Is 3D printing CAD software difficult?

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Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software isn’t exactly difficult, but it’s not a beginner-friendly application for 3D printing enthusiasts without an engineering background.
CAD software uses geometrical shapes to create 3D prints. Unlike other 3D printing software, working on CAD requires creating the 2D models of the item before you proceed to make a 3D model.
While using CAD software produces a more accurate 3D print compared to other 3D programs, it’s more complicated to execute. This is largely due to the attention to detail of the software – every line is precisely measured.

Is 3d printing CAD software difficult
Is 3d printing CAD software difficult

Reasons Why CAD Software is difficult

For those not sure if CAD software is worth using, here are reasons why you should consider CAD for your 3D printing:

  1. Faster 3D prints

The use of CAD software for 3D printing shortens the production process. With the software, 3D prints are created faster. This influences how quickly objects are made, which is something every manufacturer desires. 

  1. Improved quality

Managing the quality of a 3D print can be tough, and the choice of software can make or mar the process. 

By opting for the CAD software, designers can identify points of the 3D printing process that are responsible for a faulty print. This prevents wastage in the production process as errors are nipped in the bud during printing. 

  1. Flexible

With the CAD software, 3D designers can alter prints virtually – no need to make a physical product. This way, you can be economical in the production process, saving you money. 

  1. Sharing made easy

If you do 3D printing as a business, then you understand the importance of collaborating with team members. The CAD software allows you to achieve this through the sharing of designs, ensuring everyone is carried along. 

  1. Better accuracy

Compared to other 3D printing software, the CAD variant is more accurate. This isn’t unrelated to its precise measurements that reduces the chances of errors. 

Reasons Why CAD Software is not difficult

Despite the many perks of using CAD software, it still has several pitfalls. These include:

  1. Steep learning curve

CAD software isn’t easy to learn. Considering the level of precision involved in the application, the program isn’t something every 3D printing enthusiast can handle.

To get the hang of the CAD software, some engineering knowledge is needed, and not all designers have that. 

  1. Vulnerability issues

Being ‘computer-assisted’, means 3D designs made on CAD are at the mercy of the PC. They can get lost if the computer succumbs to any of its vulnerabilities like physical damage, virus, or others. 

  1. High initial capital

CAD software doesn’t come cheap. Setting up the software for use in 3D printing requires a substantial budget, which is something most startups can’t afford. Add the cost of training team members on the use of the CAD software, and it becomes a real burden. 

  1. Time factor

Due to the intricate learning curve of the CAD software, it will take a long time for most designers – especially those without an engineering background – to get acquainted with the program. This will affect the pace of the production process in the short run. 

   

Is 3D Printing With CAD Software Difficult?

The CAD software has a steep learning curve due to the intricacy of its content. 

For those familiar with technical drawing, 3D printing using the CAD software might not pose a challenge. 

Yet, not all designers are grounded in technical drawing – a prerequisite for those looking to use CAD for 3D printing. The result is a gridlock in the use of the software. 

Using CAD software for 3D printing isn’t extremely difficult; even a novice can spring up surprises with the application. But it might take some time for the designer to get familiar with the program. 

Tinkercad

Sometimes, all you need to navigate the complicated world of CAD software is the basics – and that’s precisely what Tinkercad hopes to achieve. This Autodesk web-app was created to help designers get settled into the CAD environment.

Unlike regular CAD programs, Tinkercad is free. You don’t have to worry about the cost of using the web-based app. 

The simplicity of Tinkercad is perhaps one of the things that endear the online application to many. No one struggles with Tinkercad as it’s easy to use. 

Despite the simplicity of Tinkercad, it’s still a worthwhile collection of tools for creating 3D designs. 

The interesting thing about Tinkercad is its versatility. The web-based app isn’t constrained to only the creation of 3D designs. It also deployed in coding, electronics, and much more. 

Tinkercad is a favorite in many learning places looking to get students started on their creative journey. The online application has lesson plans available to help kickstart the learning process, and this is available for free. 

Tinkercad is based on the use of geometrical shapes to create models. Designs originate from two categories of shapes – solids and holes. These shapes can be manipulated into the outline of any object. 

The interesting thing about Tinkercad is that you can easily import shapes into the web-based app using specific formats like STL, OBJ, and others. 

FreeCAD

For anyone looking to get first-hand experience with 3D designs, FreeCAD is a good place to start. Being an open-source ecosystem, there are no financial constraints to worry about. 

The interesting thing about FreeCAD is its parametric setup – changes to designs are achieved using parameters of the design. 

FreeCAD deploys the CAD principle of creating geometrical shapes in 2D that serve as the foundation for their 3D counterpart. 

On FreeCAD, there is the creative freedom to tweak dimensions towards attaining the desired 3D model. Unlike most CAD applications, FreeCAD can be used by anyone, regardless of their engineering background. 

It’s worth mentioning that FreeCAD is compatible with different operating systems, including Windows, Linux, and Mac. This makes the CAD software a popular choice among many. 

The flexibility of FreeCAD is in full display with a substantial number of readable and writeable formats available to the CAD software. This explains the growing adoption of FreeCAD among many. 

For such an open-source application, FreeCAD offers some valuable tools that any designer will marvel at. These tools include BIM, FEA, simulation modules for robots, Geodata, and more. Frankly, FreeCAD is the hub for everything engineering tools. 

