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May 25, 2016updated 22 Sep 2016 4:03pm

3D printing software

List: CBR lists ten software programs to help you build your own three dimensional objects.

By Joao Lima


Cost: Free

Blender, created by the Blender Foundation, is one of the most popular 3D printing software suites in the market. The CAD software lets users design objects in 3D and runs on the most commonly used OSs, including Windows, Apple and Linux.

It runs all digital 3D printing development stages including modelling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking.

The software is free and built on open source. It has photorealistic rendering capabilities, which allow the user to envision the end product before starting the printing process. The rendering engine in the program has been named Cycles, and this includes GPU and CPU rendering, real-time viewport preview, HDR lighting support and permissive license for linking with external software.

The software is also a 2-in-1 tool, as it allows developers not only to design characters to be printed, but also to turn those characters into animations. In addition, Blender lets users create 3D games and edit video.


Geomagic Design

Cost: $2000

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Geomagic Design, developed by Geomagic, is a 3D CAD software for designing, engineering and preparation for manufacturing of three dimensional objects.

The software enables full 3D digital prototypes conception and at the same time it converts all designing information into 2D documentation which is then used to simplify the manufacturing process.

The program has also been built to allow users to develop objects with thousands of components, and has optimised capabilities for sheet metal designing.

Geomagic Design only runs on Windows OS (7, 8 and 10) and has a minimum requirement of 8GB for memory RAM.



Inventor 3D CAD

Cost: £486/year

Inventor by Autodesk, is one of the most complete 3D CAD software suites on the market today. The program is shipped in three different models – personal, professional and expert – in order to answer the needs of each developer.

It includes a shape generator, parametric modelling, assembly modelling, flexible and direct modelling, and freeform modelling.

Inventor has also been tailored to help create objects printed with metal sheets and has design automation capabilities including automated product configuration, part and assembly automation, automated frame design, electromechanical design, and so on.



Cost: Free

MeshLab is an open source, portable, and extensible system for the processing and editing of unstructured 3D triangular meshes.

The system is aimed to help the processing of the typical not-so-small unstructured models arising in 3D scanning, providing a set of tools for editing, cleaning, healing, inspecting, rendering and converting this kind of meshes.

The software can be downloaded from the internet and works on Windows, Linux and MacOSX.



Cost: Free

Meshmixer, also developed by Autodesk, is a free 3D printing software for Windows, OS X and Linux.

The program allows users to view, check, edit and repair STL files, enabling designers to find potential design problems and automatically correct them.

The suite has several tools, including automatic print bed orientation optimisation, layout and packing,
advanced selection tools including brushing, surface-lasso, and constraints, precise 3D positioning with pivots, and automatic alignment of surfaces.



Cost: Free

Built by OctoPrint, the software with the same name is described by the company as "the snappy web interface for 3D printers".

It is open source, runs on Linux, Mac and Windows, and can be also run on internet browsers allowing the user to remote control and monitor his/her work. Users are also able to access the embedded webcam feed and watch remotely how their printer is creating the three dimensional object.

The main goal of the software is to give developers the ability to control the whole printing process, enabling them to start, pause or stop a printing job.




Cost: $149

Compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux, Simplify3D is software that essentially helps the printer understand how to print an object.

The program translates 3D models into instructions the printer can understand. The software can also identify problems with the models and automatically give suggestions on how to fix them.

Simplify3D also slices 3D models in seconds, giving the developer a full view of the interior of the 3D digital object in order to correct any potential faults.



Cost: Free

Slic3r is open source software, licensed under the AGPLv3 license, which also runs on the three main OSs in the market.

The software gives the designer the ability to see the final digital product before printing, and also has the capability to slice the object into different layers so the designer can look for problems within the three dimensional render.

The software also has the capability to handle multiple printers at the same time, as well as filaments. Slic3r also controls the printer’s fan, regulation fan speed and printing speed to ensure each layer has enough time to cool down before next one is laid on it.



Cost: $3995

Developed by Dassault Systems, SoliWorks comes in three different packages: premium, professional and standard.

The premium version adds enhanced simulation, motion, and design validation tools, advanced wire and pipe routing functionality, reverse engineering capabilities, and more.

Users can, for example, incorporate printed circuit board data into your 3D model, and create and document layouts for electrical wiring, piping, and tubing with the extended toolsets of SolidWorks.



Cost: Free

Designed for beginners, TinkerCAD runs on any web browser and has also been developed by Autodesk, which claims the 3D design and modelling tool if for all.

The product is far from other 3D printing software suites; however, it is an entry door for hobbyists, teachers, and children.

The program runs on three major phases of development. First, users have to deploy basic building blocks, such as a cube. Secondly, they will have to adjust the object’s shape and size. Lastly, they can combine different sets of shapes together to create one final detailed model.

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