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Stumbling through the forest of 3D Modelling - what software for newbie?

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I was going to PM this to kman who has huge experience of 3D modelling, but then I thought my question to him and possible forum responses may help others who find themselves walking in my beginners shoes.

I have zero experience in 3d modelling. I've d/ld and looked at FreeCad, Meshmixer and OpenScad and come away confused. I've learned Photoshop and Dreamweaver over my years as a web designer and can use them almost intuitively - but 3D modelling leaves me perplexed. I'm a visual learner and I learn by doing, as in "Tell me and I'll forget, show me and I may remember, let me do it and I've "got it"!

I'd appreciate your advice on what software I can noodle my way through to what I'd like to model: printer parts, simple engineering parts such as brackets to hold stuff, how to make a model thicker and stronger, how to stretch part of a model, how to create holes, how to slice off what I don't need, how to turn a 3d model into a valid STL I can use on the UM2+.

Thanks for listening! Please chime in if you want kman :)

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3D Modeling can be a pain. Mainly because the language used by the makers of the software use sloppy language.

Example: Specularity can be called, gloss, shine, etc.

Example: Surface of Revolution can be called a lathe, revolve, etc.

Although they all use basically the same paradigms when in certain modes of operations. Nurbs will always be like nurbs, mesh will always have triangles, etc.

It is tough to recommend a package as each one can be the magic tool just because it suits a thought process of the individual who is using it. Person A can love program A but it is anathema to Program B and vice versa.

Have you tried doing any tutorials for the individual packages you have tried to learn? Some are better than others. But one that lays out solid fundamentals really solves a lot of troubles for you. That is the problem with most learning materials you can find: They tell you how to make something by way of step 1, step 2, etc, but they do not let you know the "how" of it working so that you can build on it.

Have you tried Design Spark Mechanical?

https://www.rs-online.com/designspark/our-software

I hear really good things about it and I did  like the trial version of its high end cousin, "Spaceclaim."

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3D Modeling can be a pain. Mainly because the language used by the makers of the software use sloppy language.

Example: Specularity can be called, gloss, shine, etc.

Example: Surface of Revolution can be called a lathe, revolve, etc.

Man did you ever hit the nail on the head with this one! You're not telepathic are you? I could not believe the looseness of the language used in some progs and tutorials - and the web generally :)

I'm just checking out your link, thank you kman.

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3D Modeling can be a pain. Mainly because the language used by the makers of the software use sloppy language.

Example: Specularity can be called, gloss, shine, etc.

Example: Surface of Revolution can be called a lathe, revolve, etc.

Man did you ever hit the nail on the head with this one! You're not telepathic are you? I could not believe the looseness of the language used in some progs and tutorials - and the web generally :)

I'm just checking out your link, thank you kman.

 

I taught 3D for about 17 years at a university. It used to frustrate me about how confused people would get when they would get half assed info from the internet and then try to break the old habits and instill new, solid fundamental habits, along with proper language.

But, even so, it can get sloppy when speaking to people because we all tend to get used to speaking within one area of discipline. What we called texture is just materials/shaders in the usual virtual world. But texture in this industry is the actual detail relief of the mesh object. And, it can get a bit confusing.

Good luck with Designspark. I know several people here have used it and really speak to its abilities.

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What an amazing program. I've been watching a few of their basic vids and found myself going Wow! Wow! Wow! I can understand this! DesignSpark Mech and I click. I looked at this program many moons ago and rejected it because of its download size (419MB).

I used a much-loved music program in a past life called C-Lab Creator which was 1MB (floppy) in size, ran on an Atari1040ST and was lightning fast...but it turned me into a sizephobe :D. Those days are long gone.

17 years tutoring - you're a smart guy and a treasure for the folks here. (however I won't hold you to mythical perfection!)

I want to thank you again for pointing me to this door kman. I feel my energy to create has returned.

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I looked at this program many moons ago and rejected it because of its download size (419MB).

Yeah, the days of super large programs is here now.

 

I used a much-loved music program in a past life called C-Lab Creator which was 1MB (floppy) in size, ran on an Atari1040ST and was lightning fast...but it turned me into a sizephobe :D.

The Atari was a really hip machine. And, yeah, I remember when you could carry your programs AND files on one or two floppies.

 

17 years tutoring - you're a smart guy and a treasure for the folks here. (however I won't hold you to mythical perfection!)

Yeah, I get corrected a lot here. But it is worth it to learn. Just yesterday I tried to remake a file for someone and made a goof on it. sigh........Dunno how smart I am though...I see guys here that just blow me away.

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I usually recommend http://tinkercad.com for raw beginners.

It takes a carpenter's click-and-drag approach: cut and paste predefined geometric objects. It runs in a browser, it's free, and it has a decent brief tutorial.

It can also modify .stl files from other sources, which can be very handy.

