Hello! I’m trying to buy a Christmas present for my husband who is interested in 3D printing, but we are both brand new to it. A place where we can locally print to 3D suggests we use the free software OpenSCAD or Blender, but they accept all .stl or .obj files. However there are also local classes in SolidWorks and Fusion 360. Can anybody recommend any of these programs over another (especially for someone just starting out)? Thank you for your input!

I don’t think there is any “Best” 3D design software for all purposes, just like there is no “Best” vehicle for all purposes. Some people need a truck, some a van, others a sedan, sports car or motorcycle.

A lot depends on what you want to design.

I do a lot of engineering and I want to be able to share my designs with everyone, so OpenSCAD is a good fit for my purposes.

SolidWorks is too expensive for me to consider.

I’ve seen videos showing cool features in Fusion 360, and I think you might be able to use it for free for non-commercial purposes.

I’ve also seen videos of people designing amazing monsters and other organic shapes in Blender.

So the best software to use depends a lot on what you’re interested in designing.

I agree, there is no “best” for all purposes. It depends on what you are trying to do and how you tend to work and think. To me, blender, while an extremely powerful tool, has a very steep learning curve. SolidWorks and Fusion 360 are good, but cost money. I tend to use OpenSCAD not only because it’s free, but because I’m a programmer and tend to think in programmatic terms anyway and feel right at home with using it. But depending on what you are trying to do, some things lend themselves well to programmatic scripting, while other things tend to be overly complicated and annoyingly difficult.

For example, if you wanted to make a mounting plate with a series of evenly spaced holes, OpenSCAD is perfect as you can knock it out in a few lines of code. But, if you want an intricate pattern, like a router would place on the edge of moulding, it can get quite involved in OpenSCAD. Even a simple rounding or filleting of a junction can be annoyingly complex in OpenSCAD.

However, OpenSCAD, if used correctly, lends itself to parametric design, where if you code it correctly, you can change one or two numbers at the top of the code and completely reshape and/or redimension your part allowing you to easily print multiple variations trivially, whereas other programs that may have been trivial to design the part initially would require much more changing and editing to produce the same feature change.

You can, of course, use a mix of tools. For example, if you have a difficult or highly detailed part to design or want to start with a 3D scanned image or something, you can start out in something like blender. But then, you can import the STL from it into OpenSCAD and apply parametric scripted changes to the externally designed parts and generate a composite STL for printing. (This technique is also useful if you want to modify an existing design where only a STL is available, for example.)

So it comes down to a combination of personal preference and the specific design project at hand.

Thank you so much! Very helpful advice and suggestions!

I fully agree with Dewhisna.

Many people use programs like Sketchup, but for my, I have more or less settles on OpenSCAD as well as my general go-to drawing program.

I have been using this for about two years now and have created many designs with it that I would not have thought possible when I started out with it.

Please do remember that OpenSCAD is a very good tool if you want to design practical stuff. But for ‘organic’ shapes, like a figure, a statue of a face, it is not suited for that. OpenSCAD is free to use, it uses very little diskspace and it is actually quite easy to use.

Well I’m not an artist but rater a programmer, I found pretty easy to use and learn OpenSCaD.

I found onshape (a cloud based CAD program) accessed via your internet browser was quite easy to pick up and produce a 3D Model.

It’s parametric which means you can enter dimensions in the form of a 2D sketch which is extruded into a 3D Model.
Some other CAD programs use a shape which is moulded into the required shape or design.
Onshape is also produced by the same guys that produced Soildworks.
It’s free and designs are public, if you need private designs they you need to paid a fee.

check it out here https://www.onshape.com/

In my opinion a graphic based parametric system is the easiest to learn and makes more "real world " models than a blender type mesh driven push me pull you system. therefore i agree with previous commentor the ONshape is an excellent online cloud based programming tool. there are others too that work on the sketch up style of pulling faces and profiles such as design spark, all free for hobbiest use. i myself teach introductory basics in many of the popular design software packages as part of the full 3d printing service over webinar as a relaxed introduction into the world of 3d design. I must congratulate you on your foresight julie, as a lot of people just buy the printer and then struggle with what to put on it. once the design has been mastered the impitus to print will become second nature and your journey into the printing world will open up oppertunities you never thought possible. I wish you every sucess, and if you do pick one of the licenced products as a design tool may i suggest a subsciption to lynda.com will give you basic lessons in all software on demand and in the comfort of your own home anywhere in the world. StevetheBuddistXXX

3D printing software :









9)3D slash

I totally agree with @dewhisna it is right. The best software always depends how you are using your printing software, also currently if you see SolidWorks and Fusion 360 are the one which you will hear more and they are also considered reliable to use.