Why do we choose a particular software for anything? Normally, because we want to be wowed with features that will make our lives easier and impress the world with how awesome and spectacular our creative work is.
Choosing software products can be intimidating and overwhelming if you let it be, and if you choose to veer off the path of the tried and true. Sometimes that’s necessary and often just fun, but with 3D modeling, there aren’t just several tried and true software products–because the industry is still in somewhat of a fledgling state (shedding that more and more each day)–there is a long list of up and coming awesome software, and a lot of good stuff out there to try.
We can’t take it all on, so thankfully i.materialise recently compiled a list of the Top 25 most popular 3D modeling software tools users are enjoying today. Looking at a number of different factors, and also using our 3DPrintBoard as a tool, the experts at i.materialise had to be very thoughtful in deciphering which software programs actually do function as most popular.
“Simply looking at the number of users of a certain software would create a misleading picture: while some programs were created especially for 3D printing communities (like Tinkercad) others are mostly used by visual artists and game designers – and barely by 3D printing enthusiasts,” stated the i.materialise team in their blog.
Before getting started on the results, it’s important to note that i.materialise put comprehensive, real-world data into this study, analyzing statistics not only from social media and page rankings, but also from:
- 3D printing forum mentions, as in 3DPrintBoard.com
- 3D printing video mentions, as in YouTube
- 3D printing databases, as in how many 3D models are mentioned in conjunction with software
- 3D printing Google score, due to mentions tied with 3D printing
It’s a sheer popularity contest without regard to quality, although we think it’s safe to say that hordes of users hone in on a particular software for positive reasons regarding productivity and quality output.
While there are of course many debates within the industry, and you will find them on our forum as well, regarding which software is best, which is buggy, and which has potential, you simply can’t ignore the numbers–and they show Blender as the most popular 3D modeling software.
Open source and even still evolving, Blender is shown to be the clear winner, and has a fan base particularly fond of sharing within their community that makes vast use of the free software’s many tools, despite a learning curve for many. Obviously, users on all levels find Blender to be worth any amount of effort.
Many are probably surprised to see that SketchUp was not in the number one spot. Close. As the runner-up, while this product is known as a user-friendly medium excellent for beginners, it’s also in use by a wide range of professionals, and is very popular with the educational sector as well.
“SketchUp also recently facilitated prepping and sharing 3D printable objects and thus it’s likely that its ‘database score’ will increase even further in the near future,” states the i.materialise team on their blog.
The next spots give way to very solid software that we see many innovators using over and over with spectacular results, with SOLIDWORKS, AutoCAD, and Maya. These are definitely seen commonly in the professional arena and are obviously highly respected go-to tools.
While i.materialise expressed some surprise over seeing Tinkercad as high up as number eight, we do see the program very routinely used and, again, a tried and true favorite in the educational sector. They point out that it tends to be a gateway software that’s great for beginners to cut their teeth on and then move to more advanced software.
It is more of a surprise to see Rhino and Grasshopper ranked separately and a bit lower, coming in respectively at 13th and 19th. Because of their features and differentiations, the two were separated; however, if they had been grouped together, i.materialise calculated that the two combined together would have had 10th place. Categorized as niche software, we are warned not to be put off by the numbers here.
“Niche products also have a hard time scoring well on this list – which doesn’t mean that they are any less worthy,” states the i.materialise team. “ZBrush (which ranked 9th) is hands-down the most popular digital sculpting software. When creating figurines, magical creatures, and any other organic object it’s probably the mightiest software to go with.”
While ZBrush is a software program we hear about often from innovators and 3D printing enthusiasts on many levels, so are 123D Design coming in at 11th and OpenSCAD at 12th. At position number 14 is MODO from The Foundry, a 3D modeling product which we’ve written reported on previously with interest as they are quite specialized for gaming, moviemaking, and serious design projects.
The i.materialise team also makes special note of software products such as MoI3D at number 21.
“Here it is important to acknowledge that some publishers that do not follow an aggressive online marketing strategy,” states i.materialise. “MoI3D for example does not have an official Facebook page or Twitter account. Most of its community sticks to MoI’s very own discussion board and looks for resources on MoI’s wiki platform. It’s only logical that the score of a software that searches less external exposure will be understated.”
The last four programs are up and comers we should all keep an eye on, in the form of:
There are obviously many different software programs that didn’t make the list that are worth exploring, and i.materialise makes special note of many other 3D modeling software names you may want to recognize, as well as explore.
Discuss your thoughts on these numbers, as well as the programs themselves in the Top 25 Most Popular 3D Modeling Software Programs forum thread over at 3DPB.com.