Heart Gears by emmett (Opened in Wings3D)
While MakerBot Operators are more than happy to print the thousands of incredible objects posted to Thingiverse, eventually many catch the design bug and reach out for guidance for how to get started designing models.
Your mission: to create a solid, manifold (“watertight”) STL-formatted file for importing into ReplicatorG. STL, created as the format for stereolithographic CAD files, is a ubiquitous format, so the design application options are vast. ReplicatorG also offers experimental OBJ and Collada file import capability — though the files are then converted into STL files. (You can open dozens of file formats in MeshLab, netfabb Studio Basic or similar 3D swiss army knife tools — and then export as binary or ASCII STL files, opening up even more models to ReplicatorG.)
Choosing Your Hammer
8-bit Heart by schmarty (3DTin.com image)
For design software, there are many powerful free and open source design tools for us to introduce to Operators. Favorites include 3dtin.com, Sketchup, OpenSCAD, Wings3D, and Blender. We have heard about but not experimented much with POV-ray (excellent tutorials here), FreeCAD, HeeksCAD, and Art of Illusion — apps that have serious fans in the 3D printing world.
Plastruder MK5 Solidworks 2011 Model by kai
For commercial solid CAD apps: Rhino (Mac users — jump on the free beta), Autodesk Autocad, Inventor, Creo, and SolidWorks are probably the biggest players in the field. But perhaps you don’t have upwards of $1k to spend on design software? Try the highly-capable $99 Alibre Personal Edition, Cheetah3D (mac only), or bonzai3d.
Below the fold is a handy five step exercise for brand new designers to get their feet wet with 3D modeling.
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