Top 3D Printer Apps

Managing a 3D print job remotely is sometimes just what you need

Woman using 3D printer
William Andrew/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

3D printing is now mobile. There are many apps out there for Android and iOS that allow you to view files on-the-go, design, and even convert images from 2D to 3D printable files. If you need to work on your 3D projects while you are away from your desk, here are some cool apps you might want to check out:

For Android:

If you are looking for 3D printing ideas or if you want to upload a recent creation, MakerBot’s Thingiverse app allows you to access the Thingiverse through your mobile Android device.

The app also allows you to add things to your collection and send them to the Android MakerBot app for instant printing, even from your mobile device.

GCodeSimulator is an app that lets you to look at your 3D prints and simulate printing them to check for errors before you actually send them to your printer. The simulation can be performed in real time (taking as long as it would take your printer) or in fast forward. Similarly, GCodeInfo analyzes your print ready file and gives you information about the file from number of layers to estimated print time.

With OctoDroid, you can monitor and manage your 3D printing jobs with your smartphone. OctoDroid is designed to work with OctoPrint, and it can toggle between and monitor several 3D printers at once.

This is one of my favorites! The 3D Print Cost Calculator is a nifty app that will calculate not only the overall length of your filament spool, but also the approximate cost to print your project.

You input the material, filament diameter, spool weight, spool cost, and length of print in mm. It does the math for you. I get asked this question a lot, so if the native app within your 3D printer environment (meaning the software/interface that came with it) does not do this automatically, here is your solution.

To model 3D objects on your mobile device, ModelAN3DPro offers many options, including importing saved OBJ files and sharing screenshots. This app is compatible with 3D phones and allows native 3D visualization.

For iOS:

The eDrawings app is a mobile 3D image viewer with some unique features. There is an iOS and Android version, but the iOS version offers augmented reality, which allows you to see your 3D image in your environment using your mobile camera. There are also extended professional versions that provided cross sectioning, measurements, and the ability to send your marked file in an e-mail to others.

Autodesk designed a 3D sculpting program for the iPad. With 123D Sculpt, you can create or modify 3D designs on-the-go. Then you can upload your creation to Autodesk’s Cloud-based storage either to print or share it. More recently, Autodesk developed an Android version.

Autodesk also has 123D Catch (for iOS and Android), which turns your device into a 3D scanner. The images will need a little processing afterward, but you can capture any object you see. I have used this app more than most of the apps here and love it. Memento is possibly a more advanced version, depending on your photo 3D modeling needs.

Makerbot offers an iOS app specifically for its 3D printer. With this app, you can monitor, prepare, print, pause, and cancel printing from your smartphone. If you need to approve and print on the go, this app will be a time-saving addition to your design process.

For the small business with more than one 3D printer, Bumblebee with BotQueue is a mobile way to queue print jobs to multiple printers and control printing wherever you are. It requires installation on a computer before you can use its mobile capabilities. This software has only been tested on Mac and Linex systems so far, but a Windows option is on the horizon.

It was designed so that you can make the most of all your 3D printers.

Modio is a unique 3D printing app for iOS that allows you to create and print 3D action figures. Although this seems limited, you can actually use it to build many things with moveable or snap-together parts, such as robots, vehicles, and animal models that you can put in different poses. The parts snap together from templates allowing you to add or remove pieces as you go. 

As of yet, there are few, free Windows-based apps for 3D printing. However, there are several good apps that are web-based for those who prefer a larger screen when designing or non-cloud storage options. Most of these are related to modeling, but they all have unique benefits that will help you realize your 3D designs.

Web-based Apps:

To design 3D projects on your computer, 123D Design by Autodesk is a unique modeling tool that allows you to quickly assemble your objects from a series of basic shapes. This app supports most 3D printers, enabling you to print after you design. There are versions for PC, Mac, and iPad.

3D Tin is another browser-based 3D design modeling app. There is nothing to download, except your creations because it uses Chrome or Firefox to run it. You have to share your creations in Creative Commons or pay for Cloud storage, but this app comes with several great tutorials that can help the beginner learn how to design in 3D.

Another web-based design app that works on parameters is Parametric Parts. This is an open source design app that gives you access to other open source parts upon which you can build your own designs.

They are developing plans for commercial applications.

Meshmixer allows you to not only model a new object from scratch, but also combine two or more 3D objects. Although this app is web-based, it requires a download specific to your Windows or Mac.

If you have a 2D sketch you would like to make into a 3D object, Shapeways allows you to upload your image in black and then set the thickness in gray on their website. You can then have them print your design in any of their 3D print materials, including ceramics, sandstone, and metals.

Disarming Corruptor is a very interesting Mac app that allows you to encrypt your 3D designs before sending them. The receiver must have the encryption code and the app in order to view the file without corruption. This app was designed because the maker wanted to create corrupted 3D designs.

Another web-based drawing app is SketchUp. The interesting thing about this app is that its embedded Ruby API allows you to make your own changes to the drawing program itself. You can also see the changes others have made and use them. If you want a modeling app that meets all your needs, you can make it yourself with this powerful tool.

Let me know some of your favorite 3D apps. You can reach me by clicking my name, next to my photo at the top of the article.

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