3D modelers are used in a wide variety of industries. The medical industry uses them to create detailed models of organs. The movie industry uses them to create and manipulate characters and objects for animated and real-life motion pictures. The video game industry uses them to create assets for video games. The science sector uses them to create highly detailed models of chemical compounds. The architecture industry uses them to create models of proposed buildings and landscapes. The engineering community uses them to design new devices, vehicles and structures as well as a host of other uses. There are typically many stages in the "pipeline" that studios and manufacturers use to create 3D objects for film, games, and production of hard goods and structures.
Many 3D modelers are designed to model various real-world entities, from plants to automobiles to people. Some are specially designed to model certain objects, such as chemical compounds or internal organs.
3D modelers allow users to create and alter models via their 3D mesh. Users can add, subtract, stretch and otherwise change the mesh to their desire. Models can be viewed from a variety of angles, usually simultaneously. Models can be rotated and the view can be zoomed in and out.
3D modelers can export their models to files, which can then be imported into other applications as long as the metadata is compatible. Many modelers allow importers and exporters to be plugged-in, so they can read and write data in the native formats of other applications.
Most 3D modelers contain a number of related features, such as ray tracers and other rendering alternatives and texture mapping facilities. Some also contain features that support or allow animation of models. Some may be able to generate full-motion video of a series of rendered scenes (i.e. animation).
A basic comparison including release date/version information can be found on the Comparison of 3D computer graphics software page. A comprehensive comparison of significant 3D packages can be found at CG Society Wiki and TDT3D 3D applications 2007 comparisons table..