Top Picks: 3D Modeling Software for 3D Printing
Given the dynamic range of different 3D modeling systems on the market, you are going to want to select one that is going to help you achieve the designs that you want to create. You will find that some systems are going to be better at creating certain designs - with many programs aiming to assist users in developing specific types of models and prints based on their industry.
If you work in an industry that requires advanced modeling or have simply been designing long enough to understand how intricate 3D programs work, then you are going to want to select a system that is going to be matched to your level of expertise. However, it is important that you choose a 3D modeling software that is able to deliver you the results that you want to achieve. To do so, you should carefully assess the specs of each program so that you can pick a modeling software that has the features that you require for your designs.
On the other hand, not everyone is a 3D printing professional - yet they still want to enjoy this craft as a hobbyist. If that is the case, then you may not want the most advanced 3D modeling software available on the market. There are plenty of excellent 3D printing programs that are easy to use and designed for beginners. These are going to be great for those of you that want to work with simple models and achieve prints in no time. It is important that you recognize that the more basic the software the less intricate your 3D models and prints are going to be, as these programs have considerably more limitations.
The key is to pick a 3D modeling software that is going fulfill your goals as a designer. If you happen to be on the fence about which software to choose, you will find that there are some programs out there that are quite versatile and are capable of delivering results that are balanced across a number of different industries. In addition, if you are unsure about your technical abilities as a designer, you can find a middle ground option for the modeling software that you select, which is suitable for intermediate-level users.
Fusion 360 (Advanced)
Fusion 360 is widely considered to be one of the best 3D modeling software programs out there. This is especially popular among users who work in industries that have to deal with mechanics and engineering.
This 3D modeling software is complex and you can create very intricate designs with moving parts and loads of dynamic features. Fusion 360 is a cloud-based modeling program that enables you to create and share your projects, which is a fantastic feature for teams to collaborate on projects and correspond with clients.
What is also fantastic about Fusion 360 is that it is very accessible. This is a program that you can use on your computer, as well as a mobile device, which means that you can open up your work wherever you are - making it easier to adjust projects and relay information between your team or client.
You can begin creating your designs from scratch with Fusion 360 and really let your mechanical engineering run wild, as the possibilities are endless with this 3D modeling software. If you want to save yourself time and already have the base for your idea in mind, this program has a lot of different pre-designed models for you to select from. There is an entire library full of mechanical parts such as nuts and bolts which you can add to your project at ease.
Once in your workstation, you can customize these objects to the parameters that you set. Many industry professionals rely on Fusion 360 to create groundbreaking and innovative technology within mechanical engineering, which is why this is one of the most highly-regarded 3D modeling software available.
Fusion 360 is also an excellent simulation tool. If you are not set on committing to your print, you can create designs to get a visual of what you want to achieve. If you have got an intricate project that you want to get a better visual of, Fusion 360 has a very impressive simulation feature that enables you to see your creation come to life.
However, that’s not all - as Fusion 360 also enables you to test your project out virtually. You can test your creation’s breaking points and more with the simulation feature so that you can get an idea of how it will respond to real-world scenarios before putting it in the field. This is also a great modeling software because it gives you a blueprint drawing of your entire project as you build it. To see the parameters and specs of your design from a different angle, simply enter the drawing window of the project to see it in this form. Any changes that you make to your design will be instantly displayed in the drawing.
If you are still not sold on Fusion 360, this program is completely free to use. The only thing that you need to do is apply for a license which you will need to renew on annual basis. There is a paid option for commercial use of the program but if you are simply using it as a hobbyist, you can enjoy this very expansive software at no cost.
Whether you are just starting out as a hobbyist or an industry professional, SketchUp tends to be a crowd favorite among a lot of designers out there. This is a program that strikes a balance between highly advanced and total beginner 3D modeling software. Although the software is intuitive and quite easy to use, you can still achieve some pretty intricate designs and you can use this program for a variety of different industries.
One thing that is great about SketchUp is that it can be used anywhere, anytime - so long as you have access to the internet. The user interface is very organized and it allows you to jump right into a project with a few simple clicks. On the left side of the interface, you will find a sidebar that has a variety of different tools to let you begin sketching your model.
There is also a very impressive library of a variety of different preset designs that you can select from, which will greatly help you speed up your workflow. SketchUp is particularly popular among architect designers, as there are a lot of presets that are made specifically for this industry - enabling you to have a project in motion within minutes.
This is also a great software for mechanical engineering - given that SketchUp provides all sorts of nuts, bolts, and other presets from this industry for you to select from. However, if you just want to model from scratch, the various drawing tools that are built into the software are excellent for letting your creativity run wild.
Another great thing about SketchUp is that it is free! You have access to the majority of the program’s features and tools without needing to spend any money - with the option to export your designs fully available. There is a paid version of SketchUp that unlocks some additional tools and features, which are fantastic if you want to dive further into the software. However, the free version is more than capable of delivering some stellar results and it also enables users to get acquainted with the program before committing to a purchase.
