3D printer slicer software is a critical component of the 3D printing workflow.
They are necessary for converting your CAD geometry into G-Code for sending to your printer, so your printer knows exactly where and how to guide the nozzle to print your part.
When selecting a slicer software for your needs, there are plenty of options.
In this article, we will look at two of the most popular slicers, PrusaSlicer and Cura.
Cura is a slicing software for 3D printing that is open-source and offers a wide range of customization options. PrusaSlicer is a slicing software developed by Prusa Research, it is user-friendly and optimized for their printer but also can work with other printers.
A side by side comparison of both slicers:
Ultimaker Professional – $50/month
|UI||Great experience||Advanced experience|
|Library||Advanced – less printer and material profiles available||Great – more printer and material profiles|
|Slicing||Faster||Simple switching between different profiles|
|Supports||Intuitive manual adding support||Wide range of parameters and customization options|
|Integration with other software||No official integration||Solidworks, Autodesk Inventor and Fusion 360, Siemens NX|
|File compatibility||STL, STEP, 3MF, OBJ, AMF||3MF, AMF, CTM, COLLADA, STL, PLY, OBJ, X3D, GLB, GLTF|
|OS||Windows, MacOS, Linux||Windows, MacOS, Linux|
So, now I’ve shown you some of the most significant differences between PrusaSlicer and Cura.
Read on to learn more.
History and Background
PrusaSlicer is an open-source and free slicing software developed by Prusa Research, a Czech company founded in 2012 by Josef Prusa.
This software was a fork of the popular open-source slicing software Slic3r, which was created in 2011.
PrusaSlicer was developed to be optimized for use with Prusa’s own 3D printers, but it is also compatible with other models.
It was first released in 2017, and since then it has been continuously developed and updated with new features and improvements to its user interface.
PrusaSlicer has been widely adopted by the 3D printing community and is considered one of the most popular slicing software. It has been praised for its user-friendly interface, advanced features, and support for multi-material printing. The recent version is PrusaSlicer 2.5.0.
Cura is also free and open-source and was developed by Ultimaker. It was first released in 2011 as a simple slicing software for the Ultimaker Original 3D printer.
Cura was designed to be user-friendly and accessible for beginners and hobbyists.
Over the years, Cura has also continuously improved since its release.
Cura also offers an enterprise version of their software called Cura Connect, which adds additional functionalities like remote management and monitoring.
The latest release, Ultimaker Cura 5.0, was released in May 2022.
PrusaSlicer vs Cura: Feature Comparison
So, both are free, and both are open source.
But how do they compare when looking at the features of each software? Let’s take a look in some detail.
Core Slicing Features
Of course, slicers don’t merely slice. They all do multiple other functions, and both Cura and PrusaSlicer have similar features when it comes to essential functions.
These include the ability to set layer height, infill patterns and density, raft features, positioning, scaling, temperature, speed, support structures, and more.
If you are looking for a basic slicer, then both of these software options do all the basic features, and more. They are both capable of importing a range of file types (more on that later) and you can apply color in both software options, which is handy for multi-color printing.
Slicing in Prusa is somehow faster, as Cura sometimes takes up to 2 minutes to slice the same object.
The biggest benefit of Cura is the simple switching between different profiles, which simplifies the process of printing multiple objects. Also, you can set up two (or more) different profiles for model and support, and so you save a lot of time if you have different presets for both.
But this is not the end. You can even set up different profiles for each section of your support, like the first layer and infill. This is very useful for printing more complex models.
Prusa also offers the option to save printer or material settings, but switching between them is not so efficient.
In therm of pre-slicing preset, they both offer a bit of advanced settings portfolio. The choice of infill patterns in Cura is a bit lower, with 14 patterns to choose from, against 17 available in Prusa.
The slicing preview mode is in both very similar, but Prusa offers more preview options to analyze the sliced object.
Prusa and Cura both come with a wider range of settings to customize the support before slicing.
And to describe them all, we would need a separate article, for each!
Automated supports are something I believe Cura is slightly better at.
