With the release of MatterControl 1.1, it's clear the team from Lake Forest, CA. is doing everything it can to make personal 3D printing more inviting, or perhaps just plain easier. Not only does version 1.1 herald a list of new features, it offers a new plug-in most users will find very handy.

Primarily printer control software, in its previous incarnation, MatterControl dipped its toes into the content creation waters by adding a plug-in called Text Creator. The plug-in turns typed letters into 3-dimensional objects. These text objects can then be 3D printed, resulting in a physical 3D sign that can be hung on a wall or placed on a desk. All of this is done within MatterControl, never opening 3D modeling software.

MatterControl 1.1 goes a step further, including a demo of the software's first commercial plug-in, called Image Convertor. Like Text Creator, Image Convertor is another automatic modeling feature, except instead of extruding fonts, it extrudes rasterized bitmap images in either PNG or JPG format.

There are similar abilities in various modeling programs, but most require a vector graphics source, such as art made with Adobe Illustrator or CorelDRAW. These methods often involve manual tweaking, particularly if the modeling software converts the 2D line art into splines which then have to be extruded, resulting in polygons with an obscene number of edges that frequently don't react very well during triangulation for STL output. In MatterControl, the user doesn't need to understand or deal with any of that, he or she just needs to know how to open an image file and click a couple of buttons. This makes the new Image Convertor plug-in enticing, even though it isn't free. But at $25 ($15 special introductory pricing), most will probably want it, not only because it could save a modeling-savvy user time, but because it is another tool that makes model creation possible for those who don't know anything about 3D modeling.

One can either load his or her own image as the source or use the built-in Google search feature to find graphics on the internet. There are options for size and extrusion height (don't forget to hit the Apply button to see changes) and the source can be inverted, so that the model ends up being a cut-out of the image. For those interested in learning more, MatterHackers recently posted a tutorial for the plug-in on its web site.

While Image Convertor draws the spotlight due to its fun factor, the meat and potatoes of MatterControl also got its fair share of upgrades.

"This update is certainly our most ambitious to-date, and it's hard to know where to begin in describing everything that's been added," said Kevin Pope, MatterHackers COO. "By incorporating continued feedback we've made it better, bolder, and more capable in almost every way."

New Major Features:

  • MatterSlice: MatterControl now comes with its own slicing engine, considered to be an improvement over alternatives.
  • Material/Quality presets: Users can now select slice setting presets for Material and Quality. There are also preset options for beginners, for any Plug-and-Print supported printer model.
  • Widescreen Mode/Expanded Themes: The MatterControl UI is now a responsive design – it automatically expands to fit the screen space it is given. A new collection of light background themes has also been added.
  • Detailed Print History: Past print jobs can be viewed and repeated.

Minor Changes:

  • Pause, cancel, resume functionality can now be assigned custom G-code.
  • Added visualization for retraction and partial path viewing to G-code view.
  • When parts are repositioned in the plate editor, the offsets are now preserved.
  • Localization support has been added. Translations are forthcoming.
  • Saving part file edits is now significantly faster.
  • Loading images is now faster (uses caching).

MatterControl works with most open standard 3D printers and can store profile settings for multiple machines. There are also manufacturer-specific versions available for Airwolf, SeeMeCNC and RoBo 3D.