If you’ve ever tried to print anything with a 3D printer, you’ll be aware of slicer software.
This is what you need to convert your 3D design into a printable file that can be produced as a 3D printed item.
There are a few options available in the world of slicers, but these are mainly aimed at FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling) printers.
In general terms, the main and most popular SLA slicers are Lychee and ChiTubox.
In today’s review, it is the latter of these two I’ll be looking at: ChiTubox.
There are a few others which aren’t used as much, such as Prusa Slicer and Creality’s Halot Box, but these are mainly proprietary slicers for use with each company own printers.
The aim is to give you an introduction to the software, how to get started with using it with a look at the primary features, the pros, and cons, and whether it’s worth paying for the “Pro” version.
I’ll also look at how well ChiTubox has been received by the 3D printing community and cover some of the reviews that users have provided.
So, the first question you might be asking is…
What is ChiTubox?
ChiTubox was developed by CBD-Tech who were established in 2013 and focus on 3D printer controller system development and controller boards.
The ChiTubox slicer software itself has been in use since 2017 and, as we’ve already mentioned, is now one of the main SLA slicers chosen by resin printer users.
Slicer software is slightly different for FDM and SLA machines, and ChiTubox is solely dedicated to providing slicing facilities for the SLA printer user.
There are now two versions available for users; ChiTubox Basic which is free to download and ChiTubox Pro for which you have to pay.
There is quite a bit of difference between the two in terms of functionality, and it wouldn’t be practical to list all of them.
The main difference which jumps out at you straight away though is that ChiTubox Basic only allows you to import .stl and .obj files as standard, whereas ChiTubox Pro allows for multiple CAD file formats.
Therefore, you’ll need to decide which one’s better for your needs, but we’ll discuss later on whether it’s worth paying for the upgrade.
ChiTubox and together with Lychee have been well received by users and are now seen as the only choices to make when it comes to SLA slicing software.
If you loom on Facebook or other forums such as Reddit, you’ll find many groups dedicated to issues that may arise using the slicer and to providing support for other users.
It’s this community spirit that is always helpful and welcome among 3D printing enthusiasts.
Primary Features of ChiTubox
As we’ve already discussed, there are a lot of features in ChiTubox Basic alone and even more in ChiTubox Pro.
Both though will provide you with the main tools you’ll need to be able to slice your model ready for printing.
The User Interface (UI) for both versions is the same and has the main tool bars to the left side and along the top of the screen.
A handy little visual aid pops up when you hover over each button to give you an idea of what you’re using.
Let’s then have a look at some of the primary features.
Separate Print Profiles
3D printing with an SLA or resin printer holds different settings challenges than that of an FDM printer.
In FDM, the main considerations are the different types of filaments you’re using (PLA, ABS, TPU, etc.) which will need varying temperature levels, but you may only need to change the speed and support settings occasionally.
With resin, you’re not only dealing with those standard settings, but also color.
It often surprises users that each different color of even the same brand and type of resin will need its own settings configuration.
This is because resin printers use a light source to produce the print, so color has an effect on this.
So, in order to alleviate the tedium of having to reset everything, ChiTubox allows you to set up and save multiple different slicing profiles for each resin that you may use.
A very useful and time saving tool!
If you have a model that you want to print that has multiple parts, then you may not want to have to print them in separate files.
This can be time-consuming and, again, tedious.
This is where the Auto Layout function comes to your rescue.
With this setting, you can position each part of your model (within the confines of the build area of course) in a layout that suits the print.
This setting can also be used if you’re printing copies of the same model but, again, limited to the build area.
This setting, as they say, does exactly what it says on the tin!
If you’re looking to create a hollow printed model or have a void in a particular part of the model, then this is the function you need.
The model will be hollowed out according to the set parameters of the particular model.
For instance, it will only hollow parts of the model which is able to do so without weakening or diminishing the integrity of the print.
This again is a feature which needs no introduction due to its title.
That being said, it may not be apparent to first time users, so this function basically allows you to send the sliced file directly to your printer.
This cuts out the need to save the file and load it onto your printer via a USB stick.
Note that the printer must be connected to your Local Area Network (LAN) by cable, so this isn’t a wireless setup.
