Are you thinking of getting into 3D printing as a hobby? Along with a lot of different things, people start wondering, “What computer do I need for a 3D printer?”. If you are thinking about the same thing, I have your answers.
The good news is that you don’t need a very high-end pc or an expensive setup for your 3D printing hobby. Especially if you are starting with 3D printing, you can get past with a computer with 8GB RAM, a processor with four cores, and a decent HDD or SSD.
Now, there are some complications that you may need to worry about when you think about more advanced stuff. I suggest sticking with me till the end of this article to learn all about the computer you need for any 3D printing. So, let’s get on with it.
What’s the purpose of computers in 3D printing?
If you are a complete rookie and don’t know anything about 3D printing, you may wonder why you even need a computer. Usually, 3D printing involves a stage where you have to prepare the 3D printable files and use slicer software to slice them and convert them into G-code.
Your 3D printer can’t simply read the designs that you want to print as they are. The printers will read the G-code and print your desired model accordingly. So, you will need a computer to use the slicer software to get all the proper printing settings done for your particular project.
Other than that, another purpose of a computer in 3D printing is to design your model. Let’s say you don’t want to print out an existing model, and you want to design your 3D model. In that case, you will need a computer to run 3D CAD software for creating your design.
Even though it doesn’t have anything to do with the printing process, it is a part of 3D printing. Altogether, you will need a computer in either case. Whether you want to design the model or not doesn’t matter.
What kind of computer should you get for 3D printing?
As I said earlier, you can use your computer for 3D printing in two ways. One is for using the slicer software and converting design files to G-code. And the other purpose is to design your 3D models by yourself.
The kind of computer you need for your 3D printing depends on what purpose you want to fulfil. You don’t need a high-end or powerful computer if you only consider using the slicer software and working with existing 3D printable design files. A basic setup can get the job done for you effortlessly.
However, if you are thinking about designing your 3D models, then you will need a powerful computer. Because all the 3D modelling software you get to see is resource-intensive. They require some powerful graphics along with high-end specs on your computer.
Let’s dive deeper into each factor and check out the exact specs you need to fulfil both purposes.
A computer for basic 3D printing
When it comes to basic 3D printing operations, you don’t need an expensive setup at all. You can easily complete the 3D printing job with the following specifications on your PC.
- RAM: 8GB
- Processor: 4 cores (Intel i5 or Ryzen)
- Storage: 512GB
- Graphics card: Not necessary
Typically, any computer with these specifications is enough for 3D printing. Although, you may need to consider the operating system support. There is some 3D printer software out there that may not support a specific operating system. You will need to be wary of that. You will hardly ever go wrong with Windows operating system.
A computer for 3D modelling and printing
Unlike the other one, you will need a pretty high-end PC when you want to do 3D modelling all by yourself. This requires you to use 3D modelling software such as Blender, Maya, ZBrush, Cinema4D, etc. To use these kinds of software, you will need the following specs on your PC at least –
- RAM: 16GB
- Processor: 6 cores (Intel i7 or Ryzen)
- Storage: 1TB or more
- Graphics Card: NVIDIA 1650ti or better
Even though it’s a comparatively high-end setup, it’s not that expensive. The only expensive part of this computer will be the graphics card. You can go for a better graphics card if you want better performance.
Can you use a 3D printer with your laptop?
Wanting to use the 3D printer with your laptop is a very obvious idea; fortunately, you can do it. All you need is a laptop with the specifications I discussed above for each purpose. Usually, laptops work out great for basic 3D printing.
It’s not the best choice when you want to do 3D modelling along with 3D printing because laptops tend to get heated up whenever you do graphics-intensive work on them.
A great benefit of using a laptop for 3D printing is that you can 3D print almost wherever you go. It gives you portability, especially when you have a portable 3D printer as well.
Can you use the 3D printer without a computer?
Most of the 3D printers out there come with an SD card option. So, you don’t need a computer to use a 3D printer. You can load the desired files on the SD card, and you should be ready.
However, having a computer for more control over your 3D printing is still good. You can use the slicer software to customize your design file’s printing and personal settings.
So, a computer works out better for 3D printing as it makes the process much more convenient.
Software for 3D printing
Now, if you are still unsure what kind of computer you need or whether the one you have is enough or not, you can try using different software to find that out. Here are some of the most popular software related to 3D printing –
Cura has to be one of the most popular and commonly used slicer software that you can find. It’s compatible with most of the 3D printers out there. So, you won’t have to worry about the compatibility of the software and start using it immediately. Also, it has got a lot of handy features that give you the option to work with different models.
PrusaSlicer is an excellent option for slicer software when you don’t know what kind of printer you are dealing with. Or if you are looking for software that you can use for resin and FDM printers. It’s also a well-known 3D printing slicer software with many advanced features.
Regarding resin printers, ChiTuBox is a popular slicer software that people like to use. It caters to the needs of resin printing with its features and customization options. The best part is that the basic version of the software is free and has enough facilities for beginners to use. You can start with your 3D printing journey without any trouble.
If you are into 3D modelling or designing, you may have already heard about Blender. It’s currently one of the best 3D modelling software you can find out there with loads of features. Just like any other CAD software, you will need a pretty high-end PC to use Blender in all its entirety.
ZBrush is another 3D design software you can use to create your unique 3D designs. You must have a powerful PC with a decent graphics card. Otherwise, you can’t use this software on your PC. It’s not as popular or common as Blender but features many functionalities.
Need free 3D design software? Then, Tinkercad should be your pick. Indeed, you don’t get the versatility of Blender or other CAD software in this one. But you won’t have to pay for the software either. It’s a good option for beginners who want to start up with their designs and 3D prints simultaneously.
Aside from these, you can find plenty of software for your 3D printing journey. Most of the slicer software you get to see doesn’t need a powerful computer. However, you will need a graphics card and heavy specs like higher ram and storage for the design software.
In summary, for anyone who wonders, “What computer do I need for a 3D printer?” the answer is already out. You don’t need any particular kind of computer or an expensive one. A computer with decent specs is enough for you to use in 3D printing projects.
Having said that, if you are into 3D modelling, I highly recommend getting a computer with high-end specs and, most importantly, a decent graphics card.