Top 10 Professional 3D Software Tools 2019

professional 3d software

Having previously scoured the best free software tools to create our annually updated best free software ranking, we felt we had to create a professional 3D software list for those more adept at 3D design. We therefore put together our choice for ten of the best professional 3D software tools available in 2019.

The best professional 3D software: criteria

Due to how wide the gaps in price between some of these tools, our 10 choices are not ranked in order, but randomly. They were picked based on their depth, feature versatility, learning curve, and how suited they are to 3D printing.

1 – Creo

  • Company based: USA.
  • Price: $2,300.

Initially released in 2011, American software developer PTC’s Creo software encompasses 3D modelling as well as 2D designs. Now in its sixth version released in March 2019, Creo is a fantastic 3D software for creating 3D printable parts.

Undoubtedly a professional tool geared to those with years of experience, Creo is up there with the most advanced tools on the market, such as SolidWorks and CATIA. Beyond simply creating models, Creo includes functions including thermal, motion and parametric surface generation – hence it is beyond the scope of most people new to 3D modelling. However, if you are interested in trying it out, there are free trials of Creo available.

creo professional 3d software

2 – Fusion 360

  • Company based: USA.
  • Price: Free if educational license, Pro version $500/year.
  • Accessibility: Download.

Another of Autodesk’s 3D software creations, Fusion 360 has schools, universities and other institutions covered with its versatile range of 3D modelling applications. It’s still most definitely a professional program, though still built with simplicity in mind so a designer with only modest skills can navigate it easily.

Fusion 360 goes above and beyond in a variety of ways – for example in their feature which assesses your designed part and points out potential weak points in the structure. This is an invaluable asset in creating effective parts, saving time and wasted materials on different iterations.

Overall, Fusion 360 is a great, collaborative 3D software for professionals and intermediate designers alike. Not only can you easily download your designs as STL files, but also share them in the cloud and even edit your peers’ files too.

fusion 360 professional 3d software
The above image demonstrates the level of depth and complexity achievable with Fusion 360.

3 – Solidworks

  • Company based: USA / France.
  • Price: $4,000.
  • Accessibility: Download.

Originally created by Jon Hirschtick – then known as a member of the infamous MIT blackjack team – SolidWorks launched back in 1995 as an easy-to-use and affordable 3D software. Since then, SolidWorks has grown to become one of the, if not the, biggest commercial 3D software programs available – sold to Dassault Systemes for $310M in 1997.

Using the latest and most advanced systems, SolidWorks features some of the most innovative design tools out, including the ability to reverse engineer 3D designed parts and also the ability to create very detailed curves in parts. However, SolidWorks’ shaky support of STL files may cause problems for those who wish to 3D print their designs.

solidworks professional 3d software

4 – AutoCAD

  • Company based: USA.
  • Price: $185/month, of free for students.
  • Accessibility: Download.

The original professional 3D CAD software, AutoCAD was released all the way back 1982 by software legends Autodesk – when computers themselves were still in their infancy. Though known for its awesome 3D modelling properties, AutoCAD doubles up well as a 2D software tool.

If you’re an intermediate 3D designer, we would suggest a program with a less steep learning curve. This is simply because the macros and scripts involved take a long time to master, where a simpler program like Fusion 360 may be better suited. However, in terms of possibilities and how detailed and complex you can get, it’s right at the top. If you’re a mobile designer, you can also get the mobile app too.

autocad professional 3d software

5 – CATIA

  • Company based: USA / France.
  • Price: $10,000+.

This article was made to list the best professional 3D software programs, and that’s what it does – and we couldn’t leave out any programs merely because its immense quality and details come with a high price tag.

CATIA is also made by Dassault Systemes, who own SolidWorks, and as a result CATIA is frequently compared with SolidWorks. The differences however, are that CATIA is the top-of-the-range product, for extremely powerful computers designed to create objects of the highest quality and most minute detail. SolidWorks, on the other hand, is still an extremely powerful tool, but lacks the power that CATIA packs – for example when conducting a $5M R&D investment.

