Jump to content
Ultimaker Community of 3D Printing Experts
joshsmith

What is the best software to design 3D, other than Solidworks?

Recommended Posts

Probably onShape. It's free if your designs are open source. It's by the same guy who did solidworks so if you know one it's easy to learn the other.

I don't like to use web services as you never know how long a company will last before it goes out of business but onShape is extremely well funded right now and you can export your design as step files.

I personally use DSM (design spark mechanical). It's free and installs on my pc so I don't need internet to use it. It's incredibly advanced and easy to use compared to say sketchup. don't use sketchup as sketchup is great for visual modeling but not for actual 3d objects. Quite bad for 3d modeling real things to be printed.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi joshmith,

it's depending on your needs and on your budget. There are a lot of commercial programs (beside Solidworks). I have used several of them in job. My opinion:

Autodesk Inventor - quite easy to use, good for most modelling operations

Siemens PLM NX (former Unigraphics) - better in modelling than Inventor

Dassault Systèmes CATIA (V5, V6) - good for surface modelling

Creo Parametric (former Pro/Engineer) - only used Pro/E Wildfire, a little bit more complicated than the other ones, but quite good for modelling difficult parts.

If i have some time, i want to try the open source program FreeCad - sounds good, maybe a good opinion ;-)

For commercial software making drawings out of the parts is essential, especially there are quite big differences between the programs. Since this is not essential for 3D-Printing maybe FreeCad is doing all that you need? Try it out (available for Win, Mac, Linux).

Maybe you tell us later which program was best for you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First of all it really depends on your goal. If your goal is to sculpt or to 3d print organic shapes something like ZBrush or Rhino will suit your purpose better.

In case that you want something similar to Solidworks because that fits your application then:

What looks the most attractive is OnShape to me (looking at it because I used to use Solidworks so if I have to learn something new this is supposed to be the easiest to learn).

Other than that there's Autodesk Fusion 360 which is "free", but there's not a lot of documentation (tutorials) to learn how to fully exploit it without hours of tinkering.

Edited by Guest

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

OnShape did a nice presentation at the Ultimaker 3 reveal. It looks very promising and I am going to try it. It was founded by one of the creators of SolidWorks. The fact you can run it on many platforms (tablet, PC, laptop, phone...) is extremely impressive.

Fusion 360 looks interesting to me. I've watched some of their tutorials on YouTube and it seems to take a lot of learning to get the most out of it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For relatively simple technical parts based on geometric shapes, and where you often need to adjust dimensions, DesignSpark Mechanical (freeware) might be a good choice. Easy to learn, lots of good training videos, and you can also use SpaceClaim videos, since DSM is a limited subset of this.

For complex organic shapes, I think Blender (also freeware) might be a good choice, but it has a *huge* learning curve.

You might also have a look into Form-Z from Autodessys: not free, but they have quite a lot of functions for organic shapes. I once tried an old demo a couple of years ago (was 1 month free), and they had quite good support back then. Have a look at their demo videos and webinars.

FreeCad is also useful if you know exactly what you want, without need to change it afterwards, because it is not flexible, and later updates usually break the model. So, not optimal for me.

I also tried Onshape, but it was quite slow over the network here. From a technical viewpoint, it is absolutely wonderful that they get it done at all via a browser and the net. But it should run locally, and save files locally, I think. If you can live with an online package, it is quite powerful.

Before deciding, first have a look at several demo-videos and webinars of each potential package, and see what appeals to your way of thinking and working. This may take several days, but you will win these back very quickly if you find the right software for you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For mechanical design, I currently use SolidWorks, but I've used Inventor for several years in the past. I think they are mostly equal in usability and capability. As mentioned already, OnShape is the closest "free" app to SolidWorks and works well if you have a fast internet connection.

For organic shapes, I've tried Blender but was discouraged by the learning curve. I've used Scupltris, but haven't made much headway with it. There are a lot of meshes it won't open. I've had the most success with Meshmixer, which is free from Autodesk. There are quite a few tutorial videos available, and I still have a lot to learn on it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've made a few objects with SketchUp but had a terrible time with them.  When I have asked others who 3D print about Sketch up, they mentioned it's really awful with walls and other things.  

I guess like everyone else...we struggle getting our design ideas from skull-to-computer, without requiring a huge learning curve that completely turns you off.

