3D Software 2018

Hey guys,

I am looking to design some relatively basic objects for 3D printing. Mostly mechanical, geometrical shapes.
Little custom parts for camera rigs.

What is the current best affordable (or free) software ?

I did quite a bit of research but a lot of the free / low cost stuff seems to have changed. For example ketchup is only free browser based.
Easy to use but I did not find anything how to export a model from there to .STL file format for printing.
I also don’t really want to spend the time learning a software that might be gone tomorrow.

Any advise would be appreciated.

I’ve been using Onshape for my engineering team at work. It can be a little intimidating to start but they have excellent on-line training. Great product now and getting better all the time.

It is entirely browser based–nothing to install.

If you don’t mind your models being stored in the cloud for all to view(not change)–it is free.

It will be around a long time–its headed by ex solid works people with heavy duty funding. They are out to change the 3D CAD world as they did once before about 30 years ago.

I’m quite happy using FreeCAD (on my Linux laptop).
0.17 is due real soon. Learning curve is a bit steep but there are good online (video) tutorials.

I gave up on FreeCAD and went to Fusion360 and my frustration level dropped significantly.

Fusion 360 FTW! Occasionally I will use Blender though.

Fusion 360 would be my preference as well – except that it is cloud-based. It requires a low-latency always-on internet connection, which makes it simply a non-option for me. FreeCad is much more challenging to use, but I can use it even when the family is streaming something from NetFlix or the like, I can use it when travelling, etc.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that another consideration is that Fusion is not free – while not expensive, I’d rather put that money to a spool of filament periodically, rather than paying the subscription fee to Autodesk.

HMM! It has been free to use for the last 2+ years I have been using it? I keep it under their commercial income limit requirement as a Maker also. Have not used it much in offline mode to know how well that works, but I work where there are connections all around.

Perhaps you’re an instructor, or even a student? I signed up for the trial some time ago - but the web site seemed to make it quite clear that it’s a subscription, and they’ll waive that fee for 3 years for educational use.

If there’s some other program that allows free, non-commercial use, a link would probably be a good thing to add to this thread (I couldn’t find it in my quick perusal of the site just now).

Autodesk offers Fusion 360 Start-Up/ Enthusiast licenses for free (1 year but can be renewed indefinitely). See the link below for more details (and restrictions).


Netfabb has a similar mode (called Netfabb Basic) where you install the trial, the trial expires, and you do something (I forgot exactly but Google knows) and it becomes Netfabb Basic.

Sketchup Make v2017 can still be downloaded from the Sketchup.com site, and is still free for non-commercial use.

See www.sketchup.com/download/all.

There isn’t a later version of Make, as it is being replaced by a less-featured browser based Sketchup Free.

Make v2017 requires good OpenGL hardware and driver support, and Intel integrated graphics can be problematic.

Make v2016 is less demanding and can use just the CPU, but is harder to find on the Sketchup site. But it can be found via https://help.sketchup.com/pl/article/60107.

Sketchup Pro v2018 includes an Export to STL feature, but you need a free plugin for Make to do the same. Get it from https://extensions.sketchup.com.

I used it at the local maker space, and it also helps there is a autodesk trainer in the town that offers basic training classes for a small fee there. I had it when it was still free, and got the notice when it became a subscription about the Maker/enthusiast licence option 3-4 years ago. Or at least that is what it was called back then. :laughing:

currently dabbling in Autodesk Fusion 360 and I have to say I am quite happy.