Best 3D Printing Software

Best 3D Printing Software of 2021 (Modeling Tools and CAD)

3D printing software has improved tremendously over the near couple of years.

They have advanced amazingly in many sectors from construction and manufacturing to technology and healthcare. Many say 3d printing is in an infancy state, but trust the 4th Industrial revolution belongs to 3d printing.

It promises to give a solution to some of the most intriguing problems when it comes to design efficiency, production of complex products, or decoupling of unit economics.

Now the reason I am writing this article is to keep you up-to-date about the latest changes that are taking shape in the 3d print online industry. The 3d printer programs that are making pivotal changes to revolutionize the industry in the coming decades.

I have reviewed a couple of them. So let’s get started.

What is the Best 3D Printing Software?

To answer this here’s a list of my top picks for the best 3D printing software, along with their main features, pros and cons, and pricing plans.

1. Blender

Best Free 3D Printing Software.

Blender

You probably must have heard of this free and open-source software. Blender was created by a Dutch animation studio NeoGeo and was released on January 1, 1998.

Blender is known for its, 3D printed models, interactive 3D applications,  motion graphics, creating animated films, visual effects, art, and a lot more.

Best known for

Supporting the entire 3d pipeline –  modeling, rigging, animation, rendering, compositing, simulation, and video editing, motion tracking, and 2D animation pipeline.

Key Blender Features

  • Better ray tracing and denoising in Cycles
  • True multiresolution sculpting
  • Blender 2.90 uses The Nishita sky model
  • Proper motion blur in EEVEE
  • Better cloth and fluid simulation

Checkout out more features available for Blender

Pricing Tiers

Blender is absolutely Free.

Cons:

The biggest con with Blender is that the user interface is very cumbersome and hard to understand.

2. Autodesk Fusion 360

Overall the Best Paid 3D Printing Software.

AutoDesk Fusion 360 | Best 3D Printing Software

Autodesk Fusion 360 3d printing is one of the most powerful 3D printing software tools available in the industry. It is the preferred choice of products for designers, mechanical engineers, and machinists.

The amazing part is that you can seamlessly combine the engineering, power of design, and manufacturing into one platform. Moreover, it streamlines the product development process to ensure smoother and faster delivery of high-quality products.

Best known for

Ideal for the production of highly efficient mechanical parts.

Key AutoDesk Fusion 360 Features

  • Provides robust features to create highly detailed and efficient models
  • Easily collaborate in real-time with other designers on the same platform.
  • This powerful tool offers full control over shape designs, allowing you to print objects of any shape efficiently
  • The History Tree feature of the tool helps in creating accurate and faster editing of objects
  • Generates high-quality designs by setting up material and manufacturing constraints easily
  • Leverage simulation to ensure early testing of the design for simulation and functionality

Pricing Tiers

  • $42/month when paid annually.
  • $60/month when paid monthly.

3. Autodesk AutoCAD

Best High-End 3D Printing Suite.

AutoDesk AutoCAD 3D Printing software

AutoCAD is another amazing 3D printing tool on this list created by Autodesk, mostly suitable for professional use.

AutoCAD allows its user to add annotations to drawings, Attach and import data from PDFs,  and extract object data to tables.

Overall, the 3D printing software offers a lot of capabilities to generate 3D models.  All these functionalities also help in the best presentation of the data, along with real-time data visualization.

As a bonus benefit, when you subscribe to AutoCAD, you get access to both tools for Mac and Windows, plus industrial design 3d printing platforms and cad tools for 3d printing like AutoCAD Architecture, AutoCAD Map 3D, AutoCAD MEP, AutoCAD Plant 3D, AutoCAD Electrical, and more.

Best known for

Providing a solution to 3D printing professionals who have extensive experience in algorithmic programming models and need a multi-functional toolset. Also known as one of the best cad for 3d printing software online.

Key Autodesk AutoCAD Features

  • It is most suitable for creating detailed 3D models, perfectly optimized for 3D printing.
  • It also offers a web and smartphone application.
  • AutoCAD is capable to easily convert 3D models into STL files for efficient 3D printing.
  • It provides the latest version of the DWG file format for the efficient drafting of files across various formats.
  • The software comes loaded with preloaded information and plugins about building product designs including doors and windows.
  • Easily modify and create robust mechanical designs for 3D printing.

