ultimaker-cura-3d-printing-software-review

Ultimaker released the Cura 3D Printing Software to provide the users with most of the features they need on a daily basis. In the user interface, you will notice that the company presents many features in a better way so that they can match the workflow of the users. Its stage menu has many collapsible panels to allow the users to concentrate on the 3-dimensional view when necessary and at the same time access the important information such as one relating to slicing settings and configurations. The UI differentiates between the custom and recommended mode. Novice users or users who are not interested in many settings can prepare files easily without having to dive into details.

As a user, you can navigate to the preview page and check the layer view after you have sliced your model. Previously, the feature was somehow hidden and less obvious. The developer has integrated the user account control and the marketplace into one interface for easier access of plugins and material profiles and the users can, therefore, manage any plugin that requires login such the Cura Backups and those entering the market today. Moreover, the monitor is improved to offers seamless experience between the Cura Connect and the UltimakerCura – that is according to Ultimaker, the developer. The company encourages product users to download the UltimakerCura 4.0 for testing purposes.

About the Developer

ultimaker-3d-printing

Ultimaker

Ultimaker is among the leading 3D printer manufacturing companies in the world – based in the Netherlands with assembly lines and offices in the United States. They have been producing FFF 3 dimensional printers, developing 3D printing software and selling branded printing materials. Some of their product lines include the Ultimaker 3 series, Ultimaker S5, Ultimaker 2+ Series and the Ultimaker Original +. Some of the professionals who use their products include architects, automotive producers, healthcare professionals, educationists, and small-scale manufacturers.

The Dutch 3D printer came into being in the year 2011 – started by SiertWijnia, Erik de Bruijin and MartijinElserman. The three established the foundation of the company at ProtoSpace Utrecht where they organized two workshops to start building RepRap Darwin 3D printer. They were unable to make the design of the Darwin design work and decided to make another design. They avoided the RepRap principle so that their printer would print unique parts. The designed the printers to be made of laser-cut plywood parts. The first prototypes featured the name “UltimakerProtobox” but the newer prototypes displayed the title “Ultimaker”.

They named their first 3D software the Replicator-G but later changed the name to Cura because most people were going for it in favour of the Replicator-G, which they had produced with the Makerbot in mind. After Cura’s lead developer started working for Ultimaker, the UltimakerCurabecame Ultimaker’s lead software. Most 3D enthusiasts started using Cura and a survey that YouMagine conducted in the year 2017 showed that over one million people were using the software.

Key Features of the UltimakerCura 3D Printing Software

UltimakerCura 3D Printing Software is an open source printer slicing application. The software is available under LGPLv3 license but David Braam, who later worked for Ultimaker, released it for the first time under Affero General Public License version-3, an open source. Ultimaker changed the license to LGPLv3 on 28th September 2017 for various reasons. The change allowed users to integrate the 3D printing software with most third-party CAD applications.

The developers host the software on GitHub. Today, the number of people using Cura to complete their 3D printing tasks exceeds one million globally. It is preferable for the Ultimaker 3D printers, but you can also use it with any other 3D printer in the market. Here are some of the other important things you should know about the Cura 3D Printing Software.

The technical specifications

UltimakerCura slices the model file of a user into many layers and generates printer-specific g-codes that it sends to the 3D printer to manufacture the physical object. This open source 3D printing software works with almost every available desktop 3D printer, which means that you should not stick to Ultimaker printers. Generally, it works with 3D printers that support file formats like OBJ, STL, 3MF, X3D and image file formats like GIF, BMF, PNG and JPG.

The available versions

On 7th June 2016, Ultimaker announced their new Cura release 2.1.2 that supersedes their previous 15.04.6 version – note that the major version numbers are sequential. On September 2016, they released another major release. The software included new slicing features, printing profiles and improved speed. Moreover, it supported the Ultimaker 3 model’s dual extrusion.

