There are many design packages available today. As long as your model can be saved as a .STL file, it can be used for 3D printing.


For younger designers or beginners, we recommend Tinkercad. It is a browser based design program so no software needs to be installed locally. This makes it a great solution for Chromebooks.


Maker's Empire 3D is another great option for young designers. The in-app tutorials, points and friendly competitions aid students and keep them interested when working with 3D design for the first time. Maker's Empire also offers 3D design curriculum written by experienced teachers, with helpful videos that let you learn alongside your students.


Sketchup is another good solution for designing 3D parts. Make sure to install the STL plugin so you can export your design for 3D printing.


Autodesk 123D Design, OnShape, & Morphi are good apps for iPad users. They have free versions (123D) or free for education versions (OnShape), or free with limitations (Morphi) and you can pay to unlock all the features. Morphi offers discount pricing for schools based on the number of seats purchased.


Blender is an open-source design package that can also be used for 3D animation, so time spent learning this tool means students can do more than just create models for printing.


AutoDesk offers several professional design software package that are for free to students and teachers.

  • Autodesk 123D Design is a good intermediate design tool.
  • Autodesk Maya is another animation package that can be used for 3D modeling.
  • Autodesk Inventor is a mechanical design and 3D CAD software package that offers professional-grade 3D mechanical design, documentation, and product simulation tools. This is good for advance users who need exact tolerances in designs they are creating.