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INDEX 02: 3D Apps: CAID (Computer-aided Industrial Design)

The Mac has surged in the CAID (computer-aided industrial design) market with many of the newer MCAD and product design tools being written natively for the macOS along with Windows. Additionally, general and powerful modelers have poured over to the platform as Apple has grown.

HERE WE HAVE OUR complete list of macOS native 3D apps for the CAID (computer-aided industrial design) market. This includes predominately product design across multiple product sectors from transportation (e.g., auto), medical, apparel, consumer appliances, and industrial equipment.

The product design and CAID software segment have become one of the strongest growth areas for macOS over the past decade and a half. While the largest enterprise MCAD tools have largely remained Windows-only, (e.g.: SolidWorks, ProE (Creo), CATIA, etc.) the rise of new tools like Fusion 360, and Onshape have dramatically altered the market. New tools tend to be cross-platform from the start and are increasingly written for the modern web browser.

Alongside the growth in available tools in this space on the CAD side has been large growth in the areas of Class-A NURBS and SubD (subdivision surfaces) modelers. And there have emerged some rendering tools highly oriented at CAID and product design markets. (see below)

Some Notable Computer-Aided Industrial Design macOS Apps

While Autodesk Alias has been one of the standard bearers in the CAID software industry, another superior tool for product designers has been Altair’s solidThinking Evolve, a tool we have reviewed and written about much here on Architosh. Evolve has best-in-class construction history integrated into a sophisticated NURBS modeler.

The second app of note in this product design category is Rhinoceros, (aka: Rhino 3D). McNeel’s hugely popular NURBS modeler was originally Windows-only but became a macOS app in recent years. It has also become a popular tool inside the architecture community.

01 – Altair’s solidThinking Evolve is a top contender for best industrial design creation app, native to macOS and Windows.

02 – Rhino for Mac is full-featured and nearly feature equal to the Windows version.

03 – KeyShot works as an ideal high-quality photo-realistic renderer that also plugs into all the leading MCAD tools

The third app of note in this category is KeyShot, a phenomenal rendering app that we would not be surprised to learn that Apple’s Industrial Design Group may be using. A top-shelf app with cutting-edge performance wrapped in a clean and approachable user interface and UX. KeyShot has very good connections to leading MCAD tools.


INDEX 02: 3D Apps: CAID (Computer-aided Industrial Design)

We have over 28 macOS native 3d applications in this list. We will add to it when we learn of new ones.