Pricing Tiers

AutoCAD also offers a free and fully functional version that can be used by students and educational faculty.

The paid version is available for $1449/annually.

4. Autodesk TinkerCAD

One of the best software to make 3d printing models

AutoDesk TinkerCAD

TinkerCAD is a web-based 3D modeling and designing tool. The software comes with an easy to use and straightforward interface that simplifies the process of 3D printing.

The software provides you with the capability to design complex models by leveraging shape grouping and shapes.

Best known for

Its stl design software enables beginners to create simple 3-D models as well as providing complex models for professional designers.

Key Autodesk TinkerCAD Features

  • Users can easily import 2D and 3D models for printing
  • It supports STL files that enable designers to start 3D printing immediately
  • It is capable of executing laser cutting
  • Provides an easy to use and intuitive UI that completes a wide range of tasks
  • You can instantly begin 3D printing with one click
  • Provide cloud storage solution to save 3D designs and models
  • The learning curve is pretty smooth to harness all of its features
  • Detailed documentation is available to understand software’s functionalities

Cons

  • 3D designed objects can only be given plain colors
  • Pan or zooming is still buggy to use in browsers.

Pricing Tiers

TinkerCAD is absolutely free. You can use it in your web browser or via an application.

5. FreeCAD

FreeCAD

FreeCAD is an open-source 3D modeling tool that offers excellent capabilities to design real-life designs of any shape and size.

The software comes equipped with a focus to train 3D modelers who are just about to start.

Best known for

Leveraging as an efficient 3D printing training tool for Beginners.

Key FreeCAD Features

  • Creates a history of each edit to enable the designer to easily change the parameters of a 3D model
  • the designer can leverage geometry constrained 2D objects for the base to create 3D models easily
  • Powered with parametric components to make 3D model editing more easier and efficient
  • Offers support in Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux platforms
  • Has a  wide array of applications, including mechanical engineering and architecture design
  • It provides a plethora of useful tools including Element Analysis (FEA) tools, BIM, Path workbench, experimental CFD, geodata workbenches,  a robot simulation module that enables the user to study robot movements

Cons

  • Provides limited functionalities compared to other tools
  • The user interface is pretty basic

Pricing Tiers

FreeCAD is absolutely Free.

6. Creo

Best 3d printing drawing software

PTC CREO

Creo is one of the market leaders in product design developed by Parametric Technology Corporation.

Their popularity is because of the amazing functionalities the tool offers, including structural, motion, and thermal, among others. Moreover, it provides excellent capabilities to simulate, design, and print 3D models efficiently through the surfacing, finite element analysis, and tooling abilities, modeling, among others.

Best known for

As the best software for 3D printing products’ manufacturers.

Key CREO Features

  • Offers multiple tools for designer to create amazing designs
  • Users can leverage its augmented reality capabilities to easier and efficient simulation of 3D designs
  • Provides one of the best topology optimization technologies available in the industry
  • It leverages data from models used in the real world to generate smarter designs
  • Creo’s Model-based feature allows the user to create 3D models that have all the data embedded in the product.

Cons

  • The plethora of features could look overwhelming for new users for the first time
  • You will have to change the metric default template always
  • Not compatible with systems of lower configuration

Pricing Tier

The tool comes at a one-time license fee of $2,310. You also get a 30-days free trial to check out the product before making your final purchase.

7. Solidworks.

SolidWorks

Solidworks 3d printing is developed by Dassault Systemes and is one of the preferred choices of 3D designers. It offers a wide range of tools and features to efficiently design 3D models for industrial purposes.

Furthermore, Solidworks comes enabled with a lot of detailed and unique features that empower professionals to create innovative 3D designs.

Best known for

the best software for serious professionals who need to create reliable and innovative 3D designs

Key Features

  • Offers unique features including validation tools and reverse engineering to create 3D models easily
  • It uses dimensional sketching to ensure hassle-free resizing
  • Solidworks Leverages a unique system of NURBS to create incredibly detailed curvatures
  • The software offers 3DEXPERIENCE® to efficiently manage every aspect of development and smooth delivery of products
  • Its latest version offers enhanced performance features for better efficiency
  • The software provides a straightforward simulation, design, and manufacturing enabled simplified workflow

Cons

  • Uses history-based, parametric modeling for image handling
  • To download and edit STL files you would need a secondary best program for 3d printing

Pricing Tier

The subscription price of the software is available on a request basis.