Edited by Guest

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is off subject but for 2 color prints you have to break your part into two separate STL files - one for each color. For example in DSM I would put one on each layer. DSM is tricky though as if you are editing something on one layer sometimes components cross over to the level you are on if they are touching. So I usually have to make the other layer invisible so it doesn't do that.

Then in cura load both STL files and select them both, right click and merge them. In Cura 2.3, before you merge (or after) you can set which material goes with which STL file and other settings.

You can do this with a single filemant printer also like UM2 and instead of different colors do different settings (like fuzzy skin on one STL but not the other for a nice pattern or different infill settings or whatever).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've used SolidWorks for over 20 years and have recently gone through a review of the newer modelers:

My recommendation is Fusion 360. It's a robust product, is well supported and it's free to enthusiasts. The downside is your models are not stored locally. I'm not crazy for the concept, but at this juncture I consider this to be an acceptable compromise.

Design Spark Mechanical seems to have the features to make a good modeler, but is extremely limited in import/export capabilities. The UI is also decidedly user hostile. I cannot recommend it.

A lot of folks are recommending FreeCAD. I can't. It does only parts (no assemblies) and it's a bit rudimentary at this point. Someday it might be a useable product.

OnShape is a good modeler within the confines of it's rather restrictive license for free accounts. You are allowed 10 models and 100 mb of storage for private models IIRC. This might be enough for you, it's not for me. More is available if you make your models public, or pony up the $100/month for the pro version. The import/export capabilities are very good and I use OnShape for doing conversions that other modelers can't handle.

I strongly recommend that SketchUp not be used for modeling for printing purposes. SU can make some very pretty crappy models that will drive a slicer nuts. I've used SU for years for simple woodworking design work. Upon close examination of the "models" (sets of faces actually) in SU, a lot of the faces don't connect (are open). This makes conversion to a solid based paradigm extremely problematic. That's why there are so many tools out there to "repair" stl files created in SU. Trimble seems to be spending a lot of effort adding online features and other pretty parts to SketchUp without fixing what I think is a broken modeler. The license for use of the free version has gotten pretty restrictive under Trimble as well. Strongly not recommended.

I looked a bit at Blender. It might be a good product, but the learning curve is way beyond what I'm willing to expend at this point.

Good luck in your efforts.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just an update. Onshape changed the conditions on their hobbyist (free) accounts last week. No more private files, only public.

I have no issue making my designs public, but not until I'm done with them. It would be just my luck to be in the middle of a design and have somebody else come in and make a bunch of changes to a work in process.

Henceforth I'll not even mention OS as an option for those looking to get into 3D modeling.

cheers

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just an update.  Onshape changed the conditions on their hobbyist (free) accounts last week.  No more private files, only public.

I have no issue making my designs public, but not until I'm done with them. It would be just my luck to be in the middle of a design and have somebody else come in and make a bunch of changes to a work in process.

Henceforth I'll not even mention OS as an option for those looking to get into 3D modeling.

cheers

 

I was reading the fine print and really disappointed to read about that too. Having met the CEO, he was excited to show off the ease of use their system has. Being able to work on so many platforms sounded fantastic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That Onshape change, is that only for new customers? I already had an account and I see no changes in behaviour? Private documents still seem to be private, and I can still make 9 private documents. Yes, nine private documents, not ten like before. I don't know why, but Onshape somehow claims that I have one document when I have none, so I can only add 9.

Anyway, I rarely use Onshape, since I can not find my way in the user-interface: functions like opening and saving files are splattered all over the page at random, there is no consistency. At least, I can not find the logic in it. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Announcements

  • Our picks

    • Architect Contest | Entourage 01.
      Presenting an idea, an architectural design or something as big as an urban project isn't easy. A scaled models can really help to get your idea across. But besides your main model, there is more needed to get your idea across vividly! An architect regularly uses various entourage sets to help bring these ideas and models to live. 
        • Like
      • 10 replies
    • What The DfAM?
      I'm Steve Cox, an experienced engineer familiar with 3D printing. I wanted to share some DfAM guidelines with this community to help and make stronger parts.
      I'm also an Autodesk Certified Instructor for Fusion 360, so many of the images in ...
        • Thanks
        • Like
      • 17 replies
×

Important Information

Welcome to the Ultimaker Community of 3D printing experts. Visit the following links to read more about our Terms of Use or our Privacy Policy. Thank you!