Software review

Simplify3D Review: The Best Slicer for 3D Printing

simplify3d review

Its creators say Simplify3D is an “integrated software solution” for 3D printing. Critics say it’s a slicer for 3D printing, period, and that it’s way overpriced.

So, All3DP took an in-depth look at and into the software to find answers to these questions: What exactly does Simplify3D do? How does it compare to free slicer software tools like Cura? And is it worth its price? This Simplify3D review will give you the answers.

Simplify3D Review: Just a Slicer?

It’s a slicer software for 3D printing – yes, but on steroids. It has all the features you need to control your 3D printer and individual print processes. It allows you to optimize a model for 3D printing and to troubleshoot printing. And it is an ultra-fast slicer: Slicing some STL files that took minutes in Cura was a matter of a few seconds in Simplify3D.

Simplify3D supports almost 90% of all current desktop 3D printers on the market (according to the company). Its 3D Printer Compatibility List comprises 125 individual 3D printers. The slicer software is compatible to the Marlin, Sprinter, Repetier, XYZprinting, FlashForge, Sailfish and MakerBot firmwares.

Simplify3D is available for Windows (XP and higher), Mac OS X (10.6 and higher) and Ubuntu Linux (12.10 and higher). Minimum hardware requirements: Pentium 4 with 2 GByte of RAM.


Simplify3D Review: The Main Benefits

Apart from the fast slicer and the vast 3D printer support, there are a number of features that set program apart:

Simplify3D Review: Interactive preview

One of the most impressive features is the extensive preview. You can preview the entire print process on screen or jump to a particular section. You can have the software show only a single layer or build up the model and display it layer by layer.

Simplify3D displays the travel moves, the movement of the toolhead, and (if you wish) the retractions. Depending on your choice, the software displays the feature type (travel, support, infill, ooze shield, etc.), the movement speed or the active toolhead in different colors.

The preview allows you to check every step of the printing process on screen. This is great for troubleshooting and for optimizing your model.

Here, the preview shows the “Feature Types” in different colors; the black “pin” on the lower left part symbolizes the toolhead.
Here, the preview shows the first layers of three chess pieces – plus the “Feature Types” in different colors; the black “pin” on the lower left part symbolizes the toolhead.
In this screenshot, the preview shows the speed of the toolhead.
In this screenshot, the preview shows the speed of the toolhead.

Simplify3D Review: Dual Extrusion Wizard

The wizard, which was introduced in version 3, simplifies configuring dual extrusion prints for two-color prints. On a dual extruder printer, the software creates an ooze shield by default. This is a sort of envelope that ensures that any leaking and oozing will attach to the shield and not to the model. The settings can be adjusted in the “Edit Process Settings”.

The model in the right is still inside the ooze shield, the model to the left shows the support structures (image:Simplify3D)
The model in the right is still inside the ooze shield, the model to the left shows the support structures (image:Simplify3D)

Simplify3D Review: Intelligent support structures

The program automatically creates support structures for your model and gives you full control over them: You may add additional support pillars or remove existing ones.

On dual extruder printers, the Dual Extrusion Wizard helps you print support structures in a different material, e.g. a dissolvable filament to make removing the support easier.

Simplify3D automatically adds support pillars - you can remove every single one or add new pillars.
Simplify3D automatically adds support pillars – you can remove every single one or add new pillars.

Simplify3D Review: Choice of infill patterns

In version 3, Simplify3D offers six different infill patterns so you can configure the interior of your model to your needs.

The choice of pre-made infill patterns.
The choice of pre-made infill patterns.

Simplify3D Review: Optimized multi-part printing

It supports three modes when printing several models simultaneously

  • Single process printing mode: for simultaneously printing identical or fairly identical models;
  • Multiple process, continuous printing mode: for simultaneously printing models that require different settings;
  • Multiple process, sequential printing mode: In this mode, the software prints several layers of a model before moving to the next model. This reduces the movements between the models – resulting in a cleaner surface finish. Moreover, this procedure reduces warping.

Please note that not all 3D printers support sequential mode. For sequential mode the print head has to be able to move down without touching parts that were already printed. This depends on the clearance of the print head – and on the distance between the multiple models (the larger the distance, the higher the probability that sequential printing is successful).

The image illustrates the differences between multiple process continuous (left) and sequential printing (right). The red lines represent the movements of the nozzle to a new location for printing. In sequential printing, the “idle” movements are reduced drastically.

Continuous (left) vs. sequential printing (right); image: Simplify3D.com
Continuous (left) vs. sequential printing (right); image: Simplify3D.com

Simplify3D Review: Layer modifications for different parts of a model

Within a model, you can use different layer settings to improve the quality of the model. Also, the layer height and width and print speed can be varied.

Simplify3D Review: Add-Ins

Simplify3D can be expanded using add-ins. The first add-in Convert image to 3D is a nice little tool that produces astonishing results.

Simplify3D Review: Basic mode vs Advanced mode

The Advanced mode in Edit Process Settings allows you to tweak every aspect of your print. Its a feature galore for 3D printing aficionados. But what about less experienced users? We tested the default settings on an Ultimaker 2 and were very satisfied with the results.

The Advanced Process Settings allow you to tweak every detail of the printing process.
The Advanced Process Settings allow you to tweak every detail of the printing process.

Simplify3D Review: Is it worth its price?

The software costs $149. That is quite a lot considering that other slicing software tools such as Cura and Slic3r are free. But it offers so much more in terms of features and tweaking. And its Preview feature can spare you a lot of trouble when printing and it can help avoid misprints and save money on filaments.

If your printer is supported by Simplify3D and if you have occasional misprints (and the printer is not the source of the problems): Yes, Simplify3D is definitely worth the $149.

Too bad: The company does not offer a trial version of its slicer software. You have to shell out the $149 to see for yourself whether Simplify3D is for you. But you can make use of the company’s “2 week no hassle return” policy.

Given the features and the high usefulness of Simplify3D, its makers would be well advised to show more confidence. A trial might help convince more users that the $149 is money spent well.