Slideshow: Content Creation Tools Push 3D Printing Mainstream

There’s been lots of talk lately about how the price of 3D printers is going down, how the choice of materials for 3D printing is expanding, and how improved accessibility of the technology is widening its use in a host of new industries, from medical applications to becoming an instrumental part of the engineering workflow around early prototyping.

Yet even with the flood of new, inexpensive, and more consumer-oriented 3D printers for hobbyists, and office-ready models for small and midsized engineering shops, there is still a sizeable bottleneck standing in the way of mainstream adoption. That is, the software used to create the 3D content.

Sure, there are the tried-and-true 3D CAD and NURBS-based modeling tools, but not everyone with the germ of a product idea is a CAD specialist, nor do they want to spend the time learning a complex product. Enter a new genre of low-cost (many even free) and easy-to-use 3D content creation tools. These offerings are making it easy for anyone — a CAD-savvy engineer or an aspiring hobbyist — to easily create a 3D model of their concept and output it via any one of a variety of low-cost 3D printers or 3D printing services.

What’s really exciting about this trend is that it’s the engine behind what many hope will be the next wave of American innovation — personal manufacturing. By putting the tools in reach, anyone with a compelling idea will be able to easily translate that concept into a physical working prototype without the baggage of full-blown CAD and without having to make the huge capital investments required for traditional manufacturing.

Click on the image below to take a look at some of the 3D content creation tools that will help drive this new personal manufacturing era.

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