Mechanical Engineering Blog

Best Free CAD Software in 2019

Best Free CAD Software in 2019

Free CAD software is what you’re looking for? Not everyone has access to professional modelling tools. But napkin scribbles won’t do it for manufacturing purposes. If you cannot find a way to make proper models or drawings, we are here to guide you towards some free CAD software.

Instead on listing every possible free CAD program, we are going to pinpoint only the best ones.

Free 3D CAD Software

Our system is well prepared to read STP files for giving you an instant manufacturing quote. This is a universal CAD model file. Pretty much any proper 3D modelling software lets you converts the models into STP files.

A list of programs for free 3D modelling:

Fusion 360

Powerful CAD modelling platform from Autodesk that has a free version for students and hobbyists (or companies with a revenue under $100,000). They have a great step-by-step intro to using the program. This will bring your 3D design skills up to the necessary standard. There is also a variety of tutorials available on YouTube. For example, this video shows the ease of making a 2D drawing from your model.

FreeCAD

Freecad modelling

An open-source 3D modelling software. Another good solution when 3D solids are needed. It also has a separate sheet metal environment, which is really handy for avoiding design mistakes.

Also suitable when you want to make proper drawings of the models. Create your 3D parts first and then make easy drawings automatically.

Onshape

Onshape has a free version for hobbyists and makers. Very professional-looking software suitable for anyone interested in learning CAD. A big perk is that all the files are stored on a cloud, making it the ideal program for group work.

3D Modelling Program Trial Versions

Most of the professional solid modelling programs cost a lot. They also have more possibilities, like embedded Finite Element Analysis software. But you can first try educational or trial versions.

While trials last for maybe a month, student versions are often free for a year and can be further extended. The advantage for trial versions is full functionality. Student versions tend to restrict the capabilities and leave watermarks to drawings as they are meant for learning purposes, not actual engineering.

Here’s a list of the best CAD programs around:

Solidworks

CAD software

Probably the most popular CAD software out there. Solidworks has a lot of how-to videos on YouTube and you can find answers to any questions. The interface is pretty intuitive. Thus, it is often used by universities as the CAD program for students. The trial versions last for 14 to 30 days.

Solid Edge

Another very widely used 3D modelling program. Similarly to Solidworks, Solid Edge is easy to use and has a wide support network. The trial versions gives you a 45-day access to full functionality.

Inventor

Autodesk Inventor’s user interface is a little different from the previous two, but the functions stay pretty much the same. The gap isn’t big, though. If you know the functions, you’ll find them in any program. Trial version lasts for 30 days.

CATIA

CAD trial version

Like SolidWorks, it is developed by Dassault Systems. The reason for having different programs is that they’re aimed at separate segments of the industry. Although CATIA has a steeper learning curve, the functionality is especially important for sectors like car manufacturing. It provides more possibilities with surface modelling and creating complex assemblies. There doesn’t seem to be a proper trial version but there’s a free student version with a 1 year license.

Creo

Another CAD program aimed at more proficient users. Like CATIA, it is friendly towards larger and more complex assemblies. The downside is needing proper CAD engineering fundamentals. Creo has a 30-day free trial.

Solidworks and SolidEdge are very forgiving towards simple mistakes. They are perfect for 3D modelling but tend to slow down with bigger assemblies. Inventor lets you go on despite mistakes but will, at some point, mess up the whole assembly, if not constrained and modelled properly. Creo and CATIA are better suited for more proficient users. Thus, your choice should depend on the CAD applications you’re after.

Free 2D Drafting Programs

There are also good CAD tools available for making 2D DXF drawings. Don’t be deterred by the amount of commands available to you. The designing of simple sheets with cutouts only needs proficiency in a fraction of those options. Just be sure you are not using inches instead of millimetres, or vice versa. Also, if you happen to have DWGs instead of DXF files, you can convert them using this.

QCAD

Open source CAD

An open source CAD system for everyone. Supports DXFs and DWGs. As Draftsight will soon lose its free status, this is our first recommendation for 2D drawing software. Larger array of functions is available at an affordable price.

LibreCAD

Free CAD drawing software

A 2D CAD free and open source software. Recommended by many who don’t use CAD enough to warrant a need for buying one. The learning curve is a bit steeper, as the user interface differs more from the CADs we are all used to. For a first-timer, it doesn’t make much of a difference though.

Sketchup

This is an intuitive software that has many different pricing packages according to the necessary functions. The simple sketching version is free to use and good for making DXF drawings ready for production.

Adobe Illustrator

Not free but very popular among artists and graphic designers. Illustrator uses vectors for making the art. Thus, there is no need for getting any extra software. You can save your drawings as DXFs that are ready for laser cutting.

 

DXF Files Have Vectors

Digital images come in 2 forms: raster and vector. Raster graphics contain many small dots or pixels. Image files are usually built using pixels. The problem is that when enlarged, they get inaccurate and aren’t really connected to each other. It’s more like a cluster of dots.

The solution is using vectors in DXF file format. Vector graphics use points, lines and curves to convey your image. You can zoom in indefinitely, while the quality of a curve remains smooth. Laser cutting needs this quality to get the desired result.

Converting to Vector Files

There are some feeless services online to convert your PDFs to DXFs. It is useful when your drawings are simple. But you should still review it for glitches and scale ratio.

Check the scale by measuring the drawing. Make sure the measurements correspond to reality. If not, simple math can get you a ratio of the drawing’s measurement to the one needed. Use this to set the value for scale.

  • Zamzar. The results satisfied us after some testing. The scale got messed up during the conversion but a little tweaking was all it took. You can receive the download link in less than a minute.
  • Cometdocs. Not much of a difference between Cometdocs and Zamzar. Provided quick results but the scale was off again. Still good enough to get the job done if the quantities are small and some manual labor doesn’t put you off.

Hopefully you found a suitable free CAD software for your needs. If you have already produced your CAD files, submit them for instant quoting on our sheet metal fabrication platform!

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