3D software is one of the most relevant elements in the digital 3D printing manufacturing process however its importance is often overlooked. There are many types of software which are used throughout different phases of the 3D printing cycle. All 3D printing production, however, necessarily beings with CAD (computer aided design) 3D modeling tools. Some of these tools are now integrated into virtual reality and augmented reality 3D modeling programs. This is only the first step: another major software-based step for AM includes CAE (computer aided engineering) for optimizing a part in order to leverage the extensive capabilities offered by additive manufacturing technologies in terms of geometric capabilities and topology optimization. An optimized file then needs to be processed through CAM (computer aided manufacturing) software in order to communicate to the machine how to build it into a physical object.
Several other software applications are also implemented in 3D printing. Additive processes are also making increasingly intensive use of simulation software, both for file preparation and process control, as well as inspection and non-destructive testing software for controlling that conforms to applications-specific standards. Pre-processing steps also include quotation engine software and the entire CRM (customer relationship management) chain. In fact AM is increasingly being integrated into the entire PLM (produce lifecycle management) software chain, while MES (manufacturing execution software) programs are increasingly being adopted to manage the entire end-to-end manufacturing process which 3D printing is now becoming an integral part of.
The 3D software supply chain also includes developers and publishers which are listed in specific sub-categories.