3D Program for modelling

Hi guys!

I’m kind of new to this whole 3D modelling and printing world, but I just bought my X1C machinge. I was wondering if anyone had any advice on what program I could use to make my own models as a beginner?

I don’t usually print sculpted models, more “engineering” models.

Preferably something that is free or doesn’t cost me a leg and a arm each month. :slight_smile:



You’ll get various answers towards this question since there’s a handful of 3D CAD software out there being used.

From my experience using a handful of them I also stick to a budget and don’t wanna sell my limbs to pay for it. So with that, I’ll always recommend (Autodesk Fusion)

Some benefits are stated here

  • Free Personal Use version (Restricted selling designs/models)
    ~ How they know? It’s tethered in the “Cloud” and autodesk scans everything on the internet when it comes to their software being used.
    Now this doesn’t mean you couldn’t but be careful if you’ll be making big profits.

  • Paid Version $650/yr (This was marked way up after Jan. 29th 2024)
    ~ Price before was around $325 or so for over a decade until autodesk was completely honest and stated “Due to a rise in demand of our software” they raised it…

  • Start Up Business Deal
    ~ If you at least have 1 other (Team Member) and utilize a business email, website, registered over 1 year. You’ll be able to “Apply” for a start up license which costs ($150 now… used to be free) and gain access to the full copy for 3 years with up to 10 members on your team which each member would need to pay $150 but that’s a heck of a lot cheaper than $650…

  • Ease of Use
    ~ User friendly and probably one of the CAD’s with the most tutorial videos on youtube. Plus autodesk hosts a bunch of videos themselves.

So basically it’s user preference and what you want to do and how you’d want to do it.

You’ll find

  • SolidWorks
  • Onshape
  • TinkerCAD (Owned by Autodesk)
  • MasterCAM (Some will know this but it’s not very likely)
  • BoBCAD
  • AutoCAD

Fusion gets the job done for me relatively easy and inexpensive so I’ve used it the past 7 years. I only HATE the fact they implemented a “Microtransaction” type setting within the software basically charging “FLEX tokens” or monthly/yearly payments to have additional design features… these can only “help” make designs faster but you honestly don’t need them and if you’re new to CAD then id suggest learning from the ground up anyways but they do allow people to pay to use functions like (Snap Fit, Lid, Geometric Patterns, etc) 1 click and some parameters and you have the feature added to your design basically, so you cut corners for a cost.

Hope this helps your decision!


you can use Fusion 360 for free as a private individual. There are also many videos on YouTube as instructions for beginners.


Nearly everyone uses fusion360. It’s very powerful. It is well supported by all manor of tutorials on youtube. A few people use solidworks because they either learned it in school or use it at their job. Like Fusion360, it is also very powerful.

Tinkercad is easy to pickup, but you will encounter its limitations very quickly. In my view, it’s a dead-end unless all you will ever do is stupidly simple things. I’d recommend not wasting any time on it.

A small number of people use freecad or onshape.



Thank you for the reply!

I have only used Maya before for 3D animations and game assets. But I don’t remember any of it at this point. I think I might give Fusion360 a try, since I’m not gonna sell anything, I’m just making stuff for personal use.

Any tips for a newbie in Fusion360? :slight_smile:

Today it is simply called Fusion. As mentioned lookup youtube videos about Fusion 360, F360, Fusion (prob wont get too many hits on that) as there will be some training material there. Autodesk has various forums you could use for searching on topics too.

Not sure about Maya so maybe this is nothing to consider but a frequent problem with people attempting Solid modeling is they tend to want to bring their AutoCAD or 2D drafting skills to the table - and that’s where the problem begins.

Common mantra when people post on Autodesks Inventor forum attempting to compare to AutoCAD is usually told immediately “Inventor is not AutoCAD”.

So if you have any 2D drawing skills, while those come in handy for the initial sketch used to make a solid feature the similarity stops there. But that’s a bridge you may not have to cross.


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During their transition they’ve also shifted naming it “Fusion” lol

Play with it and watch tutorials.

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Ask 20 people and chances are you will get 20 different answers…

So let me ask instead with what you are already familiar in terms of creating things…
Photoshop maybe? A touchpad for sketches or drawings ?
Perhaps some block based little app more like Lego brick with benefits ?

