Due to the creation of UNISURF, 3D modelling has been around since the ’60s, but the technology and software was only made available to the general public in the ’80s, thanks to the introduction of computers in homes and offices. Companies that offered computer aided design software also started catering to individuals and small companies, instead of just large corporates.
As new technology becomes available and in order to keep up with an every expanding user base, 3D modelling software developers are always releasing improved versions of their products to stay up to date with these continuous changes and demands.
Product Design vs Prototyping
While they might seem rather similar, product design and prototyping are two totally different processes.
Product design is simply the physical and visible characteristics of a product. Deciding on aspects such as packaging, shape, colors and size are all part of the product design process. Prototyping on the other hand deals with the inner workings of a product, how all the nuts and bolts, electrical wiring and movable parts work in order to create a functional product.
For products that are merely decorative or static, there is no real need for prototyping, but for products that have more practical purposes, it is definitely a must. It can then be said that product design falls more into a designer’s area of expertise while an engineer would be more suited to building prototypes.
3D Modelling Software Options for Product Design
3D design and prototyping is cost effective and less time consuming than more traditional methods, and using digital tools helps speed up the development of a product from the first concept right through to its introduction to market.
If you’re currently in the process of researching software, you’ll know that Autodesk is one of the biggest names in 3D modelling and design today, but it’s definitely not the only option. There are several other smaller organizations that have developed their own software with both free and paid versions. Even some of the larger companies out there seem to be trying to get a piece of the Autodesk market share, which is currently at 85%.
One of the most important differences between Autodesk’s offering and that of other companies is price. Autodesk Inventor, which is used for prototyping, is being offered at the exorbitant price of 8,250 euros, or 9,234 USD. Rhino, which offers software with similar capabilities, can be purchased for 995 USD.
This disparity in pricing is not however a money grabbing scheme by Autodesk, but instead speaks to the differences in features and capabilities. Rhino is definitely similar to Autodesk Inventor, but it’s not equal. So if you’re thinking about purchasing a cheaper alternative to Autodesk’s software, keep in mind that you might be making some compromises in terms of features, customer support, quality assurance and compatibility.
If you’re a beginner however, starting with free or freemium software options is a great start. These options offer all the basic features and will still allow you to produce great work. Once your skills and needs change, you can look at software that offers more advanced features.