Best 3D Modeling Software Tools Free & Paid for 3D Printing

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3D Modeling Software
3D Modeling Software

Look around you. Chances are that almost every object, from your pen to the desk to the electronic device you are using to read this text was designed using 3D modeling software. Often ignored by the public, these programs make it possible for countless occupations to provide a professional service to their clients.

Below we go into detail about what 3D modeling software is, who can use this software, what the pros and cons of the software are, and the various kinds of paid and free versions of the software you can select from.

1Table of Best 3D Modeling Software

NameOSPriceFormats
SketchUpWindows / MacFree / 657$ Prodxf, dwg, dae, 3ds, def, ifc, stl, kmz, dem
123D DesignWindows / iOS / MacFree123x, stl, step, vrml, x3d
AutoCADWindows / Mac1400$/yeardwg, pdf, dxf
SolidworksWindows / Mac9.950$3dxml, 3ds, dxf, 3mf, amf, vrml, dwg, dxf, idf, 3dm, sldprt, ifc, pdf, stp, stl, obj
LeoCADWindows / Linux / OSXFree
3DCrafterFree3ds, asc, ac, dxf, x, iob, lp, lwo, rtg, 3dmf, raw, rbs, rwx, stl, dst, cob, geo, wrl

2I. What Is 3D Modeling Software?

3D modeling software allows you to create 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional shapes. Depending on the 3D modeling software you are using, you can make multiple mechanisms, animate objects, design blueprints, and more. There are dozens of different kinds of 3D modeling software used by an equal number of niche industries. In addition, 3D modeling software is used by individuals looking to create or illustrate an idea.

3II. Who Uses 3D Modeling Software?

3D modeling software is used by hobbyists, large international companies, and everyone in between. Any industry that builds or constructs objects will use a 3D modeling software to aid their design. On the smallest scale, Programs Like Free CAD Software can help create tiny mechanisms and organize their assembly process. Larger multi-part mechanisms can be made and show how everything fits together. These mechanism can be placed in fully designed homes or commercial spaces that use 3D modeling software in all aspects of design. On larger scales, 3D modeling software can be used to create large skyscrapers, airplanes, cruise ships, and more. Because of this, architects, engineers, those in aerospace, individuals in construction, and more will all use this software. At the same time, many people who simply like designing things for video games or for personal entertainment can also use this software to their advantage.

4III. Pros of 3D Modeling Software

3D modeling software offers you the ability to turn the objects of your imagination into reality. Along with creating what you want, they can be synergized with 3D printers as well as act as fantastic professional aids.

Create What You Want

You don’t have to be an industry specialist to use 3D modeling software or benefit from its use. 3D modeling software allows you to take an idea and transform it into a reality. Depending on the software, you can view it, color it, choose the material, rotate it, and even animate it. In the end, what you can do with 3D software is often limited only by your imagination.

Synergy With 3D Printers:

While 3D printers have been around since 1984, they have mostly been relegated to special industries. In the past few years, the costs have dropped dramatically along with their size, making 3D printers available to the public. With many different kinds of 3D modeling software, you can transform the plans over to your 3D printer and watch as your digital object becomes a reality. 3D printers offer a lot of different printing options depending on what you buy. Again, what you can create is almost exclusively limited by what you can imagine.

Great Professional Aid:

3D modeling software provides a crucial aid in the design of objects across dozens of industries. Whether you are a small company or large international company, you can use 3D modeling software to design everything from tiny pieces of machinery to supertankers. Making it possible to design and expand on your ideas, 3D modeling software is available from a beginner to industrial standards.

5IV. Cons of 3D Modeling Software

While 3D modeling software makes it possible to do a lot, it is not without its drawbacks. In fact, there are a few major issues with 3D modeling software that you will probably have to contend with including cost, limited functionality, and issues regarding file compatibility.

Cost:

First and foremost, cost will prohibit you from accessing a lot of the 3D modeling software available. While some licenses allow you to use the software after a single purchase, others will charge you a constant yearly or monthly rate that can be in the thousands of dollars. Further down we list both priced and free 3D modeling software for you to consider.

Limited Functionality:

Limited functionality is a big issue, especially if you want to do a lot of things with a single program. Know that certain 3D modeling software is designed for highly specific uses. For example, you cannot use ArchiCAD to render and animate 3D models as effectively as you can with other software. It is important for you to identify what you need is prior to purchasing software.

Issues With Compatibility:

File compatibility can be an issue. In particular, it can be an issue if you are trying to take your file and send the information to a 3D printer. Check to see what file formats are supported by the equipment you have and choose carefully.

6V. What Are Some Leading 3D Modeling Software Companies?

There are many well-known and trusted companies that produce 3D modeling software. Before choosing a piece of 3D modeling software, run through the following checklist in your mind.

First, what is your intended goal with the software?

Rendering landscape, building a house, making a model, or animating an object will all require different software. Next, consider your experience level. Below we go into detail regarding the best beginner, intermediate, professional, and industrial software out there. Last but not least, consider cost. Some of the licenses for the software can cost hundreds of dollars a year and may mean a big commitment on your part.