Another key difference is that CATIA is mainly used in surface modeling, rather than straight 3D design – for example in the car and aerospace industries. However, if you’re an intermediate designer who works independently, without a huge budget to use, it’s likely that CATIA isn’t the professional 3D software program for you.

Unsurprisingly for how advanced the CATIA software is, it’s the most expensive of those on our list.

6 – Rhino 6

  • Company based: Spain.
  • Price: $700-1,000, depending on if on Windows or Mac.

Rhino, though not as well known as some professional 3D software tools like SolidWorks, is a solid and versatile option. This professional CAD tool is now onto it’s sixth version, featuring a number of performance upgrades such as integrating the Grasshopper language, as well as presentation upgrades and more.

Rhino makes it easy to manipulate and edit parts to your liking, so you can either export them to send for review, or print them directly via STL file. Though the learning curve is moderately steep, the recent performance upgrades have simplified a number of areas – such as creating curvatures, the picture menu, and creating meshes – to make Rhino as productive as possible.

7 – SelfCAD

  • 3D software price: Free for education, otherwise $14.99 per month.
  • Company based: USA.
  • Accessibility: browser.

One of the few browser-based 3D software tools around, SelfCAD is a very interesting option out there for schools who don’t need to download anything to enjoy the benefits. Moreover, SelfCAD is free for educational use, though it is only $14.99/month to pay for it anyway – far less than many other tools on this list.

You can’t however expect SolidWorks or CATIA-level detail for this price however. What SelfCAD excels at though is being accessible, fun, and easy to get started with; an invaluable asset in encouraging intrigue in children.

It’s also built with 3D printing in mind, allowing you to seamlessly slice your models within your browser, and prepare STL or GCODE files to be 3D printed on your 3D printer.

selfcad professional 3d software
SelfCAD is one of the easiest to use of the 3D software options on our list. However, it has merits as a professional 3D software tool too.

8 – Blender – FREE professional 3D software

  • Price: Free.
  • Company based: The Netherlands.
  • Accessibility: Download.

Blender is an incredible tool; perfect for a wide variety of uses – and despite being free, is still a fantastic professional 3D software tool.

Though it’s definitely good enough to warrant a fee, Blender stays true to its opensource roots, allowing users to create and modify anything they’d like to, exercising unlimited creativity. STL files can be created with ease, and if you’re struggling with the learning curve, there are an abundance of informative YouTube tutorials that will definitely help.

As fans of the opensource movement, 3DSourced highly recommend Blender. It not only has uses in 3D design for 3D printing, but also in film VFX, video game design, and more. Overall, it’s a fantastic, free, and versatile professional 3D software option.

For a free tool, Blender is a fantastic professional 3D software choice.

9 – Cinema 4D

  • Price: ~$3,500.
  • Company based: Germany.
  • Accessibility: Download.

Another extremely powerful and expensive 3D software tool, Cinema 4D though expensive deserves its place on our professional 3D software list.

Highly praised for a number of its 3D tools – such as advanced polygon modeling, parametric modeling, and sculpting tools – Cinema 4D is perfect in the 3D modeling of car parts, landscapes and roads, and even film animation and characters. A number of professional studios solely use Cinema 4D and it is the professional 3D software of choice for many institutions, depicting how strong and versatile Cinema 4D is.

Cinema 4D offers fantastic detail and the ability to create unbelievably complex and realistic 3D models.

10 – Meshmixer

  • Price: Free.
  • Company based: USA.
  • Accessibility: Download.

Meshmixer is unlike any other professional 3D software on this list, so it is unfair to compare it to its peers. This is because Meshmixer’s prime function is to edit existing files within it, such as by animating the model, hollowing out or filling it, or just generally repairing a model with faults.

Meshmixer is therefore a fantastic, free tool, and the third 3D software tool on this list created by Autodesk. Moreover, its topological optimization tool makes it a hugely useful way to save costs by making parts lighter through removing necessary extras. In industries where the savings through saving weight are huge, like aerospace, this is invaluable.

Moreover, the fact that it was designed with 3D printing so close to mind is a major advantage. For example, supports can be easily added in before exporting the STL file, with the repair tool also simple to correct files before printing.

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