The Lychee and ChiTubox programs are the two best known and most used SLA/resin 3D printing slicers available.
Each does the job of slicing a model ready for 3D printing, but what are their differences and ultimately, which one is the best?
In this article, we’ll aim to find out which of these two heavyweights wins the battle of the slicers in an ultimate fight to become the champion slicer.
In previous articles, we’ve written on the subject of these slicers. We’ve looked at their main features as well as some unique ones that set each one apart from the other.
However, as yet we haven’t had the opportunity to compare the two side by side.
In the world of 3D printing, a slicer (or pre-processing) program is the bridge between your design and the 3D printed model you’re aiming for.
Designing an object in a CAD program like Fusion 360 is the first step to creating your own original 3D printed model.
Once you have that design, it’s not yet ready to be printed, so this is where the slicer comes into play.
The slicer allows you to manipulate the model and set parameters to ensure that it’s printed the way you want it.
Once all the settings have been adjusted and any tweaks have been made, then the model is ready to be sliced.
This effectively converts the file into STL format, which will be compatible with your 3D printer.
Introduction of Both Slicers
There are different slicer programs for both FDM and SLA/resin printing, but Lychee and ChiTubox are specifically used for the latter of the two.
Lychee has been established since 2017 and is the brainchild of designer Julien Delnatte and the company Mango 3D.
Julien decided that he wanted to design and create his own resin printer, but then needed to create a new slicing program for it.
He wanted this to be different from others that were already out there, as he felt that quality was lost from the design to the printing stage.
From this came Lychee which is now compatible with many brands of resin printers and not just the Mango 3D range.
ChiTubox is definitely Lychee’s main rival and was coincidentally also created in 2017.
The company CBD-Tech is the driving force behind ChiTubox and when they first started in 2013, their main focus was on producing mainboards and control systems for 3D printers.
This then developed into the desire to provide a slicing program to go alongside their hardware and create an all-in-one resin printing package.
Since then, ChiTubox has built up a strong user base and 3D printing community following, allowing for further development and updates to continue.
This is also due to the fact that there are two versions of ChiTubox; a free one and a subscription version. Obviously, there are differences between the two versions, with much greater functionality in the paid for version.
So, that’s just a brief history of the two slicers we’re looking at, but now let’s get down to a more in-depth look at what each one has to offer.
Let battle commence!
Overview of Lychee Slicer Software
As we’ve seen, Lychee is a popular slicer for users of resin 3D printers.
So let’s have a closer look at the main features of this software and also delve into the sometimes-murky depths of the pros and cons of using it!
When you’re looking for a good 3D slicer, you need to know that it has the features you need to do the job you’re working on. You’ll also need to know what these features are and how they perform. So let’s start by looking at the main features of Lychee.
- UI (User Interface): This is very clear and easy to use, even for first time users. It can seem daunting at first, but there is a loyal following of users who are always ready to help and the developer, Mango 3D, also has a decent support and online tutorial system in place.
- Magic Menu: This allows you to set Lychee to automatically adjust the settings ready for slicing your model. This removes what can seem like a time-consuming process when it comes to changing every setting and uses the most common values to prepare the model. You can still adjust and tweak the settings yourself though if you want to retain the “hands-on” approach.
- Automatic Supports: Setting up supports for resin printing is probably the thing that causes the most headaches for the average user. Ensuring that the supports are in the right place can be the difference between success and failure of your print. The correct type of support can also be crucial, so choosing between standard and tree supports is something to consider. Lychee provides automatic supports which will intuitively add supports in the right areas. This is a great-added feature for anyone who finds adding supports to be a bit of a headache.
- Real-Time Controls: These can be applied to hollowing, drainage holes and slicing previews and can be managed, so you can see at what stage certain things will happen when your model is printed. These are all useful in avoiding failures of your prints through poorly adjusted settings.
- Supported files: It’s useful to know which file formats can be both uploaded to use in Lychee and then what file formats it will export as slices. Lychee supports the following file types: STL, OBJ, 3MF and LYS.
- The free version obviously costs nothing but has limited capabilities
- The Pro version costs €65.99 a year, with an upgrade to the Premium option adding another €44.90 per year
- The Premium option therefore costs €110.89 in total per year
Pros of Using Lychee
- Easy and clear UI
- Good supports settings
- Automatic support and slice settings
- Basic version is free to download
- Wide range of printers supported
- Good community and company support
Cons of Using Lychee
- Not all features are available in the free version
- Can seem daunting to new users
- Slices can leave unwanted “extra pieces” or artifact
- Some errors appear with relation to the UI view (i.e. model disappears, compatibility errors show, model not present error shows etc.)
Overview of ChiTubox Slicer Software
ChiTubox as we’ve discussed is the other main contender when it comes to resin slicers and probably the one that is most favored by users in general.
But why is that? Let’s take a closer look at ChiTubox then to see if we can work this out.
- Separate Print Profiles: If you’re familiar with using a resin 3D printer, you’ll be aware that any change you make to the type of resin you use and even the color of that resin will need different settings in ChiTubox. If you want to regularly use different types and colors of resin, then you’re e going to be changing the settings every time. This is where the benefit of setting up different and separate print profiles will save you. Multiple profiles can be added so that when you do change your materials, you can just select the corresponding profile and away you go.
- Auto Layout: This is also a time-saving feature, but this time when you get to the printing stage. If you need to print different parts of the same model, then auto layout allows you to arrange them on the build plate, so you can print them in one hit. This is also useful if you want to print multiple duplicate models.
