick use while slicing.
One of the stronger features of the program is that it’s fully usable through its command-line environment, making it suitable for servers or other non-Windows environments.
In the main screen (above) we can observe
A notable advantage of the Slic3r’s UI is the presence of tooltips in the interior menus. These tend to provide quick help, showing what every value or parameter is meant to do.
A disadvantage of Slic3r is the absence of a “premade” library for printers or filaments, which could at least save some configuration time for the more popular machines and materials (a problem better addressed in PrusaSlicer or Cura).
Ostensibly, the most amount of time spent slicing is in the Plater, or the main working area of Slic3r. Let’s have a look at some of the features found here:
There have been some comments that Slic3r tends to require a longer time to slice complex models with large file sizes due to a lack of any program to simplify or reduce files before slicing. However, Slic3r does have a unique system to reduce the amount of time spent re-slicing when a setting is changed: rather than re-slice the entire model from scratch, Slic3r will only recalculate the parts of a model that are affected by the change. This can reduce slicing time when lots of changes are needed, but the fact remains that slicers like Cura are currently capable of faster slicing from the get-go.
Under the tab “Print Settings” are many parameters that affect how various aspects of a print will be treated. Let’s take a closer look:
A number of settings are related to the material you’re using. Apart from the basic parameters (e.g. diameter, color), one can also adjust temperatures, cooling, density of the filament, and its cost per unit weight. Sadly, these last two parameters are only used for statistical purposes. Slic3r notably lacks any estimates regarding the quantity and cost of material used.
Probably some of the most advanced settings in Slic3r, these control printer-specific parameters. In essence, these are meant to act as a “bridge” between Slic3r and the firmware of the printer. Here can be found advanced calibration settings, such as the E values or the accurate calibration of the Z-axis.
The following features will be more useful as one gains experience with 3D printing and starts to seek more customizability from the slicing software:
(Lead image source: Interesting Engineering)
License: The text of "What Is Slic3r? – Simply Explained" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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