Free and Inexpensive 3D software for Inventors to Create Sell Sheets

by Tara

There are a lot of different ways you can create images of your invention idea in order to produce your sell sheet and hopefully sell the idea in to a potential licensee. One of the ways I have been creating my sell sheets is with the use of 3d software. One of the benefits of 3D software is it can make your product visuals look almost real and I also use it for some of my design clients who want to present their products to potential clients. Not many years ago 3D software used to cost an absolute fortune, but now you can get a highly capable piece of 3D software from completely free to a few hundred dollars. Check out some of the low cost and free 3D options below.

Low Cost

Cheetah 3D – $149 (Mac Only) – UPDATE CURRENTLY ON SALE FOR $99
The 3D software I use is Cheetah 3d which is a Mac only piece of software which is very user friendly if you already are comfortable with mac graphics software. You can also buy a set of tutorial videos to guide you through the program for $29. You can try out a save disabled version of Cheetah 3D for free.

Strata 3D – SE version $49, CX version $699 (Mac and PC)
I also use Strata Design 3D CX ($699) which I find good for geometric modeling, but not as good for organic (curvy) modeling as Cheetah 3D. The Strata Design 3D SE version of Strata is cheaper ($49) but has a cut down amount of the modeling tools. You can download a demo version of the CX product.

Free 3D Software

Blender 3D (Mac and PC)
Blender
is a free, very capable piece of 3D software (just check out the gallery to see what I mean) and I have downloaded it several times and dabbled with it, but have always given up quite quickly as it has quite a complicated interface. I just downloaded the latest version and although still complicated it has definitely improved and now has the added bonus of some free tutorial videos plus there are also now several blender tutorial books available.

Rhino 3D Mac Beta (Mac only paid full version available for PC)
I haven’t had chance to play with Rhino 3D beta yet, but have just downloaded a free beta version for Mac. Rhino is usually a paid piece of software available on on a PC, but as they are creating a Mac version for future release, there is currently a beta Mac version available for free. Obviously as it is a beta version there may be more bugs in it than a completed piece of software.

Autodesk123D PC Beta (PC Only)
Autodesk have released a beta version of their 3D modelling application Autodesk123D for free. It’s currently PC only so I haven’t been able to test it. I have noticed there are many requests for a Mac version so hopefully this will happen in future.
Source: Inventornotes.com

Google SketchUp (Mac and PC)
Google has a free 3D modeller called Sketchup available for download for Mac and PC

More Free 3D Design Software

Pov-Ray Mac, PC, Linux
3D Crafter
PC only
Wings 3D
Mac, PC, Linux

25 (Free) 3D Modeling Applications You Should Not Miss
A fantastic post on the Honkiat.com blog – all that’s missing here is a note telling you which ones are Mac or PC compatible

3-D CAD Models – How to Prototype Just About Anything
A great blog post on Stephen Bozzone’s Invention Addict Blog which includes a list of Free CAD software (some are just demos)

Need a Free Photoshop Alternative for Enhancing your 3D Models or Creating Textures

To created textures or edit your rendered 3D model you will need a photo editing program, fortunately there are some free solutions available such as Gimp (Mac and PC), Picasa from Google or check out 10+ Best Free or Open Source Photoshop Alternative Software

 

 

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sandi - GizmoSandi July 5, 2011 at 11:39 am

Thanks so much for posting this. Blender was the first one I started with and I couldn’t figure it out. I LOVE Cheetah. It’s so easy to use and it’s incredibly affordable. I found the video tutorials ($29 USD) to be a great help too!

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Tara July 5, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Hi Sandi, I like Cheetah too – from the visuals I have seen that you have done you are getting good at it too :)

Reply

Tara July 6, 2011 at 8:11 am

My thanks to Chuck Lamprey for alerting me to the fact that Cheetah 3D is currently on sale for $99

Reply

Stephen B. July 12, 2011 at 2:22 am

Tara,

Thank you for the mention. I have some new CAD software that I’m using (SolidWorks) and I can make some really realistic renderings.

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