3D Modeling Software

3D modeling software allows users to create three-dimensional designs in a virtual environment. 

There are several 3D modeling applications available, so making the right choice can be tough. Fortunately, picking the software that’s suited to your situation isn’t so difficult. 

To ensure you make the right call, confirm that the 3D modeling software is compliant with the best practices of the industry to which your project belongs to. 

Your pick of 3D modeling application should meet the needs of your project. If your project is in the civil engineering industry, then only 3D modeling software that supports the nitty-gritty of this industry should be considered. Remember that the tools required for designs within different industries aren’t the same. 

Another area often neglected when selecting a 3D modeling software is its technology requirements. At the core of each application is a technology with specific requirements such as licensing, minimum computer hardware setup, and others. Being conscious of these conditions increases your chance of settling for a high-performing 3D modeling software. 

3D Printer

These are machines that help in creating three-dimensional products with 3D modeling applications as worthy collaborators. 

The 3D printing process uses the additive principle to produce objects in three dimensions. Here, filaments are deposited in layers, resulting in a fully formed object. 

To create the object, a 3D printer uses filaments like PLA and ABS. Of course, this will depend on the product. 

Different filaments give the finished product-specific attributes such as toughness, flexibility, and others. 

Certain filaments are difficult to handle, and they affect the performance of the 3D printer, especially if the handler lacks the necessary experience. 

Beyond the filaments, 3D printers use different printing methods to achieve the desired result. These include Stereolithography, Multi Jet Fusion, Selective Laser Sintering, and others. 

These printing methods have attributes that affect the final product in different ways. Thus, using a 3D printer with a certain method should be done selectively based on the desired product. 

3D Design Software

These are often computer programs packed with tools for creating 3D models of objects. All 3D design applications differ in attributes, and this benefits certain projects compared to others. 

Regardless of the 3D design software that you’re looking at, ensure it’s compatible with your project. 

3D design software can either be for engineering purposes or industrial design, and each program has its biases, so check the allegiances of these applications before making that choice. 

Before you pick a 3D design software, you need to consider the operating system (OS) of your computer. This is important as most of these programs don’t support all the popular ones. You can easily identify the supported operating systems by assessing the specification of the preferred design software.

When selecting a 3D design software, there’s also the need to consider your expertise on the subject. If you lack an engineering background, then you shouldn’t go for the advanced CAD applications as they might take a long time to master. Instead, opt for design programs that are in sync with your expertise and project.

FreeCAD Software

For those looking for a 3D modeling software that’s free and open to all, FreeCAD is certainly a viable option. The open-source program helps users create designs of objects. 

One unique thing about FreeCAD is the parametric modeling approach that makes it possible to create distinct designs from previously created ones through adjustment in parameters of the latter. 

On FreeCAD, you can create designs in 2D, and these can be upgraded to 3D without any hiccups. This open-source program is loaded with features that ensure the easy creation of designs using existing models. 

FreeCAD supports multiple industrial designs, so everyone is bound to feel at home using the program. On FreeCAD, you don’t need to be an expert at designs – the software is built to help beginners become better at designing, not get weighed down by a steep learning curve. 

FreeCAD might be free for all, but the software doesn’t lose sight of what’s important: valuable tools. There are several features on FreeCAD that should suffice to help users create realistic designs for production purposes. Some of these tools include CNC workbenches, CFD, finite element analysis (FEA), and much more. 

The interesting thing about FreeCAD is its open-source nature. Anyone can provide solutions to bugs, issues affecting the software, and suggestions for improving the program. These are then transformed into changes aimed at enhancing the efficacy of the application. 

How To Use 3D Printer Software

A 3D printer doesn’t manufacture physical products out of thin air – the machine needs a design to make this happen. The designs required by a 3D printer are virtual 3D models of the object to be created.

There are computer programs that can be used to create these designs for onward transformation into products by the 3D printer. These applications are specifically meant for design creation, and they deploy a number of tools to actualize this.

With the creation of the design, it’s passed to the printer’s slicer that fragments the design into 2D layers, paving the way for the layers to be assembled into the desired 3D model. 

Depending on the 3D printer software, building up layers of a design shouldn’t be a difficult task as the application intuitively handles this process. 

The slicer’s activities are executed through the G-codes that are passed to the 3D printer by the software. On average, 3D printers have a slicer installed on the machine, but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, you might have to install one yourself, depending on the brand of the 3D printer. 

To maximize the use of the 3D printer software, you need to confirm its ideal user. If it requires a particular skill set, such as an engineering background, then you shouldn’t be using the software without that. Fortunately, there are lots of 3D printer programs that are perfect for those without this skill set.

Luis Gillman
Luis Gillman

Hi, I Am Luis Gillman CA (SA), ACMA
I am a Chartered Accountant (SA) and CIMA (SA) and author of Due Diligence: A strategic and Financial Approach.

The book was published by Lexis Nexis on 2001. In 2010, I wrote the second edition. Much of this website is derived from these two books.

In addition I have published an article entitled the Link Between Due Diligence and Valautions.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the information published on this website is accurate, the author and owners of this website take no responsibility  for any loss or damage suffered as a result of relience upon the information contained therein.  Furthermore the bulk of the information is derived from information in 2018 and use therefore is at your on risk. In addition you should consult professional advice if required.