3D modeling

Two types of Modeling:

1. “Mesh” modelers: video game modeling, animation, NOT very precise for engineering or printing. Hard surface modeling can be used for special effects, 3D printing, or animation.

2. “Nurbs” modelers: Precision modeling generated by CAD programs and used for engineering.

A general software progression to get a part ready for 3D printing:

1. Maya: Using Maya create a box model.

2. Zbrush: Then use Zbrush to add detail to your model. Zmodeler is the newest version of Zbrush.

3. Decimation Master: Using Decimation Master will reduce the poly (polygon) count on your Mesh (part/model) which will reduce the file size to make it easier to 3D print.

AutoDesk Meshmixer: is also designed to streamline 3D printing. It can also be used for modeling.


“Mesh” (Artistic) Modeling

– Zbrush: More of a consumer grade, the new version makes Maya less necessary. Many artists scetch in 3D using “Decimation Master” which is a plugin to preserve detail while making it easier for your computer to print. Zbrush does not have precision or measuring. “kitbashing” adult Legos IronKladstudios.com

– Sculptress: Free sculpting software. Similar interface as Zbrush and has the same functionality (made by Zbrush).

– Blender: Free software similar to Zbrush, a great way to learn Zbrush.

– Scetchup: by Google: it is not being updated enough and it is notorious for un-printable models.

 – 3D coat:

– Mudbox: 


Translator (Artists to Engineers) Modeling:

– MayaUsed by Hollywood production artists

Box modeling: Polygon table: Pedro Amaro Santos “how to.”

Ara Kermanikian Kermaco.com (presenter) : Author “Polysculpting” Email him if interested in his modeling class.

– Poly modeling: generally models are created using the lowest possible poly count.

– 3D models are available at Turbosquid, checkmate.

1. Always start with a cube.

2. Use “3” as a shortcut to smooth the edges (into a ball)

– Modo:

– Rhino:

– 3DS Max: 

– Meshmixer by Autodesk: Free software. Able to sculpt similar capabilities to Zbrush. Finds problem areas before sending to the printer. Places red balls to indicate the problem and prepares file for 3D printing.

– Net Fab: Free alternative to Meshmixer without the sculpting tools.

– Microsoft 3D Builder: Free software. Simple modeling Great for adding TEXT.

– Shapways: Great place to start 3D modeling.

“NERBS” (precision) Modeling:


– Inventor: 

– Solid works: (Two types: Catia and Enovia) considered the gold standard, generally used by engineers. No organic sculpting or modeling.

– Fusion 360: Best entry level software ($25 p/mo.) Creates forms with “T-splines” Forms which are organic in form. Similar to ZBrush in functionality. ($25 p/mo). Has a history bar to reverse engineer parts.

– 123 AutoDesk: Fee Modeling software. Spark: Open source “free” software that is brand new designed to reduce the limitations of previous software.

Tinker Cad:

Ipad Modeling software:

– Idraw: 

– Procreate: Doesn’t have vectors for building.

Places to Learn how to Model: 

– Gnomon school: Considered the MIT of 3D design schools.

– Zbrush Central:

– Pixelogic: Z classes

– Simply “Google”: “Online 3D modeling courses or schools”

Pre-modeled designs:

Thingiverse: lots of 3D designs available.

 Software to control the 3D printer:  Create the model => create an STL. file => Use Matter Control to control the Print head.

– Spark: An AutoDesk open source “free” project to reduce software limitations when 3D printing.

– Matter Control Desk top: Matter hackers: the interface software used by the printer to run the 3D machine (opensource).

Scetch pads used for modeling: 

– Wacome: 




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