If you are new to 3D printing, your search for the best operating system slicing and modeling may not give you the clarity you seek. The war between Mac and PC users over which computer is best for 3D printing and designing has been going on for years, and it’s not about to end.
Mac and PC are both best for 3D printing and designing. The best 3D software, such as Cura, PrusaSlicer, and IdeaMaker, is compatible with Mac and PC. Mac is ideal for integrating your workflow with other Apple devices, while PC is user-friendly and allows a range of hardware configurations.
The choice between the PC and Mac hinges on your personal preference. However, each system has its pros and cons. I’ll expound more on 3D printing and designing with Mac and PC, so you can choose which option best suits your needs.
Mac vs. PC for 3D Printing and Design
Most 3D slicers and CAD software are today compatible with Mac and PC. You can use a wide range of 3D printers on both Mac and PC. So, it comes down to your preference.
Here is what you should know when choosing between Mac and a PC for 3D printing.
- PC beats Mac in hardware configuration flexibility. As a beginner, you may be content working with a computer with the bare minimum specifications. As you gain experience, you may want to try more complex 3D print designs. A PC can stretch to meet your growing needs, but Mac is limited.
- Mac has better security against hackers and viruses. Since PCs are built using bits and pieces from multiple manufacturers, they are vulnerable to external attacks, unlike Macs, which are less likely to get malware.
- Mac has a better user interface. Arguably, when you go with Mac, you choose to have everything handed to you in a gorgeous package. Mac’s user interface is aesthetically pleasing and intuitive, which could make navigating through CAD programs and slicers easier for you.
- You have more OS options with a PC. In addition to supporting operating systems like Linux and Windows, you can run macOS on your PC using specific software. Unfortunately, Apple does not allow its operating software to run on other computers.
- Both Mac and PC have excellent specifications that support 3D printing. Before you decide which specifications work for you, you need to know your intentions. Do you intend to use web-based 3D design software, like Fusion 360 and Tinkercad, or will you use professional CAD software? The latter, such as AutoCAD, requires a more powerful computer than the former.
Why Mac Is Best for 3D Printing
When choosing a computer for 3D printing and designing, you need one with a great graphics card, a fast processor, and a large RAM. You should also have access to your favorite 3D printing software.
You can get all of these things with a Mac, and you also get a stunning, seamless user interface.
Here’s why Mac might be your best bet for 3D printing:
- Mac has high-performance processing.
- The quality of Mac hardware is arguably higher than that of PCs.
- Most great 3D printing software is available on Mac. For example, you can get slicers like Cura and Simplify3D for Mac. Modelers like CorelCAD, OpenScad, and Blender also work on macOS.
- You can control your workflow better when you integrate all your Apple devices. For example, you can use AutoCAD mobile app to manage your 3D print designs while away from your Mac laptop.
- Apple has locked the Mac operating system, so there is no way to tweak or optimize it.
- Mac has a lot of great applications, like Preview, column view, quick look, and Finder preview.
- Some software, like CorelCAD, have features that facilitate collaborative editing on multiple devices. If everyone else on the team uses a Mac, it only makes sense that you use the same operating system.
- macOS is user-friendly.
- Mac has a long battery life, with some like the MacBook Pro offering up to 17 hours of battery life.
Advantages of PC In 3D Printing
People who use a PC for 3D printing are just as passionate as those who stand by Mac. If you are contemplating using a PC-based operating system, there are several reasons why it is ideal for 3D printing and design.
- PCs have excellent performance specifications at a much lower cost than Macs.
- PCs are a fantastic choice if you want to use business software only available on Windows.
- The PC hardware is highly customizable. Unlike Mac, the PC is configurable, so you can make it meet your 3D design needs. For example, you can quickly increase the RAM on your PC. On the other hand, you cannot modify Macs.
- Windows and Linux support a wide range of graphics and software developers.
- If one component in your PC breaks or is unsuitable for your applications, you can always replace one or more parts to upgrade it. With a Mac, you cannot swap out parts as easily, forcing you to stick with the components it came with or throw them out.
How To Choose a Computer 3D Printing and Design
Before picking a side in the battle between Mac and PC for 3D printing, you need to have a list of what you want to do with the computer. All the activities you intend to do will require special programs and hardware, and you need to ensure that your computer can handle them.
Search the Systems Requirements for 3D Printing Software
Since you intend to create 3D models, you need to know the system requirements for the programs you wish to use. Fortunately, 3D designing is not very demanding, so you can use a Mac or PC, as long as it has the proper specifications.
You need to go further and decide if you will be rendering and the programs you intend to use.
Find out the system’s requirements for the 3D printing programs. You can do this by searching on engines like Google. For example, if you Google “Blender systems requirements,” you’ll discover the minimum and recommended computer specifications.
Still, when weighing out the system requirements for these programs, you’ll likely find that almost any computer will do.
This video shows the computer specifications necessary to run 3D software.
