Closed source Free software and conclusion (3/3)

Closed source Free software and conclusion (3/3)

PTC Creo Elements.

PTC Creo elements is a non parametric, direct modeller.

It is a striped down version of their full parametric modeller, but has all the features you properly need when starting to 3D model.

Restrictions of the free version:
Online connection required for license verification.
Can be used commercial: Unknown, please contact the developer.

Get it at:

Fusion 360.

Fusion 360 is a professional technical design package, that reminds me of professional packages such as Solid Works.
It is a parametric modeller, with several workspaces or modules, such as CAM model, a render module, and more…
It can be used by hobbyists or companies for free, or if your company makes less then 100,000 USD a year. A yearly license can then be bought for $400, which is still cheaper than a Solid works license.

Fusion 360 is a hybrid stand alone/cloud application.
All your designs are stored in the cloud (downloading them is possible), but the main application runs on your computer.
Offline working is possible for a maximum of 2 weeks.

Fusion 360 is updated quite frequently, and options and improvement are added monthly.
I used Fusion 360 for the 3D printing workshops I gave in London, one-to-one training and CAD sessions and for my own designs. The reason I use Fusion 360 is that it is a mature software package, with great community support.
And, it is free as well for educational use, hobbyists and startups.
Autodesk might well change the free usage policy at some point, but I believe Fusion 360 won’t dissappear, as they have put loads of effort in the product.

For me, the Sculpting (sub division), rendering and the CAM module are the most attractive. The downside for me is that Fusion 360 needs an internet connection-in my last studio I didn’t have an internet connection for 4 months. Also the fact that Fusion takes a while to start up and asks for my login details every time, is something that really slows me down. Sometimes I have an idea, and want to quickly 3D model it.

One of my designs, a ring made in F360 web version.

Get it at:
Windows, Mac OS.
Autodesk is working on a web version of F360, so it might work on Linux as well.

There are several (including mine) Fusion 360 courses available on Pluralsight:
Claas Kuhnen also has some great Fusion 360 video’s on Youtube:
Video of an artist- Phil Luland using Fusion for his sculptures:


SketchUp was originally designed as an architecture package.

In SketchUp it is quite easy to create 3D models by sketching in 2D and then extruding to create a 3D shape. You can then make new 2D sketches on your 3D model, that can be pushed back or extruded.

As SketchUp comes in two flavours, Make and Pro, the Make version can’t be used commercially, and is missing some functions that can be found in the pro version.

When Google still owned Sketchup, Make could be used commercially, up to version 8.
A professional Sketchup license costs $400 a year.

There is no Boolean or STL export function, for example.
The great thing about SketchUp is that it can be expanded with the big range of available plugins, so the free version can be upgraded with STL export functionality.
I used SketchUp for the screenshots and designs of my book, 3D Printing Projects. 20 designs for your 3D printer.

Get it at:
Win, Mac OS, web based for linux ?

Mesh Mixer.
Meshmixer is a tool from Autodesk.
Meshmixer lets you repair your 3D files for 3D printing.
Meshmixer does this with standard repair tools, but also has a shrink wrap function that preserves sharp edges. This function is mostly found in professional paid packages such as Matirialise Magics or Netfabb.
It also has some sculpting and mesh editing tools, such as a voronoi pattern generator.

Get it at:
Win, Mac OS

Artcam free.

Artcam Free is used to generate 2D toolpath from vector files.
It is a striped down version of the professional Artcam CAM package.
It has some great tools for vectorizing Bitmap files to vector files.
Artcam free is offered by Autodesk.

Get it at:


Sculptris is a sculpting package.
It has a quite unique way of creating 3D models.

Instead of working with primitives, you start off with a digital blob of clay that you can manipulate.
Sculptris was developed in 2009, and the latest release is from 2011.

Sculptris is bought from the previous developers by Pixollogic in 2011, who are well known for their Z brush sculpting package. I think they offer Sculptris for free to introduce people to sculpting software, and later on might want to upgrade to the paid version, Z brush.

Get it at:


As you can see, there is a big range of free software available-open source offered by developers.

These days 3D software is not only used by big companies that make use of Catia, but it is now used by small startups, artists and hobbyist. This is reflected in the availability of free and open source packages.

I think the popularity of 3D printing, desktop manufacturing and the makers movement, as well as the internet, has a made a big contribution to this all.

As I’m sure I’ve missed out on some other free packages that are available, this is just a selection of tools that I use or came across. If you know of any others, please let me (and other readers) know in the comments.

I hope this post was a source of inspiration to start 3D modeling and digital making.