The same counts for settings. There are just so many adjustments you can define:
- Different parameters, and infill for different layer of the support
- Normal and tree structure
- Support placement, patters, overhang and so on
- Canonical support to reduce the bottom-area of the support
On the other hand, Prusa is my favorite when it comes to adding support manually. It is just, even with a dedicated plugin, somehow more complex to add them in Cura.
In Prusa, you simply mark the overhang that “deserves” to have support and generate them.
Both of the user interfaces are not overly complicated, although Cura relies on drop-down menus in order to keep the main window free of clutter.
Some folks online have mentioned that they do not like having to scroll through lists of options all the time, but others seem fine with it.
PrusaSlicer prefers to keep everything a little simpler, and uses an icon-driven UI, as you can see in the image below.
Either way, they are both easy to use overall, and both have similar control systems for moving around the scene.
If you’re used to CAD, it won’t be a problem to navigate, and if you’re not, it’s still not a huge chore to find your way around.
Integration with Other Software
Ultimaker Cura officially integrates with a few different software, and it includes features such as a one-click export plugin for Solidworks, a print and update feature for Siemens NX, and official support for Autodesk Inventor file types.
PrusaSlicer doesn’t really have any such official integration with other software, but then slicing isn’t that complicated, so it likely won’t affect your productivity too much if you have to use a couple of extra clicks to export to another CAD program.
It’s nice to have it if it’s there, but not a massive headache if it isn’t.
Another significant benefit of Cura in therm of integrations, is the Cura Marketplace.
There are many useful plugins that will enrich the slicer and his capabilities. E.g. the Auto Towers plugin comes with various predefined calibration tests, such as Retraction Tower, Speed Tower, or Temperature Tower.
PrusaSlicer supports importing files in STL, STEP, 3MF, OBJ and AMF.
Cura supports 3D file importing in 3MF, AMF, CTM, COLLADA, STL, PLY, OBJ, X3D, GLB, and GLTF file types.
Both software exports in G-code and 3MF, and Cura can also export the Ultimaker Format Package.
Pricing and Availability
Both slicers are free, although there is Cura Enterprise which has additional features, such as enhanced security, cross-platform support, and more updates per year.
Cura Enterprise can be purchased beginning at $50 per month or is included if you buy one of their printers.
Pros and Cons of PrusaSlicer
PrusaSlicer is a nifty little slicing program, and it has many fans throughout the world.
So what makes it so great, and what are the downsides?
Pros of Using PrusaSlicer
- Works excellent with Prusa printers
- Frequent updates: PrusaSlicer is constantly gaining new features
- Variable layer height: Print with multiple layer heights on a single print for extra smooth printing of contours
- 17 infill patterns
- Lightweight installation
- Faster file processing
- Intuitive Paint-on function to add supports
Cons of Using PrusaSlicer
- Limited Customization: Compared to other slicing software, PrusaSlicer has fewer customization options, which may bug advanced users.
- Limited support: Although PrusaSlicer has a large user community, the support and documentation may not be as robust as some other slicing software.
Pros and Cons of Cura
Cura is also free, but asides from the zero cost associated with it (which is a big pro!), what else can we say about the advantages and disadvantages of this software?
Pros of Using Cura
- Advanced engine
- Gap free toolpaths
- Integration with major CAD platforms
- Price (free)
- Advanced support generation
- Rich printer and material library
Cons of Using Cura
- Slow slicing: Cura can be slow when slicing large or complex models, which can be frustrating for users who need to print multiple copies of the same model.
- Some features are only available in the paid version.
- Lack of customization in UI.
- Some features (such as plugins and materials marketplace) require an internet connection.
There are pros and cons to each software, but fundamentally, there isn’t too much difference between the two. They are fairly entry-level slicers, and will not compete against software such as Magics or other higher-end offerings.
But the ease of use and accessibility is what makes them both popular, for beginners and more advanced users alike.
Of course, if you own a Prusa printer, then you’ll probably find PrusaSlicer to be more suitable for your needs.
And if you own an Ultimaker, then Cura will be best for you. But they both work fine with other printers anyway, you just may have to tweak settings a little.
Personally, I also like to keep my slicing simple, although as full disclosure, I still use Simplify3D anyway.
As always, use the software that you are most comfortable using, and what you can afford to purchase. In this case, they are both free and easily accessible, so why not try both?
As always, happy printing!