Nowadays, if we want to work with 3D files, it is necessary to find a viewer that is capable of combining affordability and efficiency. Whether used for printing, gaming, industrial design, or architecture, design programs are essential for engineers, architects, or graphic designers. Currently there are a large number of programs to view STL files that are available for free, so in many cases it is not necessary to have to opt for a paid program.
With the free software that currently exists, it is possible to start into object modeling or customize any that we have downloaded from the Internet. The important thing is to be able to choose the ideal program to carry out our work and to help us make our most creative ideas tangible.
- Characteristics of a good 3D modeling viewer
- Best free apps
- Which one to use to view 3D files?
Characteristics of a good 3D modeling viewer
A 3D modeling viewer is an application that allows us to view both objects and three-dimensional environments , and even interact with them. It is a very interesting tool for all types of professionals such as architects or web designers. That is why it is important that the program has as many formats as possible. Especially, that it is capable of opening STL files, a computer-aided design file format capable of defining the geometry of three-dimensional objects, excluding physical properties, texture or color that other CAD formats do include.
Along with the ability to visualize, it is also important that you have some simple tools such as zoom and orbit, translation, or pan and flight mode controls. It should offer us the possibility to see, rotate and move objects so that we can visualize them from any perspective. All this together with the need for it to be free software, so that we do not have to pay but require much more powerful tools.
Best free apps
Next, we are going to show you the best software that we can download for free and that will help us open STL files with which we can view three-dimensional files.
Windows 3D viewer, Microsoft’s tool
Windows incorporates its own 3D object viewer and an augmented reality application with which we can unleash our imagination when creating our own projects for our collection of animated models or viewing our own files that we already have created. It is compatible with STL, OBJ, 3MF, FBX files among other formats. We are talking about a simple program that does not require great experience to use and with which we can edit 3D figures by making different movements within the plane.
With this program we will have simple visualization tools, such as zoom and orbit or panoramic controls that we can use both with the mouse and keyboard and with a pencil. It allows us to inspect the mesh, texture and material of the three-dimensional model and even choose from a wide variety of shading and lighting modes.
It is possible to obtain the Windows 3D Viewer by downloading it from the Microsoft Store itself.
3D Builder, a very popular viewer
We are talking about a free and very popular three-dimensional tool for Windows that is characterized by being simple, straightforward and highly functional, but being much more than a simple STL file viewer. The program has some editing functions , as it allows 3D repair and some cutting functions. From its lower toolbar we can see, rotate and move the objects, so it is more than enough as a viewer for our work. It offers compatibility with STL, PLY, OBJ, 3MF or VRML formats.
If we want to make our own designs from scratch, it will also be possible, as well as combine models or use different types of templates that it incorporates to facilitate our work. If we are starting out in the world of design, it is possibly one of the best options to choose from.
We can download 3D builder for free from the Windows Store.
Blender, aimed at advanced users
We are facing an open source program, multiplatform and of course free. Possibly one of the most popular options for modeling, rendering, and 3D graphics creation . Although we are not talking about a particularly simple program, it does have a wide variety of geometric figures as standard. We can use it to view files given its wide compatibility of formats such as SLT, DX, FBX, JWO, M3G, WRL, among many others.
Blender puts at our disposal different animation tools such as deformations, load vertices and static and dynamic particles, inverse kinematics, etc. In addition, it is also designed for game development, so it includes various collision utilities, as well as dynamic and logical recreation systems. Therefore, we are facing more than a simple three-dimensional viewer, and all this without paying a single euro.
Clari3D Lite, ideal for beginners
In this case we are talking about a three-dimensional file viewer for both architecture and CAD, especially aimed at non-advanced users thanks to its simple and intuitive interface. It has the possibility of rotation, translation, zoom and flight mode. It is compatible with files in STL, XGL, ASCII, WaveFront, 3D Studio formats, among others. In addition, it is capable of saving in VIZ format, one of the most compact that we can find.
This program is capable of displaying huge three-dimensional models and has rendering optimizations in time with “Detail Level”, “Render Degradation” and “Detail Removal” that are responsible for speeding up the rendering. Among its properties, it offers the possibility of modifying the position of the light or the background to create renderings, and we can even hide or show its components.
Clari3D Lite is compatible with Windows, macOS and Linux and can be downloaded for free from this link to its main website.
3D-Tool, extensive options and CAD compatibility
This is an STL viewer developed for Windows, characterized by an intuitive interface, along with a wide range of functions and support for CAD. As a three-dimensional viewer, it allows us to perform simple actions with the mouse such as zooming and rotating models, showing and hiding parts and assemblies, or creating cross sections and exploded views. No special CAD knowledge is required for its use.
For more expert users, the program has advanced measurement tools with which to access the modeling dimensions with precision. We will be able to adjust both the source and the direction of the light and we will have useful tools to test our model. In addition, it offers wide compatibility with TL, VDA, SA, SAB, OBJ, CATIA files, among others.
We can download it for free from the 3D-Tool website .
3DViewerOnline, online experience to view STL files
It is a browser-based STL file viewer that is characterized by having a simple and easy-to-use interface , so it is not necessary to be an expert, and can be used by users with basic knowledge. Its main function is to view 3D modeling files, but it also allows you to view and display smart lines or customize objects. It also has support for IGES, STEP, OBJ, PLY, 2D-DWG, and 2D-DXF files.
To use 3DViewerOnline it will be necessary to register and with this we can share three-dimensional objects either by email or on our social networks. Along with its free version, it also has a premium version with which to increase the functions of this complete viewer.
To use 3DViewerOnline for free, just access its website .
Which one to use to view 3D files?
As we have seen, we have a good number of alternatives to view our three-dimensional modeling files. All this without having to use an expensive program. There are enough free programs on the Internet to meet our needs. While it is true that finding the right software is not always easy, so it never hurts to try to determine which one best suits our needs.
If we do not want to download any application, it is possible to opt for the 3D Viewer that Windows incorporates by default, which is capable of fulfilling its task efficiently. Or opt for 3DViewerOnline that runs directly from our favorite browser. Among the most complete 3D-Builder options we cannot ignore it, while if we are more advanced users who require a more complete program, regardless of its difficulty, we can choose Blender.