123D Design

One of the best choices for beginner 3D modeling tools is the 123D Design. Similar to the easily approachable SketchUp, 123D Design is a combination of CAD and 3D modeling software. It is released by the Autodesk Company and free versions can be found depending on the kind of license you are looking for. Along with being able to be used as a grid program for planning basic objects, 123D Design also comes with complex options that greatly expand its scope. One of the best pieces of software for beginners, 123D Design manages to do a little of everything. It is a great way to begin building a solid understanding. Other 3D design programs for beginners include 3D Slash, Photoshop CC, SculptGL, and TinkerCAD.

SketchUp

An interesting intermediate 3D modeling software worth playing around with once you have some experience is SketchUp. The software designed to show architectural elements in Google Earth, SketchUp has grown from a small program with a cult following into its very own rendering software. Incorporating a neat and tidy interface that makes using SketchUp easier, be prepared for an insane amount of buttons and choices. That being said, a little bit of learning can lead you to create 3D models. Because of its multifaceted functionality, SketchUp has been used by a wide variety of industries including hobbyists, interior designers, architects, engineers, urban planners, and even those in the construction industry. Other intermediate 3D modeling software worth considering includes Meshmixer, Moments of Inspiration (MOI), OpenSCAD, and Sculptris.

AutoCAD

Professional software for 3D modeling software includes many recognizable names. The biggest player in the world of 3D modeling software is AutoCAD. A commercial software that can be used for 3D and 2D model making, AutoCAD has been available for nearly 40 years. AutoCAD is an interesting program because there is multiple version of the software depending on your intended goal. For example, architects have available ArchiCAD, which is the AutoCAD program specifically made for that profession. Easily accessibly to 3D printers, AutoCAD are designed to work in a number of different industries and provide an above average level of support. Be aware that it is also challenging to learn and can incorporate learning a lot of shortcut key commands. Other professional software for 3D modeling software worth considering includes 3ds Max, Zbrush, Rhino3D, Mudbox, and Blender.

Solidworks

Solidworks is a great industrial 3D modeling software that provides a wide range of functionality. A solid modeling software, Solidworks runs on Windows and is among the most common program used by engineers. Solidworks was designed to work across a number of different industries, making it one of the few industrial 3D modeling companies that is truly cross industry. Solidworks has been used in architecture, medical, energy, industrial equipment, automotive, shipbuilding, aerospace, and mechanical engineering. Other industrial 3D modeling software includes Inventor, Fusion 360, and CATIA.

7VI. Free Modeling Software You Can Consider

Interested in 3D modeling but don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on professional software?

There is multiple good quality 3D modeling programs that are available for free. Covering a wide range of possible uses, the 3D modeling software goes from fun to serious offering a lot of possibility if you are struggling to find the right program for you.

In addition, consider using some of the free modeling software first to see what works and what doesn’t when it comes to what you are looking for. Some of the best free 3D modeling software includes LeoCAD, 3D Crafter, and AutoDesk 123D.

LeoCAD

is a fun piece of software that takes the toolset of CAD programs and applies it to LEGO! LeoCAD allows you to create virtual LEGO models utilizing hundreds of different pieces and colors. Including a simple interface that is straightforward to learn, LeoCAD provides support across platform including Mac OS, Windows, and Linux. The program supports animation mode as well as key framing as well. A fun tool to play around with, LeoCAD is a great tool if you are familiar with LEGO and want to use it to see how 3D modeling software works.

3DCrafter

is a beautiful piece of 3D modeling software that provides a simple drag and drop approach. A real time 3D animation tool, 3Dcrafter allows you to print as well as sculpt using it. An advanced tool if you want to create animations, 3Dcrafter is well worth checking out if animation is your goal. Be aware that the controls are a bit more complex to understand. That being said, once you become familiar with the software you can do a lot.

Again we mention AutoDesk 123D!

AutoDesk 123D is a combination of animation 3D modeling tools and CAD combined. The end result is a powerful tool that lets you create a wide variety of shapes. AutoDesk 123D is a popular choice because it supports a wide range of formats. With more than 10,000 free 3D images that you can select from, AutoDesk 123D gives you a lot to play around with. Be aware that like other CAD programs, AutoDesk can take some time to master. That being said, putting in the time can create some truly remarkable 3D objects. As a final note, AutoDesk 123D supports 3D printer technology, allowing you to turn your object into a reality.

Along with the free software listed above, there are many more programs that are well worth checking out. Some of these free programs include Wings 3D, Daz Studio, Open SCAD, Meshmixer 3.0, 3DReshaper, PTC Creo, VUE Pioneer, Netfabb, NaroCAS, LEGO Digital Designer, ZCAD, Houdini Apprentice, Design Spark, Free CAD, Sculptris, MeshMagic3D, and Open Cascade.

8VII. Summary

With dozens of different 3D modeling software to consider, the biggest challenge you will face is in selecting the right modeling software for your needs. With that in mind, start with free software and see what it is like to use. Once you get the hang of the basics, you can expand to paid programs that provide increased functionality.

Know that the price of 3D modeling software is constantly changing. What may not be affordable today may be affordable tomorrow and vise versa. In addition, know that these pieces of software are constantly being updated and changed by the creators. With mostly good updates that improve functionality, glitches can be reported and resolved. Also know that many of these programs offer a lot of user support, beginner guides, and more. If you need information to learn, the company offering the software should be your first source.