How to Start Designing 3D Models
Written by
Dave Evans

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On
April 10, 2014
In
Design

Learn about the best way to start designing 3D models for printing below. There's a number of options for creating both simple and complex models for consumer and professional applications. For more info about how Fictiv can help you, check out the Fictiv Capabilities Guide.

CAD Software For Designing 3D Models

Below is a list of free CAD software programs for designing 3D models. Each program has it's own benefits and considerations. Read more about each to figure out what's best for you.

Software For 3D Printers

In addition to a range of free design software, free 3D printing host software can be used to run and manage RepRap 3D printers, as well as most commercial printers given certain modifications.

CURA was developed by Ultimaker for quick and easy 3D printing. It acts as a slicer and host software. While lacking in detailed controls and interfaces, the functionality delivered by a unified slicer and host should not be overlooked. As with RepeteirHost, CURA is a capable platform that allows users to visualize and modify models before printing. This highly visual approach can be helpful for beginners and experts alike. Ultimaker offers substantial documentation for the program and its relative popularity has made it rather reliable.

Pronterface is a heavily open-source project that allows almost anyone to run a 3D printer. Its intuitive controls and minimalist interface attempt to remove barriers to entry and get people printing faster. Once a basic connection is established, Pronterface allows the user to query the printer’s electronics for detailed readouts of information instead of presenting a large amount of information directly in the interface. Model g-code must be imported into Pronterface in order to print. It does not contain a built-in slicing module.

RepeteirHost, one of the most popular pieces of software for controlling 3D printers, was originally designed as an open-source project - although it may be closed-source in the future. Complete with an extensive visual interface, detailed interpretation of models, built-in slicing modules, and expert-level tuning options, RepeteirHost can be used to very finely control a 3D printer and produce parts with a high level of accuracy. RepeteirHost may seem imposing to beginners entering the 3D printing space.

MatterControl is an open-source project that incorporates many of the beneficial aspects of more complex host software and adds a few unique touches of its own. These features include: SMS & Email notifications sent from the printer, drag & drop queuing of parts, advanced detection of objects for plating multiple items, an integrated searchable design library, and advanced tools for editing and modifying settings that may otherwise need small adjustments. Helpfully, MatterControl also includes “Plug & Play” settings for a number of commercially-available and RepRap printers - enabling users to literally plug in and begin printing using recommended settings.

Written by
Dave Evans
Fictiv Co-founder. I'm a hacker at heart and an engineer who likes to build things (and sometimes take things apart).
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