We’ve covered a few of the most interesting features of ChiTubox, but obviously there are a lot more to discover. Within the toolbars themselves are the following, some of which we’ve already covered:
- Copy: Provides a clone of the selected model which can be added to the build plate
- Dig Hole: This will make a round hole in the selected area of the model. Ideal for making bolt holes or joints in multi part models. This is also useful for “draining” resin during printing
- Repair: If there are any issues with the mesh of the design, this function will repair these before slicing
- Move: Again, fairly self-explanatory. This allows you to move the selected model around the build surface
- Rotate: Allows for rotational movement around the three axis (x, y and z)
- Scale: You can change the size of the selected model. Ideal if the original design is too large or has been designed for a FDM printer
- Mirror: Literally reverses the aspect of the entire model
Other functions are found in the drop-down menu at the top of the screen and include the standard save, import, and export commands.
Supports can be added using a separate menu to the right of the screen where you’ll also find the final button, you’ll need, which is of course “Slice”.
Pros and Cons of Using ChiTubox
Even with the best quality software and indeed any product, there are always good and bad points or pros and cons.
Software is tested by the programmers and beta users before it is released, but it is only once it’s been in use publicly for a while that these pros and cons become apparent.
If you look at the official Facebook group for ChiTubox for instance, there are some mixed reviews from actual users of the software.
Let’s then have a look at some of the issues which users have highlighted, together of course with the good points!
We’ll also look at the obvious Pros and Cons of the features in terms of what we think are potentially notable for new users.
Generally, the comments online are good and response from users is positive.
The consensus seems to be that ChiTubox is much better than any proprietary slicer that comes with a printer, and on a par with Lychee in terms of features.
This is borne out by the fact that online support groups and forums, such as Reddit for instance, will recommend trying ChiTubox if a user is having an issue with another slicer.
Notable pros include:
- Easily generated supports: As mentioned, there is a separate menu which allows you to easily add supports to your model
- Easy to use UI: The controls are set out in a clear and easy to understand way
- Versatile editing tools: The tools we’ve listed previously provide a range of settings in order to make the slicing process more efficient
- Slicer preview: You can view how the slice will come out so will allow for changes to be made
- Supports all current operating systems: Download can be via Windows, iOS or Linux
- Free version and regular updates: As mentioned previously, the Basic version is free to use and there are regular updates to its functionality
- Free ChiTubox Academy: This is one of the outstanding things about this software. They are offering tons of free video manuals in their ChiTubox Academy section.
- Education Discount: Students and educators can apply for a 50% discount.
One common issue that seems to be a feature of online comments is that ChiTubox either fails to load or closes down unexpectedly.
There is also a sense that customer support is lacking and that users are only given the option of using ChiTubox, particularly if they’ve bought one of their printers.
On the Facebook group mentioned previously, the overall rating for ChiTubox is 3.7/5, but that has to be tempered by the fact that it’s only taken from 12 user ratings.
Other issues have included:
- Compatibility issues: Not all printers are supported
- Supports: Automatically and easily generated supports can be good, but there is no way of removing these once added
- Errors can occur: Mistakes or “artifacts” can be apparent on the finished slice, even if it’s not visible in the preview
- Basic isn’t best: You may find it difficult to get on with the Basic version, so will need to pay out for the Pro if you want full functionality
Is ChiTubox Worth It?
That last point in the “cons” section above leads us nicely to the question:
Is Chitubox Pro worth paying for instead of just using the free Basic version?
As we’ve seen, there are a number of decent features which make ChiTubox Basic a good choice of slicer for resin printers.
The UIs for both are visually similar, but the Pro version has more obvious toolbars that make it clear what you’re using.
Each feature in Basic is expanded on slightly in Pro, with more adjustable settings for each major function.
The measurement and analysis tools are only available in the Pro version. With the collision feature, you can easily avoid models colliding during printing.
With all the measurement tools like model size, and distance between two points, or a point and a plane, you have more control over the required object dimensions.
Advanced features related to adding and managing support are a big plus of the paid version. I would say there are too many options for every single support type your object would need.
From elementary support types available in the basic version to three-like or two-point connections, the support toolbar will certainly satisfy every kind of “support need”.
To compare all features between ChiTubox Basic and Pro would need a separate article. It is sufficed to say; ChiTubox pro is a much better version of its counterpart Basic version.
To determine whether it’s worth paying the price of $169 for the Pro version would come down to how much you need the settings of your slicer to be absolutely perfect, or whether you’re happy to go with the basics.
So, if you plan to work on some more complex 3D printing projects, I would recommend you try the Pro Version.
In conclusion, I think you can agree that ChiTubox is an adequate choice of slicer for users of resin printers.
Anyway, there are other alternatives you can use, but Chitubox is one of the most reliable slicing software out there.
If you go for the Basic version, you’re going to get a slicer that works perfectly for the needs of the average user.
If however, you’re working more on the professional side of things in respect of maybe selling your printed work, then the Pro version may well be a sound investment.