Ultimaker released the current major version on 17 October 2017, which is Version 3.0. The version allowed for the software integration with CAD and updater the end-user interface. It was also the first version to support plugins. Later in November 2017, they released the Cura Connect, which allowed the users to monitor, control and configure several networked 3D printers from one user interface.

In October 2018, they released the Version 3.5, which allows saving of files in 3MF format for better compatibility with the other available 3D software programs. They introduced hotkeys in addition to searchable profile guide. And later in November 2018, they introduced the version 3.6, which supports most materials from major manufacturers like DuPont, Basf, Clariant and the other members of Materials Alliance Program pool. Keep in mind that any version after Cura version 3.1 supports USB connected printers. If you already have a USB 3D printer or you are planning to use USB connectivity, you have to use the Cura 3.1 and any later version.

Ultimaker was able to introduce many changes to the user interface with the Version 4.0 released on March 2019. To support the capabilities of plugins, the developer introduced a star-based user rating system so that people can easily rate the software after using it.

Plugins

ultimaker-cura-pluginsThe Release 3.0 offered support for plugins. Therefore, users can now develop personalized plugins or use those available commercially. The purpose of a plugin is to simplify the 3D printing workflow for the users by allowing them to complete most of their tasks faster. Some of the tasks you can complete faster with a quality plugin are he exportation of a file from another application or opening of files from the main menu. Release 4.0 allowed users to rate plugins using the included star system. Some of the plugins you can use with the Cura software for 3D printing include the Siemens NX, SolidWorks, MakePrintable and HP 3D Scanning.

The media coverage

Think3DPrint3D included the Cura software in their 3D slicing software review on August 31, 2014. In summer of the year 2015, PrinterChat recognized the 3D printing software as the preferable slicing software for use in classrooms. They also recommended it as a better choice for professionals due to user interface and the cost. In November 2017, 3ders.org and Forbes noted the UltimakerCura Connect release and its program networking capabilities. Later on 1st January 2018, AII3DP recognized Cura as one of the leading 3D slicers software programs in the market.

What Cura Does Well

Cura has been evolving constantly, which means that the developers have learnt from their mistakes. The software for 3D printers offers control for almost every setting the users would require from the bigger stuff including layer height and layer travel acceleration. Therefore, the software is a good choice for the casual users, hardcore 3D printing enthusiast and the people who are planning to dive into the 3D printing world.

The open source software will come in handy when completing your models. Actually, Cura paved the way to make the 3D printers accessible to many people and offered the quality of high-end software programs. Even some large companies, including LulzBot, have been using Cura to build their Taz branded software and Mini printers they sell. And considering that the software program is free to use, you have nothing to worry about.

What Cura Does Not do Well

Even though Cura Software for 3D printing slices models properly for printing, it lacks support control. Historically, Cura does badly when it comes to the support settings and you are likely to spend hours searching for the right supports but end up failing each time. The developer has worked on that by introducing the tree supports – small supports that branch out of each other to minimize the contact points – and the new support blocker is closer but does not provide the best settings.

The other big problem relates to the processing speed of this 3D software. Cura takes longer than most other 3D printing software programs in the market today. The problem might worsen when dealing with complex settings or meshes. If your machine is slow, you should expect hang-ups or freezes that will influence you to restart the Cura software.

Pros

  • It is free to use
  • The developer updates it on a weekly basis
  • It is an open source software program

Cons

  • You are likely to spend more time on the settings part
  • The processing of models is very slow

Conclusion

Cura supports STL, OBJ and 3MF file formats, which it also repairs when necessary. The software program will show you a toolpath, material and printing time estimates. The developer continues to update it on a regular basis and today it allows the users to develop their plugins to use with software or opt for the available third-party plugins. That has enabled the slicer to remain ahead of the key competitors. With the software, you will be able to handle dual printing.

Written by Mark Bynum

Mark Bynum is tech writer and WordPress enthusiast from Atlanta. He loves playing with latest tech gadgets and testing various products and services. When he is AFK, you can find him hiking somewhere in the woods.

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