7 of the Best Free 3D Software Tools 2018 (Beginners & Experts)

3d software

There are now hundreds of different options for people looking to create their own 3D models for 3D printing or other uses. These 3D software range from being easily used by even the most new of beginners, to having learning curves that can take years to traverse. Therefore, we created our list of the 7 best free 3D software tools out there to help you find the perfect software for you. Some run in your browser, some need to be downloaded, but all are at least free in the short-term.

Best Free 3D Software 2018:

1 – TinkerCAD

  • How free is it: Completely free.
  • Company based: USA.
  • Accessibility: Browser.

One of the many 3D software offered by 3D CAD software giant Autodesk, TinkerCAD is a deceptively deep tool. Though it looks fairly basic due to how easy it is to use, TinkerCAD has proved time and time again that it is up with the best 3D software out there for creating 3D models.

Utilizing what some might consider to be basic shapes, TinkerCAD allows you to create detailed 3D models by connecting different shapes together. The learning curve is far shorter than some of the more in-depth 3D software out there, making TinkerCAD the perfect option for those who are newer to the technology.

Further showing TinkerCAD’s ease of use, it’s the most used 3D software in schools and classes worldwide. What’s more, you can download the TinkerCAD app and play around with your favorite models via your smartphone or tablet!

Though Autodesk make a number of different software for various industries, TinkerCAD is perfect for beginners who want to play around with 3D design software and maybe make something cool. You can then export your models as STL files or any other file format, and send them to a 3D printer to be 3D printed. Though once you gain more experience you may want to advance to something more complex like AutoCAD, TinkerCAD is a great place to start your 3D CAD design career.

3d software
Tinkercad is known as one of the best 3D software tools out there.

2 – SketchUp

  • How free is it: Free version, $650 for Pro version.
  • Company based: USA.
  • Accessibility: Download, browser (depending on free/pro).

Created by Lastsoftware in 2000, SketchUp is a veteran of the 3D modeling software industry. A versatile and powerful option, Google acquired the software in 2006 to implement into their services, though it has since been sold to Trimble Inc.

Now offering a free version of its well-reputed 3D design software, SketchUp is a great choice for budding designers. Similar to TinkerCAD, SketchUp has a shorter learning curve than most 3D software out there, and comes stocked with tools for almost everything you could ever need.

Despite being currently known mostly in the architectural scene and for its affiliation with Google, SketchUp is becoming more relevant in the 3D printing scene. They are working to become better integrated with creating STL files, and the tools are surprisingly compatible with those who wish to create 3D CAD files. You can currently download the SketchUp STL extension to enable STL files to be created within SketchUp.

SketchUp features an easy-to-use interface without being overloaded with information. You can figure out the basics behind this free 3D software in a few hours easily and be on your way to creating detailed 3D models on your first day. You can easily view your models in 3D, and upload them to 3D Warehouse when you’re happy with the finished product.

3d software
Sketchup is another great option for designers looking for a 3D modeling software.

3 – Blender

  • How free is it: Completely free.
  • Company based: The Netherlands.
  • Accessibility: Download.

Arguably the most popular 3D design software, Blender has a huge, active community who share their STL files and 3D models as well as information. A quick Google search or YouTube entry will yield thousands of results with people eager to showcase their 3D designs or teach you how to use the Blender 3D software. This is down to Blender being a 100% free 3D software tool which is open source, and gives users freedom to create just about anything with its huge range of tools.

Though it has a steeper learning curve, Blender has huge depth to it, making it one of the most holistic free 3D software tools out there. This depth makes it a very versatile 3D modeling tool, with uses ranging from film VFX, video games, 3D model design, and more. Furthermore, Blender even comes with an integrated game engine, as well as detailed sculpting tools and video editing capabilities.

It isn’t for beginners, or probably even for intermediates, but it is an incredible free 3D modeling software that is ideal for game developers and experienced 3D modelers.

3d software blender
Despite being completely free, Blender is a 3D software with huge depth, shown by the 3D model created above.

4 – Meshmixer

  • How free is it: Completely free.
  • Company based: USA.
  • Accessibility: Download.

Meshmixer is an interesting 3D software, in the unique position that doesn’t fit into any one particular category. Another one of Autodesk’s 3D software, Meshmixer differs from its rivals in that it enables you to edit existing models with a variety of useful tools including animation, hollowing/filling, and repairing models.

