Computer Aided Design — commonly referred to as CAD — has become an integral factor that moves world forward. As an industrial art, CAD let us create designs for a wide range of purposes. From designing tiny electronic equipment to large machines to designing entire buildings and dams, CAD is the first step where the process of building starts. Due to their highly professional nature, CAD software are quite expensive and not accessible to everyone. The real problem is when you’re a student or a freelancer and do not have enough money to spend on an expensive CAD app. That’s where free CAD Software can help you. While they may not be as good as the paid professional CAD tools, they are great to just get you started. So, here are the top 10 best free CAD software that you can use.
Best Free CAD Software in 2019
Here, we have a list of top 10 free CAD software. The list includes two kinds of software — totally free and students’ edition of premium software. The latter kind will be useful when your institution uses a particular tool and you need to use that too. Shall we move on to the list?
SketchUp is a popular software used for 3D Modelling in various industries such as interior design, architecture, engineering, video game design development etc. Apart from its paid offerings, the company also offers a free version of SketchUp which is great for most users. This free version is available for personal and educational use and comes with a simpler user interface. One of the noticeable additions of SketchUp include its open-source library of model assemblies and 3D Warehouse – a large-enough collection of 3D models uploaded by other users.
Also, as it’s a tool developed using Ruby, there’s support for extensions; and, the Extension Warehouse of SketchUp is an awesome feature for those who need enhanced productivity. SketchUp is available for free to use on the web however you will need to upgrade to the paid plans if you want to use its native app. If you want that, you can check out SketchUp Pro which is available for a 30 day trial. So, there’s plenty of time to check it out before you buy it. Overall, the free web version of SketchUp is great for beginners and if you happen to like it, you can seamlessly move to the paid version if you require extra features.
Onshape is a modern-age CAD software which is known for its excellent design repository and assemblies. Unlike other software programs which are standalone applications, Onshape is a cloud-based design platform. You can create complex solid and surface models just from a browser and without any fear of losing your design progress. As Onshape is a web-based platform, all your actions are saved instantly saving you from a huge loss. In computer-aided design systems, the loss of design progress is a major concern as your project expands over time. Other than that, Onshape comes with three major design tools: parts, assemblies, and drawings.
You can create highly structured and detailed assemblies from its unique databased of architecture design. And for drawing purposes, you can easily import DWG, DWT or DXF files if you were working on Autodesk before. Now, you must be thinking that Onshape is a premium software, but it also offers its software to students, educators and hobbyists for absolutely free. So, what more do you want? A capable cloud-based software with all the modern tools for your design needs. In a way, Onshape is one of the best free CAD software right now.
3. Fusion 360
If you are new to CAD and want a simple tool to get started, there is no better option than Fusion 360. You might be surprised to find that Fusion 360 has been developed by Autodesk and kept free of charge to make computer-aided designing more interesting and also within the reach of students and creators. Similar to Onshape, Fusion 360 is also a cloud-powered CAD software and supports both 3D and 2D design. Fusion 360 stresses more on building the concepts first so you will go through all the basics of 3D Design & Modeling, Simulation, Generative Design and more.
In addition, if you expand your project in the future, you can move it to CAM or CAE software seamlessly. That’s awesome, right? Apart from that, you can also unify design elements from different projects, create a prototype and also manufacture on a single platform. That’s the best part about a program being powered by Autodesk. All in all, Fusion 360 is one of the top free CAD software and if you are a beginner in this field then this tool is going to your trailblazer.
While nanoCAD is not entirely a free CAD software, it’s definitely a lot cheaper than what the competition is offering and that is why I have mentioned it in this list. It’s a low-cost CAD software, but having advanced tools for drawing and creating 2D and 3D designs. It does not matter which industry you belong to– architecture, manufacturing or mechanical engineering– this tool offers you all the drafting and drawing extensions. The best part about nanoCAD is that it’s completely compatible with the DWG file format. So in case, if you want to move your project elsewhere in the future, this feature will have you back.
Further, nanoCAD brings several end-user APIs which can be used to automate complex CAD designs. It can particularly help those companies who regularly create similar products without having to go through the grinding drafting phase. Also, nanoCAD is an offline application so those who like working on a standalone program will appreciate its appearance and classic toolbar design. To sum it up, if you are willing to pay a one-time fee of $180– instead of paying monthly or yearly subscription– then nanoCAD is a great option.
Sculptris is another free CAD Software that focuses on 3D Sculpting & 3D Modelling. It is made by one of the industry leaders named Pxiologic. The tool has a professional User Interface and that can be learned by anyone in a lesser time-period, given that you know the basics of creative designing. There are several features that would be very helpful when it comes to designing. For instance, there is availability of both ZBrush navigation & standard-level navigation.
It also offer support for several plug-ins, using which you can extend features and productivity of it. In addition, there are some sculpting and designing-oriented features too, which you can find in official site. Sculptris is available for both macOS and Windows with system requirement of 1 GB of RAM or more. Other noteworthy features of Sculptris are, GoZ button, using which you can transfer your mesh to ZBrush, Dynamic Tessellation, Immersive Interface, Projection Painting and many more.
