Computer-Aided Design has been an important force that pushes the world forward, usually referred to as CAD. As an automotive art, CAD helps one to produce prototypes for a wide variety of uses. CAD is the first stage where the construction design begins, from designing of small electrical devices to massive machinery to the entire buildings and dams. CAD software is very costly and not available to everyone because of its exceedingly technical nature. When you’re a student or a freelancer, you do not have enough money to spend on an extravagant CAD app. That’s where you can help with free CAD apps. They are good enough to get you started, but they might not be as good as the paid professional CAD tools. So, here are the top 10 free CAD software for 2021 that you can use.
Top 10 Free CAD Software in 2021
We have a list of the best 10 free CAD software systems here. The catalog contains two kinds of apps, absolutely free and the premium software version for students. When the organization uses a particular software, the latter type would be beneficial and you need to use one, too. So, let’s move on:
1. Fusion 360
There is no better choice than Fusion 360 if you are a novice looking for free CAD applications to get started. You may be delighted to learn that Autodesk has built Fusion 360 and kept it free of charge to make computer-aided design available to teachers, developers, and hobbyists. In order to go over all the fundamentals of 3D Architecture & Modeling, Simulation, Generative Design, and more, Fusion 360 stresses more on building the concepts first. The greatest aspect of Fusion 360 is that, in one place, you can do anything. You can construct 3D prototypes, render complex mechanical systems, develop custom toolpaths, run simulations, interact through the cloud, and more.
Furthermore, in the future, if you extend your idea, you will seamlessly transfer it to CAM or CAE applications. That’s great right? In addition, you can also unify concept components from various projects, create a prototype, and produce on a single platform as well. That’s the best thing about Autodesk. All in all, Fusion 360 is one of the best free CAD applications and this instrument will be your trailblazer if you are a novice in this field.
2. For FreeCAD
FreeCAD is a free and open-source CAD software, as the name implies, and it is a top pick for both beginners and professionals. If you have the fundamentals of CAD modeling, the best option for you will be this program. Apart from that, provided the multi-purpose action and simpler design, an instructor or programmer would also be able to get the most out of FreeCAD. FreeCAD’s UI is almost on par with professional CAD applications, despite being a free application. It also has a lot of qualities. The Parametric Model, which lets you go back and edit your decisions so that you get the best results, is perhaps the most valuable aspect of FreeCAD, its modular nature helps you to get plug-ins for any additional functionality you need.
Furthermore, from the viewpoint of an experienced user, its ability to be incorporated by Python modules into an app makes it very useful. Additional FreeCAD functions include the Robot Simulation module that allows you to study the movement of robots; the Rendering module that allows you to export your project to external renderers; and a variety of other modules that can be added if needed. FreeCAD is, to sum up, a free and powerful CAD app and you don’t have to look for advanced 3D modeling anymore. The program is available for Windows, Linux, and Mac.
Suppose you’re at the home of your friend and you got a call to build a basic 3D model; but there’s no CAD program installed on your friend’s PC, although there’s a strong internet connection. Then, at Tinkercad, you will certainly find a solution. 3D Visual Designs is an online approach. The great thing about Tinkercad is that it requires no prior knowledge of any sort, and it is absolutely free to use. The program isn’t as feature-packed as other CAD applications, but Tinkercad is the best solution out there if you want an easy platform to build models, particularly for 3D printing. Tinkercad is now part of the Autodesk team, so you can get all sorts of support for integration and file formatting.
What I love most about Tinkercad is that it is designed to inspire young people to study CAD, which does not sound like an exciting project for young audiences. There’s a lot to explore and the lessons are fun-filled. You will learn to design 3D, design circuitry, blocks of code, and more. Tutorials on how to build Minecraft models are also available. There is a gallery where you can figure out what is planned and shared by other people. Its integration with 3D printing facilities, support for HTML5, and a versatile geometry library are some of Tinkercad’s capabilities. I’d say Tinkercad is a wonderful online forum to start studying CAD and it should be tested out by everyone. Moreover, when it does not cost you a penny for the service.
SketchUp is a professional-grade 3D modeling program used in numerous fields, such as interior design, construction, manufacturing, development of video game design, etc. As you guessed, SketchUp is a subscription program, but it provides a free tier for personal users and teachers. However, it’s available on the online site, to use the free option. You can build and render 3D models and save the project in DWG format. one of the noticeable additions of SketchUp includes its open-source library of model assemblies and 3D Warehouse, a wide enough set of 3D models submitted by other users.
There is also support for extensions since it is a tool built using Ruby; and, SketchUp’s Extension Warehouse is an awesome function for those who require improved productivity. You should try out SketchUp Pro, which is available for a 30-day trial, if you want to use its native program. So, before you order it, there is plenty of time to try it out. Overall, for both beginners and experts, the free web edition of SketchUp is a wonderful platform. If Tinkercad turns out to be too simple for your needs, Sketchup will be the best option since it provides specialized resources on the web without any limitations.
