Once you have built the printer and gone through the “First Print” steps with your Bukobot printer, you will need to learn a few types of software to operate it.
Using a 3-D printer consists of two fundamental steps.
First, one has to create or download a 3-D computer aided design (CAD) model in a particular format called .stl. Then, that model has to be translated into printer commands.
Checking out CAD software
For the first step, There are open-source options (and some commercial software of varying costs) that can run on Mac, Windows and Linux machines are all options. A good way to start if you have never used any CAD program before is to use a simple web-based CAD tool called Tinkercad. There is nothing to download; just bring up the website. Note for Mac users: Safari does not work, but Firefox does. You do need to register to do more than take a tour. Alternatively if programming is more your thing than drag and drop, you may prefer OpenSCAD. Details on these and other programs can be found by clicking on the button “Recommended 3D Apps and Object Download Sites.”
If you are already an expert CAD user, you can use your program of choice as long as it puts out a file in the .stl format. In many programs this will involve “exporting to” .stl from the native file format the program likes. If “save as” .stl is not an option, see if there is an “export” option.
The other option is to download and use something someone else has already created. There are many (free) online databases out there. More detail and options can be found under the “Recommended 3D Apps and Object Download Sites.”
Using Slicing software
The other software you will need to download are the “slicing” software and printer drivers. A slicing program takes the 3D .stl file and figures out what sort of internal supports the item will need as it is fabricated, various configurations for the printer, and so on. The final output is a file in a standard called “G-code” which drives the printer. The software to slice the parts and the specific settings for it are found under “Software” and “Settings” buttons for your particular printer.