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That's a neat graph

I've used SolidWorks Academic ($20 per year for military veterans) and it can do quite a bit.  I found some decent tutorials on YouTube and Lynda.com

 

I did not know they offered that. I will have to check that out. Thanks for mentioning that!! :)

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Update for you kman: my first 3D design and STL model using DesignSpark Mech. After a lot of hitting the wrong buttons on the DSM menubar > my first 3D design - a small 110x110x20mm open tray for my USB sticks and other workspace clutter.

open-parts-tray-110x110x20mm.Jpg.6f7ff73e36ca6832c3729f486f29b227.Jpg

Hardly worth a mention but I'm pleased as punch. Thanks to you my friend :)

open-parts-tray-110x110x20mm.Jpg.6f7ff73e36ca6832c3729f486f29b227.Jpg

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That's a neat graph

I've used SolidWorks Academic ($20 per year for military veterans) and it can do quite a bit.  I found some decent tutorials on YouTube and Lynda.com

 

I did not know they offered that. I will have to check that out. Thanks for mentioning that!! :)

 

They make you jump through a few hoops (DD forms) but you get the latest and greatest. Being Academic there are a lot of things that won't work but still, you get quite a bit

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As a SolidWorks user for 20 years, I can, with out question, recommend OnShape. Written by the team that started SolidWorks (the first affordable and powerful 3D CAD IMO). Runs in a browser regardless of OS. Works on Windows, Mac, Linux, Chromebook & Mobile (iOS & Android) and your favorite tablet. If I were not so now heavily invested in SolidWorks (20 years at $1,295/year) I would certainly opt for OnShape Professional at $125/month.

https://www.onshape.com/

Have a look. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Fully functional. Not crippled in any way. Files are kept in the public access cloud, so you have access to them from anywhere in the world. And it's free . . .<3

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In fairness, I can't say, because I'm not a regulator user of OnShape. I do have access to it and have had since it's infancy. Never the less, SolidWorks is the application I earn my living with. As previously discussed, I'm a SolidWorks user for 20 + years. I'm simply suggesting that if someone is searching for a full featured, fully supported 3D mechanical CAD application, with both solid publisher and community support, plenty of on line user tutorials, with no cost, I believe OnShape is a viable alternative worth consideration.

If you are aware of the short comings and cons of the product, please contribute to the secession for the benefit of all.

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SketchUp is good for getting an idea of how to use a 3D-modeling interface, since it has a very simple and intuitive interface. Use the last free versions (was that 7 or 8?). But do *not* use it for 3D-modeling for 3D-printing, since the models contain too much defects. The walls don't close and are not "watertight", so these models are not considered solids, but hollow models with infinite thin walls, and obviously you can't print that: it is a mess.

I use DesignSpark Mechanical since it came out. It is excellent for geometric shapes, thus based on straight lines and curves, such as machine parts. There are a lot of video tutorials, although you may have to search a bit (try Youtube too). You can also use the tutorials of SpaceClaim, if you keep in mind that DesignSpark Mechanical only has a limited set of these features, and that there are small differences in cosmetics. But the modeling concept is the same.

The biggest advantage of DSM over much other 3D-editors is that you can keep modifying models easily: just select a surface or an edge, and pull on it, or move it.

For organic shapes, Blender might be better, but that has a high learning curve, definitely not easy.

Also, Form-Z (from the company AutoDesSys I think) is good in organic shapes and architectural designs, but it is not free. The interface of Form-Z is much more like that of DSM and SketchUp, thus much more intuitive than Blender. Have a look at demo videos on Youtube.

I tried OnShape too, but I have problems with the interface: I can never find the features I need, and I can't get them to work. I can't find previous designs, can't save and export them, etc., without consulting the manual every time. This may be my problem, as some other people can create fantastic models in OnShape. But their phylosophy obviously isn't mine: it's all in the wrong place for me, unfortunately. Some things are too slow, due to the internet. Further, in the free OnShape versions, I think you can not hide your designs anymore: they are visible to the whole world. You should check this. Originally, you could have 10 private models (although for some weird reason, I can only have 9: somewhere some invisible model seems to have gotten stuck beyond reach). Apart from that, it is a real achievement that they can get a 3D-editor to work in a browser.

FreeCAD also works if you know exactly what you need, before you start. But it is very hard to change a design later: you often have to restart from scratch. Thus not suitable for me.

So I would suggest you try DesignSpark Mechanical first. It is free and only requires registration. Also watch demo videos and tutorials of all programs, to see if the workflow is suitable for you. Everyone has different preferences and requirements.

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I have access to SolidWorks at work, so that's what I use for mechanical designs, but if I didn't, I would use Fusion360 as @DidierKlein mentions. It's fully featured, but takes some getting used to even for an experienced SolidWorks user.

OnShape, on the other hand, started out great, but no longer being able to have private (non-shared) projects in the free version killed it for me. It's also missing some features, but that will change over time as they update the app.

Sketchup is tricky to use for objects that will be 3D printed, but it's my go-to app for some projects.

For organic models, try Meshmixer. It's free, easy to use and oriented toward 3D printing, including having the ability to create custom support structures.

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I use Solidworks on work for mechancal design. But it`s too expensive to buy a version only for the hobby. I used onhape for my hobby 1 year now, it`s works perfect. I like the cloudbase, i can design at home, drive to the hackerspace open the design on the local computer export it as stl put into the slicer and print it. You can share your documents by link and you can design in one part with multiple people at the same time (it`s working great). I have to say that onshape reached the status of a professional cad programm. And Fusion 360 is just an awsome CAM software for generating g-code for your mill, it`s also free for non comercial use.

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