A reliable CAD is crucial if you want to speed up the time to introduce a product right out of your design and modeling department. For one, it makes life easier for your project managers and marketing teams. If your product development team is out of ideas, having quick access to CAD libraries should help. You may have budget concerns, leaving you no choice but to consider free CAD software in the market. They may not have the awesome factor that the premium ones offer, but they’re the ones to help you get there too.
In this article, we present 10 of the best free CAD software for you to choose from. This should shorten the time you need to get your business running. That and without expending more time and effort than necessary. Determine which one looks right for your needs now and consider any upgrade path that you might need later on. At the very least, they should allow you to work and save in a variety of formats to make them usable to other teams.
If you’re operating a small firm, working with a limited budget presents its own unique challenges. However, it should not stop you from falling behind the technology curve.
Two developments, for example, should play nicely in your hands: mobile CAD and the continued rise of vendors offering SaaS subscription-based CAD.
Mobile devices will not likely replace desktop systems in creating complex CADs soon. However, they are a great boon for on-site activities where teams could easily view, annotate and update ongoing projects.
Through a vast improvement in their workflow, mobile CAD can now share knowledge and shorten production cycles unlike before.
This new ability to synchronize devices and users in real time is a fundamental leap from previous work conditions, increasing productivity and efficiency everywhere.
The massive logistics challenges in migrating CAD to the cloud meant that CAD would be among the last to follow the SaaS business model. It is happening now, however, and this could only be great news for small firms that could not afford the steep licensing terms required.
Business Advantage reports, for example, that around 19% of CAD users will be using cloud-based CAD, with a predicted increase of 29% in the next 3 to 5 years.
While vendors work out how to ideally implement cloud CAD, what’s clear is that in the next five to ten years, engineers will be migrating the majority of their work online. This will bring with it powerful data management solutions, intense security.
One area of CAD that should see an immediate effect is parametric modeling. Engineers will fondly remember how in-context design, standard content, configurations and multi-part modeling used to be unreliable and ugly previously. In the era of cloud CAD, these tools will become more robust, helping users finish designs faster.
For up to December 31, 2019, feature-rich CAD solution DraftSight will let you design in 2D or 3D using the 2018 free version and the ones that came earlier. Beyond that, the vendor will only allow a thirty-day free trial version for the latest 2019 edition.
Draftsight allows for compatibility with any 2D or 3D DWG file. The user interface is easy to learn, helping you transition if you are using another CAD solution before.
In addition to already powerful features, DraftSight introduced new 3D capabilities in its latest update. This provides more choices and flexibility for users to design projects. DraftSight is also exploring the possibility of adding a cloud-based version of the software with additional features in the works.
Getting DraftSight makes sense, especially if you use other Dassault Systemes and SOLIDWORKS solutions.
Price Range: Standard Versions up to 2018 are free, but will cease running after December 31, 2019. Starting in 2019, DraftSight pricing for Standard, Professional, and Premium editions are $99, $199, and $499, respectively. There is an Enterprise edition but you need to request a quote for it.
Fully free for students and non-professional or non-commercial users, CAD software Onshape helps you design all aspects of design activity through real-time observation. The platform helps you improve product design process through robust CAD assembly and configurations. It lets you complete your work quickly and effectively without being overwhelmed by an unfamiliar GUI.
Clear design elements prevent you from losing track of activities. For example, simply monitor your work by scrolling through an activity feed. You have full access to raw analytics for further study. If you have different types of users, you simply need to configure your users easily as full, light, or guest accounts. It lets you monitor your team easily through audit logs, so you know who did what and where they accomplished it.
They say modern problems require modern solutions, and Onshape is as modern as you can get with CAD.
Price Range: Free for students, non-professional and non-commercial users. The professional version costs $2,100 per year, while the Enterprise and Standard versions are priced $1,500 and $20,000, respectively. A free trial is available.
Free for startups with less than US 100k per year in total revenue and non-commercial hobbyists, Autodesk’s Fusion 360 is designed to help you design your products and bring them to market faster than you’ve ever imagined. Design, conceptualize and test your products using only a single platform from start to finish. Among other Fusion 360 benefits is the test tool, which ensures your designs are complete and will work.
Cloud storage helps you get the best of team collaboration. Earn more control of your data through managed user permissions and make sure only your team knows what’s happening to the design, and not everyone else. Create and test prototypes through the program, and explore possible outcomes about the product even before it hits the assembly line. Make sure that weight, performance, and part issues are resolved before a physical copy of the product is made.
If you’re interested to know more about the product development process of Fusion 360, sign up here for a free copy of their software.
Price Range: Aside from the free use for startups, hobbyists and non-commercial users, there are three different terms of subscription. A monthly plan costs $60, an annual plan costs $495, and a three-year plan costs $1,335. There are free 1-year and 3-year subscriptions for non-commercial and educational use.
As one of the best free CAD software around, Tinkercad is also perfect for beginners. There are Tinkercad features for any level of designer. New designers, for example, can start by creating bricks similar to Lego. Minecraft gamers, on the other hand, can test their creativity through a Minecraft-like modeler. More serious designers can create more sophisticated designs without stifling their creativity.
You may design circuits and 3D designs with ease. If you’re into codes, you may design objects using codes you know by heart. Once you’re done, you may proceed to print in 3D using Tinkercad’s partner services. Once done, they will ship your creations to your doorstep, laser-cut and ready to be presented.
