(02-14-2013 09:27 PM)imagiqc Wrote: Hi, I'm a 42 year old father of 6 and I'm looking to get into 3-d printing and CNC machining. I have some experience as a CNC Machine Operator, and I know the basics of programming computers.
I'm looking to get started one baby step at a time, so my first concern is the software side of things. What software would you all recommend for someone new to the field?
You sound a lot like me
in which case I know money is an issue
and so I would certainly recommend sticking to free software throughout the entire process. Luckily, there's free software to work with every aspect of 3D design and manufacturing. Yes, there are expen$ive software titles that do a wonderful job but to appreciate all the bells and whistles you would have to have a fair amount of experience. You can easily find free software that will have all the basics, and that's the only think you really need just starting out. Ontop of that my personal preference is to use a free OS, too - Ubuntu or another Linux flavor. If you haven't used Linux yet, I recommend you try it. It's come a long way from the hacker-only OS of yore and the experience is not much different from MS Win except that Linux is free and (mostly) open source.
(02-14-2013 09:27 PM)imagiqc Wrote: I'm looking to eventually create both artistic objects (small figurines) and practical objects (legos, guitar picks, etc.) But I want them to be of my own design. So I figure I need to learn the software/design aspect first.
I feel that if you are coming from the world of CAD/CAM/CNC, you may like parametric CAD software (FreeCAD) better than freeform 3D modeling (Blender). Many great [free] software titles have been mentioned already although I'm surprised FreeCAD
name has not come up yet. Definitely take a look, it's got all you may need for your first (couple of) year of designing 3D and beyond.
You probably won't be using only FreeCAD though because other (free) programs may be more useful for other tasks. For example, for calculations-based CAD (math and other regular shapes) you'll probably like OpenSCAD
alot, especially considering you have programming experience. For verification and simple modifications/repair of your STL shapes you'll use something like netFabb basic
I should say once again that the software I recommend tends to be heavy on Linux side although most of it exists in Win version, too. Other people recommended MeshMixer or Sketchup and they are nice, too but require a paid OS which I personally don't like much.
It's by no means an exhaustive list, you will be adding stuff to it as you go along but just these three (or even FreeCAD alone) may be enough to get you started.