Having a great word processor won’t actually help you write the next bestselling novel. It might make it easier, but if you have a great novel in you, you could probably write it on paper towels with a crayon if you had to. A great 3D printer isn’t all you need to make great 3D prints. A lot depends on the model you start with and that software known as a slicer. You have several choices, and now you have one more: PathIO, a slicer sponsored by E3D, is out in beta. You can see a video about its features below.
The software has a few rough edges as you might expect from a beta. The slicer doesn’t feed Gcode to a printer directly, although Octoprint integration is forthcoming. Developers say they are focusing on the slicing engine which is totally new. According to their website, conventional slicers immediately cut a model into 2D slices and then decide how to realize each slice with respect to the shell and infill. Pathio works in 3D space and claims this has benefits for producing correct wall thickness and an increase in self-supporting geometries.
Another feature that is upcoming is a new method of creating support that uses Z motion to produce tiny teeth that will hold up the layer above. This looks like a great idea, although apparently there are some kinks that have prevented it being in the current release.
We liked that you could group parts in a job and each group can have its own settings. The slicer is also offering scripting based on Jinja2. In addition to a powerful language, the script editors do syntax coloring and autocomplete.
There’s plenty on the roadmap, too, including cloud sync between machines — something that has bothered us in the past when we have slightly different slicing profiles on different workstations. The good news is the slicer works on Windows, Linux, and OSX. The bad news is it does so with Electron, so that’s going to ruffle some feathers. However, the slicing engine itself is native C++, so that should alleviate some issues you might run into with Electron. However, it does mean another application that will install yet another private copy of Chromium and other tools onto your computer.
While PathIO has a ways to go, it is off to an impressive start. We have to admit that right now we switch slicers depending on what we are doing. Cura works better with some models and Slic3r with others. It would be great to have one slicer that kept updated across different workstations and did a good job across the board. We’ll see how it goes.
We’ve seen more than one new slicer launch in the last few years. We’ve also seen special editions of older slicers, with specific goals. We’ve even seen people who want to write their own slicer, if that’s your thing.