View Full Version : Blender 3D - free 3d modeler. - Warning, some large images.

Bradley Berthold
01-09-2004, 09:56 AM

Well this could turn out to be a long subject in some ways. A few years ago I found this freeware program called Blender3D. At the time it was closed source, but still free. It works pretty well, the interface took some getting used to - it uses keyboard shortcuts for almost everything. After walking through most of the tutorials however, I was able to pick it up and use it fairly well.

Over the course of a year and a half the Blender3D developers came into some money issues, and had to go bankrupt eventually. However, the project became reborn as Open-Source software, and to this day it's where it stays. Not to toot my own horn again, but I was the first one to build the Open Source Windows version successfully :)

Blender 3D is a very good 3D modeling package, I think it's very easy to draw something up quickly in 3D.

Their current website is at http://www.blender3d.org

I don't actually have the latest version of this from this site, I still use the older versions, so I don't know about any of the new features as of yet, but looks like they've added some nice stuff.

Here's a few images of stuff I've done in Blender3D:

Game character. ALL the textures were made from scratch by me using Photoshop (except for the face)

More 3d images:

abstract art

some mechanical coolness

That gear wasn't too hard to model, but it took a while to render because of the special lighting 8)

The only real issue with Blender3D is it uses OpenGL to draw EVERYTHING, even its user interface. Most older video cards won't draw something right, for example some of the user interface buttons won't draw correct. ANY video card made by NVidia WILL work great! Most ATI ones are OK too, and some Matrox cards. But I recommend to anyone that uses the software to use an Nvidia card, they are the only ones who seem to get their OpenGL drivers correct.

-Brad B.

Wray Schelin
01-09-2004, 06:11 PM
Hi Brad ,

Wow , that is awesome. I just hope someday I can figure out how to make a program like Rhino or blender work . :D

How long is the learning curve on Blender 3 D?


Bradley Berthold
01-09-2004, 06:35 PM
Well, it takes a little longer than most "Windows" programs because like I said, using the keyboard makes everything much, much easier - and this program is loaded with Keyboard Shortcuts. Of course, it still has mouse menus but once you learn the key combos it's just so much faster. I'd say it would take at least a month for a novice to get used to it and be able to start working fairly quickly.

The biggest problem when I started out was finding some good tutorials to explain all the features. Once you find some of these, the learning curve shortens a lot. I actually have the user manual (I won it in a Blender game contest), and that even had a few items I hadn't known about.

-Brad B.

Kerry Pinkerton
01-10-2004, 04:38 AM
I worked in the computer industry for 18 years (back to paper tape and punch cards) I clearly remember when CAD programs were all line drawings and only worked on BIG computers (mainframes) Solid Modeling was just starting to evolve when I moved into useless overhead in the mid 80's (management). It boggles my mind that shareware can produce an image like that gear.

01-10-2004, 06:48 PM
Is it possible to cut sections/take measurements from a Blender model, or is Blender more of a surfacing/rendering tool?

I model with Unigraphics and it is very easy to glean more info from a model than one would use, but it is somewhat difficult to create organic shapes. I would like to find software that is easy to create flowing forms but still have the analysis tools and accuracy available in the high end cad software packages.

Les Edmundson

Bradley Berthold
01-10-2004, 09:40 PM
That's the only thing - Im not completely sure, it's mostly a modeling/rendering engine, but it may have some ability to measure as well.

Even so, if it didn't it could be added to the software since blender is Open Source, which means the source code is freely available. Which means programmers, like me, can add features (or request new features to be added). Of course it would take some work but it is more possible than a product like 3DSMax (since that is closed source, a commercial product)

You've probably already looked at the blender site but as far as organic forms - blender supports metaballs and subsurfaces, which can both be used to generate very good organic shapes.


01-11-2004, 06:47 AM
Blender is a 3D modelling and rendering tool, not necessarily for CAD. It is similar to 3D Studio Max in what it does, but not in how it does it. I personally haven't used it much, but a co-worker is very familiar. If you guys are looking for a free CAD program, you could try some of the following:

freeCAD (http://www.askoh.com)

JCAD (http://javacad.sourceforge.net)

engyCAD (http://engy.sourceforge.net/)

there are several other non-free programs listed over at freshmeat.net (http://www.freshmeat.net) you may want to check out.


Bradley Berthold
01-11-2004, 09:36 PM
Well, you might still be able to use it for basic CAD, for example, it does have a grid which you can set to any resolution, and you could just say to yourself that one grid is 1 inch, etc, for example.

Anyway, here's a preview picture of an English Wheel render I was working on last night. I made this in about 2 hours total so far. It uses Global Illumination, which gives a natural looking light (similar to the gear rendering) and I also added a bit of "toon shading", which is a dark shaded line outline, of about 2 pixels, around the entire object. This gives it an attractive illustrated quality, in my opinion.

Basic English wheel rendering

The only thing I don't like about Blender is Boolean mesh operations stink. But that might have changed in the newer versions, this picture was still rendered using the older version

-Brad B.

01-12-2004, 04:57 AM
Hi Bradley,

like I said I have very little experience with Blender... I haven't seen a built in function for dimensioning, which to me is the essence of making blueprints (or CAD). Anyways, my coworkers tends to work in Blender to make his designs, then render them with Povray... it's a DOS program, and is quite fast if I remember.


Bradley Berthold
01-12-2004, 12:22 PM
I've found that 3D is a very "religious" subject for most users, i.e., once a person has found a program they like, that's that and all other programs are worthless 8) Many ways get the job done, no harm in that!

Regarding the CAD, I found this on the blender development site:

http://www.blender.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid= 103&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0

So I guess someone out there is working on it.

-Brad B

02-10-2004, 01:38 PM
Ive been using Maya to mock up my projects. While its more of a 3D program than a CAD program I can take basic measurments and build parts to a certain size ( Like make a part 4" long ).

The really cool thing about the 3D type programs is animation. I built the bending brake shown here:


and was able to animate the brake movements to get all my dimensions correct. Also good to make sure you wont have any parts that are going to bind, have clearance issues that kind of thing.

Once I model it, I export each part out to Adobe Illustrator, print it out and then Ive got a template for each part ready for the plasma cutter or whatever.

Mission Control
03-28-2004, 06:10 PM
Nice work with Blender Brad!

I have played with it some over the last couple of years, and I find it very intriguing because it is so different than other programs that I have used, but it is difficult to learn for that reason. You can't beat the price though!

Blender does export DXF files, (shift F2), which I have used to bring Blender scenes into a CAD program where it can be dimensioned or what-ever. I don't believe Blender will read DXF however.

Brian Mathieu
Rockford, IL