By Jason Vander Griendt

July 4, 2016 at 8:14 am

Preparing a 3D model is the first step in the 3D printing and product development process. With the help of 3d rendering software packages, an accurate model of the desired product or part can be created easily and quickly. After that, it’s a pretty straightforward process of running the rendered file into a 3d printing program. This is interpreted by a 3d printer, and then the design is printed layer upon layer, giving physical form to the outline created in the modelling software. Many people who are new to 3D printing are faced with a ubiquitous question at this stage, “what is the best 3D modeling software?”. In this guide, you will discover some great 3D modeling programs and other handy tips to get started with 3D printing.

3D Modeling Software Recommendations

TinkerCAD: TinkerCAD is the best 3D modeling software for amateurs. Getting started is as simple as making a new account and going through the online tutorials. You can design fundamental parts rapidly in TinkerCAD. There are some restrictions in the program as it is tailored to an amateur audience, however it is an excellent place to begin your journey into 3D printing. Saving your designs as an .STL file for 3D printing is quick and straightforward.

Blender: This free 3D planning software is ordinarily utilized for making movies, visual effects, 3D printed models, intuitive 3D applications and computer games. Blender is an intense open-source system and can be quite hard to learn. One of its benefits in the 3d printing space is that making basic improvements to STL documents is fairly straightforward. It’s available for Linux, Mac, and Windows.

A 3D model built in Zbrush by Pixelogic. Click the picture or go here to check them out. A 3D model built in Zbrush by Pixelogic. Click the picture or go here to check them out.

ZBrush: Zbrush is a complete 3D design solution that can be utilized for making high-resolution models for use in animation and games. ZBrush is most known for having the capacity to work with medium to subtle high-frequency details. It’s available for Mac and Windows but is pricey, starting at $795.

Lightwave, 3DS MAX and Maya are all part of an expert 3D modeling and illustrations bundle. This software bundle is usually used for films and TV. This package is suitable for a professional 3D modeling engineer. The highlight of this package is its fast rendering motors which allow access to features such as reflection and refraction, caustics, radiosity and render hubs. Again this software is fairly expensive; Lightwave is available at $995 for Mac and Windows, 3DS MAX is available at $1470 per year for Windows and Maya can be obtained at $3,454 for Mac, Windows, and Linux platforms.

123D Design: This is a sleek variant of Autodesk Inventor and part of a suite of applications that incorporates capacities for both 2D and 3D configurations. This free modeling software is well endowed with features, yet fairly straightforward to use. It is available for Mac, Windows, and iOS.

To Learn or Outsource, that is the question…

The software packages mentioned above offer anyone willing to learn and hone their 3D modeling skills ample opportunity to do so. However, the process of mastering 3D design isn’t as simple as it seems at first glance. There is the hassle of choosing the right software for your needs, downloading and paying (if necessary) for the software, configuring it, going through the tutorials, learning through trial and error, and investing the necessary time and effort to learn the ropes. For most people, this route is honestly more trouble than it’s worth. Unless you aspire to work in this field, we suggest you employ the services of a professional 3D design firm like us. Not only will this spare you the trouble of deciding between hundreds of different software pacakages, but it will also save your time, money and energy in the long run, resources that could be invested into other areas that will make you more money.

Here at JCAD we specialise in all areas of the product creation process. Request a quote today and we’ll respond in 5 – 10 minutes!


Jason Vander Griendt

Jason Vander Griendt is a Mechanical Engineering Technician with years of experience working at major companies such as SNC Lavalin Inc, Hatch Ltd. Siemens and Gerdau Ameristeel. He is the CEO of JCAD – Inc., a company he started in 2006 after seeing a gap in the market for businesses who could assist clients through the entire product design and manufacturing process.

Jason has been featured in Forbes, has had his businesses analyzed and discussed in multiple start-up books, was a previous winner of the Notable8 Digital Innovator of the year award, and is a regular guest on business panels and podcasts. Email Jason at or follow him on LinkedIn.

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