8. CATIA

3DS CATIA

CATIA was first developed to meet the internal requirements of Dassault Aviation. However, it has gradually garnered massive popularity for being a multi-platform suite.

The software is equipped with the 3DEXPERIENCE platform of Dassault Systemes.

Best known for

One of the most capable options for multi-platform requirements, including CAM, CAD, and CAE in the automotive and aerospace industries.

Key CATIA Features

  • Users can track all the changes done to the 3D model for efficient revision of the product
  • CATIA efficiently manages all the data during product development
  • Its large set of tools offerings are perfect to meet specific requirements of different organizations
  • Through this software, users can collaborate online for Unbreakable Relational Design and Instinctive 3D Experience

Cons

  • It is one of the most expensive offerings on the market
  • The software is not made for beginners.

Pricing Tier

CATIA offers a free trial. For the paid plan, you have to request a quote to know the subscription cost of the software.

9. Ultimaker Cura

UltiMaker CURA

Ultimaker Cura, again, is open-source 3d printing slicing software that offers seamless integration with the 3D printer. It works by slicing the user’s model file into layers and generating a printer-specific g-code.

Once finished, this code can be sent to the printer for the manufacturing of the physical object.

Other than this, its customization mode also offers highly flexible features to meet various requirements and for in-depth control.

Best known for

It is one of the best stl software for 3d printing for beginners who don’t want to spend big bucks on paid software.

Key Ultimaker Cura Features

  • Easily monitor all the 3D printing jobs from a single user interface
  • You can use adjustment tools to scale the 3D model quickly
  • Ultimaker Cura can be used to print on multiple networks and is compatible with X3D, OBJ, STL, and 3MF file formats
  • Add printers and custom material to an exhaustive library
  • there is a quick learning curve for new users using the software.

Cons

  • The 3D viewer offers limited features to view the model from multiple angles
  • Takes a lot of time to print 3D models

Pricing Tier

Ultimaker Cura is absolutely Free.

10. MeshLab

MeshLab

MeshLab is an open-source 3D designing tool that is most suitable for processing and editing  3D meshes. Users can leverage all its functions to render, provide texture, edit, and convert into meshes easily.

Moreover, you can easily slice and prepare the design ready for 3D printing.

Best known for

Offering leading-edge capabilities to edit and process 3D triangular meshes.

Key Meshlab Features

  • 3D reconstruction capability of software is efficient in creating amazing designs
  • Provide 3D color mapping and texturing
  • Best for offsetting, hollowing, 3D printing, and closing
  • Meshlab efficiency enables the user to enhance the speed of the 3D printing workflow
  • Provide convenient options to clean the mesh efficiently
  • The measurement tool performs linear reading to calculate the distance between two points of the mesh

Cons

  • The navigation is rough and lacks several essential options
  • The same buttons have multiple functions assigned.

Pricing Tier

Meshlab is absolutely Free.

11. OpenSCAD

OpenSCAD

OpenSCAD is an open-source software platform designed to create highly efficient and reliable 3D models. The software is for professionals who are performing complex and elaborate projects. It also provides intuitive features for coders and programmers.

Best known for

OpenSCAD is the best fit for professionals looking for a descriptive language to operate it.

Key OpenSCAD Features

  • OpenSCAD has embedded Extrusion of 2D outlines and Constructive Solid Geometry (CSG).
  • The tool is mostly used to create simple shapes and designs that parametrically defined priorly
  • Users can leverage either extrusion of 2D outlines or the constructive solid geometry  to create 3D models
  • Has a robust community of 3D designers to solve issues and get instant solutions
  • The software is available on Mac, Linux, and Windows
  • With numbered changes of the design, the software offers measurable results for the end 3D models

Cons

  • Since it is wholly based on descriptive language, it’s not user-friendly for beginners
  • Has a non-traditional UI with limited preview functionality.

Pricing Tier

OpenSCAD is absolutely Free.

