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3D Design

Author: Weston Brownlee

  • CAD
  • Digital Design
  • Organic
  • Hard Surface
Rendering of the NASA Swarmies trophy

Something from Nothing

3D Design is the foundation of every application and function of 3D technology. This is the software and associated skill set that makes everything else work. Rooted in traditional drafting and mechanical engineering, 3D Design software has grown to become an all-encompassing field, producing 3D models for a number of different uses. At the pinnacle of its hype, nearly everyone who looked at a 3D Printer was able to envision an object materializing from nothing. What many failed to consider was everything behind the printed object. Good design, specifically intended for printing, makes it all work. While the demand has seen a rise in 3D designers, including artists and engineers, that have filled up the open source space there is a still a void. Print-ready files that are error free are critical to 3D Printing. Ultimately every type of 3D Design achieves the same end and does so in a similar way. The key difference is the user and their approach to creating. While all professional design software is powerful each is tailored to certain types of designers and some favors certain types of projects over others.

CAD model of feathered snake

Digital Sculpting

The newest method of 3D Design is also rooted in the oldest tradition. Top of the line design software allows artists to shape digital clay into any conceivable form. Digital sculpting follows an organic process that is free flowing and rapid. The primary goal is creating an aesthetic model in which function is not as critical as appearance.

CAD model of our logo

Hard Surface CAD

Over the past decade the evolution from 2D CAD to 3D CAD has become a prominent shift, and the primary method of design. Hard surface design is based in engineering and drafting. Designers work with precision to manipulate geometric faces.

3D scan of tree branch


At times the need for an illustration outweighs taking a file directly to print. In such cases, designers further push their software to transform a file into a life like representation of its finished form. Rending often shows a proof of concept, or serves as a finished form of art, but can also be useful in identifying potential changes since it emphasizes a “lighted” environment.

NASA Swarmie trophy

Mixed Design

One of the newest frontiers in 3D Design, mixed work combines the strengths of both artists and engineers to create truly unique files in which an unconventional approach and creativity are both at play. Mixed design reflects the real strength of a well-rounded design team, since it allows individuals to combine their skill sets to create collectively in a way they might not be able to alone.