Depending on what you are familiar with a CAD program can be very easy to get used to or very frustrating.
Plus the question of how much money, if any you want o invest…

I am an old fart and unlike old dogs don’t really like learning new computer program tricks just because…
Many people will shake their heads now but I create all my designs with Sketchup - an architectural CAD program with many ‘flaws’ in terms of creating models for 3D printing.
And things programs like AutoCad make look like childs play can be a total nightmare with just the basic tools Sketchup provides.
But like you, almost all of my designs are of a technical nature, not artwork or sandbox modelling…
I can get away with STL files of a few hundred kb where similar or near identical creations by people using ‘more dedicated’ programs require a few mb or MUCH more if no CAD program was used…

Here is the best I can offer:
Do a jump to Youtube and search for programs to create models for 3D printing.
You will find a lot of tutorials and such but also quite a few comparisons between the various programs.
Don’t worry too much about how these people do the things, check if YOU think you could get used to the required workflow and how the tools are used :wink:
Pay attention to whether or not is a subscription based/paid program and what the conditions are in terms of private and commercial use - the later is important if you want to sell you creations.
Found something ?
Great! Now check some beginner tutorials for the program…
Does it APPEAL to you ?
I mean this in terms of looking like you could repeat it if you had the program to follow the tutorial so that it has a chance to stick ?
It will be a learning curve, don’t get me wrong and you will have to learn new tricks so to say…
But if the how to of this tutorial seems like too much or too complicated check other options first where the program might offer a bit less but provides a better usability.
If you stick to more or less free programs you can always transition to something offering the lot once you know figured out how to transform your idea into a model on the screen.
Some programs are great and easy to use for one thing while a different program might allow you to avoid spending hours or creating a complex design the other does with a few clicks.
Like creating and accurate thread for a screw fitting with printing tolerances already included…
TAKE YOUR TIME, especially before deciding on a paid option in the higher price range…

If it is for engineering/functional parts, and you you have good visualisation. and can understand the importance of syntax in code, then openscad is very entertaining. If you want to push things around with a mouse/trackball, then freecad is also opensource and free.

Good argument there, considering that you’ve already lost an arm and a leg just by buying the X1C combo :sweat_smile:

Now your question touches two aspects: (1) 3d modeling software , and (2) using free 3D files to print with your X1C.

(1) There are plenty of 3D modeling software out there, but free versions are but a few, and none is suitable for a newbie in the field, except, perhaps,
Thinkercad.com which is, most likely, your stepping stone in the world of 3D modeling (https://www.tinkercad.com/).

For free 3D print files, just Google for “free stl” or “free stp” files and have fun browsing through them.

Good luck and welcome to the 3D world

Some great advice in here now! Thank you guys :smiley:

I think I’ll just start with TinkerCAD, then move over to something bigger when I have learned the basics :slight_smile:

Since you don’t have any CAD experience you could look at FreeCAD or a spinoff of FreeCAD called ‘Ondsel’. It took me about a month to become proficient enough to draw almost anything in FreeCAD that I could do in Fusion. It was a pretty steep learning curve coming from Inventor / Fusion. I used the paid version of Fusion when it was AU$400 a year, I cancelled my sub when it hit $600. They refused to fix bugs in the core application, all they seemed to do was add more paid add-on features.

The price in Aus now is around $1000/year which I will never pay. I switched to linux and FreeCAD is my only option. It’s been well worth it as I refuse to be annuity income for billionaire psychopaths :rofl:

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I tried several programs.

For years, I’ve used SketchUp for woodworking projects, but it just felt awkward for 3D print models.

My typing is too poor for OpenSCAD to work for me, since it builds models from text.

Freecad was decent, but the interface is inconsistent, making it difficult to find features and use the various tools. I struggled for hours one day trying to build a particular model in FreeCad, the tools were just not cooperating. So I gave up and downloaded Fusion.

In about 30 minutes, my model was printing. I would not call Fusion easy to use, but it is more intuitive to me. YouTube is a great help, tutorial playlists from Product Design Online, Desktop Makes, and Lars Christensen taught me the basics. When I get stuck on something, a simple search for “Fusion something” will find instructions and examples.


Sheesh man you called, we answered lol :rofl:

Also not to mention check out “MakerLab”
By the looks of it they just added a really dang useful lab

“Parametric Model Maker”
looks like its running openSCAD and a bunch of custom scripts for EZ models

I’ve been using the Shapr3D beta and really like it.

