if i want to get into 3D printing, do i need to learn solidworks?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by oppaspamstyle, Jul 4, 2013.

  1. oppaspamstyle
    oppaspamstyle New Member
    hello everyone! i am really loving this whole 3D printing thing.. i have been playing with 3D designs non stop for the past few weeks and am having so much fun. ive tried dozens of freewares, and webapps. each have their pros and cons. i definitely have no idea what im doing haha, but am learning more and more as i go along. i find most programs interfaces to be very.. difficult to work with, and the ones with nice interfaces have a catch, or very limited features..
    from what ive seen, most of the pros ive talked to all seem to use solidworks. if i want to start doing 3D printing, should i just start learning solidworks, instead of relearning how to use all these other programs?

    i dont want to be limited by my software as to what i can create, is solidworks the "go to solution" for this? or are there other full featured 3D design programs that are as good?
  2. Daphne
    Daphne Well-Known Member
    I use SolidWorks. The reason is simple: its what they teach at my university. It's great for mechanical stuff, it can do some calculations/simulations. The program has a lot of options (I probably haven't used half of them) and I find the interface very nice. It does take some time to learn working with it. But that's something that will be the same for all software with a lot of functions. However, the error notifications are horrible.
    And last, it's very expensive. I'm lucky to have a student license, but a normal one costs around 4000-5000 euro.

    There are a lot of other programs qualified for 3D modelling. If you want to make more 'art' like objects fast or easy, SolidWorks might not be the program you are looking for.
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2013
  3. bartv
    bartv New Member
    Hey oppaspamstyle,

    I agree with Daphne - your choice would depend on what you're trying to create. What kind of objects do you want to design? What is your budget? Are you just 'testing the waters', or are you prepared to invest?


  4. UniverseBecoming
    UniverseBecoming Well-Known Member
    Solidworks is definitely loved by lots of people and I'll bet within 5 years it will be worlds most used software in its class.

    The thing is though, this and other 3D modeling software like it are currently not very good for making models for 3D printing. That's cuz there are two main types of 3D modeling software available. One is polygonal modelers and the other is solid modelers. Solidworks is a solid modeler. What it does is constructs geometry using a kind of "shorthand" description for each part of the geometry. Like for a cylinder for example it would describe it as a radius and a length and the coordinates and that's all. Whereas, a polygonal modeler describes parts of geometry as the coordinates of each of the vertices of a triangle forming a singular triangular part of the geometry. So, for a cylinder for example, you need numerous xyz coordinates for each vertex forming each triangle that ultimately forms the entire cylinder.

    Solid modelers are far more superior to polygonal modelers. They use much less memory and you can do things with solid modeling that you cannot do with polygonal modeling.

    So why does this solid modeling language make Solidworks not good for 3D printing? Cuz all 3D printers currently use polygonal language to describe the parts that will be printed. Consequently, Solidworks and other solid modelers like it need to convert form their native solid language describing parts to the polygonal language description. Problem is, currently, none of these solid modeling software can do this very well. They can convert simple geometry immaculately well, but for more complex geometry they get can get confused in the conversion. Whereas, polygonal modeling software do not have to make the conversion so there ends up being far less problems when making a file that 3D printing software can understand.

    So you're standing there at the crossroads and you're trying to decide what 3D modeling software to use for 3D printing. What should you do? Well, I would suggest learning Solidworks. Especially if your the type that does engineering stuff or will be doing that in the future.

    If your the artist type however, you'll want to specialize in polygonal software, especially for doing organic things like sculpture. One 3D software that I know of that is kind of a blend of both worlds is Rhino.

    As for myself, I'm more of the artist type and use polygonal 3D modeling software, but I also love doing engineering type stuff. I suffer when I do engineering type stuff cuz it is so much easier to design engineering type stuff in a solid modeler as opposed to a polygonal modeler and I've never spent the money to acquire and the time to learn a solid modeler software. Someday though, I'd like to use Geomagic Design Direct. It's around $10k US though! So it wont be soon! HAHAHA! =D

    Oh and, one last thing, keep in mind that there are hoards of software engineers working on software for 3D printers that will use the solid modeling language. So, at some point it's not going to make a difference when it comes to making designs specifically for 3D printing. :)