What 3D modeling technique were you taught in school?

What 3D modeling technique were you taught in school?

  • NURBS package (Rhino, Alias Studio etc)
  • Pure CAD package (SolidWorks, CATIA, Inventor etc.)
  • Polygon package (Maya, 3dstudio, SILO, Modo 301 etc)

0 voters

Hi, I’m trying to bone out the differences and define the suitability between two different 3D modeling approaches:

  • The Nurbs technique (Rhino, Alias Studio etc)
    The polygon / sub division modeling technique (3dStudioMax, maya, modo, silo etc)

Which one would be the most suitable for concept work within industrial / product design?

Most of all, I’m interested in what 3D technique you were taught in school?


  • Björn[/list]

my school offered classes on programs from each of your lists, i personally had classes on alias studio tools and solidworks

since graduation solidworks was the most useful for me

You forgot choice D: foam/wood/clay/carboard. I did one semester of Form Z in my freshman or sophmore year. I didn’t touch a 3D program again until junior year when I tried Rhino for a project. I struggled and didn’t bother with CAD for school ever again. I did learn 50% of Alias Studio at my internship though. I would say 80% of my CAD knowledge has come after graduation.

absolutely, this was the first and most important technique for us

we were taught both rhino and solidworks

Rhino and Solidworks for me, I picked up Alias at my first job… For the most part I use Rhino, it is super fast and quick to learn. The solid part of Rhino is fantastic for parting out models etc… So far i have not been limited by Rhino in anyway, you can build super clean curvature surfs for tooling, and it has a ton of plug-ins!
my 2cents

Thought I learned rhino my junior year then I really learned it at my internship that summer, and brought that knowledge back to school senior year to share with classmates and continue learning myself.

I have learned Pro-E well enough to supplement Rhino for faster/better results with some limited parametric benefits (rounds, variable rounds, conics, etc.)

I am currently playing with the Alias Personal Learning Addition and plan to learn enough Solidworks to decided if I want to learn it all the way in the near future.

Rhino has been pretty good to me, no real complaints, but the idea of using parametric modelers and real history sounds pretty appealing.

Thanks for all your comments guys!

Mr-914, BryanBrutherford; yes, those techniques are very hard to beat. I was merely intetested in the software techniques at this point though… :slight_smile:

If someone have used a sub division modeler extensively and find it very useful for concept work in product design, please let us know!


  • Björn

Hi Bjorn,

Well, besides Auto Cad and Inventor, I have learned to model and render in Lightwave 3D (sub-d) , which is a great piece of software…It´s very fast to model, render and animate.

Sometime ago I have started playing around with MODO and just fell in love with it.

It´s so easy to learn, it´s has a really advanced work-flow and visual ergonomics.

Today, MODO is my main modeling, rendering and animating software.

I have just got bored with Cad and parametric softwares because it´s just so slow to model if compared to any Sub-D software…

If you want to see some samples of some ID MODO work, you can go to my online portfolio www.rafaelmorgan.com

I hope I have helped you.


Which one would be the most suitable for concept work within industrial / product design?

I would vote for the nurbs technique because it is much more prevalent in the product design world.

Surface modelers seem to offer a bit more freedom and flexibility in the beginning of concept development. However, for refinement, a parmetric modeler(Solidworks, Pro E, etc… is where it’s at for making changes and having the model update without having to rebuild. Although I believe Rhino is working on it’s history tree etc…
What 3D technique you were taught in school?

I was taught Alias, Cobalt and IDEAS.

Taught myself Rhino.

Really wish we would have had the opportunity to learn Solidworks or ProE instead of IDEAS. I have yet to see IDEAS in the field.

Does anyone use IDEAS?

Most suitable for concept work? Sketching, mockups, physical models.

The main advantage of using a nurbs, cad or any parametric software is their ability to flawless communication with cnc and 3d printing devices.

If you really need precision, and I mean real precision, you should go to a parametric software.

If you just want to show your concept in a realistic way, the better choice is a sub-d software because they are very fast to model and render, and most of them have better render engines.

The best way is to learn both… I would pick MODO 301 and Solid Works.

There is also a pretty cool new Nurbs software, called Moi, who works with 3Dm format and is one hundred times easier to master than Rhino.

It´s still a beta version and it lacks some features though.

Here is the link to it…It´s interface is REALLY good, one the best I´ve ever seen.