The Central Processing Unit (CPU)
The reliability of the computer’s central processing unit is critical when choosing the best operating system to use for 3D printing. The CPU’s primary responsibility is to display the 3D elements in the 3D printing program and quickly fix any changes you make to your 3D design.
A more efficient CPU guarantees faster calculations. A PC or Mac with 4.0GHz will work just fine. However, if you are creating a complex 3D design, you want a computer with better CPU specifications because you will work faster.
RAM (System Memory)
When buying a computer for your regular work, you must always consider the RAM because it is the size of the system’s short-term memory. People with PCs often enlarge the RAM when they realize it’s insufficient for their needs.
If you have a PC, you may have a little flexibility because you can increase the RAM if the space is insufficient for your 3D designs. However, with Mac, you need to get one that will meet your present and future needs. Otherwise, you may need to get another Mac within a short time.
16GB RAM may be enough, but you may be better off with a PC or Mac with at least 32GB RAM. Some 3D printing enthusiasts insist on 64GB RAM. Unfortunately, you will need to pay more for space you may not even need.
Of course, if you can afford it, it doesn’t hurt to have more space, but if you have a tight budget, 16GB RAM works fine. Fortunately, you’ll find that you will pay less for a PC with the exact specifications as a Mac. If budget is a priority, then the PC wins over Mac.
Graphics Processing Unit
You can use graphics cards on both Mac and PC. These cards are great because they quickly handle specific 3D printing design tasks. They relieve the pressure on the CPU, especially if your computer’s system cannot handle some tasks or it takes too long to run some of your projects.
When designing a 3D print, you zoom, rotate, and interact with the models. The GPU does all this, and since you perform these tasks simultaneously, you want a graphics card that will quickly work through the different calculations you make as you modify the design.
A GPU card with more power will support the 3D printing software to perform the tasks seamlessly within the shortest time possible.
The Nvidia GTX 1060 is one of the best, top-rated graphics cards for PC.
However, you cannot update or replace the graphics card in a Mac computer, so you are stuck with what you buy at Apple.
Storage (SSD or HDD)
3D printing files can get quite large, mainly if you hang onto all of your sliced G-code files and other file types such as OBJs and STLs.
To save these files and allow you to use the remaining space for design programs and slicers requires a fair amount of storage. If you ever find that your storage is not large enough, you can always purchase an external storage device, but it’s always best to have what you need on your computer.
Generally, you should not use a computer with less than 500 GB of storage for 3D printing. Purchasing a device with less than 500 GB will put you in a situation where you will eventually have to delete files and move some to flash drives and external storage devices.
Still, I usually recommend having 1TB of storage from an SSD or HDD to ensure that you never run out of space, no matter what else you do on your computer.
3D Print Software for Mac and Windows
3D print software greatly influences your choice between a Mac and Windows. At a glance, 3D printing enthusiasts seem torn between Mac and PC. However, most agree that the CAD (computer-aided design) program is critical, irrespective of the operating system.
For years, software developers focused on designing programs for Mac, Windows, or Linux. However, in recent years, many software developers have bridged the gap by producing 3D print software that you can use on multiple systems.
Here’s some of the software available on macOS and Windows PC.
AstroPrint is an excellent 3D print software that you can use on macOS and Windows PC. It has excellent features, making it an ideal option for beginners and professionals. AstroPrint has several advantages.
- You can save your 3D models in the cloud and access the designs on any of your devices.
- It supports 3D printing via WiFi.
- It has real-time monitoring.
- It allows for remote printing and slicing.
- Multiple users can use the software simultaneously.
- It is compatible with a range of 3D printers, including the Alunar D and R series, Anet A and E series, all models of Creality 3D, Folgertech models, and many more.
Fusion 360 is a powerful CAD software. It has a learning curve, but it is a popular software for anyone using MacOS or PC. This 3D printing software works best on Microsoft Windows 10 and 11 (64-bit).
It still works for Windows 8.1 but will be phased out in January 2023. Fusion 360 also works on macOS 12 Monterey.
SolidWorks is one of the 3D CAD software that influences your decision on whether to use a Mac or PC. It was designed specifically for Windows, so if you don’t have Windows on your Mac, you cannot use SolidWorks.
Even when using Windows, there are restrictions. SolidWorks works with Windows 10. It also only runs if you are using a supported graphics card. For example, you can use SolidWorks with AMD RadeonPro or Nvidia Quadro/RTX.
Mac and PC work great with 3D printing and design. Your decision comes down to your preference, budget, the 3D printer you intend to use, and the available software for each operating system.
The online wars over which system is superior are highly subjective. However, there is no doubt that the Mac is better in some aspects, while the PC is better in some instances. You only need to decide what works for you.
- Written by:
- Last updated:
I started 3D printing since 2013 and have learned a lot since then. Because of this I want to share my knowledge of what I have learned in the past years with the community. Currently I own 2 Bambulab X1 Carbon, Prusa SL1S and a Prusa MK3S+. Hope you learn something from my blog after my years of experience in 3D printing.