Which CAD software should I use with my Ultimaker 3D printer?
When 3D printing, you'll want to have your 3D models in either STL or OBJ file format. When you're ready to 3D print your design, you'll load your STL or OBJ file into Ultimaker Cura or the slicing software of your choice to prepare the print job.
Just about any CAD software that exists these days can export in these formats, so you're free to use any CAD software you like. There are lots of options available, depending on the functionality you're looking for.
Here are some options to get you started...
Free CAD software:
- TinkerCAD: A free, easy-to-use browser-based CAD software. It's easy to use, so it's great for beginners and students. They have tools and resources for using TinkerCAD in the classroom.
- SketchUp: Another free, easy-to-use browser-based CAD solution. Free and paid licenses available (free for primary/secondary students, educators, and personal use).
- Blender: A powerful and popular free, open-source 3D modeling tool. It has a steep learning curve, but it's a powerful tool once mastered.
- FreeCAD: A free, browser-based parametric modeler with advanced features.
- OpenSCAD: A free CAD tool that uses a programming-style approach to 3D modeling. This is an intuitive option for coders/programmers, but will not be as easy to learn for most others.
- BlocksCAD: A free CAD tool that uses a programming-style approach to 3D modeling, designed to prepare users for using OpenSCAD, a more professional programming-based 3D modeling tool.
- Autodesk Fusion 360: Fusion 360 is a powerful, cloud-based 3D CAD program. Free for personal use, students, educators, and academic institutions.
- Shapr3D: A full-featured CAD program designed specifically for the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. Free and paid versions available. Free Pro version licenses available for students and educators.
Commercial CAD software:
- SolidWorks: A popular and powerful Windows-based CAD solution.
- Rhino: A powerful CAD solution for Windows or Mac. Can be challenging to learn.
Mesh-editing Tools (not CAD software, but useful for making modifications to mesh models, i.e. STL files):
- MeshMixer: A free tool from Autodesk for editing mesh files (like STL files)
- MeshLab: Another free mesh editing tool, especially good for fixing issues and optimizing STL files.
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