AutoCAD is an advanced 3D modeling software, which is particularly popular among architects, engineers, and 3D designers. They continue to update and upgrade their program to help optimize the workflow of its users and they pride themselves on how efficiently the software runs - allowing users to create intricate designs quickly.
What is great about AutoCAD’s 3D modeling software is that once you enroll in the program, you have access to their various toolsets, which have been created to help designers for their specific niche. Think of each toolset as a workbench for an industry that allows you to design your models with an optimized set of resources and features that have been created to give you the best workflow possible based on what your design needs are. The most popular toolsets from AutoCAD are their mechanical, architectural, and electrical options.
By utilizing AutoCAD’s toolsets, you can skip the strenuous procedure of always needing to start a design from scratch and you can establish the base of your project incredibly fast. This gives you the opportunity to greatly eliminate the amount of time wasted on nuances.
This is also a fantastic 3D modeling software due to how accessible it is. The problem with some reputable 3D programs is that they have not been modernized in the way that AutoCAD is - with many options needing to be downloaded and installed onto a PC. AutoCAD is ahead of the curve in this regard, as they have created the program to be accessible on mobile devices including smartphones and tablets.
This means that you can take your work with you literally wherever you go. With this level of accessibility, you can correspond with clients about project details without being physically tied down to a location. In addition, this is a great feature for hobbyists who like to work on their designs during their downtime or while away from home.
We also really enjoyed how clean and pleasing to the eye AutoCAD’s interface is. The aesthetic of the software is very much with the times and you will enjoy how organized your workflow is when working on projects. Once you have finalized your project or are done for the day, AutoCAD has some excellent save features to secure your work. Naturally, you can save directly onto your computer or mobile device, but you can also upload your work directly to its associated cloud storage providers - giving your projects an extra layer of security.
Not all 3D modeling software is going to be highly advanced, as there are so many different types of users these days that range in their technical abilities and level of expertise. For introductory-level 3D modeling, we were very happy with the performance and capabilities that TinkerCAD has to offer.
This is a very straightforward and easy-to-use 3D modeling software that is perfect for the absolute beginner and the casual hobbyist. You can have a basic project on the way within a few simple clicks with TinkerCAD. The interface is very simple and features two sidebars - one on each side of your monitor - with your Workplane in front of you.
To start a design you can scroll to the left sidebar and begin selecting shapes to build your model. There are various tools that enable you to make customizations and alterations to the shape so that you can add a personalized touch to every design. From here, you can essentially unleash your creativity and begin working with various shapes and drawings that are built into the modeling software.
If you want to keep things even simpler, you can always work with the design presets that are available in the right sidebar. TinkerCAD has a number of different fun designs that have been pre-made, which you can simply drag and drop onto the Workplane. You can customize these designs to your liking with a few basic clicks.
TinkerCAD is also available via your browser, so you can use it anywhere so long as you have access to the internet. This is great software for people of all ages and experience levels. You do not need to have any 3D modeling or printing experience to start using TinkerCAD, as it is one of the most straightforward programs out there. With that being said, you are not going to get very advanced designs with this 3D modeling software. TinkerCAD certainly has its limitations when it comes to design, but that is honestly one of its perks, as this is beginner software at the end of the day.
If you are looking to create 3D sculptures, there are few 3D modeling software programs out there that can compete with Zbrush. The creators of the program aimed to make a single 3D modeling software that would capable of taking care of all of the designs needs of users looking to create 3D sculptures exclusively.
This is a very in-depth program for sculptures and if you want to really master it and utilize it to its full capabilities, you are going to need to invest some time to harness its full potential. After you have gotten your head around the software, you will be amazed by the potential that you can unlock within your designs - quite literally enabling you to create your own world.
The sidebars and panels contain a series of different features which enable you to start your designs from scratch. You can drag shapes and objects into your workspace and begin making modifications to them based on the idea that you want to sculpt. You have the ability to create curves and edgest to whatever you drag onto the workspace with the sweep device, which is very user-friendly.
Zbrush has made some serious improvements to its software in recent years - with the newest version receiving some significant upgrades and updates. The new program has gotten rid of some of the redundant features of the previous version and has aimed to simplify the workflow of designers by trimming the fat of unnecessary tools. Zbrush has essentially gotten rid of everything that was not ideal in the program, kept all of its best qualities, and added new advanced features.
After taking the time to learn the software and all of its features, you can create some pretty spectacular designs. The organic modeling of the program can help you deliver results that look like fine art - with clay and oil painting aesthetics. However, this is also a 3D modeling software that is very popular among game designers. You can create characters and build all of the objects of a game with Zbrush, which is why it is very commonly used in this industry.
You can sign up to use Zbrush on a monthly subscription or you can purchase it for life and always have it be accessible, which ends up being considerably cheaper if you plan on diving deep into the software.