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Simplify 3D offers superior slicing for 3D printing

NOTE: This is a review of Simplify3D, the program I use for 3D printing slicing.

By Spencer Haggard

  If you are involved in the 3D printing world, it’s likely you’ve heard of Simplify3D. If you have no personal experience with the program, it can be hard to know what it is and what makes it different from other slicing programs, or even what a slicing program is if you are new to the printing world.

A slicing program reads 3D model files and prepares them for 3D printing. It does this by “slicing” the 3D models into thin layers much like an MRI machine does in medicine.

There are many slicers on the market, and some of the most popular ones such as Cura and Slic3r are free. Simplify3D breaks this mold as a paid program. At $149, it isn’t out of range of most consumers, but it isn’t cheap either. Many makers and engineers swear by it, and it has earned quite a name for itself in the 3D printing world. So what makes Simplify3D so different? …

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Cerberus 3D 400 3D printer opens a world of filament

When my first 3D printer, a 3D Systems CubeX, apparently died (more on that in a moment), I lost the ability to work in anything but PLA filament.

3D Systems CubeX 3D printer - Kevin Caron

That mattered to me, because I have one design in particular that seems to prefer ABS.

I had tried repeatedly to fix the CubeX, ordering and installing boards, but it became clear that I needed to consider another direction ….

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Fascinating finishes – 3D printed surface a blank slate

Twilight, a 3D printed fine art sculpture - Kevin CaronI love the strong colors 3D-printed resin creates. I really geek out on the translucents, of course – check out my 3D-printed sculptures to see how many times I’ve used translucent yellow, red, blue and purple filament because I love how they interact with light.

Yet I’m not afraid to cover the surface of a 3D-printed sculpture.

I did just that with Oculum, which has an antique brass patina. In that case, I had to address the sculpture’s surface because the design required supports during printing, and I have yet to figure out how to remove all evidence of them. That led to some “body work” (shades of my days as a mechanic!), which I then covered with the patina.

I’ve painted my 3D-printed sculptures, too. A good example is Night Sky, for which I just used rattle can paints.

But lately, I painted a couple of sculptures with a new finish that really excites me ….

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Metal filler works wonders with ABS filament

An as-yet-untitled 3D printed fine art sculpture by Phoenix artist Kevin Caron.Since I moved my 3D Systems CubeX 3D printer down to the studio, I’ve been able to play with it while I’m in the office cooling down – Arizona summers are really brutal when you work with fire and wear heavy protective gear. The CubeX gives me another way to play that keeps me under 1000 degrees.

One reason I hang onto this old 3D printer – it was the first one I owned – is that it prints ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) filament (the same stuff used in Lego bricks), which is petroleum-based. Although I mostly print in PLA (polylactic acid), ABS lets me do some things I can’t do with PLA.

In particular, it lets me print the two forms shown in this post, which my deltabot printers’ software just can’t seem to handle. The CubeX software can handle the thin edges better and print pieces without supports, which means much far less clean up. It also lets me use a filler that PLA probably wouldn’t put up with.

Accordingly, I decided to create these two forms for an upcoming show. I knew they wouldn’t print perfectly, though, so some body work was in my future ….

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A tale of two 3D-printed sculptures

Lemon Pisa, a 3D printed fine art sculpture - Kevin CaronI’ve written before about how I never create exact multiples of designs, 3D printed or otherwise. It’s possible, it’s just my philosophy to always create unique artworks.

That being said, I do enjoy creating variations of sculptures – something I also do with my metal works – which is how series develop. (If you go to my Website, you’ll see how I have multiple sculptures in the same vein, which are organized as series, in both my Fine Art and Home & Garden categories.)

Sometimes series develop because, as I create one sculpture, I can’t help thinking, “I wonder what would happen if I … ” took a different approach than the one I am already committed to on the piece I’m currently making.

Other times, someone will say something and spark an idea, and I can’t wait to see if it will work in a new sculpture. (A good example of this is Opioid, a 3D-printed sculpture with a light inside. I’ll do more with lights, too – it’s the single most asked question about my large format 3D printed sculptures: “Can you put a light in it?”)

Recently I 3D printed a piece on my 8-foot-tall Cerberus 3D Gigante 3D printer for a visiting TV crew and decided I wanted to make a variation on this design using the same luscious filament  ….

