Which 3D modeling software is better for 3D printing?

When you become a maker, you would want to 3D print physical object for your product. The frequent question I've heard from makers is 'what software should I learn?'. This blog explains which 3D modeling software you should pick up. 

Here are the list of softwares you may want to use:

  1. Rhinoceros (Best NURBS modeling tool. Very flexible and popular parametric software with many useful plug-ins. Not good for polygon mesh modeling and real-time rendering. Reasonable price among other commercial softwares)
  2. 3D Studio Max (Polygon based modeling suit. Flexible and intuitive user interface.)
  3. Maya (Deal with both polygon and NURBS but better to use polygon. A massive complete suite for 3D modeling and animation with no graphic parametric interface but script. Complex user interface.)
  4. AutoCad (Polygon based 3D modeling tool. Designed to draw architectural drafts.)
  5. Solidworks (3D modeling great for kinetic mechanics and gadgets)
  6. 123D Design (Free. Friendly user interface. Less flexibility )
  7. TinkerCad (Free and cloud-based 3D modeling software. User friendly and )
  8. Blender (Free. Great tool to create figures)
  9. Sculptris (Free. Digital sculpting tool for beginners.)
  10. Sketchup (Free. It can download terrains from Google Earth. It has plug-ins but it's easier to mess up while creating. It produces some problems when you create advanced 3D model for 3D printing. Even though it's a very popular software, 3D printing with Sketchup becomes often unsuccessful.)

As I wrote in the previous blog, every CAD software is designed to 3D model in a different way. Most of 3Dmodeling softwares can export their models into some 3D printable format. What format you can 3D print depends on 3D printers. If you have something particular you would like to 3Dprint, check the accepted file format first. This is for beginners, so I do not explain in very details in that I have not used all types of 3Dprinters and modeling softwares. These are my suggestions. The criteria you have to care about are:

  1. Purpose
  2. User Interface
  3. Cost
  4. How you see 3D objects

Also, you might need to consider about colored 3Dprinting but I will not explain about it here as I do not have an experience of it.

1. Purpose: Do you want to 3Dprint a doll, popular animation character-like figures? Or, piece of accessory and functional gadgets? Even though you can eventually create the similar things, every software has different suitability to model. 

2. UI: Are you a complete beginner or a maker who already has an experience to create three dimensional objects? Are you familiar with visual interface or you essentially script only? Some people feel professional and commercial use 3D modeling softwares are user-unfriendly yet in my opinion, user-friendly softwares limit what we do that eventually makes 3D modeling difficult for beginners. If you create only box like objects, you may not need a commercial software yet if you want to create an organic shape, it's not always easy to create them with free software. 

3. Cost: Are you a student who can gain a student discount or a hobbyist who are interested in 3D modeling and printing? Some commercial softwares might be quite expensive for hobbyists with unnecessary functions. 

4. How you see 3D objects: Think about ways to create a physical object with physical materials such as clay, paper, wood, etc.  Do you tend to create a solid model first and engrave them? or do you precisely sketch pieces and assemble them?