Meshmixer is therefore a fantastic free 3D modeling software for modifying designs to ensure their quality. This makes it a very useful software¬†for beginners and experts alike, allowing them to polish their models so that they’re ready for 3D printing.

Another main selling point of Meshmixer is its use in topological optimization. With its simple hollowing and similar tools available within the free 3D software, parts can be made lighter, saving weight and costs. This is especially useful in industries such as the aerospace and automotive sectors where cutting weight is very important.

Overall, Meshmixer is a versatile and consistent option for those who need to polish their 3D files. It’s perfect for beginners who want to modify their designs, as well as experts who need to optimize their industrial designs. Therefore, Meshmixer is a great free 3D software which encompasses many sectors.

3D Software meshmixer
Meshmixer is a 3D software built with 3D printing in mind, allowing for support generation before printing.

5 – 3D Slash

  • How free is it: Free, with monthly subscription Pro version.
  • Company based: France.
  • Accessibility: Browser.

3D Slash is a very interesting 3D software which reminds me of Minecraft due to the ‘mining’ element of chipping away bricks whilst 3D designing. Ironically, this is actually where the idea came from, when the designer found his son playing Minecraft and was fascinated by its design possibilities. Definitely one for beginners due to its more basic features and unconventional (but simple) way of designing, 3D Slash lets almost anyone just jump in and start creating 3D models.

The basis of 3D Slash is that you begin with a 3D cube and gradually reduce what you have until you are happy with the current shape. You can then remove this miniature cubes within this large cube to create your finished shape. We can safely say that 3D Slash is the easiest 3D software to just jump in and play with, though there are ramifications.

3D Slash’s format means that you don’t have perfectly accurate, curved edges like with high quality 3D scans via a 3D scanner. This is due to the cubed nature of the program, which may result in more pixelated prints. You can get round this by just using very small cubes however (up to 0.1mm size), though this adds complexity to the project.

Overall, for a sit down and play 3D software, 3D Slash is perfect. Anyone could get right on with creating their own 3D models on this free 3D modeling software, though if you have prior experience you might want something with more depth.

3d software 3d slash
3D Slash is a simple yet effective 3D software for beginners.

6 – Fusion 360

  • How free is it: Free 3 year education license, Pro version is around $500/year.
  • Company based: USA.
  • Accessibility: Download.

Created with schools and academic institutes in mind, Fusion 360 is yet another 3D software created by Autodesk. It’s undoubtedly a professional 3D software, however it is user-friendly enough for an educated beginner to be able to use. Packed to the brim with innovative features, Fusion 360 is a very collaborative 3D software that allows users to share STL files via the cloud, and make edits to each others files.

With powerful tools for accomplishing almost any industrial 3D design, Fusion 360 really is an incredible piece of software. It has built-in features to assess stresses that components of your 3D design will encounter, allowing designers to locate potential weak points before printing. Once created, you can then easily export your 3D model as an STL file or any other file format.

Having recently been made free for students, startups, and more, Fusion 360 is a more accessible 3D software than ever before. If you’ve got some experience, or looking to level up your 3D design skills, this is the perfect 3D software for you.

3d software fusion 360
Fusion 360 is a 3D software that offers the ability to create extremely detailed 3D models, but isn’t the best option for beginners.

7 – SelfCAD

  • How free is it: Free for education, otherwise $4.99 per month.
  • Company based: USA.
  • Accessibility: browser.

SelfCAD focuses on being the best browser-based 3D software for students all around the world, allowing people to design 3D files without having to download anything. This has made it a popular choice in the US for schools looking to teach students 3D design.

Focused on simplicity and ease of use, SelfCAD offers all the necessary tools to create whilst still retaining a short learning curve that beginners can use. Built with 3D printing in mind, SelfCAD also includes browser-based slicing tools for preparing your STL or GCODE files for 3D printing.

Overall, SelfCAD is a simple 3D software with a clean layout that doesn’t scare you off. It includes all the tools necessary for students and beginners to create amazing 3D models to print, without the steep learning curve involved in some other 3D software tools. There’s a reason it is becoming increasingly adopted in schools worldwide.

3d software selfcad
SelfCAD’s 3D software is completely browser-based and doesn’t require any downloads.

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