12. Rhinoceros 3D

Rhino 3D

Touted as one of the most versatile 3D-modelers, Rhino uses NURB, a mathematical model that is precise and enables the users to manipulate points, surfaces, meshes, curves, and solids in any manner.

Apart from this, Rhinoceros 3D offers a wide range of design features to graphic designers.

Best known for

One of the most capable software tools to create any sort of versatile 3D printing and modeling.

Key Rhinoceros 3D Features

  • Users can use the history recording feature to update the object and edit input curves
  • You can easily display control points on the 3D model to efficiently manipulate the designs as per the requirement
  • It enables the user to point edit on surfaces, curves, and meshes
  • It allows the file import from several sources, including SolidWorks, IGES, AutoCAD, OBJ, SketchUp, MicroStation, DXF,  STEP, and STL, among others.
  • Rhinoceros 3D also supports 3D digitizers and is capable of importing 3D-scanned point data from the cloud
  • It allows you to add dimensions from any viewpoint

Cons

  • The steep learning curve to use the software
  • Sometimes Fail to capture the user intent accurately

Pricing Tier

Rhinoceros 3D offers several packages. The paid plans start from $495.

13. BlocksCAD

BlockSCAD3D

BlocksCAD was specifically designed for educational purposes. Its primary goal was to train users and make them capable of using OpenSCAD.

The software also provides a YouTube tutorial.

Best known for

To teach you to use OpenSCAD provides the best tutorial tool to explore all the nitty-gritty of 3D modeling and printing.

Key BlocksCAD Features

  • The commands are represented by colored blocks that are synonymous with the blocks of construction toy, LEGO.
  • Its code is entirely compatible with OpenSCAD to allow users to expand it through more advanced professional software
  • It offers an easy and simple to use interface

Cons

  • It offers limited features, which is why it is not capable of creating and printing professional 3D models
  • Designers can’t draw components that are partly inside each other

Pricing Tier

BlocksCAD is absolutely Free.

14. SketchUp Make

Sketchup Maker

SketchUp is a software tool that is designed for architectural design. It offers 3D modeling and printing solutions for professionals from all walks of life, including architects, makers, builders, designers, and engineers.

The software allows designers to transform ideas into 3D models easily.

Best known for

One of the best solution for professionals who need to create 3D models easily to showcase them to clients.

Key SketchUp Features

  • Allows the user to document 3D designs in 2D
  • SketchUp provides a collaborative workspace through the sharing of 3D model designs
  • Its immersive VR experience enables designers to simulate the design before printing
  • Provide several templates that users can use as a base to begin modeling 3D designs
  • An excellent option for beginners who are new to 3D modeling and printing
  • Offers an engaging and intuitive user interface

Cons

  • Have limited capabilities to design complex 3D models
  • software paid plans are expensive

Pricing Tier

SketchUp provides a free trial version. After that, the paid plans start from $119 per year and range up to $1199 per year.

15. Sculptris

Zbrushcore Sculptris

Sculptris leverages digital sculpting to develop stunning 3D models. It allows you to make 3D models by shaping any mesh through different brush strokes.

Best known for

Sculptris is best suited for professionals and artists from creative fields.

Key Sculptris Features

  • Users can digitally sculpt 3D models
  • Offers a user-friendly interface that provides a more natural learning curve.
  • Provides surfaces with countless triangles to eliminate the trouble of creating snapped figures
  • Sculptris allows incorporating details to various parts through using different sized brushes
  • Provide Symmetry Mode to make sure that the model is symmetrical from both sides

Cons

  • Designed as an entry-level software for beginners, thus provides limited functionalities
  • Cannot be used to create complex 3D models and prints
  • It is no longer in development. So, it might not run on the new operating system and hardware versions

Pricing Tier

Sculptris is absolutely Free.

16. OnShape

Onshape

Onshape is a  cloud-based 3D software providing options for 3D modeling and printing. The robustly built tool is easy to use in comparison to other cloud software available in the market.

The good news is that it is entirely built on the cloud, which helps you save plenty of storage.

Best known for

Cloud-based software that allows teams who need to collaborate efficiently on different projects regularly.