- Hollow: If you want to create a hollow printed model or have a void in a particular part of the model, then this function will do that for you. The settings allow you to hollow out certain areas of your model, but will show you if these hollows will cause weakness or reduce the structural integrity of the model.
- Network Sending: This is a good feature of ChiTubox as it allows you to send the sliced file directly to your printer as long as the printer’s capabilities allow. This however is a wired connection to your LAN (Local Area Network) set-up so isn’t via Wi-Fi. It does however cut out the need to download the sliced file and then save it to and SD bard or USB drive.
- Supports: There is a separate menu to the right side of the UI which allows for detailed adjustment and selection of the correct supports for your model. There is also the option to generate auto supports, as can be found with Lychee.
- ChiTubox basic is the free version of the slicer
- Chitubox Pro mothly subscription costs $15.99/month with $6 discount for the first moth
- CHITUBOX Pro anuall subscription saves you $16.88/year, so you’ll pay $169 per year
Pros of Using ChiTubox
- Easily generated supports
- Easy to use UI
- Versatile editing tools
- Slicer preview
- Supports all current operating systems
- Free version and regular updates
Cons of Using ChiTubox
- If the model is changed from the original design, errors or “artifacts” may occur
- Once you’ve edited the supports, there’s no “undo” function. This means you’ll have to start over
- The free version of ChiTubox has limited features
Comparison of Lychee and ChiTubox
So, we’ve looked briefly at the main features and the pros and cons of each slicer, but it’s time to compare the main aspects side by side.
The features and settings don’t necessarily tell the whole story, so we need to know which of these two has the better pedigree when it comes to actually producing a sliced file.
Let’s then finally pitch these two into battle and see who wins.
Round 1: User Interface
This is the main bones of the program and the first thing you’ll see when you open up the software and start using it.
The UI is clear and easy to use, with all the functions visible and easy enough to access.
All the main features and functions are assembled down the left-hand side of the screen, which gives a larger area to view your model and build area.
However, there is a fairly tedious registration and login process to go through to actually get to the UI.
The UI is again clear, easy to use and nicely presented.
The main features and tools are distributed both across the top of the screen and to the left-hand side.
Hovering the mouse pointer over any of these will give a brief explanation as well as an animated visual representation of what each one does. This was very helpful for me when I started to use ChiTubox.
The more technical settings are in place in a separate, expandable menu to the right of the screen.
This provides enough space to see your model and the build area in the center.
Round 1 result: A close draw
Round 2: Supported Printer Models and Compatibility
With any slicer or indeed any 3D printing related software, it’s important to know whether or not your particular printer is supported.
Lychee also has the same coverage when it comes to resin printers, but this is where it has an advantage over ChiTubox.
Not only does it support resin printers, but also provides slicing functionality for FDM printers. The range of compatibility here is again impressive, and it would appear that every known brand is covered.
You can find the list of supported printer in Lychee here.
ChiTubox actually supports virtually every resin printer currently on the market, and still also provides support for older or discontinued models.
Basically, if your printer isn’t on the list, it would be a surprise. Anyway, you can always set up a profile under “Others” if that’s the case.
And the ChiTubox list of supported printer’s can be found here.
Round 2 result: Lychee
Round 3: Advanced Features
With both ChiTubox and Lychee, the majority of the advanced features are only available within the upgraded or Pro version of the software.
You’ll therefore need to pay a premium to get premium features!
The Pro version of Lychee offers the following as some of it’s advanced features:
- More control of supports
- Advanced slicing settings
- Wider selection of rafts and bases
- Better control of hollowing features
- Physical-size mode and many more.
ChiTubox Pro has the following as some of its advanced features:
- Adaptive slicing
- CAD file support
- Allows for two profile set-ups in one slice
- One-click Advanced Repair
- Corruption detection and many more.
Each program therefore has similar advancements if you upgrade to the Pro version.
The free versions of each are more than adequate for the average user, but if you want that bit of extra professionalism, upgrading would be the obvious choice.
One notable thing about Lychee though is that it states clearly on their site that “While the Free version will receive regular updates, most of the major new features will be available first in the Pro subscription in the future”.
So, in order to guarantee future compatibility and keeping up to date, you really need to go for the Pro version.
Round 3 result: ChiTubox
Round 4: Print Quality and Reliability
This is a fairly difficult one to judge as the decider in our battle, but this would come down mainly to user experience and reviews to determine print quality.
The user experience is mainly good with Lychee, and it produces good results if you get the settings right.
There are some issues with reversed models which can be ironed out by using the mirroring tool. But it’s not until you’ve printed your model that this becomes apparent.
The print quality though is good but again, tweaking those settings and trial and error do come into play.
The results for ChiTubox are similar, but it doesn’t appear to experience the post print issues with mirroring.
There can however be errors with the printed model and unwanted “artifacts” can appear, as we’ve discussed earlier.
The print quality is generally only as good as the settings you apply in the program, so get those right, and you’ll end up with excellent results.
Round 4 result: A close win for ChiTubox
And the winner is….Chitubox by a very close points decision.
Although we’ve come through this battle unscathed, the basic result is that both Lychee and ChiTubox have a lot of going for them in terms of slicer software.
Each has its own different advantages and disadvantages, and certain aspects work well for both systems.
Whether then you decide to choose ChiTubox based on my recommendation or go for Lychee instead, you’ll still have a decent slicer with all the tools you need to prepare your resin 3D print.