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Blender Named Most Popular 3D Modeling Software for 3D Printing


Belgian 3D Printing service i.materialise researched the popularity of 3D design applications for 3D printing. They based their ranking on multiple factors, including community activity, youtube and more. Blender came out on top!

Fabian writes:

We did a research on the most popular 3D modeling software for 3D printing and found out that Blender has the biggest, most active community. Blender even beats SketchUp, Solidworks, and the Autodesk Family. You can find the entire report here:

About the Author

Avatar image for Bart Veldhuizen
Bart Veldhuizen

I have a LONG history with Blender - I wrote some of the earliest Blender tutorials, worked for Not a Number and helped run the crowdfunding campaign that open sourced Blender (the first one on the internet!). I founded BlenderNation in 2006 and have been editing it every single day since then ;-) I also run the Blender Artists forum and I'm Head of Community at Sketchfab.


  1. I'm not even sure if several of those software compared, like SketchUp and SolidWorks, even make for a good comparison as 3D printing software.

    • SketchUp is more for structural (architectural, interior design, engineering-style designs, concept art) designs. Even if some folks use it for 3D printing, its forté is illustration-style 3D design like architecture and vehicles.

    • Maya and Max target 3D modeling/animation far more than 3D printing, as Autodesk tends to target consumer-level and industrial 3D-printing with other their products, like MeshMixer and Fusion 360.

    • SolidWorks is purely industrial CAD/CAE/CAM work. Same's true with AutoCAD, Inventor, Fusion 360, and Rhino. Blender's not suited for this kind of work.

    • Sculptris has no 3D printing features at all and isn't even intended for such, so it doesn't even belong in this conversation.

    And the leftover mentions are generally obscure to most people and are too small with user base to even be named, like Wings3D, BRL-CAD, K-3D, and MoI3D.

    Products like MODO, Rhino, and maybe Tinkercad stand for better comparison. But it's no surprise at all if most people involved in 3D printing use Blender--it's significantly cheaper than MODO and Rhino and more developed than the simplistic Tinkercad.

    • I also wonder, What's being compared here: Just anyone who does any kind of 3D printing? Are they including the hobbyist/consumer-level 3D printing with the likes of industrial 3D printing?

      I would say that would rather skew the outcome, as well. There's a significant difference between industrial 3D printing, and consumer-level 3D printing. At least, in terms of comparing what software's being preferred.

      Companies that use expensive and complex software like Rhino and AutoCAD for expensive and complex industrial 3D printing will simply be outnumbered by the number of hobbyists at home with a 3D printer or people who use consumer-level services like Shapeways and Sculpteo.

      Thousands of people out there do 3D printing as enthusiasts. Naturally, most will turn to Blender, which is free and accessible. Nothing wrong with that, and I don't say this negatively or anything. That's a milestone in itself. But it does have to be kept in check, when speaking so generally about "3D printing."

      For instance, you can find quite a number of freelancing 3D sculptors at places like Polycount and ZBrushCentral who do work for toy companies, and from what I see, they tend to use ZBrush for readying sculpted action figures for companies like Mattel. If you go into a forum of a product design community (like Product Design Hub), you're most likely to see products like Rhino for Rapid Prototyping and MeshMixer for the conversion process in 3D printing.

      For specialized jobs, specialists use specialized tools. Most hobbyists prefer Blender, since it's available and plenty sufficient. Perhaps an asterisk should be used just to make the distinction of who all is being considered here in this article's given statistics.

      Though, I want to be clear, this isn't to detract from Blender's success here. This is no knock against Blender. I just want to be sure that when we claim something, it's kept in right perspective and that one doesn't take shortcuts in the analysis. Otherwise, other people will be quick to point out what I've pointed out, but against us as bias.

      • Addendum:

        And yes, I know they tried to take into account just who's doing the 3D printing, to distinguish "enthusiast" from "industry."

        But even their General Popularity vs. Popularity in the 3D printing community isn't the best way to measure the designers vs. enthusiasts.

        Anyone can visit a webpage and join a website, and anyone can merely MENTION a software--doesn't mean they prefer or recommend it.

        So, stats like "3D Printing Forum Mentions" and "3D Printing Google Score" are quite misleading. This is what I mean by "shortcuts in the analysis."

  2. I'm not sure how Solidworks and Blender can ever appear in the same survey. I recently had to reinstall SolidWorks on my work PC just so I can open designer's models and export them to STL for visualisation in Blender. It was a pig to install, requiring me to stop obscure individual processes in Task Manager, and add registry keys just so it would install. The IT guy here was incredulous. On top of that it costs £x,000 to purchase, £x,000 yearly per seat license, and if you don't upgrade each year they charge you for all the intervening years you didn't upgrade! Naturally, our company has had enough and is moving to Pro E. SolidWorks makes Adobe look like a generous, caring, charity.

  3. Hello everyone,

    I am new to 3D printing and currently looking for a software that I can use to create simple models. I have found a big list of 3d printing software in the Internet and Blender was there as well. However I am not sure if it is good for beginners like me. For example in the software list here it listed in as the software for professionals -

    Any feedback is greatly appreciated.

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