I know it has been a while since I've updated anything on this site. With my kids' school getting out for the summer, some trips out of town, plus I've been digging into a new hobby: 3D printing. So to take a break from the usual amateur radio related aspects, I decided to write a review on some slicer programs. While many may think that 3D printing is a bit of a niche, sure it is but it is a lot like amateur radio, so expansive and the possibilities are almost endless. Plus they can work well together, I've already printed several things related to ham radio such as a 4" wide call sign piece, a cover for my CP2102 USB adapter, and have a model made for my Yaesu FT2900 to lift the front up some to hear the speaker better on my end table without it sliding backwards off the table (just need to have 7-8 hours to print it). For those curious about 3D printing, here is a link describing various aspects and a fairly broad description of it. Most budget 3D printers are setup as the "material extrusion" type mentioned on that page.

So this page is dedicated to my "review" of the 3 primary FREE slicer programs for 3D printers: Slic3r, Craftware, and Cura. I use the latest versions of each, meaning Cura 2.1.2 64bit, Craftware 1.14 beta, and Slic3r 1.2.9. I have also played a little bit with MatterControl but have not really done anything with it. Of course some will also ask about S3D (Simplify3D), but I do not have $150 to put down toward software to be used with my $250 3D printer, so it will not be covered here. Some people still use the beta versions of Cura, not aware that the 15.x versions are beta pre-release, and the 2.x are final release versions. The 2.x has both 32 and 64 bit versions, although the 64 bit allows for larger models, and takes advantage of the increased memory capabilities associated with 64bit architecture.
So what I did was printed off "Marvins" and 3 different slicer programs. I tried to ensure that I could match up as many settings as possible between the 3 programs: slic3r, Cura, and Craftware. Simply put, this is not entirely possible because slic3r is limited on settings that can be changed, with Cura you need to go into the Preferences to enable the extras to be seen but it still doesn't have all the options, and Craftware has so many more that the others don't have. So I tried to keep the Craftware defaults and only change the base settings (mentioned below).
I started with Craftware since I had been having some issues with prints from it previously. The first Craftware Marvin came out looking more like a scarred Deadpool Marvin (or mutilated Darth Vader mask). So after that finished, I went into Cura to slice and let it print, and while that was printing looked at the settings and preferences between Cura and Craftware. I found one key setting was off (extrusion width). Cura has always used 0.4mm (with decent looking prints) versus Craftware has been using 0.2mm. Once the Cura print finished, I corrected the Craftware settings and reprinted with MUCH better results. I then sliced with Slic3r and after the Craftware print finished, I moved into that third (well fourth) print.

Of course these are settings tweaked to work well for my setup (a prusa i3 clone), so they may or may not work well for your printer. I just tried to keep at least these variables the same across all 3 slicer programs. The rest of the settings visible in Craftware were not touched in order to keep it close to "stock" and compare to the mostly stock settings of the other 2 programs.

  • Model: Marvin
  • Black PLA, 195C extruder and 45C bed
  • 0.1 layer height and 0.4 layer width
  • 0.4 nozzle on a Bowden extruder (S3D clone based on S3D v5, this is what came with my printer)
  • Draw speed 45 mm/s with 35mm/s outer perimeter
  • 3 loops (1.2mm) walls,
  • 4 layers top and bottom (0.4mm) at 40 mm/s
  • No infill
  • 102% extrusion (what I've found works for the best prints on my machine).
  • All gcode files fed into pronterface and printed from there via direct USB connection.


Seemed to do everything decently, and only seemed to do well with bridging the gaps.

  • Between the legs doesn't look that good due to lack of support but it is solid, no holes, but because of this there is some "artifacting" that goes up the print several mm giving him a more flat butt instead of rounded.
  • Bottom side of the "ears" aren't rounded as it didn't allow it enough to grab onto the previous layer.
  • There are small holes in the back inside of the eyes where it didn't seal properly, same issue as the ears. Top of the eyes are raised higher meaning it is trying to transition to next micro travel too soon.
  • There is some X and Y banding around the curves of the back.
  • One tiny hole on top due to lack of support but still filled in well considering.
  • The keychain loop started nice but slowly went to crap, likely due to the nozzle heat staying in the area longer.
  • - Top/bottom: 2nd
  • - Sides: 3rd
  • - Gaps/holes: 2nd
  • - Details: 3rd


The top and bottom came out the best, but the quality of the sides were between the other two.

  • Between the legs doesn't look that good due to lack of support and there is one small hole towards the back, and like the Cura print, there is some "artifacting" that goes up the print maybe 1mm but it compensates nicely and cleans up in much less time allowing for more rounded shape after 1mm or so.
  • Bottom side of the "ears" aren't rounded as it didn't allow it enough to grab onto the previous layer.
  • Inside the eyes are solid and the shape of them are correct top to bottom.
  • There is still some X and Y banding around the curves of the back, and some spots that look like possible under extrusion or retraction issues. I will need to dig into that a little more in Craftware.
  • Two tiny holes on top due to lack of support but still filled in well considering.
  • The keychain loop on the Craftware print came out the best of the 3, it is fairly uniform throughout the entire loop.
  • Top/bottom: 1st
  • Sides: 2nd
  • Gaps/holes: 1st
  • Details: 2nd


The sides and details for this print came out the best looking of the 3, but the top/bottom came out the worst. This print was a mixed bag.

  • Between the legs looks the worst of the 3 as the hole goes much farther back and front than the other 2. Despite this, there is no "artifacting" so the roundness of the body takes shape again quickly.
  • Bottom side of the "ears" ARE properly rounded and the rest of the body and longer sweeps around came out much cleaner with only minimal X or Y banding or ghosting at the lower upsweep of the back but once it reaches mid point it is clean and no X/Y ghosting at all through the rest of the print.
  • Inside the eyes are solid and the shape of them are correct although the top does have a little extra filament, giving him the appearance of tiny eyelashes.
  • On top it has several larger holes (by comparison) as if the last 4-5 layers didn't adhere properly. Tilt it right in the light and can see right through it from top hole out through the bottom hole between the legs.
  • The keychain loop on the slic3r print came out the worst of the 3, it starts rough and slowly gets worse as if it was over extruding.
  • Top/bottom: 3rd
  • Sides: 1st
  • Gaps/holes: 3rd
  • Details: 1st

So really there is no clear winner. slic3r really did provide the best level of detail, but the big holes and gaps in the top and bottom is really a cause for concern. I may have to learn how to edit or modify the gcode files so I can get the top/bottom from Craftware, and the details along the sides from slic3r. Until I get the settings tweaked between these two, I still plan to use Cura for middle of the road utilitarian prints that seem to have worked decently for me so far, not the best quality and but seems to work well.
Next test that is actually printing as I write this is the same setup, except Marvin scaled up 150% and printed at 0.2mm layer height, and slightly faster speeds (50mm/s). So keep an eye out for an update to this page.

Take care and 73s!

As more blog entries are added, some get moved to the archived blog entries page. As this is a new website, this will probably not need to be done for a month or two.