These days many people know about the existence of 3D printing, but do not understand 3D printing or the design process adequate enough to check it out for themselves and start creating new objects from scratch. But there are loads of free 3D software and other resources for experimentation before taking the deep dive.
Here are some of the most significant resources to follow when starting with 3D printing–no expertise or spending needed. Using the tools mentioned here once or twice, you’ll better comprehend 3D printing language, how 3D layouts are created, and where to have your 3D prints designed.
Not Sure What to Print? Read a 3D Model Library.
Although making your own models with 3D modeling or CAD design tools is the perfect method to create designs suited for your specific needs, it’s not in any way necessary to start with 3D printing now. The simplest way to start using 3D printing is to search through the thousands of available existing designs on the internet. Here are a few of the greatest websites that provide 3D printable models to get you started:
Thingiverse- With almost a half-million 3D versions available to print at no cost, Thingiverse is the largest online repository for 3D printable content (complimentary).
YouMagine- Though it is not quite as comprehensive as Thingiverse, the YouMagine community more than makes up for their smaller size with a continuous flow of high quality 3D printable material (free).
Cults3D- While the YouMagine and Thingiverse platforms allow anyone to upload their designs, the Cults3D team prefers to curate collections comprising the best-uploaded models– many of which are made by professional designers (free + paid).
Other superb resources for obtaining downloadable 3D models or producing step-by-step 3D printing jobs are found in 3DShook, Sketchfab, Pinshape, Wevolver, or Turbosquid.
Make Your Own 3D Models Using These Tools
Naturally, the incredible thing about 3D printing is that you could create something new and unique from scratch. While 3D design tools have been hard to learn and expensive, there are also lots of free or low-cost offers that are surprisingly powerful and simple to use. The following are some of the most effective programs for beginning on the path of 3D modeling.
Beginner 3D Model Creation Software
These tools are very simple and intuitive to use but are actually incredibly powerful once you learn how to benefit from their features.
Autodesk 123D Suite-
A selection of 3D modeling tools created for new users to design, research, and manufacture their own 3D models (Windows/iOS/Mac | Free)
A very simple tool focuses on drawing applications, including architectural, interior design, and engineering functions. (Windows/Mac | Free)
A digital sculpting app build to help novices learn the basics of working with”digital clay” (Windows/Mac | Free)
Ultimaker Cura is free software that gives users seamless integration among its platform and a 3D printer. It provides a recommended mode for users new to 3D printing software, making it a terrific tool for beginners. On the flip side, if you are a user that wants complete customization over the last product, Ultimaker Cura also provides a custom mode.
- Ultimaker Cura is a totally free, open-source software.
- Works using STL, OBJ, X3D, and 3MF file formats
- Adjustment tools to scale your version
- Print on multiple networks and track all jobs from 1 interface
TinkerCAD is a free browser-based 3D design and modeling tool. With its intuitive and simple interface, TinkerCAD is terrific software for starters. Users can build simple or complex models using contours and shape groups. TinkerCAD supports STL files, which enables users to 3D publish their design once it’s finished. TinkerCAD is an online free collection of 3D design tools.
- Cloud storage
- Laser cutting
- Import 2D and 3D models
- Click to 3D print
Meshlab is An open-source system for editing and processing 3D triangular meshes. This software gives tools for editing, rendering, texturing, and converting meshes. Its editing features allow users to remesh 3D models and make it easier to slice and prepare 3D printing design. Meshlab is an entirely free, open-source program.
- 3D color mapping and texturing
- 3D reconstruction
- 3D printing, hollowing, offsetting, and closing
Meshmixer includes a variety of tools to maximize 3D CAD designs for 3D printing. When there are easy tools for novice users, some attributes are intended for experienced designers. A good example is that the platform’s multi-material design feature lets users create objects with several materials. Meshmixer is free software downloadable for Windows and Mac.
- Drag-and-drop mesh mixing
- Robust convert-to-solid for 3D printing
- Automated print bed orientation optimization, design, and packaging
Repetier-Host is an all-round 3D printing option. It supports four slicers, such as Slic3r, Slic3r Prusa Edition, CuraEngine, and Skeinforge. Once your item is sliced, you can see significant changes with preview printing in the interface. Users may also replicate as many models as can fit onto the port simultaneously, allowing for simple multi-part printing. This tool is entirely free to download for Windows, Linux, and Mac.
