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How Can I Learn 3D Modeling?

How Can I Learn 3D Modeling? | 3D Printing Spot

Updated by

William Stone

/

September 16, 2021

A question a new user of a 3D printer might ask is How can I learn 3D modeling?  The answer we would give, is the same for anyone trying to learn any new software:  take a class, watch a you tube video, read an instruction manual, or learn from another person.  Or, you could use all of these methods and learn through trial, error and practice.

There really are no shortcuts to learning something new, but there are resources, tips and tricks that can help speed up the process.

3D printing technology has opened up a whole new world of opportunity for manufacturers, prop-makers, prototypes, hobbyists, and even the average joe who wants to 3D print at home.

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Objects that once would have taken considerable time and money to produce can now be made with ease and relatively small cost.  But, with most computer technology, it is changing so fast the older generation has a hard time keeping up.  It might be called a young man’s game.  

Children come into the world knowing how to swipe right and swipe left leaving parents in awe.  The fact is, younger people know you tube, and that is the best trick of all.  In seconds they will have a you tube video up and the basics digested.

But don’t worry, even an old guy can learn 3D modeling with a little effort, or worst case you can buy your 3D models online from a myriad of sources. Or, you could take a simpler approach and learn how to scanning objects or pictures and let the computer convert them into 3D models.  

When there is a will there is a way, and I’m certain you will find that way.  Keep reading for a few other things to consider when learning to 3D model.

What type of object are you 3D printing?

It is important to understand the purpose of any 3D object you want to print as it makes a significant difference in what you need to learn.  Is the object an artistic piece or an engineering piece?

Artistic objects would be things like models, home made props, toys, or anything which doesn’t require precision.  Engineering objects, on the other hand, covers things like mechanical parts or prototypes which require exact dimensions and/or being assembled with other parts.  If an engineered object is off by an eight-inch, it won’t work.  If an artistic object is off by an eight-inch no one will notice.

Most home users and hobbyist will likely be doing primarily artistic objects which is much easier to learn as measurements will be less stringent.  It is important to understand that all software is not created equal, some software is good for artistic pieces, other software is good for engineered pieces.

What is the easiest 3D modeling software to learn?

Many different 3D modeling software exists, but we will only focus on 4 of the more popular and easiest software to learn for artistic objects and 4 for engineered objects.

ARTISTIC OBJECT SOFTWARE

Tinkercad.  Is an Autodesk produced 3D modeling CAD software that is available free online.  It is very intuitive to use and learn.  The simplicity makes it possible to build a simple 3D model in no time.

Vectary.  Is a drag and drop style program, which allows you to choose preset elements eliminating the need to create from scratch. It is also available free online.

Selfcad.  Is new to the market but very popular for beginners.  It is one of the easiest 3D modeling software for beginners.  You can sculpt, model and slice with this software.  This software is online and has a small monthly fee.

Sketchup Free. Is a scaled down version of “Sketchup” making it easy to get started.  It is web-based and is user-friendly.

ENGINEERED OBJECT SOFTWARE

If you intend to prototype functional items, replace working components, or print anything that requires a high degree of precision, you will need to look at CAD software.

CAD stands for computer-aided design and is a type of tool used for designing everything from tiny components to entire buildings. It allows for precise measurement in real-world units. It can even output technical drawings that can be used when assembling your 3D components.

One of the main advantages of good CAD software is the ability to design "assemblies". An assembly is a collection of components that make up the whole. For example, if you were planning a custom case for a keyboard, you would create the whole keyboard. Either as individual components in the assembly or as one unit that can then be broken up into printable pieces.

This feature makes it easy for you to ensure that your components will all be the right size and will fit together. And you're not limited to the objects you intend to print. If you were designing a keyboard case, you could model in the internal components, allowing you to adjust the design entirely in-app without impeding on the inner workings.

Examples

  • AutoCAD
  • FreeCAD
  • Onshape
  • TurboCAD

Do scanning apps work to create a 3D model?

Yes, scanning apps do work to create a 3D model as mentioned above.  This option would be for people who just want to play with their 3D printer, but have no interest in making anything specific or putting hours into learning 3D modeling software.

There are apps available for Android and iOS devices that can actually scan 3D objects using the phone's camera and then with minimal editing prepare the file to 3D print.  It takes a bit of practice to get good at moving around the object smoothly, but it does work.  So, if you just want to play around with a 3D printer, you can try out one of these apps.

Trnio
Qlone
Scandy Pro
Heges
Sony 3D Creator

There are many more apps than these, but you get the message that 3D scanning is an alternative option to creating your own 3D model.  It is good to mention that while this sounds pretty good camera and app technology is such today that you will run into a few issues.  The apps are not perfect and you may spend time trying to get them to work. The images are not perfect so generally there is some touching up required.  Lastly, the quality of the images is lacking as the proper equipment does not exist in the phone itself.  But all this said, it is worth giving it a try and finding out what works for your specific needs.

The final step to create a 3D printing model.

At this point, the only thing left to do is to get learning.There is a wealth of information available online, and the good news is that a lot of it is free!  The important thing is not to get discouraged by slow progress in the initial stages of your journey. Picking up a new skill is difficult at the start, but persevere and get over that initial hump you will be rewarded.

And never forget, once you have learned something new, help someone else learn the same thing by sharing your own tips and tricks that you learned a long the way.

About THE AUTHOR

William Stone

William Stone

William has spent 20 plus years in the custom manufacturing industry as a COO, CEO and Owner of various custom product businesses. His experience has exposed him to all types of manufacturing from die cast, die struck, injection molding, CNC machining, laser etching, engraving and of course 3D printing.

Learn more about William Stone

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How Can I Learn 3D Modeling?

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