3D Thursday is a feature about CNC Machining, 3D Printing, 3D Scanning, and 3D design that appears in MAKE every Thursday.
Let’s be honest, 3D CAD (computer aided design) is challenging to learn. Training your brain to manipulate and visualize parts in three dimensions is a learned skill. So where do you start? Thankfully, there’s a multitude of free tools available for everyone to try their hand at 3D design. And many of them don’t even require a download anymore. A simple web app will get you pretty far.
I’ve compiled the best resources I know of for dealing with 3D parts and I will list them here in two parts. This week I’m going to focus on 3D part creation and slicing, the two first steps in printing out a part on a 3D printer. Everything listed in the slideshow below is free to use (at least to a certain extent).
An in-browser CAD tool that's great for beginners. Try it here, and check out our 3D Printing Guide for an in-depth tutorial.
Like Tinkercad, 3DTin is completely browser-based. There's a large number of pre-built shapes that you can edit and drop right in. Try it here.
SketchUp is a great app for all things rectilinear, like creating a model of your home. Download it here and learn how to design a charger caddy with it here.
Autodesk 123D Design
A fairly robust CAD program from Autodesk, available to use in-browser or as an application on your Mac or PC.
Autodesk Inventor Fusion
A fantastic free version of Autodesk Inventor for Macs. Download it here.
An open-source modeler built for Product Design. It boasts many features that are often exclusive to expensive CAD software. Check it out here.
A script-based modeller available for Mac, Linux, and PC. Download it here and read editor Sean Ragan's great tutorial on using it here.
A feature-rich slicing program that has a great community supporting it. You can download it here and read my lengthy tutorial on using it here.
(Keep it Simple) Slicer is a simple alternative to feature-heavy programs like Slic3r. Download the free version here.
Slicing software meant for use with Ultimakers. Nonetheless, it's a great all-around slicing tool with a few unique features. Check it out here.
MakerBot's machine control and slicing software, released at the same time as the Replicator 2. Download it here.
Keep your eye out for part 2, which will cover controlling 3D printers from computers or over wifi as well as more “advanced” options like 3D scanning.
Did I miss your favorite CAD or slicing software? Let me know with a comment below.