Key Onshape Features

  • Being a cloud-based platform, it offers end-to-end collaboration features
  • Compatible with all platforms and devices including smartphones, desktops, and tablets
  • It is built considering the needs of engineers, designers, and manufacturers
  • The best option for agile teams that require close collaboration and integration
  • Offers capable tools to create immersive and detailed 3D models for printing
  • Provides a single master version of the CAD program data eliminating the hassles of software license or copying files

Cons

  • It is challenging to find commands on the product

Pricing Tier

For basic functionalities, you can use the free version. For more advanced functions, you might want to subscribe to their paid plan, starting from $125 per month per user if billed annually.

17. Meshmixer

Easy 3d print design software

MeshMixer

Meshmixer is a free 3D modeling software for 3d printing that allows you to easily create and correct 3D models. The reason behind the popularity of this software is that it comes equipped with transforming triangular meshes. It also offers functionality to edit and sculpt 3D models efficiently.

Best known for

To prepare 3D models

Key Meshmixer Features

  • Users can easily make a .stl from a .obj file to make a quick format or adjustment in the 3D model
  • Provide a straightforward and easy user interface
  • Meshmixer is capable of softening the texture to ensure a better finish of the 3D model
  • It is capable of converting any kind of mesh into a solid 3D model
  • Autosaves the latest version of the model
  • It offers advanced selection tools including brushing, surface-lasso, and constraints

Cons

  • Users face the issue of the abrupt crash of software
  • 3D parts viewer becomes complex and difficult to inspect for some aspect

Pricing Tier

Meshmixer is absolutely Free.

18. 3D Slash

3D Slash

3D Slash is for those who are non-technical and is just about to begin understanding what is 3D modeling. The tool takes a straightforward approach and is fun to use.

It provides advanced features and a simple user interface makes it easier to print 3D models.

Best known for

One of the best options for users who are beginners or those having limited technical know-how.

Key 3D Slash Features

  • Allows the insertion of STL/OBJ or rounded shapes  in the 3D models
  • 3D Slash’s new version offers combined features of Basic and Expert.
  • Provides High Definition Mode to enable more precise editing and modeling of 3D models
  • You can easily apply color underneath the block through its Syringe tool
  • It comes equipped with the VR mode to enable users to visualize the 3D model.
  • Capable of editing an STL file efficiently

Cons

  • Not made for professionals who are looking for complex features or advanced customization
  • Not applicable for industrial use

Pricing Tier

Their paid plans start from as low as $2 per month and range up to $20 per month. A freemium plan is also available.

19. MakePrintable

Make Printable

MakePrintable is a software that is used to repair models for 3D printing. The software enables the user to print a model with full-color resin to give an amazing smooth finishing.

MakePrintable provides APIs for developers to leverage 3D model manipulation, file repair, or even 3D printing

Best known for

One of the best platforms to repair the 3D model for printing.

Key MakePrintable Features

  • Provides a status bar with the model’s issues to enhance 3D printability
  • Allow repairing 3D model on the fly using fast and reliable technology calculating complex geometries with ease
  • Reduce and enhance polygon count of your mesh leading to faster loading and slice time
  • Transform any 3D model into an OBJ, 3MF, SVG, STL, or GCODE with compromising 3D printability
  • Provide advanced processing workflows through the node-based editor to tailor files preprocessing

Cons

  • Not made for beginners who are just starting to learn 3D modeling
  • Does not support the iOS platform

Pricing Tier

The paid plans start from $15/month and range to $100/month. You can also opt for pay as you go plan if none of the paid plans suit you.

20. OctoPrint

OctoPrint

OctoPrint is a online 3d printer software designed for 3D printers to control and maintain their printers and printing jobs. The main functionality that makes this software cool, that it enables you to modify temperatures.

This ensures that the printing job does not get out of control and prevents damage from happening. No doubt that its 3d printer monitoring software can help to focus on other priority tasks without worrying about your printers. Also the 3d printer slicer software part of OctoPrint  is  pretty good.

Best known for

  • Users can access an embedded webcam feed to remotely watch how the printer is creating new things
  • Able to keep an eye on the temperature of your hotends and print bed and adapt them on the fly
  • You can start, stop or pause your print job anytime
  • Provides integrated GCode visualizer to see a rendition of the GCODE you are currently printing

Cons

  • Yet to find anything

Pricing Tier

OctoPrint is absolutely Free.

