3D printing is most likely the next revolution in computers and many other industries. It allows you to create objects on demand to whatever dimension you need, using specialized ‘3D printers’. Entire industries can benefit from the capability, whether you are a designer interested in producing tangible prototypes quickly and inexpensively or a manufacturer interested in “printing” your own parts.
3D printing has been around for a few years but the real revolution is coming from inexpensive 3D printers that a business or household could purchase or build from kits. There are also several services online that will fabricate the designs you upload. netfabb Studio Basic is software that can create help create these designs easily, and is 100% free.
All of the word processing and photo editing software that we use on a daily basis is two-dimensional – it comes out on a piece paper. How do we design something for a 3D printer? Netfabb is one such piece of software that allows creating designs for your own 3D printers and is accepted by some of the online 3D printing services.
netfabb Studio Basic is the version of the software that is completely free and available for download. It runs on Windows, Linux, or Mac. The software allows you to work in three dimensions, rotating the piece you are working on as you need. You rotate by click and dragging with the right-click and you can zoom in and out with the scroll wheel.
You insert individual parts, either from primitive shapes or parts you have previously created, and then you can tweak them as needed. You can alter their height, length, width, radius, thickness, and many other part-specific properties that allows you to get exactly what you need. Individual parts can then be combined into a single project, moving them and scaling them as you need.
As a quick example, I tried to whip up a 3D FreewareGenius light bulb from the logo. I don’t think it turned out too poorly for a quick attempt at it and being terrible at all types of art:
There is also a free portable app called netfabb mobile for Android or iPhone. The app allows you to view .STL files on your mobile device, a capability further improving the rapid prototyping functionality.
A few other free 3D modeling applications that might be worth checking out include: Blender, SketchUp, OpenSCAD, and 3D Tin (browser-based) These were recommended for creating design from various 3D-printing services that I found online but I have not fully tested them as I did with netfabb Studio Basic.
The installer is a 7.7 MB download for the offline version. You can download it here. Registration is requested but not required for download or use. Version tested: 4.8
Photo credit: the 3D printing example photo above cropped from original found in this article.