The use of 3D printing has made progress in industry, manufacturing and construction, design and welfare. In this article we discuss some professional 3D modelling software.
There are several 3D printing softwares on the market. How do we choose the right one for us?
The 8 best professional 3D printing software
How to choose the right program for your 3D printing?
Let's try to draw up a list of useful elements for the choice:
- features: many softwares are equipped with advanced features, which are not always necessary, or are complex in terms of the learning curve. The assessment to be made depends on the result to be obtained;
- teamwork: if you need to design in a team, choose software that is available in an icloud version (not all provide this type of service);
- Print file format: the more file formats supported by the software, the easier it will be to import and incorporate functional elements into the project;
- simulation: simulation often helps designers to find gaps and errors;
- parametric CAD: this is a fundamental feature for creating 3D models of any shape and size.
Professional 3D Printing Software
The following list of professional 3D printing software is certainly not exhaustive. It is our assessment and may be expanded over time.
Autodesk Inventor® is mainly used by mechanical engineers as factory robots. It is a 3D mechanical design software and runs on the Microsoft Windows platform. Main features:
- parametric, free-form and direct modelling;
- design of assemblies;
- creation of detailed drawings;
- creation of shared designs;
- data integration;
- dynamic simulation, stress analysis, exploded views and animations.
Autodesk Fusion 360 is one of the software tools used by engineers, planners, mechanics and designers for the production of mechanical parts. It runs on Windows and Mac platforms and is based on Icloud. Key features:
- combines the power of design with engineering and manufacturing;
- allows printing of components of any shape efficiently;
- has a simulation area that tests the design in its functionality;
- allows parametric, direct, free, mesh modelling; different materials can be set up for production;
- it keeps the whole history of the model, even the interactions that have taken place;
- CAD, CAE, CAM and PCB are integrated into a single development platform.
Creo, produced by Parametric Technology Corporation, is one of the market-leading software packages for the design, simulation and printing of 3D objects. Key features:
- suitable for use by designers, thanks to the possibility of creating very detailed drawings;
- it incorporates a wide range of features: thermal, structural and motion analysis, parametric surface generation, direct modelling, etc;
- the 3D models created contain all the data needed to exactly define the product;
- it supports augmented reality, which helps simulate objects in 3D;
- simultaneous creation of several projects with different materials and production scenarios is possible;
- it is scalable.
Solidworks is owned by Dessault Systèmes. It is one of the most popular commercial 3D software, easy to use. It offers tools and features to better design 3D models for industrial purposes. It is preferred by professionals who want to create innovative and reliable 3D designs. It uses parametric design with which it generates 3 types of files: part, assembly and drawing. Key features:
- simplified workflow for design, simulation and production; the 2020 version is even more efficient;
- offers reverse engineering and validation tools; uses dimensional sketching to resize objects and uses a NURBS system to create incredibly detailed curves;
- offers the 3DEXPERIENCE®, a single collaborative product development environment that allows you to securely share data and collaborate on any platform, at any time, under any conditions.
CATIA is owned by the same company as Solidworks (Dessault Systèmes). Compared to Solidworks it is the top of the range, for powerful computers designed to create high quality, highly detailed objects. It is the right choice of software if there is a need to work in multi-platform including CAD, CAM and CAE. This is why it is used by engineers in large organisations in the automotive and aerospace industries to design complex systems. Key features:
- is supported by the 3DEXPERIENCE® platform;
- enables online collaboration on product modelling and sharing with multiple designers;
- all design changes can be tracked and the software efficiently manages all design data.
SolidEdge uses synchronous technology for designing components, reviewing them and reusing design data. It supports the generation of models saved in .STL files. Key features:
- modelling using subdivision surfaces, which allows products to be developed even without specialist 3D modelling skills;
- rapid reverse engineering;
- data import and editing independent of the creation software;
- Intelligent search engine for 3D models and fast memory load times,
- cloud-based collaboration: synchronise files and share projects with partners.
Free 3D Printing Software
Finally, some free software:
OpenSCAD also known as "CAD for programmers", because it servers commands in its own programming language (script). It focuses on the CAD aspect of modelling to obtain highly efficient and reliable 3D objects. It is suitable for simple shapes that are already parametrically defined. Main features:
- it is based on Constructive Solid Geometry and the extrusion of 2D contours;
- the software is available on Linux, Mac and Windows;
- it is constantly updated, because it is followed by a solid community of 3D designers.
FreeCAD can be used by product designers, mechanical engineers, architects to design 3D parts with a feature-rich, parametric 3D modelling software. It runs on Windows, Mac and Linus. Key features:
- One of its main strengths is that it is open-source, i.e. it has many modules created by the community of users who use it: it is possible to simulate mechanisation, render, create buildings, etc.;
- it reads and modifies many formats: STEP, STL, IGES, SVG, DXF, OBJ, DAE, IFC, etc.
Another free software is TinkerCAD, which, thanks to its simple interface, simplifies the 3D printing process and at the same time allows you to design complex models by grouping shapes together. It is a cloud-based webapp. It allows the import of 2D shapes or 3D STL models that can then be embedded and/or retouched. It is an easy and intuitive 3D design tool, suitable for designers, hobbyists and teachers entering the world of 3D printing.
- has an intuitive user interface and provides a detailed tutorial;
- supports STL files