  • AC3D — this app by Inivis is an easy-to-use software package for medical visualization, flight simulation, video games, virtuality reality and more…. (macOS, Windows, and Linux)
  • Alias — Autodesk’s Alias is an industrial Class-A surfacing design package with tools for concept modeling, surfacing, and visualization, working primarily towards industry, product, and automotive industries. (macOS, Windows, and Linux) Special note, Autodesk announced it would no longer support macOS in future versions but is working with Apple to explore how to bring future versions back to Mac. Older versions (2019 and prior) continue to work on macOS).
  • Argon — Ashlar’s venerable brand and line of CAD and 3d modeling apps begins at the entry level with Argon, a powerful history-free precision 3D Class-A NURBS surface modeler built with the Spatial ACIS modeling engine. (macOS and Windows)
  • Cheetah 3D — Cheetah 3D is an easy to use 3D software made only for the Mac. It is meant for beginners to professionals to create quick and easy projects without having to navigate complex interface. (macOS)
  • Cinema 4D — Maxon’s widely lauded professional but affordable 3D package is used for modeling, animation, rendering and motion graphics, used across broadcast and film, game, architecture and engineering industries. Maxon is a Nemetschek Group company based in Germany. (macOS and Windows)
  • — Clara is 3D modeling web-based application based on WebGL and therefore runs across multiple modern operating systems with modern web browsers. You can model, animate, render all online. (web app)
  • Cobalt — Ashlar’s ultimate 3D modeling product is widely used within the product and industrial design markets and comes from a Mac stalwart developer and innovator. Like Autodesk’s Alias it comes with a Class A NURBS surfaces functionality, solids, and wireframes all in one package. (macOS and Windows)
  • Design 3D CX 8 — Design 3D CX is a modeling, animation, and rendering package that is easy to use and powerful for professional use. Known earlier in time as Strata 3D, the Strata product line has expanded over the years into various versions. (macOS and Windows)
  • formZ — formZ by AutoDesSys is a stalwart mac developer and global leader in a professional 3D package highly used in architecture and related industries, featuring modeling, animation, and rendering. There are for apps the company supplies to market—formZ Free, formZ Jr. and formZ Pro. There is also a new formZ mobile viewer for iOS.  (macOS, iOS, and Windows)
  • Foto 3D CX — Foto 3D CX allows you to use your camera to capture full textured 3D models from real-world objects. (macOS and Windows)
  • Fusion 360 — Autodesk Fusion 360 is the first of its kind 3D CAD, CAM, and CAE tool that connects your entire product development process in a cloud platform. (macOS, iOS, Windows)
  • Grasshopper — Grasshopper is a graphical algorithm editor tightly integrated with Rhino’s 3-D modeling tools. Grasshopper is the AEC industry’s leading algorithmic design platform made by McNeel and Associates. (macOS and Windows)
  • Hexagon — this app is an inexpensive beginner’s 3D modeler program for creating objects simply and quickly, created by DAZ. (macOS and Windows)
  • LightWave 3D — one of the top professional 3D packages highly used in Hollywood and across numerous other industries close to and far from the film industry. (macOS and Windows)
  • KeyShot — this innovative app is the first real-time ray tracing application that uses a physically correct render engine based on scientific research in the areas of scientifically accurate material representation and global illumination. Addressing the visualization needs of designers, engineers, marketing professionals, photographers, and CG specialists, KeyShot breaks down the complexity of creating photographic images and animations from 3D digital data. (macOS and Windows)
  • Maya — Autodesk’s Maya is a leading pro 3D modeling, animation, simulation, and rendering software for character animation, architectural rendering, environments, virtual reality, and motion graphics. There are actually two Autodesk Maya’s, the regular version and Autodesk Maya LT. The LT version is used for character and environment creation and animation, while the regular version is used for complex simulations and motion graphics. (macOS and Windows)
  • Maxwell Render — Maxwell is a beautiful photorealistic renderer for architects and designers. The product by Next Limit is famous for its speed and render image quality. Maxwell comes as Maxwell Studio, a standalone application and in plugins for leading 3D tools like SketchUp, Rhino, formZ, and others. Importantly, the list of integrations includes Rhino for Mac. (macOS and Windows)
  • MeshLab — MeshLab is an open source editor for 3D triangle meshes. It provides a set of tools for editing, cleaning, healing, inspecting, rendering, texturing and converting meshes. It can process raw data for 3D printing output. (macOS, Windows, Linux)
  • Meshmixer — Meshmixer is a free state of the art software for working with triangle meshes. Great for 3D printing and scanning. It is free and comes from Autodesk Research. (macOS and Windows)
  • Modo — Modo is a powerful, professional modeling, animation, and rendering solution for professionals that work the way an artist thinks. The product is from The Foundry.
  • MOI (Moment of Inspiration) — MOI has an easy to use UI modeler for CAD users who are tired of complex CAD tools. (macOS and Windows)
  • Onshape — Design, version, and share parts, assemblies, and drawings from anywhere for less than your legacy CAD maintenance fees. Onshape is fundamentally a tool for modeling mechanical or industrial parts and assemblies. It runs in the browser on any modern operating desktop operating system (macOS, Windows, Linux)
  • OpenSCAD — OpenSCAD is a free software for making solid 3D CAD models. It doesn’t focus on the artistic 3d modeling, but the CAD aspects and is referred to as “the programmer’s solid 3d CAD modeler.” (macOS, Windows, Linux, UNIX)
  • Rhinoceros — aka: Rhino, Robert McNeel & Associates’ award-winning and extremely popular professional 3D modeler application is fully NURBS-based and allows you to create just about any shape imaginable. (macOS and Windows)
  • Shade 3D — This app is a mac stalwart modeler, animation, and rendering software made in Japan. It is one of the oldest 3D packages on the Mac. (macOS and Windows)
  • solidThinking Evolve — Evolve is a professional 3D hybrid modeling and rendering program offering superior NURBS based modeling and best-in-class construction history. It features real-time photorealistic rendering features in addition to animation. (macOS and Windows)
  • Unity — Unity is the most downloaded leading game engine used for creating video games, virtual reality projects, animated movies, and TV shows, and more. This game engine, like the Unreal Engine, is now powering immersive 3D experiences for pro markets. (macOS, Windows, Linux)
  • Unreal Engine — Unreal Game Engine is the industry-leading professional-level creative tool for video games, architectural visualization, film and TV production, and virtual reality. lt gives you the ability to build entire worlds inside Unreal. (macOS, Windows, Linux)


Growing This List

Have we missed a key software package you use or make that should be on this list? If so please email us at [email protected] and tell us about it.

We will be sure to add it to the list at the next update AND we will give you a complimentary annual subscription to Architosh INSIDER premium membership.

series index page: Mac 3D App Guides for AEC/CAID/VFX/Animation industries. 

Architosh will be reviewing and updating all our App Lists on a regular basis. See the dates below.

Listing of Updates by Date

7 Oct 2018 — Creation Date

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