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 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 good enough to get you started. So, here are the top 10 best free CAD software that you can use in 2020.
Best Free CAD Software in 2020
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?
1. Fusion 360
If you are a beginner and looking for a free CAD software 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 within the reach of students, creators, and hobbyists. 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. The best part about Fusion 360 is that you can do everything in one place. You can create 3D designs, render complicated mechanical structures, design custom toolpath, run simulations, collaborate through the cloud 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 best free CAD software and if you are a beginner in this field then this tool is going to be your trailblazer.
FreeCAD, as the name suggests is a free and open-source CAD software and it’s a top choice among both beginners and professionals. If you have got the basics of CAD modeling then this software would be the best pick for you. Apart from that, an educator or programmer will also be able to get the best out of FreeCAD, given the multi-purpose behavior and easier interface. Despite being a free tool, the UI 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 that 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 modules make it quite useful. Additional features of FreeCAD include the Robot Simulation module that helps you study the 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. To sum up, FreeCAD is a free and powerful CAD software and you don’t have to look further for professional 3D modeling. The program is available for Windows, Linux and Mac.
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. It is an online solution for 3D Digital Designs. The best thing about Tinkercad is that it does not require any kind of previous experience, and it’s completely free to use. The program is not as feature-packed as other CAD software, but if you want a simple platform to design models, especially for 3D printing then Tinkercard is the best solution out there. Also, Tinkercard is part of the Autodesk family so you will get all kinds of integration and file format support.
What I love about Tinkercad the most is that it’s 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 are 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 library. I would say Tinkercad is a great online platform to start learning CAD and everyone should check it out. More so, when the service does not cost you a dime.
SketchUp is a professional-grade software used for 3D Modelling in various industries such as interior design, architecture, engineering, video game design development, etc. As you guessed it, SketchUp is a paid program, but it offers a free tier for personal users and students. However, you will have to use the free service on its web platform. You can design 3D models, render them and save your project in DWG format. One of the noticeable additions of SketchUp includes 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. If you want to use its native app then 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 a great tool for both beginners and professionals. If Tinkercard turns out too basic for your need then Sketchup would be the perfect pick as it offers advanced tools without many limitations on the web.
AutoCAD does not need much introduction as it has been an industry standard for the past many years when it comes to 3D Modelling. It’s a premium program, but you can get this CAD software for free through a one-year student license. 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 the future when those students become graduates and professionals.
In its student version, you get all the features of AutoCAD. When compared to the $200-per-month plan of AutoCAD, this student version is indeed superb. You can create complex assemblies, a variety of metal designs and simulate them within the program. The range of advanced tools and pallets on AutoCAD is simply unbelievable. 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. So if you are a student I would highly recommend you to go for AutoCAD as it’s free and brings tons of 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.
Unlike other CAD software in this list, LibreCAD is a 2D modeling software for Windows, macOS, and Linux. It’s an open-source and free CAD software so you can use it for both personal and commercial use. LibreCAD uses some of the libraries from another CAD program called BRL-CAD. It offers interactive geometry design, ray-tracing for rendering and analysis, benchmark suite and more. You can create geometric 2D designs, circuit boards, mathematical figures, etc. in a highly customizable interface. Further, it supports both DWG and DWF file formats so you can easily import your saved projects from AutoCAD or other CAD applications.
Moreover, you can export your 2D design in DXF, SVG and PDF. What I love about LibreCAD is that it has support for plugins so you can add advanced tools just by installing a third-party plugin. To conclude, if you are looking for free a CAD software for 2D modeling then LibreCAD is the best program out there.
If you are 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 an 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-centric 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 for you.
Sculptris is another free CAD Software that focuses on 3D Sculpting & 3D Modelling. It is made by one of the industry leaders named Pixologic. 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 support for both ZBrush navigation & standard-level navigation.
It also offers 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 the official site. Sculptris is available for both macOS and Windows with a 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.
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 your 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 desktop 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.
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.