Whether it be FDM or SLA/DLP you need a slicer to be able to print and with so many options how do you choose? Choosing a slicer often comes down to personal preference, some people want a simple piece of software while others want to be able to tweak every setting to get the highest quality print possible.
Earlier we posted a summarized guide comparing Cura and PrusaSlicer which can be found here.
In this post, we will be taking an in-depth look at Cura and PrusaSlicer. Before we dive into the details we must mention that we will not be rating these slicers on a scale. This is because, as mentioned before, slicer choice is often based on preference and so we will be looking at what the key features of each slicer are.
Cura was created by David Braam, who was later employed by Ultimaker to maintain the software. It was originally designed to work with Ultimaker 3D Printers but it quickly became far more versatile. Popularity of the software rapidly increased and by 2015 it had been downloaded over 1 million times. Cura has a team of developers who release regular updates and new features, combined with the wide range of supported 3D Printers and it is no wonder that Cura is the go-to slicer for many Makers.
PrusaSlicer, originally called Slic3r Prusa Edition (Slic3r PE), was first released in 2016 and used Slic3r as a base. Due to the vast number of new functions and updates made to Slic3r PE, it was renamed to PrusaSlicer in 2019. PrusaSlicer is often the slicer of choice for owners of Prusa 3D Printers. PrusaSlicer aims to be a powerful and accessible slicer for all Makers and with the rapidly growing community, regular updates, and new features, it is easy to see why it is a popular alternative to Cura.
Operating Systems and Accessibility:
Cura: Windows, Mac, Linux
PrusaSlicer: Windows, Mac, Linux
Cura: Beginner – Advanced
PrusaSlicer: Beginner – Advanced
At the time of writing the current software versions are Cura 4.9.1 and PrusaSlicer 2.3.1. Both slicers come with a variety of features, the ones we cover below are some that stand out for each program. (Note that not all of the features listed below are exclusive to the slicer they are listed under.)
Both Cura and PrusaSlicer are free, open-source, and offer interface presets.
Cura allows you to connect to wireless boards such as Raspberry Pi. This allows you to upload files directly to your browser rather than doing it manually.
– Post-Processing Script
Custom script allows users to add conditions to the printing process. This can be used to do things such as pause at a certain point, change filament, or even change what the LCD display shows. So if you need to add magnets into enclosed parts or want the display to show the remaining print time this is the setting to use.
– 3rd-Party Support
An incredibly helpful functionality of Cura and part of what makes it so popular is its huge number of supported 3D Printers. Despite these printers coming from competitors, there are hundreds of manufacturers that use Cura to sell their products. If your printer is not supported you can add a custom printer and enter in the information.
– Digital Marketplace
Ultimaker has integrated its digital marketplace into Cura. This is similar to an app store on mobile and allows you to download plugins and materials to Cura. These add-ons allow you to extend the functionality of Cura. We found the Thingibrowser to be particularly useful as it allows you to browse Thingiverse from Cura and then add objects directly to the build plate..
– Experimental settings
The experimental settings give you access to features and settings that are not often used or are being tested before being properly integrated into Cura. This section, located at the bottom of the settings list, allows you to experiment with settings such as fuzzy skin, draft shield, and adaptive layers.
– CAD Integration
The developers at Ultimaker know how important workflow is, especially in 3D Printing. This is why it is possible to seamlessly integrate CAD plugins with Cura. This includes plugins for software such as SolidWorks, Siemens NX, Autodesk Inventor, and more.
PrusaSlicer allows you to send G-code directly to your printer with a single click of a button. it supports Octoprint, Repetier Host, FlashAir SD cards, and more.
– Conditional G-code
Similar to Cura’s post-processing script, conditional G-code allows you to add conditional statements to the G-code. This means you can insert additional functions such as pause and colour change.
– Variable layer height
Instead of having a fixed layer height, this setting allows users to customize it. The interface allows you to specify exactly where you want the changes to occur on the print. This allows you to reduce print time while not compromising on quality. This setting allows for greater customization than the Cura equivalent.
– SLA & MSLA supported
PrusaSlicer can slice models for printing on either FDM or MSLA in the same program. This means that you don’t have to have separate slicers for FDM and resin. Currently, only the Prusa SL1 is supported but Makers have adapted the settings to work with other resin printers. Hopefully, they expand this function to cater to more resin printers as having a built in resin slicer would truly make PrusaSlicer stand out..