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The greatest weapon in the 3D-printed gun debate is FEAR

3D printed gun partsAny time I show my 3D-printed sculptures or jewelry or have a 3D printer running at an event, I inevitably get asked about 3D-printed guns.

It’s exasperating, because the fear of these guns – which is currently unfounded – taints 3D printing.

This topic has come up before, but it’s back in the news as the people who want to put plans for 3D-printed guns online are back at it.

I cannot explain or understand why they think this is a good idea, and I’m someone who has owned and used guns, so I’m not a gun-hater by any means.

There is just a time and a place for everything, and this issue is frustrating on many levels, not the least of which has to do with 3D printing itself.

As I explain to people who ask – so we can get back to discussing all of the wonderful things 3D printing can do – most mere mortals, like me, cannot afford a 3D printer that can print in metal…. Read More →

A rainbow of colors comes to 3D printing filament

RAL color wheelI originally began working in wood (OK, in cars, if you want to go back further). I didn’t do anything professionally with it, but I built some furniture.

Then I turned to metal, which has been the bulk of my practice since I began selling my artwork in the early 2000s.

About 4 or so years ago, I began playing with 3D printing.

Now I work with metal during the day, and 3D print in the evenings and on weekends, having fun with various filaments and forms along the way. I’ve sold a number of 3D-printed sculptures, the largest of which is 5-1/2 feet tall.

It’s been amazing to watch 3D printing evolve so quickly, and to see intersections between my metalworking and 3D printing worlds. Now another intersection, or blurring of the lines, has happened, and this one is a big deal ….

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Combining 3D printing filaments

MatterHackers PRO Series Flex 3D printer filamentMatterhackers Taulman Black T-Glase 3D printing filamentThe more I work with 3D printing (and, well, anything I do), the more questions bubble to the surface ….

   Can I make the material do this?

   What if I do that?

   Do I really need to ….

A lot of times, things work out. For instance, I did a  couple of videos about welding copper and steel (yeah, it worked, but I wouldn’t walk on a bridge welded that way).

Sometimes, not so much (I once filled cuts in a steel bell with copper, only to find out that oxidation was not kind to it).

That brought me to my latest wild hare chase, which is to combine 2 different types of 3D printing filament in a single print, and what the heck, I think I’ll throw in some sand, too ….

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3D-printed sculpture storms Tucson

A visitor to the Sculpture Tucson art show watches a Cerberus 3D 250 3D printer printing - Kevin CaronOK, maybe I went a little overboard in the headline, but I’m still really jazzed at the reception of my 3D-printed sculpture at the recent Sculpture Tucson show in, yes, Tucson, Arizona (is there another Tucson? Hmmm, I’ll have to look that up ….)

The turnout at the show was incredible. Preliminary estimates say that 4,300 people came through in just 2-1/2 days April 6 – 8.

Although the show was outside at Brandi Fenton Park, I had my Cerberus 3D 250 running the whole time. Amazingly enough, it only failed once when the wind got the best of it, but overall, it performed beautifully.

It also fascinated people. A few people who came by knew about 3D printing, but most visitors had never seen a 3D printer running before. That meant I did a lot of education, which is how it usually goes when I have the printer running at an event.

We actually apologized to the artists around us, who had to hear the spiel over and over and over again. The challenge was always explaining it like I’d never said it before, but what I would say seldom varied (“… start in CAD …” “… the filament comes down from here …” “… like a big glue gun …”) ….

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Getting it together: connecting 3D prints

Untitled 3D printed fine art sculpture - Kevin CaronEven though I have an 8-foot-tall 3D printer that will print up to 4 feet tall, there are times I’d like to make something bigger.

I have done that, as evidenced in the 5-1/2 foot tall sculpture Epic Swoon (below), which was commissioned by PriceCooperswaterhouse in Columbus, Ohio. That sculpture, the tallest 3D-printed piece I’ve made to date, reached its height by placing the main part of the sculpture on a black pedestal.

In all honesty, I have not had much luck yet in matching parts so that they can be put together seamlessly, so the contrasting pedestal was a handsome workaround.

Recently I created another sculpture (right) – well, at least the start of one – by printing 2 sections and sliding them together using slots. The fit is tight and requires no adhesive, but it wouldn’t hurt, either.

So it’s no surprise that Pinshape‘s recent post about using adhesives for 3D prints caught my eye ….

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