6. DraftSight 2019 Free CAD Software
DraftSight has always had the features and capabilities to be an optimal solution when you need to design in 2D, for personal or educational purposes. Now, DraftSight 2019 brings new and powerful features with robust 3D capabilities and more product choices and flexibility. With DWG as its primary drawing file format, it should be your choice when your intentions include editing of existing DWG files. Indeed, you can create new files in the native DWG format, at the same time. Another factor you would love about the tool is the availability of plenty of learning resources and an impressive level of support. Plus, you can find a large number of features in each section; let that be editing, productivity or exporting.
For instance, you will be able to save the project to a wide range of formats, including JPG, PNG, SVG, PDF etc. I also love that you have two UI options. You can either choose to work in the older classic UI or choose the newer ribbon-based workspace. The benefit of ribbons UI is that it lets you find, understand, and use commands with a minimum number of clicks. The ribbon design supersedes traditional menu bars and toolbars and provides a single user interface (UI) for all commands with labeled groupings and icons. I find it to be easier for beginners. DraftSight is available for Mac, Windows, Fedora and Ubuntu.
FreeCAD – open source parametric 3D CAD modeler, may not be an industry standard but the software will be truly useful if you are a CAD hobbyist with enough basics in CAD Modelling and related stuff. At the same time, an educator or programmer also will be able to get best out of FreeCAD, given the multi-purpose behavior and easier interface. Despite being a free tool, layout and designs of FreeCAD is almost on par with professional CAD software. It also packs in a ton of features. Probably the most important feature of FreeCAD is the Parametric Model — which lets you go back and edit your actions so that you get the best results while its modular architecture lets you get plug-ins for additional features you need.
In addition, from an advanced user’s perspective, its ability to be implemented into an app through Python module makes it quite useful. Additional features of FreeCAD include the Robot Simulation module that help you study movement of robots, Rendering module for exporting your project into external renderers, and a bunch of other modules that can be added as per your requirement. FreeCAD is available for Windows, Linux and Mac.
If you will be okay with using a textual description language to create 3D CAD Objects, you may find OpenSCAD as an effective free CAD Software. There are several scenarios you might need such an interface, especially when you’re in a professional field. On those, you will have to be as specific as you can when you model things and you can find how useful OpenSCAD is in such cases. There is a extensive document that tells you about the parameters to be kept when you give descriptions through OpenSCAD. It offers an impressive level of documentation that would be helpful in the long run, for newbies.
Also, the User Interface is completely a developer thing so you can go with OpenSCAD if you’re okay with it. OpenSCAD is available for Windows, Linux and macOS. Developers say that they find it completely superb to use OpenSCAD for designing, as there are no kinds of menus or shortcuts, but pure code. However, that also means that it’s not meant for beginners. If you are just starting out with CAD, this is not the one for you.
Suppose you’re at your friend’s home and got a call to design a simple 3D Model; but your friend’s PC does not have any of the CAD software installed in it, though there’s a powerful internet connection. Then, you can definitely find a solution at Tinkercad, which is an online solution for 3D Digital Designs. The best thing about Tinkercad is that it does not require any kind of previous experience, but you can just go and start designing. Thus, we hope you understand why it does not have much professional-labelled features in it. It also comes from the Autodesk initiative we did talk about earlier and the tool is available cross platform, as you guessed.
What I love about Tinkercad the most is that its meant to entice youngsters into learning CAD which might not seem like an interesting project to young audiences. The lectures are fun filled and there’s a lot to learn. You can learn 3D design, electronics design, code blocks, and more. There’s even tutorials on how to create Minecraft models. There’s a gallery where you can find what other users are designing and sharing. Some features of Tinkercad are its integration with 3D Printing services, support for HTML5, and a powerful geometry kernel. This is a great place to start learning CAD and everyone should check it out.
Free CAD Software Only for Students
AutoCAD, the industry standard for years when it comes to 3D Modelling, offers a three-year free license if you are a student and want to design things. As you might know, AutoCAD comes from Autodesk and the actual price of the tool is so high that no student can afford it. However, the company also knows that if students are not able to use AutoCAD they won’t learn it. And that will hurt the real sales in future when those students become graduates and professionals.
In its student version, you get all the features of AutoCAD. When compared to $200-per-month plan of AutoCAD, this student version is indeed superb. So, when your college wants you to restrict to AutoCAD, you can go for this student plan. It is available for macOS and Windows. Also, AutoCAD has a wide-enough range of documentation made available, using which you can get to know the basic & advanced features of the tool.
Use These Free CAD Apps to Create Your Masterpiece
So there are the free CAD software that you can use to create your models. I have tried to include both easy to use and approachable cad software along with some pro tools that might need a bit of learning to use. If you like this article do check out our other articles on cheap or free professional software. We have covered Microsoft Visio alternatives, free Photoshop alternatives, and more. Also, if missed out on any good CAD software, let us know in the comments down below.