“Which 3D modeling software should I learn?” That’s a really tough question to answer! There are so many options, from simple to complex, free to thousands of dollars.
The best choice depends on your personal style of creation. If you break it down that way, you end up with some pretty well defined categories. There are platforms that appeal to artists first, to technical engineering gurus, and to jacks of all trades.
So which should you choose?
Are you most comfortable with the thought of sculpting in clay? Do you want to carve shapes out of a block and flex those artistic muscles? Do straight lines annoy you? Give ZBrush, Nomad Sculpt (Figure A), Forger, SculptGL, or other digital sculpting platforms a try.
3D World Building
Are polygons old friends to you? Do you want powerful rendering tools and the ability to animate? Do you think maybe you’ll expand your work beyond simply 3D printing a file, into say, gaming or animation? Then look into Blender (Figure B), Autodesk 3ds Max, and Maya.
Engineering and Manufacturing
Precision is the name of the game with this group. You’ve got serious engineering to do, and despite all the features of the other platforms, they don’t have the tools to accurately lay out items for precision manufacturing. This group of CAD programs has those design tools, and sometimes additional tools specifically designed to help in the manufacturing process. Check out SolidWorks, Autodesk Fusion360 (Figure C), Autodesk Inventor, OpenSCAD, and FreeCAD.