– Paint-on seams
Specify where the layer change seam will be located with a simple paint tool. This means you can set the seam location so you can adjust it to not impact the quality of the print. When combining this with the seam hiding algorithm, the seam is often nearly invisible.
– Custom Supports
If the slicer-generated supports are not meeting your requirements then give custom supports a try. Paint exactly where you need support or block automatically generated supports in selected areas. You can also use custom meshes as support blockers and enforcers. Everything is neatly saved in the project file, always customizable. This can drastically reduce print time and filament usage.
User interface often comes down to personal preference. Beginners are looking for easy-to-learn software that they can learn, while advanced users are looking for access to all the latest features and settings. Both Cura and PrusaSlicer offer customisable interfaces that cater to any Makers.
Cura’s entire interface is located in a moveable drop-down menu on the right of the screen. You can choose from basic, advanced, expert, and all for the interface. Each option provides access to more settings to adjust. You can also make a custom interface by picking what settings are displayed. Cura’s interface can get fairly cluttered when expert or all is selected, thankfully they have included a search function to allow you to find exactly what you need without having to scroll up and down. Cura does offer a dark mode theme which can provide a better user experience.
PrusaSlicer offers a simple, advanced, or expert mode and like Cura, each option allows you access to more settings. There isn’t a custom setting but with the way PrusaSlicer has designed its interface, there is no need. PrusaSlicer organises its interface into tabs, similar to a web browser, with each tab being dedicated to a specific part of 3D Printing. The tab system keeps everything organised and relatively easy to find. A useful addition is how PrusaSlicer uses coloured blocks next to each setting to indicate which mode the setting is linked to. They also provide a search function for easy access to specific settings. Even with expert mode selected it does not feel as cluttered as Cura.
For testing the slicers I decided to try out some of the printer profile preset on each slicer. I did this as a way to see if what kind of experience someone new to 3D Printing would have when using a slicer for the first time.
Cura Settings: Standard, Dynamic Quality, and Dynamic Quality with increased retraction.
PrusaSlicer Settings: Normal, Optimal, and Optimal with increased retraction.
Note: For each Cura print I dropped the speed down to 70mm/s as this is the maximum stable print speed for the Ender 6. No other settings were changed.
I experienced quite bad stringing with all prints except for the ones where I increased retraction. Even with the stringing the quality of each print is very good. Each slicer had its nuances, for example, Cura struggled to hide the Z-seam, and PrusaSlicer struggled with the lower part of the prow.
I have been using Cura as my go-to slicer since I started 3D Printing. With that being said I have been very impressed with PrusaSlicer. I really enjoyed trying it out and seeing how it compared to Cura. Here are my thoughts on each slicer.
A very well-known and popular slicer that packs almost every feature and setting you could ever need for 3D Printing. The interface starts off simple but when you set it to expert or all then it quickly gets confusing. Cura offers an incredibly wide range of 3D Printer profiles which makes it great for new Makers looking for a more plug, select printer, and hit print experience. The integrated marketplace allows you to add a variety of plugins that will further expand on the functionality of the slicer. If you are new to 3D Printing I would recommend Cura as a way to learn slicing software due to its wide range of supported 3D Printers.
You can download Cura here.
Being completely new to PrusaSlicer I initially confused by the layout of the slicer. It did not take long for me to figure out where everything was located and soon I was ready for my first print. PrusaSlicer does not have as wide a range of supported printers at the moment but this may change over time. I did find PrusaSlicers interface far easier to navigate even with expert mode selected and haven’t needed to use the search function as of yet. I am interest to see what new features are added to PrusaSlicer as it is developed.
You can download PrusaSlicer here.
As there is a wide selection of slicers available we are eager to hear which slicer you prefer. We also know that there are far too many features and settings to list them all, so if you have a favorite feature in Cura or PrusaSlicer let us know in the comments below.
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Graphic Designer | Photographer | Gamer and Twitch streamer.
I have a passion for design and a love of art. I am always eager to learn new things, be it 3D modeling/3D printing, copywriting or even cooking. Pretty chill guy who is always down for a braai with family and friends.