Tinkercad is a free 3D-modelling software that is used entirely within a web-browser. The software aims to be a browser-based version of CAD that can be used to make 3D printing accessible to more people. It is intended to be easy to learn and easy to use. Tutorials take the form of “game-like quests”, as called by Tinkercad’s CEO, where rather than exploring a particular feature of the program, the objective is to help the user understand a certain aspect of designing physical objects. Tinkercad thus promotes “design literacy” and hopes to make CAD software more accessible. Prints can be ordered from 3D printing services from within the software, or exported and sent to other 3D printers. Note that the format of this export (STL) is not readily designed for use with other 3D modeling programs, as this may require a plugin for most of them.
SketchUp is designed as a highly versatile, easy to use 3D modeler with an intuitive interface. SketchUp is used to make architectural, civil engineering, mechanical, movie, and video game 3D models. Models are created by literally drawing layouts on surfaces, and are measured using real-world units. SketchUp models can be digitally exhibited, made available, and downloaded from Google’s online 3D Warehouses, which may then be used as parts of new models. SketchUp models can also be imported into Google Earth, allowing geographical data (such as latitude and longitude) to be associated with them. Rendering in several styles is possible, as well as 3D printing from within SketchUp – notably via “i.materialize’s” plug-in, which simplifies the process by letting the user select the desired output size. “i.materialize’s” prints start at € 247.
Blender is an open-source 3D modeler and computer graphics software available for free online, together with several user-made tutorials. Blender may be used to create 3D films, special effects, or interactive computer games. It is one of the few 3D programs with advanced camera controls (including tracking and video editing) and a built-in game engine. Several advanced features, including particle simulation (water, smoke, fire, etc) and soft body simulation (animation of gelatin, beanbags, etc), are also included. Blender is designed to occupy little disk space and memory.
Solidworks is designed as a low-cost, easy to use CAD software for Windows. Solidworks promotes the technique known as solid modeling for a high fidelity with the modeled object’s real-world counterpart. The software also permits setting a design intent such that, if the object is deformed, the deformed model retains certain features in their intended place, rather than the place the deformation would give. Solidworks is used by over 2 million people (including engineers, designers, and students) in over 165,000 companies and institutions.