Blender 3D: Powerful 3D Software with Supportive Community… Plus, It’s Free
Blender 3D is the open source, cross platform suite of tools for 3D creation
Developed by Ton Roosendaal of the Blender Foundation, the Blender 3D software is free and open source design software with an enthusiastic following as well as a colorful and well documented history. Though it’s geared primarily for the film and video gaming industries, Blender works just fine designing objects for 3D printing. For example, French 3D printing service Sculpteo integrates the program into its service, enabling users to upload Blender 3D models directly via the software’s interface.
The program itself is widely compatible with Windows, OS X, Linux and FreeBSD. The current stable release is version 2.62 though, very recently, the Foundation released a preview version 2.63rc1.
At 115 MB, Blender takes up minimal space on your desktop. Users familiar with other 3D software may find Blender’s learning curve somewhat steep. In some ways the interface is rather intuitive, but sometimes not so much. In terms of power, however, Blender is almost on par with some industry grade, proprietary software which costs a whole lot more than—well… free.
This 3d program is somewhat unique in that it has amassed a large and loyal following. A plethora of support websites—in at least 18 different languages—have cropped up around the web. Indeed, many beginners learn how to use the program from tutorials on these websites, while others can figure it out by reverse engineering existing Blender 3D models.
A Brief History
Blender is named after a track on Yello’s Baby album. Ton Roosendaal had initially authored Blender 3D as a replacement for the in-house 3D animation application of Dutch animation studio NeoGeo (which he had also founded). Then, in 1998, Roosendaal launched Not a Number Technologies (NaN) to proliferate the program publicly, though that firm went belly up in 2002. Later that same year, Roosendaal formed the non-profit Blender Foundation to carry on the development and promotion of Blender as an open source project. One could argue that, truthfully, the community has been as instrumental in shaping the program as has Roosendaal or the Foundation itself.
Why Should You Go with Blender 3D?
Fans love Blender’s small install size and modest hardware requirements, and the software’s power and functionality place it almost on par with higher end and considerably more expensive 3D software. The not-so-intuitive interface is offset by an enthusiastic user community which has erected informative websites, tutorials and discussion forums to guide newbies along the learning curve. Feel ready to take on Blender? Or maybe you’d just like to learn what all the hubbub is about. Either way, it’s worth checking out their informative website at blender.org.
Take Your 3D Modeling to the Next Level
So, say you’ve downloaded Blender 3D or one of the other 3D modeling applications out there (for profiles and comparisons of software, take a look at our 3D-software page). What’s next? Exciting new developments in 3D printing technology enable you to translate the shapes you design on your computer into real, solid objects. A number of companies offer 3D printing services that cater to clienteles ranging from engineers and inventors to designers and artists, even to hobbyists and enthusiasts. See our 3d-printing comparison for a detailed look at the Web’s top 3D Printing Services.