Review of Wings 3D and 3D Slash.
Wings 3D is a free and open source tool available for Windows, Mac and Linux. Using it is straightforward. You can add objects by right clicking and picking from a menu of primitives, which includes the usual set of regular 3D polygons. It also has extras, such as a spiral and the torus knot, which might prove challenging for most printers.
Manipulating objects is simple. You can switch between four modes, which allow you to control whole objects, faces, edges or vertices. They all have uses and allow you to manipulate models in different ways. You can extrude, bevel and weld. There is also a virtual mirror to keep models symmetrical.
The display can be switched between a perspective viewpoint or an orthographic projection, which is handy if you’re working from a blueprint. Engineers and designers used to working like that will appreciate the feature.
Using Wings 3D
The Wings 3D UI is plain, but straightforward. On-screen text explains the effect of pressing mouse buttons and keys during the current operation. That makes it easy to explore as you go and means you don’t have to remember everything while getting to know your way around.
Its lack of complexity makes it easy to get to grips with. Working with the core 3D manipulation functions is easier when there is little to distract you. The on-screen buttons are intuitive and convey their functions well.
Wings 3D is simple, but it does the job. It has been in development for 17 years and its focus on the basics of modeling has resulted in an excellent and easy to use tool. It’s not bloated compared to others, which makes it a great fit for those looking to create simple, printable objects.
The focus on simple, low-polygon geometry is a perfect fit for 3D printing. Wings 3D lacks a few bells and whistles, but they are less relevant when you’re focused on printing. We have looked at it before in our round-up of the best 3D graphics tools.
It also exports to the required .stl format. Its models are based on a closed mesh and will not let you produce a non-manifold model, provided you avoid using the “hole” function. That should keep your valuable printer free from unpleasant accidents.
You don’t get much free starter content with Wings 3D, but there are downloads available online. The tool is simple enough that you will soon be able to fill your blank starting area with all manner of weird and wonderful creations.
Learning to Use Wings 3D
The included documentation is basic and the online manual has quite a few gaps. Fortunately, what’s there is clear and, keeping with the straightforward feel of Wings 3D, tells you what you need to know. You are told how to build a 3D object using a range of simple manipulation techniques.
Outside of the documentation, you can find plenty of guidance online. There is no shortage of videos on YouTube explaining how to build and craft different types of models.
Wings 3D is simple and straightforward, but capable. Rather than having hundreds of functions, it lets you easily perform the actions you need to build and modify a 3D object. We recommend it to anyone looking to explore the world of 3D printing.
- Straightforward & easy to use
- Simple models that print well
- Few bells & whistles
- Limited documentation
Inspired by the way kids create complex objects in Minecraft, 3D Slash is a labor of love for creator Sylvain Huet. Based on stone sculpture, it is an easy-to-use tool that is an ideal fit for 3D printing.
You begin with a large cube and the hammer tool selected. Clicking on the cube removes blocks from it, allowing you to sculpt it. You can change the size of the cube removed and work at finer levels of detail if you want. There are also tools to restore cubes, as well as build and remove larger sections. It is a different approach from the other tools, but works well.
Using 3D Slash: Creative Destruction
3D Slash is great fun to use. Chipping at your block doesn’t just remove a chunk, it makes bits of splintered rock fly everywhere. There’s even a satisfying “dink” sound to make you feel like you’re chiseling on a real sculpture.
The sound of smashing rock that accompanies the drill will satisfy anyone with a penchant for virtual destruction and makes 3D Slash a decent stress reliever in addition to a useful tool. Kids will love it, at least, as much as your ostensibly adult writer.
There are painting tools that let you color one block at a time or slosh it over whole areas at once, too, and they all have their own effects. The animation and sound effects might sound trivial, but they make using 3D Slash tactile and bring a strong sense of connection to your work.
You aren’t limited to starting with a cube, though. You can generate 3D text to work with and chip at. A cool feature allows you to import a 2D image, which is then converted into block form. Like much of 3D Slash, it works much better than you’d expect.
A simple sketch we drew converted easily into two colors, with the active color becoming the blocks. A screenshot of a news website imported into 3D Slash also worked well, giving us a 3D rendition of the headlines and, though the pictures where blurry, it was recognizable as a newspaper.
You can even import 3D objects from other tools. We had limited success trying to import our high-polygon head from Sculptris, though. It worked, but 3D Slash converted it into a huge number of blocks around the size of a Minecraft biome. This feature is worth exploring, but you will need to play around to see what works.
3D Slash Free Version
Though a free version of 3D Slash is available, it has some major limitations. You can only use eight colors, for example, though that doesn’t necessarily matter if you’re printing with a single-color material.
The free version also requires registration which led us through a couple of baffling screens that weren’t clear and will leave kids, and possibly their teachers, scratching their heads.
Annoyingly, you can’t save your work in the free version, though it does keep a single project open between sessions. You’ll need to pay a couple of dollars if you want to save projects or print them via an .stl file. That won’t break the bank at $2 per month, but the free version contains plenty to keep you busy.
Fun and easy to use, 3D Slash is a perfect tool for teachers with a 3D printer in the classroom who want to get kids creating things to use with it. Adults wanting to play around with a simple, but enjoyable, piece of software shouldn’t turn their noses up at it, either.
3D Slash’s approach is a powerful and quick way to make 3D models. It’s a wonderfully idiosyncratic tool with bags of personality and we recommend taking a look at it.
3D Slash is available for Windows, Mac, Linux and BlackBerry.
- Great Fun
- Free version has limitations
- Blocky output
The tools we looked at are different from one another and offer a range of approaches. 3D Slash is simple, but there is a powerful tool under its charming exterior. We recommend it for adults interested in making simple block-based sculptures and as a teaching tool for kids.
Wings 3D is simple and straightforward for building geometry. It is easy to use and perfect for building models suitable for 3D printing.
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