I was getting very frustrated with Fusion. Shapr3D really does make it easy and is very intuitive.


I also came into the 3D world through animation years ago (Lightwave, Cinema4D). There is a difference in the mechanical design programs from the animation based. That has to do with animation programs being polygon based, and engineering design being parametric based, which is math based. The approaches to modeling are very different. Kind of like the difference between a pixel paint program like photoshop, and vector based program like Illustrator. However, both methods have their place.

I look at it this way-
organic designs- polygon based modeler
“engineering”- (basically anything that needs accurate, specific dimensions) parametric modeler.

Organic- Blender Has a very good sculpt feature in it. If you decide to learn that along with a parametric modeler, send me a message and I’ll give you a suggestion for beginner Blender tutorials.

Their is a BlenderSketch plugin to give you tools similar to parametric modelers, but it’s still in beginning stages ,so you do not have a full set of tools. Not ready yet for full scale design.

Free parametric modelers
For the ones with pay for versions in this section, if you want to step up to a paid for version, the modelers are subscription based. One time pay in the next section.

FreeCAD- always free. Powerful in many ways, but has some quirks in it you need to know. Also, a slew of tutorials, but from my experience, beginner tutorials across the board are mediocre at best. You will have some frustrations with learning it.

TinkerCAD- web based, free. Works well for really basic stuff, but beyond that, getting results can become very time consuming.

Sketchup Free- web based, better than TinkerCAD for more complex items. Have seen a couple of people that design for their print farms using it. It was designed primarily as a architectural program, but people use it for model and part design. No personal experience with it.

Shapr3D was already mentioned.

Onshape- free version is non commercial. It requires all of your models to be public and stored on their cloud at the free level. Not as steep of a learning curve as the other parametric modelers, but boy is their pay for program steep.

Fusion 360- most widely used. Has a number of limitations like all the others. Excellent program

SolidEdge Community Edition- Free, limits placed on functionality like the others. Another excellent program

DesignSpark Mechanical- limited features at free level. Appears to be a good program, but the tutorials available were mostly for older versions and the interface has changed so much, the old ones are worthless. I know because I went to try this one out. Just saw they’ve finally put out some new tutorials. Has the lowest costs of any of the subscription based modelers

Non free after trial, but not subscription based.

Plasticity- only free for the 30 day trial, and the cost for the first level (Indie) is not prohibitive, but be aware you only get one month to upgrade to the pro version after buying the Indie level w/o having to pay the full price. Probably the easiest to learn for someone with polygon based modeling experience as it was designed for that. Actual purchase, not a subscription. People coming from polygon modelers seem to love it in their reviews.

Alibre- has been garnering excellent reviews. Basic level is reasonable, but misses some key features like thread creation. One time payment, big jump in price from the beginner level to the pro level


I use Alibre Atom 3D and it does threads without problems. What it doesn’t do is import 3d models and perform Boolean operations. I like to save models and unlike free Fusion you can save all models and export high quality step models. I haven’t found anything it can’t do once you know how it works.

For Boolean operations i’m looking into plasticity. The only issue I’m finding with this program is all the hot keys you need to know and remember the next time you want to use it. So far it looks promising and it seems like the new features are being added all the time.

Both programs are pay once however Alibre has a yearly maintenance fee if interested.

Interesting as I was going off their website which leaves thread creation unchecked for Atom3D. Nice to know. Can you take a quick look and see what else may be included that their comparison page doesn’t have listed?

Will quote that and put it into my post.

So this version allows work arounds. In fusion you tell it 7/16-14 and it creates the thread. In Adam3d you helix cut a triangle around a cylinder. It’s a hobby version so it will takes more to do something. Since it’s parametric you can print and then tweak that thread shape and try it again. I really like parametric programs.

Not all cad programs are parametric based. Well, maybe some are introducing more of those features, but it’s not what defines a cad program. Look at Rhino or Alias Studio. Polygons can be driven by parametric values too, like uhh, I think Houdini is one of those programs. Maya’s nurbs tools are very similar to those you find in Alias Studio and Rhino, and you can do cad level of work in there with those tools.

I mean shoots and ladders, I did all my early “cad” work in 3D Studio Max. It’s got all the tools you need to dimension things. It’s much easier and quicker to use than something like Fusion360.

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