Simplify3D® vs. Cura® – Software Comparison
Learn more about these two software for 3D printing and when to use them.
Simplify3D® and Cura® are both 3D printing slicing software packages that specifically support FFF (fused filament fabrication) style printers. Slicer software is used to prepare 3D models for 3D printing by allowing users to set a large number of settings like the required printer speed, temperature, layer thickness, etc. These settings are then contained in a machine-readable set of instructions called G-code. The key difference between Simplify3D and Cura is that Cura is free software and Simplify3D is not. Both Simplify3D and Cura have many of the same features, with slight differences such as infill patterns and experimental slicer processes. Cura has a more modern user interface and is easier to use, while also offering a wide range of additional settings.
This article will explore the differences between the two software packages and highlight their optimal use cases. Minimum system requirements will be defined. Both packages will be compared based on a range of parameters, such as user experience, customer support, application stability, user community, and price.
Simplify3D is 3D printing slicing software that can be used on almost any 3D printing hardware. After slicing, the print can be visualized to make sure the settings are as expected. The print can be simulated, which is useful to pick up any potential issues before sending the file to be printed. Simplify3D is a paid software with a 2-week free trial. Simplify3D has a very useful printer controller feature that allows users to directly control the printer's motion and set the temperature for the nozzle and print bed for example. This is especially useful when setting up the printer or troubleshooting printer issues. Simplify3D can convert 3D models into G-code faster than most other slicers, Cura included.
Cura is 3D printing slicing software developed by Ultimaker that was primarily created for use on their range of 3D printers. However, the software is also available for free to use with almost any 3D printer on the market. It has a range of presets for many different 3D printer models that help users get printing with limited setup time. Alternatively, custom printers can be easily set up. Cura is highly customizable and allows varying levels of increasingly complex settings for more advanced users. Cura can be used to visualize and simulate the print prior to sending it to the machine to catch any potential issues. Cura has a printer monitoring feature that can be used to remotely monitor the progress of a print. It can also be connected to a webcam to make sure that nothing has gone wrong during printing.
Both software packages are used to prepare 3D models for 3D printing. Cura is specifically fine-tuned for Ultimaker 3D printers because it was developed by Ultimaker, but it also has a library of presets for many popular 3D printers. Simplify3D is not linked to any specific hardware and can be used for most printers.
Table 1 below lists the recommended system requirements for the latest (at the time of writing) system requirements for Simplify3D and Cura:
|Simplify3D 2022||Cura 2022|
Windows®, Linux®, & macOS®
Windows, Linux, & macOS
Intel® Core i7
Intel Core i3 or AMD Athlon 64
1920 x 1080
1920 x 1080
OpenGL 2.0 compatible system
OpenGL 4.1 compatible system
> 1 GB
> 600 MB
Cura can run on Microsoft Windows 10 and up, macOS 11 or higher, and Linux—provided these systems are 64-bit. However, Linux does provide older versions for older operating systems, but these systems are not supported. Simplify3D is available for 32- and 64-bit systems for Microsoft Windows Vista® and up, macOS X 10.7 and up, or Linux Ubuntu® 14.04 and up.
Simplify3D and Cura are relatively lightweight applications. Both can run on only 4 GB of RAM. However, 8 GB RAM is recommended for optimal performance.
Simplify3D and Cura both support most open file formats as well as some proprietary file formats. Cura has plug-ins that allow the import of native 3D files from CAD packages like SolidWorks® directly into Cura without having to save them as an STL file first. Table 2 below lists the common file formats used for Simplify3D and Cura:
Simplify3D has a relatively easy-to-navigate user interface that keeps more-advanced features hidden from the user unless they expressly require them. Simplify3D allows for extensive customization and breaks the settings into three tiers; namely, simple, advanced, and expert. These settings allow varying degrees of customizability to fine-tune the printing process. However, the manner in which these settings are displayed is not optimal and can be confusing and visually messy.
Cura, on the other hand, has a clean and modern user interface that is easy to follow and understand. Like Simplify3D, it also hides more-advanced settings from the user and offers basic default, visual, engineering, and draft profiles. For each of these profiles, there are basic, advanced, and expert settings that allow for increased customizability.
Going from a 3D model to a file ready for 3D printing is almost trivial for both software packages. The process just involves importing the 3D model, selecting the printer, and material, and then clicking the relevant button to generate a 3D printing file. In 3D printing, it is not the software that creates a barrier to learning but rather understanding how changing the settings affects the quality of the final print.
Both Simplify3D and Cura are easy to learn. Ultimately, they offer many of the same basic features with some small differences that don’t affect how easy it is to learn the software. In addition to this, both have a wealth of useful information on their websites on how to use the software to optimize 3D printing.
Simplify3D and Cura are both very stable and do not tend to crash or fail during use. Cura has a built-in feature to report any bugs encountered by the developers. Despite a lack of recent, major updates, Simplify3D still performs bug fixes on the current versions of the software while they are working on the next major update.
Simplify3D is a commercial product and has a formal process for engaging with customer support. One negative for Simplify3D is that it has not had a major update since 2019, and there does not seem to be transparent communication as to when the next major update will be released. Despite being free, Cura also has a customer support page that lists many different resources for troubleshooting, print settings, FAQs, etc.
Cura is free and has a much larger user base when compared to Simplify3D, which means it has a larger online community. Cura maintains forums where users can post questions that will be answered by more experienced users or Ultimaker employees. Simplify3D has a relatively smaller online community, and they also maintain an official forum that unfortunately does not see much traffic.
Cura is open source. It is completely free with an LGPL V3 license whereas Simplify3D is only available to purchase. Simplify3D does, however, have a 2-week trial period to allow users to test the software's capabilities. The Simplify3D cost is $149, which only includes free updates for one year but also offers access to expert 3D printing support. Once the next major update is released, i.e., V5, there will be an additional upgrade fee for users who already own a Simplify3D license.
There are many 3D printer slicers available, such as: Fusion 360®, PrusaSlicer, Slic3r, and SuperSlicer which is one of the more popular and feature-rich free slicers.
Simplify3D does offer some unique features, but the pace at which Cura updates and adds new features means that it is only a matter of time before it has similar features (if they are indeed useful). The cost of Simplify3D makes it difficult to justify purchasing it when there are so many highly capable and free software packages available.
This article presented Simplify3D and Cura, explained what they are, and discussed their features and when to use each software. To learn more about 3D printing software, contact a Xometry representative.
Xometry provides a wide range of manufacturing capabilities, including 3D printing and other value-added services for all of your prototyping and production needs. Visit our website to learn more or to request a free, no-obligation quote.
- Fusion 360® is a trademark of Autodesk, Inc.
- Solidworks® is a trademark of Dassault Systemès Solidworks Corporation
- Windows is a trademark of Microsoft Corporation
- macOS is a trademark of Apple Inc.
- Ubuntu is a trademark of Canonical Ltd.
- Intel is a trademark of Intel Corporation CORPORATION
- Ultimaker & Ultimaker Cura are trademarks of Ultimaker Holding BV LLC
- SIMPLIFY3D® is a trademark of SIMPLIFY3D LLC
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