- Multi-part printing
- Multi-slicer service
- Pre-print cost estimator
3DPrinterOS is an operating system designed for 3D printing management. Its chief advantage is its integration with nearly all 3D printers since the provider’s business model is focused on bringing everybody access to 3D printing. Furthermore, users can prepare their commodities for 3D printing with STL editing and fixing features within the software.
Upload and print G-codes
G-code and toolpath viewing
Octoprint is a totally free, open-source software that has been built to give users total control over all aspects of 3D printing. With Wi-Fi-based connectivity, users can control the printing job directly from their web interface and visualize the G-code. This is an excellent tool for intermediate users who want more control over their 3D printing. It provides a Free 14-day trial option.
- Complete remote control and tracking
- STL file editing
- G-code visualizer
Netfabb provides users with innovative STL analysis and all of the tools to model, import, and fix a 3D design. With its additive production simulation, users can know how metal additive manufactured parts will deform to help minimize build failures.
- Free for 30 days for regular users. Free three years for pupils.
- Model import, editing, and repair
- Design optimization
- Additive manufacturing simulation
Advanced Users 3D Model Creation
Naturally, those who learn 3D modeling principles usually wind up searching for more flexible options that provide them more control of the craft. Although there are many tools available for advanced 3D modeling, those listed below are preferred by advanced users and are selected for their balance of ease-of-use, cost, and relevancy in the professional areas of design, technology, and digital sculpting.
Autodesk Fusion 360: An excellent design tool that connects CAD (vector-based ) with free form designing through the Cloud. (Online | Free)
Blender: A free and open-source 3D creation suite that supports the 3D pipeline’s entirety, including cartoons. (Online | Free)
OnShape: A collective cloud-based parametric CAD tool like industry-standard engineering CAD software. (Online | Free)
While every 3D design tool serves another function for different kinds of users, it may be worth looking at some of them and trying out each one for a couple days to see if one clicks or not. Added 3D modeling tools include 3ds Max and Maya (geared more towards cartoon ), openSCAD, MODO, and Rhinoceros.
While professional, excellent 3D scanner models exist, most are used for industrial applications. As a result of modern smartphone technology, however, it is possible to achieve similar effects with only your mobile device and a stable hand. These apps extrapolate an object’s form by analyzing numerous photos, so the resulting 3D model does not necessarily have substantial fidelity. However, it’s still a fantastic way to capture organic shapes or simply get an item’s approximate shape.
Here are some 3D scanning apps which have produced exceptional results:
It is a free app that allows you to create 3D scans of just about any object. (Windows Phone/ iOS/Android| Free)
Trnio enables you to convert present photos into 3D models right on your iPhone. (iOS | Free)
Based on your planned use for 3D scanning, it may be worth looking at some extra options that would better fit your requirements. You would not use photo capture methods to make a particular machine component, by way of instance, but you could easily make a 3D version of a toy with only photos.
So You Have Your 3D Document and You Want to Print It. Now What?
You will likely encounter a few more steps when you attempt to print a 3D model, based on if you do it all yourself or hand it off to a specialist. If you downloaded a version from somewhere like Thingiverse, these measures have likely already been taken care of.
However, 3D models are only numerical representations of a thing made from polygons, like in a video game. Polygons don’t have any thickness themselves (kind of like origami–but the newspaper is infinitely thin), so the 3D thing only makes sense to the printers when the figure is “watertight” or totally closed, thus simulating a good object. That’s why you will need to take care to be sure that your 3D model is something that the printer will understand.
To prepare 3D versions for printing, you occasionally need to “wash” them to stop mistakes. MeshLab, MeshMixer, and netfabb are popular tools for editing, healing, inspecting, and mimicking the 3D printing process before engaging in-full. This procedure may vary widely depending upon the job at hand, but basically, you only have to look at your model for accidental mistakes, like openings and holes. The apps mentioned above catch such errors before you head into the printer. And most CAD and scanner software apps have alternatives built to automate this procedure.
Once a 3D model has been cleaned and ready for the 3D printing process, some printers require that they be converted to another data sort. For this step, a bit of software called a”slicer” is used to slit your 3D model to the layers. KISSlicer, Slic3r, and Cura are used reliably by both beginners and experts alike. If you are using a 3D printing service rather than doing it yourself, the service provider will probably have the ability to look after this for you.
Now Let’s Get That 3D Printing
Based on where you reside, you may even have the ability to use a 3D printer on the regional public library or other public university/institution at a really low price. Likewise, a growing number of Makerspaces are coming up around the globe using electronic manufacturing tools at competitive rates. Some public libraries even comprise 3D printers.