Bringing a rough sketch or an idea in your head to reality is by far the best service that 3D printers provide. You can imagine a new creature or drawer box in your mind, design and develop it on your computer, and make it real with your 3D printer.
CAD programs are design tools that help you create digital models. This process usually starts by editing a simple shape or making a 3D model through 2D sketches. That’s where the difference between CAD programs lies.
However, there are websites like Thingiverse that provide a ton of free and ready to print files. So you can check these sites and find some cool projects too.
This article will take a closer look at AutoCAD and Blender when it comes to 3D printing to point out their similarities and differences.
Introduction to AutoCAD and Blender
AutoCAD is one of the first commercial computer-aided design (CAD) software from Autodesk company. Nowadays, many engineers, architectures, and anyone into drafting and 3D modeling can use this powerful software.
AutoCAD’s workspace. Many engineers use AutoCAD for drafting.
With AutoCAD’s help, you can design detailed sketches, define tolerance, and create 2D drawings from the model. However, many applications of AutoCAD are beyond the scope of 3D printing.
Suppose you want to design a functional part like a phone case. In that case, AutoCAD is an excellent option because you can easily specify different dimensions of the piece using dimension tools, grids, etc. However, it’s a lot harder to create an organic-looking print like an action figure with AutoCAD.
On the other hand, Blender is designed explicitly for creating artistic or natural models. Its open-source, so it is available for customization, making it very popular among the hobbyist community. It’s designed for both beginners and professionals to create 3D models, animation, art, video games, and visual effects.
Each CAD software is designed for special applications and users. So every person should pick one based on their needs, expertise, and budget. So here, we are looking at various criteria, like:
- Ease of use
- Support and community
- Future prospects
There are two main categories of CAD design styles. Each of them having different strengths and shortcomings. So let’s take a more in-depth look at how they work.
The functional modeling process mostly begins with a rough 2D sketch, adding exact dimensions to the drawing, and then making 3D shapes using the sketch. However, another approach is to combine or edit different objects to create complicated models.
You can find a simple example of this process in the picture below:
Modeling realistic objects like a dog or a tree is very time consuming with functional modeling because you need to create many sketches and convert them into 3D objects one by one.
However, you can create a dog’s head with organic modeling software in less than one hour. The process starts with simple geometry (Let’s say a cylinder) and then modify it into a complex shape.
An organic modeling program uses a mesh of interconnected triangles to simulate an object’s shape.
Creating a trunk with Blender, an example of Organic Modeling
If you’re a product designer and need to prototype something precise with quick and effective iterations, you need functional modeling. So AutoCAD is one of your top options, although there are other CAD softwares with geometric modeling, like Fusion 360 or EasyCAD.
On the other hand, if you are into art and organic-looking models, Blender is the best option for you.
Ease of Use
Blender has many features and tools which can make the interface daunting at first glance. However, the user interface has had many developments in recent years. Nowadays, Blender has remapped the user interface, making it a more easily used program for new users.
Blender also features a complete set of hotkeys that, once learned, become a great help to speed up the manipulation.
On the other hand, AutoCAD is not so easy to learn. You need to learn 2D sketching and basic 3D operations to begin the design process. However, once you grow familiar with the interface, you can feel the real power of AutoCAD and its precise modeling.
Support and Community
AutoCAD is marketed and managed by Autodesk, gigantic multinational software cooperation. There are many detailed tutorials, documentations, and a community forum on Autodesk’s official website.
AutoCAD is one of the first CAD software available since 1979. So there are many free tutorials and forums about it. You can also find helpful resources on Reddit and Quora.
But Blender is not too far behind in this aspect; with tons of information and supportive groups, Blender has developed an active community. You can find a solution for almost any problem related to it through supportive communities.
An annular AutoCAD subscription price is $1690, through the whole package is not necessary for 3D printing. AutoCAD LT is a limited version of AutoCAD, which is more than enough. Another option from Autodesk Company is Fusion 360. This software is very similar to AutoCAD but more straightforward and user friendly.
Blender is free and open-source, which means everyone can change it. So through many years, many developers created various Blender plugins with different usages. However, this feature has the drow back of several programming bugs, which can become problematic for 3D printing.
Learning CAD softwares has more benefits to it. For example, once you learn how to design 3D objects using Blender, more opportunities like animation and video game creation become available. Even big companies like Ubisoft create their characters with Blender, so they have related job offers.
AutoCAD is also a giant CAD tool for many engineering fields, architectures, and product designers. Learning AutoCAD in those fields can be a huge plus in your resume.
Final thoughts on ‘AutoCAD vs. Blender’
AutoCAD and Blender are both excellent programs though they have different applications. AutoCAD is capable of functional design so that you can use it for precise and straightforward geometries.
Blender, on the other hand, helps you with your artistic and lifelike designs. So you should pick the software which fulfills your needs most efficiently.
Note: In this article, we tried to compare the two software based on their application in 3D modeling. They have many other applications, and learning both of them is the best.