3D software comparison (chart)

Like other designers in business and academia, we were always looking for up-to-date software comparison charts. Since none seem to exist for industrial designers, we started to cobble something together that might be useful for initial decisionmaking. Not in terms of that never-ending story “what is the best …”, but rather “what is it for?”, “what can it do?” and “what does it cost?”. Comments and additions are welcome, it’s a start…



That was a lot of work.

Well, there are just so (too?) many options out there right now. By demand, this update includes now Luxology LLC’s modo 302 and two additional proven modeller <-> renderer connections.


Really nice collection. I (and others) have been calling on Core to put together something similar as it relates to the different design professions. This works well in describing what each platform does, and how it works. And yes, must have been a lot of work.

Please post what is missing, wrong or should be included. Once such overview is near completion, it’s relatively easy to maintain…

A lot of work obviously went into it - but I’d have to say it still comes off as just as confusing as picking the packages itself.

Rather then organizing by manufacturer you may be better off listing by software/math type (Polygon/surface/solid tools) and organizing into those silos, which as far as I’m concerned is the BIGGEST issue when picking a package.

Might be interesting to organize it in an interactive way by filters. IE a list of dropdown boxes that could limit your choices to compare with.

This data-mapping was done from an European industrial designer’s point of deliberation. That never-ending story: What to use for modelling, what to use for rendering. Luckily, there are many options out there at present. But, then again, each industry has a certain workflow. Years ago, it used to be simpler, because a single software license established the entire workflow (with modelling and rendering limited to the software release). Now, it seems that one has to choose a modeller and a primary renderer (if not more).

By demand, this chart now includes blender 2.47 (from the Dutch charity Stichting Blender Foundation) and some updated 2008 pricings (in EUR).


There’s a Wikipedia-linked glossary of industrial design and rendering terminology pending (to surfacing and rendering) which might facilitate making an informed choice for beginners and students.

PS: Cyberdemon, you’re right. Every time a software package is chosen for ID, it comes down to the same old polygons/NURBS/solids question. But, we just wanted to give a rough alphabetically listed overview of software mfrs. such as to circumvent that meaningless “what is the best…” issue.

Also, the more experimental ParaCloud and TopMod are now included.


Some minor corrections and Ashlar Inc. “Cobalt 8.0” now included.


It’s a great job to have organised the most common modelers and renderers in the design field, with their possible connections ! I definitely agree with your analysis : the need for a combination of two, when for many years one software was enough.
But I would advice to remove the latest exotic additions : ParaCloud and TopMod. Because you’re stepping out of your goal : advicing about the possibilities for a designer.
Those two are absolutely unknown then they are not a good choice for the designer who has to exchange with minimal difficulties with its partners (like R&D).
They’re, I guess, in beta and a professional cannot, as the hobbyist can, rely on unfinished software.
Furthermore seeing this two everyone will write to add his favorite obscure 3D software (I used to own RayDreamDesigner ! I have a copy of Sorbetto, but I haven’t used it yet !) and I bet you will soon reach a list of one hundred 3D software. The interest here is not exhaustivity, because some other people are doing, and quite well, lists of all the 3D software possible.
Could you stick to your selection of programs actually used by designer ?

But if you could “concentrate” it a bit, graphically speaking, to increase readibility that would be nice. We kind of lose track when strolling up and down. And also its a tad East german in looks…

Could you list the different Studio programs ? You know : DesignStudio then AliasStudio then AutoStudio and also SurfaceStudio, with different prices/possibilities/uses.

Well if you’re throwing Blender in this mix then you have to include trueSpace.

well, paracloud and topmod are (besides generative components from bentley systems) a hot topic in the european design scene as well as architecture. since you can output the data from these softwares (being visually more experimental to the naked eye), we wanted to include them.

to justify our intention: our aim was to look at all those areas (including the academic world of cumulus affiliated design schools) excluding the automotive industry which is marginal in terms of design stimulus.

again, the whole matter of 3d in industrial/product design is so fractalised; it’s hard to compress all information into - let’s say - a small handy chart :wink:

Cmon Truespace? Realllly! :laughing:

I want to see somebody look at the Truespace feature list and go “Wow looks like a great design program!”

You can also throw Ashlar Vellum Cobalt on there if you want a list of “Software programs used by less then 8 people on earth”

You can also throw Ashlar Vellum Cobalt on there if you want a list of “Software programs used by less then 8 people on earth”[/quote]

Huh that’s what the “8.0” stands for ? Haven’t figured that out… :slight_smile:
Well in any case it’s already in the list, on top of it. When I say “on top of it” I’m speaking about were is it, not were it’s worth…

Couldn’t you put Zoom also ? Great to make boxes. And even cylinders !!

To Feynman : may I suggest that you create two charts then ?
Because we already see posts asking to add, or to remove software…

One chart would be the “core choice” that a significant amount of designers use, with like half a dozen or so programs.

And the other one would be larger with plenty of apps.

Then the difficulty is : how do we measure actual-number-of-licences times actually-used-for-a-creative-process-leading-to-materialise-into-something-real ? Feww

For instance the fact that the Amapi software owner advertise it as a design program it’s a joke. I mean it’s a great app to start learning 3D and the interface was a great breakthrough. But no serious designer, I mean industrial designer, with the aim to make a product (or architecture as you are in this field apparently) at the end of the project is using it.

And at the same time we can find always the one exception, maybe somebody somewere in, say, Pakistan created a teapot in Sketchup v0.98.

Could we do it Web 2.0 style ? Like a poll or something ? If you actually made a project, be it product or architecture, that went to completion in the real world please tell us which software was used. For the design step not the development. By the way you can also tell us which one was used for development.

Guess you won’t have that many competitors left…

I start : I design my products using Alias. The guys in R&D use UG. The subcontractors frequently use ProE. Our company launches many new products every year.

And I disagree with the “Automotive design as no or little influence concerning 3D apps”. Well sorry, but historically CAD programs were created in aerospace (Catia) or automotive (the other big ones) industry. The carmakers actually first created their own programs in the 60’70’s. Have you heard about Bezier curves, that eventually led to Nurbs ? Monsieur Bezier was an engineer at Renault, a french carmaker. So…

AliasStudio has evolved thanks to the money of the early adopters, the carmakers. And eventually led to the democratization of CAID. As Rhino (which to me is the one application that had every ID around definitively switch to 3D) first used, according to your chart, Alias kernel.

The carmakers also pays top dollar for top of the range visualisation software that we can eventually buy some years/versions later for a thousand bucks.

But, I still like your soul :slight_smile:

Some things updated and amended. Oh well - another option was missing: “fryrender” with various available plug-ins. The choice doesn’t become easier. And the “Softimage” story - obviously, Autodesk seems in the process of becoming the Adobe of the 3d-world if they continue their purchasing strategy, now that the prices of many companies are at rock bottom…


Here’s something you might want to add for Solidworks, about PhotoView 360 (based on Modo’s renderer)

There is also Siemens/UGS NX, which seems to be a higher-end CAD system, more aimed at mechanical engineering

I personally really appreciate all of the hard work you have put in. It is a bit hard to use though. It would be great if one of you flash experts would use this to create an interactive version. Also, it would be nice to have the price in USD.

Thanks for doing it, its about time. :smiley: