Even today when someone sees my 3d printer they say the phrase “this is the future” and every time I reply with “you’re wrong, this is the present”. Yes, because every day more people who have a 3d printer at home. The sales of 3d printers are constantly on the rise and at the same time the people who approach all the relative possibilities that it offers. Each of these people begins a kind of adventure in a world of software dedicated to 3d printing and more, just for them I wanted to write this collection on 3d modeling software.
In another article we addressed the topic of 3d modeling by listing the advantages related to the possibility of using online resources to draw three-dimensional figures. Today we propose a list of standalone software always to develop our projects to be 3d printed. In reality, the following impressions are not all derived from personal experiences, some I write based on the opinions that have been reported to me by some users much more experienced than me on these 3d modeling software.
It is the first one I came across, a free and easy to use 3D modeling software. Complete with advanced tools suitable for complex projects and offers excellent control of project details. SketchUp allows users to quickly draw the shapes of their project with an intuitive approach and can accompany us to the realization of complex projects with its wide range of tools for both 2D and 3D drawing. Thanks to its diffusion also as a community, it has its own repository with over 2 million 3D models. You can find architectural, mechanical, gagdet and other items shared by all users. It is available for free for personal or educational purposes but there is also a premium version which adds expanded cloud storage and more advanced features such as professionally developed plug-ins, but the free version is equipped enough with tools to allow you to reach a good level of 3d modeling in a very short time. Available for Windows and Mac it is among the most versatile and in my opinion recommended for a beginner.
Much more challenging Blender is a free, professional-grade, fully open-source 3D modeling software. Its field of use is much wider, offering advanced 3D modeling functions but also presents modules dedicated to highly specialized activities. For example, Blender is also an excellent tool for producing animations, and thanks to the Python API this program can be customized to the needs of your project.
Blender has many keyboard shortcuts, so you can quickly access functions in the mode you are using.
This wealth of features makes Blender one of the most challenging free 3D modeling software tools to master. However, thanks to the many video tutorials available on the net, reaching a thorough knowledge of this tool is not impossible and creating sophisticated 3D drawings or animations can become almost a game. It is available for free for both Windows and Mac and Linux.
Other free and powerful 3d modeling software Fusion 360 provided by the famous Autodesk combines the different phases of the project development process in a single software by providing tools such as freehand modeling and sculpture, solid modeling and parametric modeling. As ease of use after trying it, I place it at an intermediate level between sketchup and blender. An additional benefit is the ability to have multiple users collaborate on the project at the same time and manage file versioning. As powerful as high-end CAD programs, it is designed with the user in mind with a clean and easily customizable interface with very intuitive tools. It also benefits from a very active community and many YouTube video tutorials made by Autodesk itself. Thanks to the ability to leverage Autodesk’s cloud, Fusion 360 is an excellent choice for complex engineering projects, and is available for free for 3D modeling enthusiasts on Windows and Mac.
FreeCAD is free, open source, customizable, scriptable and extensible 3D modeling software. It is a real CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) therefore parametric. If you already know other CAD software, in a very short time you will be able to use it to its full potential. If you’re just starting out with CAD, the complexity of FreeCAD may seem daunting at first, however, it’s definitely worth persevering, as with a feature set that is unmatched among free CAD programs it allows you to create complex mechanical designs too. Thanks to its modular architecture, finding plugins that add the functionality you need makes it versatile and suitable for various types of work and it is possible to simulate the movement of the drawn object. Another nice feature is that it can directly produce the g-code which makes it an excellent all-in-one solution for 3d printing.
Meshmixer is another free 3D modeling software published by Autodesk. Meshmixer is a kind of laboratory equipped with all the useful tools to draw, manipulate, add and merge 3D models relatively easily and have a useful tool to save time and print material that empties the 3D file. Furthermore, it allows to analyze the file before printing to verify the hermetic seal of the drawing (manifold). Although these are the features most relevant to 3d printing, Meshmixer proves to be suitable for both mechanical and architectural projects and much more, even for those who have only some basic 3D modeling. Available for Windows, Mac and Linux.
If our goal is 3d modeling of human characters
realistic MakeHuman is the free software for us. Using the tools provided you can check properties such as age, sex and weight, down to the most subtle features such as the shape of the face or the length of the limbs. In essence, this 3D modeling software allows you to literally customize your character from tip of hair to toe and thanks to a series of preset motion capture files allows you to preview the 3D model in action for the development of 3D games and 3D animated movies. Available for Windows, Mac and Linux, it may seem difficult especially at the beginning but its initially steep learning curve tends to soften to give great satisfaction to the user.
Directly from RS Components, DesignSpark Mechanical is a free 3d modeling software that can boast a repository of drawings of many articles distributed by the famous e-commerce. In a short time it is possible to create complex geometries around, for example, a component available in the repository. It requires already advanced knowledge on the functioning of these software and thanks to the possibility of importing files of native Sketchup projects (skp), you can use all the object library of its community. Only available for Windows.
We have already talked about the online version of this 3d modeling software, its standalone version confirms the ease of use and also the potential of the application. Dedicated to an audience of beginners, it makes it possible to create three-dimensional shapes in a few steps. Intuitive and equipped with video tutorials, it is also particularly suitable for those who have “0” experience on the subject and do not be fooled by the initial appearance, however, it has tools that allow you to process more complex forms than those proposed by default. Available for Windows, Mac and Linux as well as online.
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