Price Range: Free
As its name suggests, FreeCAD is free to download. Not only that: it also gives you absolute freedom to design and create. The open-source 3D modeler lets you design real-life objects of any size. You may sketch in 2D then transform that into 3D images. With it, you can see how dimensions affect the design. Use any number of components to complete your design and simulate how parts move and come together as in real life.
Other FreeCAD details show a fully multi-platform software that supports Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems. It is highly customizable owing to its open source nature. For file support, it reads and writes many open file formats so you can share works across your team. FreeCAD simply works, whether you’re a mechanical engineer or just a hobbyist creator.
Despite its free nature, it comes ready with a wide selection of tools that helps you create and test just about anything. A robot simulation module and a Path workbench are available with the free trial.
Price Range: Free to download; always actively updated.
LibreCAD provides CAM capabilities into the community version of QCAD. It is an improved QCAD version with Qt4 enhancements, allowing for better rendering and modernized support. Aside from being completely free, it comes with a dedicated development team and an actively helpful community. There’s a partnership with BRL-CAD and JetBrains, which has lent their CLion licenses.
The latest version of its engine has the LcPainter layout. This improves its existing OpenGLpainter, which can render draw() codes. It is also armed with the current transition matrix—CTM. A fast caching mechanism helps you save data. There’s gradient rendering to create a linear gradient and calculate the color (R, G, B, A) for each vertex using vector mathematics.
As its name says, LibreCAD is completely free and easy to download.
Price Range: Free, open-source
OpenSCAD is another excellent choice for free software. Perfect for highly technical users, it’s remarkable for creating 3D representations of machine parts. As a 3D-compiler, it reads a script file that describes the object and renders the 3D model from it. It gives the designer full control over all aspects of the modeling process. Configurable parameters make it easy to change designs.
Two modeling techniques are available to creators: the constructive solid geometry and the extrusion of 2D outlines. DXF files, readable by Autocad, is the data format used for 2D files. The platform can also read from DXF files and create 3D models that can be saved in STL and OFF file formats.
OpneSCAD is downloadable in a variety of different OS.
Price Range: Free; accepts donations through Paypal.
Another open source application, QCAD lets you create technical drawings, building plans and mechanical parts in 2D. Different schematics and diagrams are available, and the source code is also available under the GPL v3. You can add to it as it suits you, or remove any features you feel you don’t need. Its true beauty, however, is in the design.
The application offers a portable solution with an intuitive interface. These features come into play once you realize how powerful this CAD software is. QCAD is one of those platforms which you can use as soon as you pick it up. The software is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux platforms.
Price Range: Free to download.
With its similarity to the block-building game Minecraft, 3D Slash directly appeals to gamers. It is also free and is browser-based. The light, fun interface makes it is easy for beginners to learn 3D modeling. Intermediate workers, on the other hand, just need to start creating. The platform is optimized for use on any media, whether on mobile or desktop. A notable 3D Slash benefit is letting creators display their designs on social media. If that is not an option, they may instead opt to go for 3D printer.
You may slice or slash a cube as easy as if playing a game. A new feature lets you engrave pictures or text on a model. There’s a wide color palette so you can color your cube in any dye of your choice. You get two version options: for use in classrooms or in the workplace. All formats are synchronized for support.
With it’s easy to pick up nature, beginners or returning designers won’t have any problem designing in the platform.
The free app gives users online storage for the web version. You can only work with 8 colors, though, limiting what you can do. The premium is only 2 dollars, so that leaves you with a good subscription option.
Price Range: low-cost plans, from Free to Premium ($2 per month), School ($8 per month), and Professional ($20 per month) versions.
With a free version and other professional versions, nanoCAD caters to industry standards. A wide variety of APIs is backed by a powerful table editor. It is well-supported by a dedicated community of people who are directly connected to the CAD software industry with years of expertise. nanoCAD features an interface that’s easy to master because of its familiarity. Better still, its drafting and design tools are also easy to use.
It has various productivity features and is always updated through updates and prioritized online support. nanoCAD brings most of what makes CAD software a must-have; the capability to edit, validate, share, and manage CAD models, but mostly none of what makes CAD software hard to master from the start.
Price Range: Free version; all other professional versions come with a free trial. The other six versions include the Plus version at $180, the Pro version at $290, the Construction at $260, the Construction Site edition at $260, the Mechanica version at $300, the Construction Site edition at $600 and the 3DScan that is only quote-based.
That’s it, our top ten best free CAD software. One of these platforms should be the software just right for your needs. It could be in terms of fast workflows, more advanced modeling and the like.
CAD applications are just one of a number of applications that design professionals have at their disposal. For those in the construction industry, they may consider construction management software to give them a good handle of every aspect of their projects, from design, estimates, workflows to reporting and analysis among many others.
BIM software is another class of applications closely related to CAD. If you’re in the building industry, you might really need this one more than a CAD platform.
If you’re an architectural firm, these top architecture software solutions may be a better fit. They have elements of CAD, BIM and project management tools designed for structural outlining and visual presentation.
Collaboration tools, on the other hand, are also great partners to your CAD app of choice. It should help you handle even remote team members while ensuring that apps and files required for the projects are always on hand.
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