3d modelling software for case design

What software is generally used in industry to design cases for pcb boards?

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Generally, you need software that can export STL files.

Solidworks: $$4000 +$$1300/year

ProEngineer: $$5000? + something per year? Autocad Inventor:$$5200? + something per year?

Google Sketchup: Free or $\$$500, but can't export STL directly. I've seen mention of a plugin that can convert Sketchup files to STL, but I haven't used it myself. (From Peter Gibson) Blender: Free, but alleged to have a steep learning curve. - Blender:$0 - can export STL files, but the UI can a steep learning curve –  Peter Gibson May 18 '10 at 0:11
Excellent-- I'll add that to the list. Have you ever made a case from an STL file generated by Blender? –  pingswept May 18 '10 at 0:23

Take a peek at Alibre Design. It's more affordable than the other options, and has a free trial. I bought it recently and I'm very satisfied. Not only it meets all of my needs, I compared it to Rhino, SolidWorks and others and found it way better, both in capabilities and user interface.

http://www.alibre.com/products/mainpage.asp

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I've tried Alibre too but I think solidworks is significantly better in terms of features available and support/tutorials. That said, Alibre is still the best value out of all of the common 3D packages that I've tried. (excluding Blender of course.) –  Isaac Jan 10 '11 at 13:26

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I would also recommend Alibre Design PE, which is a bargain at \$100. I'd also like to add another option that is free (just like Blender), called OpenSCAD. It is highly capable, and for doing simple PCB enclosures, I would pick it over Blender anyday because it's so much easier to understand. In many cases (pardon the pun), I would use it instead of Alibre Design because you can share your designs more easily with the community. It exports STL and DXF as well. There's something really cool about changing a few variables in the code that generates your model, and getting back a new part that fits a new PCB. Tweaking due to measurement errors is just as easy, provided that you wrote the code properly.

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This looks awesome, nice find! –  Isaac Jan 10 '11 at 14:34
It's used quite a bit in the open source 3D printing community. Here is just one fantastic example of what it's capable of: thingiverse.com/thing:1570 –  Dave Jan 10 '11 at 15:02

At my university the students use Solidworks to design cases to house my PCBs. But as that is very expensive I would try Blender first if it is just for home use.

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Apparently K-3D also does STL export, and it's quite a lot easier to use than Blender.

http://www.k-3d.org/wiki/All_Plugins

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