What is Your Favorite 3D Modeling Software for 3D Printing?

There are so many software options now to 3D model for 3D printing we would like to know which CAD packages you use?

Let us know so we can consider what tools we can provide to make 3D printing with Shapeways easier for you. 

Last time we asked on Facebook the most popular were 3D Studio Max, Maya, ZBrush and Blender with 36 different applications being used..

So what do you use? 


  1. Kalen

    Hexagon….though the bugs are killing me.

  2. oscar

    Solidworks. I’m sure there must be something better out there, but that’s what I’ve been thaught.

  3. BFDesigns

    Rhino 4.0.

    Also learning how to use ZBrush but will still have to export to Rhino afterwards for scaling and STL generation.

  4. Julian

    I use Sketchup and would love Shapeways to support it better. It is very easy to start using and as a free, Google, product, it’s in wide use. My 13 year old daughter learnt to use it in very little time.

  5. Luis

    Cheetah 3D (Mac only): Cheap and does STL.



  6. Duann

    Looks like Rhino, Blender and SketchUp are the main players.

    Interesting, I was expecting to see Max and Solidworks be a little stronger

  7. Josh

    I primarily use Blender, with a sprinkling of Sculptris and Meshmixer.

  8. Bertier

    still it needs a native *.stl or *.amf export but *SketchUp* of course !

  9. Luis

    CATIA is by far the best, but unafordable for most. I’ve been playing with Autodesk 123D and it is really nice.
    I prefer engineering tools rather than the free mesh modelers such as Blender or 3D Max.


  10. DrJekyll

    I use Cinema 4D, probably not the best for 3D printing but I love it’s user interface.

  11. Larry

    I use OpenSCAD. I’m just starting out, and as a programmer, I find it easy to learn. I’d like something with more built-in capabilities, though.

  12. Aaron

    In addition to the ones mentioned, I also like Wings3D for making designs for 3D printing. It almost always delivers perfectly manifold meshes.

  13. Stony Smith

    OpenSCAD was the first thing that allowed me to build and upload models that would print properly, and I still use it for many items.

    But, I’d say my main tool is TrueSpace – I’ve used it for 20 years.

  14. Mike Hicks

    What? no love for MOI (moment of inspiration) http://moi3d.com ? Created by the originator of Rhino but a whole lot cheaper!

  15. Janet

    hi, I’m using McNeel’s Rhino 4 and I am very happy with it. I never encountered any problems to export printable STL files to Shapeways.
    Rhino has very good functionality to show and repair polysurfaces and meshes with naked edges. The price of a Rhino license is quite fair regarding the enormous functionality and all the special commands which make modeller’s life easier. Rhino is different in it’s approach. Did you ever try the the Curve2Views command, UDT or Record History ? This is what I mean.
    My second choice would be TrueSpace.
    I can not imagine home user’s having purchased Solidworks or Catia V.5 due to the high license cost and the obligatory yearly maintenance cost for the software installation.
    Kind regards and happy modelling,

  16. Ean


    Surprised to see I’m the first person to say this. If you’re looking to do any sort of sculptural work, it can’t be beat for the toolset. Some of the new features in Version 4 R2 seem specifically tailored for 3d printing: Dynamesh converts the model to a single shell using voxels, and can use a Shell modifier with the same technology to generate a hollow model with hand user controlled drain holes and wall thickness.

    Their new “Claypolish” feature is designed to give the look of hand sculpted media, which is awesome for busts, jewelry, or other artifacts that are meant to look handmade.

    It even decimates (with *very* little loss of detail) scales and exports STLs natively via some official Pixologic plugins, and generates top notch preview renders at high speed.

    I’ve just used it to create a new line of jewelry that is being 3d printed then mass reproduced via more traditional casting techniques. Check my site to see what they look like. :)

  17. Anonymous

    KeyCreator. No problem with STL export. Would like an IGES, STEP, and/or SAT option :-D . I’ve used it for the last 5 years at 2 separate jobs so it’s what I know. Used AutoCAD in school and prefer KC over it. Wouldn’t be able to afford it myself though.

  18. GWMT

    Solidworks (A.K.A. “f&%king Solidworks” when it does something it shouldn’t;-).

    I bought it for my real job, but I’d love to be able to cover the yearly licensing fee with Shapeways profits.

  19. dadrummond

    Blender. Confirmation of manifold-ness and dimensions with netfabb Studio Basic.

  20. Franck

    I fell in love with *Cinema 4D*, but unfortunatly not the best tool for 3D print modeling.

  21. Dan Matarazzo

    All of my models on shape ways were made in good old SolidWorks. It might not be the best for sculptural/ organic forms, but I can accurately model the tolerances I want. I started laying with SketchUp but it doesn’t seem to be well suited for my style of modeling. I’ve also started using NetFab for STL checking and repairing.

  22. Duann

    Thanks for all of the answers,

    We will have to see how we can best integrate this software for use with Shapeways.

    Does anyone still the Solidworks plug in to upload directly to Shapeways? It even works with the student editions that cannot export STL ;)

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