Note: tools I have to review later that are included on the list are Netfabb, Pixologic ZBrush, Repetier.

What is 3D Printing Software?

3D printing transforms 3D models into real models that you can touch and use in the real world. These are 3D models are designed with computer-aided design (CAD) tools.

In the early days, it used to take a fortune to develop 3D printer modeling software. On top of that, the unique set of expertise required to operate it was not readily available. But now easiest 3D printing software tools have integrated more seamlessly in designing and engineering capabilities.

This is how it works, the software takes the 3D model as the input and directs the 3D printer to create a replica of the model. The 3D printer is filled with the cartridge of the material and required colors to print the model.

Moreover, before making the final print, the 3D model is optimized for printing to make sure the design doesn’t break during printing or deform into something else.

Today, this software has become more cloud-based providing amazing features like virtual reality compatibility to simulate the 3D model efficiently, a collaboration platform to manage remote teams, advanced debugging tools performing real-time changes. Along with this functionality, you also get a user-friendly interface to enable several non-technical people to kickstart their career in this field.

Additionally, there are other parameters you should also know :
  • G-Code: a standard programming language for 3D printers that contain commands to move parts within the printer.
  • Parametric 3D printing: refers to the model being defined by individual parameters (specific heights, lengths, and widths, which are editable during and after the modeling process.
  • 3d printing Slicer (also called slicing software): software used in the majority of 3D printing processes, converting 3D objects to specific printer instructions.
  • Fused deposition modeling (FDM): a 3D printing process that uses an ongoing filament of a computer-controlled, thermoplastic material to create a printed shape for objects.

How Do You Choose the Best 3D Printing Software?

With a ton of tools available in the market, it’s crucial to know what sort of tool would work best for your requirements.

Here are a few things that you must keep in mind before choosing the right 3D printing software:

  • Customization – Look for customization features like editing history, sculpting, and the ability to transform 2D models to create 3D models.
  • Collaboration – 3D design software with cloud-based capabilities will drive your team to collaborate more efficiently over constructing 3D models.
  • File Format – The more file format the tool supports, the easier it gets to import and incorporate new elements into the 3D model.
  • Simulation – The simulation feature through VR can help designers to find errors and gaps in the design at a starting phase. It helps by letting you view model histories and saves time and resources.
  • Scalable – Search for a best modeling software for 3d printing that offers powerful adjustment tools to efficiently scale the design of the 3D model to any limits. It would enable you to create 3D models of any shape and size.

Best 3D Printing Software – Final Conclusion

These were some of the best 3D printing software available. All these tools are capable enough to meet your needs.

However, trust me there’s no best option when it comes to selecting any particular software. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, hobbyist, or any other professional, you need to choose the 3D CAD software that’s right for you. It’s best to critically analyze every software against your requirement and make the right decision.

Here are a few crucial points that you might want to consider:
  • Your Budget – Make sure that the subscription cost of the software falls within your budget while meeting all the requirements. For instance, if you are just about to start, then it would be better to start with open-source options that are available free of cost.
  • Features – Several tools are perfect for industrial use and come with various advanced features. Here, you need to ask yourself a question – are these features useful? Is it worth to pay for such sophisticated functionalities? If yes, then go ahead and make the purchase.
  • Learning Curve – Research the level of learning curve based on your team’s expertise and IQ. Make sure that it maximizes the use of the efficiency of the software. Several tools come with advanced and sophisticated features and a need to write scripts. It would require steep learning for users who are not well versed in 3D printing technology.

With the points in mind and a bit of due diligence, you can easily choose the perfect 3D printing software online to meet your requirements.

Which top 3D printing software do you plan to use? Give your feedback and comment below.

More from Smashitbuck If you are also looking to manage your accounts, I recommend you check my post on the best accounting software. You can also check other articles on the best SEO tools, podcast hosting, etc.

Authored By Amey Sarode
Amey Sarode is a Lead Web Developer in GOMO Group with expertise in multiple software verticals. Before starting this blog, Amey managed multiple projects for startups and now reviews the best software to run your online business.

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