Thanks again guys, all your comments are very helpful.

brianmullins: Yes, rhino has just started to implement it’s history, but it’s far from any history tree to speak of. Let’s hope for that in the future though.

Rafael Morgan: I see. So you stick to Sub-D now for all your work? I get the point with NURBS and producing stuff, but tell me, since you always have the ability to refine your sub D mesh once more, wouldn’t there allways be enough polygons to get down to production tolerances? even though your would have no control over fillets and holes and such. By the way, I love your lamp!

Another thing, is it even mathematically possible to make a round hole with sub-d surfaces?

MoI is truly nice, and has an very un-cluttered interface which makes it intuitive and easy to learn. But, personally, I MISS working with the keyboard. I find it quicker to enter the command names by keyboard, than trying to find them with the mouse…

  • Björn

Thats why I love Alias…since you can control the whole UI you can easily tailor your marking menus to all of your primary commands and at that point modelling simply becomes gestural. Most of the people I work with run so fast in Alias that if you were recording them for a tutorial you’d never be able to see what they picked.

I was taught Ashlar Vellum Cobalt in school…taught myself Rhino and Maya (plus some others) while in school, now use Alias and Pro E professionally.

Right! I totally forgot about marking menus … :blush: to be honest, I kind of miss those too.

But the ability to script in Rhino is good sometimes. But mostly, it’s so great that it’s API is totally open for anyone to write plugins for it. That’s why the development of it is quicker I suppose.

Miss the sketching aswell… hmm.

  • Björn

learnt Pro/E, 3D studio and a bit of Solidworks in school. Got more proficient in Pro/E and Solidworks during an internship with a product design consultancy.

haven’t touched any sort of CAD now in 6+ years.

To some extent, I feel really behind the curve in 3d, but at the same time I dont really have much of a need for it in my industry (footwear). Cheaper to do 2d illustrator drawings and get someone in asia to the required CAD for tooling.

I honestly see lots of great CAD stuff coming from students now, but to some extent also see lots of good rendering and poor design. IMHO, CAD (and Alias rendering) is now too much flash, with too little content, and many designers seem to go to CAD too quickly in the process. A great rendering does not a good design make.

long live pencil and paper!


Have to agree on you on that one,. I guess it’s because people find it very enjoying… Much like how a great sketch doesn’t make a good design either… but if you enjoy sketching you’re gonna produce a lot doodles just to get better at it all the time. I guess the 3d-render-explosion is much like it… at least for me.

I have a friend in footwear design. She also uses Illustrator and sketches, and passes those on to china. Don’t you work anything with models or something then? It’s so hard to get that 3d-feeling with sketches I think…


for sure a great sketch also doesnt mean a good design. on the plus side, sketches i find are usually more explorative than CAD, as sometimes an accidental line can be a good thing and inspire you. doesnt happen so much with CAD when you have to plan everything out… also given that sketches are usually quicker, there is lots less chance you’ll fall in love with them so can explore more options more quickly rather than just fussing around with radii…

in footwear, we usually do illustrator line art or 3d CAD, and have that translated to 3d by the fty. Models (CNC’d ren, normally) are made for outsoles, and uppers are made the old fashioned way- stitching things by hand/machine.

While its somewhat hard to get the feeling in a sketch, lots of footwear comes down to pattern, which i find you sort of develop a feeling for. Plus, prototypes (pullovers) are quick and easy to make to get real, in the hands feel. Since so much of footwear design is how it looks on your foot, how it looks in scale, CAD doesnt really help either.


yep, you’ve got a point. Sketching is obviously quicker. But these techniques should not be ignored, some of them are very explorative in their manner, and sometimes you find yourself with some of that “oops-what-happened-hey-that-looks-kinds-cool”…

for me, I’ve spent so much time excelling in 3d, I’m very envious at anyone for who sketching come natural…

Yeah. Sketching is a good way to explore the full potential of an idea.

Although, you can have lots of pleasant surprises with a modeling, non-cad software.

Organic modeling software like MODO, Light Wave, 3D Max usually offer you a full range of tweaking tools that you can easily use to scale, stretch, bend, twist and deform your model, so there is always the possibility that you have a nice unexpected result that may lead you to the final version of your product.

You know, it all depends on how you fit this resources in your work flow. Sketching is always a great tool for generating alternatives but an organic modeling tool may work very well for this either.

Im with RK… long live paper and pencil!