December 11, 2020

3D Printing - Software

I use a linux desktop. I am getting started with 3D printing, and I am told there are two major pieces of software I need. I need some kind of CAD software, and "slicing" software.

My mentor recommends TinkerCad, at least to get started. This is web based and runs in a browser, so there will be no trouble using it from linux.

A package called "blender" is recommended for linux as one of many locally hosted CAD packaged. It gets mixed reviews. Some people love it, others say it is hard to learn if you are new to CAD. From what I have heard, all CAD software has a big learning curve, so that doesn't frighten me yet. The trick is making a good choice up front so a bunch of time and energy invested learning a package doesn't lead to a dead end.

I am running Fedora 32. I see "blender" in the package list, and when I go to install it, it is already installed! Typing "blender" indeed starts it, and a huge GUI takes over my entire screen. We will get back to this later.

Blender calls itself an "open source 3D creation suite". 3D printing is only part of the game. Here is what Dave says about Blender:

If you’re familiar with Blender, cool. I have used Blender a little. There is also a free Autodesk Fusion 360 which is popular. I installed it, used it a little and went back to Tinkercad. It just takes me so much less time to whip out things because I’m so used to using primitives and cobble together a design. It’s a circle and square world to me.

Also, the issue of reversed and misaligned surfaces after being run through the slicer (Cura) app. I suggest previewing your model after slicing. Cura has a layer by layer preview.


This was available as a download for 64 bit linux. Clicking the download link gave me a huge (154M file) that is one big executable named "Ultimaker_Cura-4.8.0.AppImage". I use chmod to make the file executable and run it.

It offers to have me make an account, which I skip. It then announces that it finds no printer on my network, which is correct (my printer has not arrived yet). There is a selection for a non-networked printer, and when I click it, I navigate to "Creality Ender-3 Pro". The next menu is Machine settings, which I don't have a clue about and leave alone. Now it seems that everything is set up and the software is ready to do things.

This all looks fine. I get a bunch of warnings (mostly about fonts) when I start it up, but I don't think that will be a problem.

Dave says about Cura: "I tried the pay versions of slicer software (technical term for what Cura does) only to learn that those same functions were in Cura. Having printed from both, once everything is set up, you're fine. The real benefit of some of the other software I’ve tried is the ability to “fix” complex geometry. Using a real cad program can turn into bad 3d printing geometry (mainly reversed or missing surfaces) that needs to be fixed. If your geometry is simple primitives, that isn’t a problem."

And about TinkerCAD: "I’ve not been able to make anything that needed fixing from Tinkercad. This is one of the reasons I recommend Tinkercad. It not a full cad program but the creative mind can do lots. I’ve never met a snag that required me to go to another Cad program. It’s made by Autodesk as a teaser into their other Cad products."

Have any comments? Questions? Drop me a line!

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