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3D Printing: Find/Design Digital Models

A guide to 3D printing at Joyner Library.

About This Page

This page shares some of the most common and widely available 3D modeling software available. Not sure which program to choose? Email us.

Not ready to design your own model? No problem! We curated a list of online 3D model repositories where you can freely download and use models.

Already have an STL file to print? Move on to Checking for Errors.

Beginner 3D Modeling Software

All 3D modeling software listed on this page are free to use or download unless it is marked with a ($). There are a few programs that will require you to create an account in order to use them or have access to all their features. We identify these in the descriptions. 

Welcome to Tinkercad, a free online 3D editor.

Tinkercad is a simple, online 3D design and 3d printing tool for the masses. Working primarily with geometric shapes and block letters and numbers, Tinkercad is an excellent introduction to 3D design for all ages. They have a number of tutorials and a YouTube channel for users to get acquainted with their tools. Registration is required to take advantage of all of Tinkercad's features.

Leopoly provides easy-to-use, online, browser based 3D shaping platforms and applications. It's like sculpting with clay! Check out their YouTube Channel tutorials on their features. Your creations are easily downloadable in multiple formats including .stl. (Registration is required to download/upload files.)

Beginner/Intermediate 3D Modeling Software

autodesk fusion 360 logoFusion 360

 

From Autodesk, Fusion 360 is an entry level computer aided design (CAD) program which is easy for beginners to pick up, and has enough advanced features for those who have been designing a while. The Design Academy offers a number of tutorial videos and a number of courses for specific uses (registration required). Downloads available for Windows and Mac. Registration is required.

Sculptris

From Pixologic, Sculptris is a beginner level sculpting program which helps users develop basic digital sculpting skills. It boasts a user friendly interface, and enough depth and features for users to develop their skills until they are ready for Pixologic's award winning 3D modeling software, ZBrush($). Sculptris also has a number of tutorials on their Overview and Features pages to help you get started. Downloads are available for Mac and Wiindows.

Intermediate CAD Software

FreeCAD-logoFreeCAD

FreeCAD is an open source program similar to Catia ($), SolidWorks ($) and Solid Edge ($) and is aimed directly at mechanical engineers and product designers. It can also be used in a wider range of uses such as architecture and other engineering specialties. FreeCAD maintains numerous tutorials, a YouTube channel, a community forum and a wiki to meet its users' needs. Downloads available for Linux, Windows and Mac.

OpenSCAD

OpenSCAD is a free software for creating solid 3D CAD models. It does little in the way of artistic modeling like Blender, and is best used when planning or creating 3D models of machine parts. It works like a 3D-compiler that reads a script file which describes the object and then renders the 3D model. This gives the designer full control over the modeling process. See OpenSCAD's About page for more info as well as their community forum and Documentation page for tutorials. Downloads available for Linux, Windows and Mac.

SketchUp, because of it's Learn Center, can still be considered an entry level CAD program, and is used by professionals, students and hobbyists. Their community forums and blog will guide you as you customize SketchUp with add-ons to meet your specific design needs. (See their Extension Warehouse.) SketchUp Free is free to all while SketchUp Pro ($) offers a free one-year license to educators, and a student discount for $49 ($695 MSRP). Downloads available for Windows and Mac. 

3D Model Repositories

You can search for pre-existing models on the Internet to print as they are, or modify using 3D modeling software. BE AWARE: Not all models are fit for 3D printing. Here are some basic tips on how determine a model is fit to print.

You can find additional lists of dozens of 3D model warehouses and repositories at 3D Printing for Beginners, HongKiat, and RepRap.org.

Intermediate Animation/Sculpting Software

Blender is a free and open source 3D creation suite and can support all your 3D design needs -- modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking, even video editing and game creation. Examples from many Blender-based projects are available in the showcase. For more on what Blender can do, check out their Support Page to view tutorials and visit the user community. Downloads available for Linux, Windows and Mac.

SculptGL

SculptGL is a useful WebGL application for 3D sculpting similar to Sculptris and can export your designs into .obj files. What it lacks in support and tutorials it makes up for in features and opportunity. SculptGL is open source and its source code is available on GitHub. This means, users can freely update it to fix bugs and make it better. You can even revise the code to make it fit your specific needs.

Professional Quality Programs ($)

 

Autodesk 2D and 3D Design and Engineering Software

Autodesk gives free 3-year licenses to students and educators to many of its products, including Inventor Professional, AutoCAD, 3ds Max, Maya, and others. Choosing which program you want to use is dependent on your specific design needs. You can get plenty of support from their Knowledge Network, Autodesk Universitycommunity forums and official YouTube channel.

SolidWorks ($) is a CAD program widely used by engineers and designers. Features include simulation, motion, and design validation tools, advanced wire and pipe routing functionality, reverse engineering capabilities, and more. Tutorials are available on the SolidWorks website, their YouTube channel and Lynda.com. Joyner Library has a number of computers with SolidWorks installed.

 

 

If you want to know more...

Remember, which 3D modeling software you choose is dependent on your project. Matterhackers makes yearly updates to their list of 3D modeling software. All3DP has also curated a list for beginners through professionals. They are pretty comprehensive lists, and can be intimidating to someone new to 3D modeling and design. Not sure which program to choose? Email us!

Already have an STL file to print? Move on to Checking for Errors.