For 3D modeling, AutoCAD does not require much introduction as it has been an industry norm for the past several years. It’s a subscription-based product, but with a one-year student license, you can get this app for free. As you might know, AutoCAD comes from Autodesk and the tool’s real price is so high that it cannot be afforded by any beginner. The company, however, also recognizes that if students are unable to use AutoCAD, they will not learn it. And in the future, as those students become graduates and professionals, it would hurt actual sales.
You get all the characteristics of AutoCAD in its student edition. This student edition is also superb as opposed to AutoCAD’s $200-per-month package. Inside the software, you can build complicated assemblies, a range of metal designs, and simulate them. In AutoCAD, the variety of specialized equipment and pallets is absolutely incredible. AutoCAD also has a wide variety of documentation online, which helps you to get to know the tool’s basic and advanced functionality. So, I would strongly recommend you to go to AutoCAD if you are a student because it is free and carries lots of features.
Onshape is a modern-age CAD program known for its exemplary repository of architecture and assemblies. Onshape is a cloud-based design tool, unlike other software systems which are standalone applications. Only from a browser and without any fear of missing your design progress, you can build complicated solid and surface models. Since Onshape is a web-based platform, all your activities are saved, saving you from a massive loss. In computer-aided design applications, as the project grows over time, the loss of design progress is a big concern. Other than that, Onshape has three main methods for design: parts, assemblies, and drawings.
From its unique architectural design database, you can produce highly organized and informative assemblies. And for drawing purposes, if you have worked on Autodesk before, you can conveniently download DWG, DWT, or DXF files. Now, you must be assuming that Onshape is a premium product, but it still provides teachers, educators, and hobbyists with its software completely free of charge. So, what else do you want? Cloud-based, capable applications with all the new technologies for the production needs. In a way, right now, Onshape is one of the best free CAD apps available.
LibreCAD is a 2D modeling program for Windows, macOS, and Linux, unlike other CAD software on this list. It is an open-source, free CAD program that allows you to use it for both private and commercial use. Any of the libraries from another CAD application called BRL-CAD are used by LibreCAD. It includes immersive geometry architecture, ray-tracing, benchmark suite, and more for rendering and analysis. With a highly customizable GUI, you can create 2D geometric drawings, circuit boards, mathematical figures, etc. It also supports both DWG and DWF file formats, so that your saved designs can be quickly imported from AutoCAD or other CAD applications.
In addition, in DXF, SVG, and PDF, you can export your 2D template. What I love about LibreCAD is that it has support for plugins so you can integrate specialized resources only by adding a third-party extension. To conclude, LibreCAD is the best program out there if you are searching for free CAD applications for 2D modeling.
If you choose to use a textual representation language to build 3D CAD objects, OpenSCAD can be considered to be an efficient free CAD program. You might need such an interface in many situations, particularly when you’re in a professional field. As such, when you model things, you’ll have to be as precise as you can and you can figure out how helpful OpenSCAD is in those situations. There is a detailed manual that tells you about the criteria to be maintained while you use OpenSCAD to provide explanations. It provides an exceptional level of documentation for newbies, which will be useful in the long term.
The User Interface is almost entirely developer-centric, but if you’re cool with it, you can go with OpenSCAD. OpenSCAD is available for Windows, Linux, and macOS, Developers find it absolutely excellent to use OpenSCAD for designing since there are no kinds of menus or shortcuts, just pure coding. That also implies, however, that it’s not intended for beginners. This is not for you if you are just starting out with CAD.
Another free CAD app based on 3D Sculpting & 3D Modeling is Sculptris. It is created by one of the pioneers of the industry, Pixologic. The tool has a technical user interface that can be mastered in a shorter amount of time for anybody, provided that you understand the fundamentals of creative design. When it comes to designing, there are some features that can be very useful. For instance, there is support for both ZBrush navigation & standard-level navigation.
It also provides support for many plug-ins that can be used to expand its features and productivity. Furthermore, there are also some sculpting and design-oriented features that can be found on the official site.
Sculptris is available on a device with a device minimum of 1 GB of RAM or more for both macOS and Windows. Sculptris’s other prominent features include the GoZ press, which can be used to transfer your mesh to ZBrush, Dynamic Tessellation, Immersive Interface, Projection Painting, and many more.
While NanoCAD is not completely free CAD software, it is certainly much cheaper than what is provided by the competition, and that’s why I included it in this list. It is a low-cost CAD application, but it has specialized tools for designing and developing 2D and 3D templates. No matter which industry you belong to, construction, manufacturing, or mechanical engineering, this tool provides you with all the extensions for drafting and drawing. The great thing about NanoCAD is that the DWG file format is fully compliant. So, in case you want to shift your idea elsewhere in the future, this feature will have your back.
In addition, NanoCAD provides many APIs for end-users that can be used to simplify complicated CAD projects. In particular, it will benefit certain enterprises who routinely manufacture identical goods without having to go through the grinding drafting phase. Also, NanoCAD is an offline application, so its appearance and classic toolbar interface are appreciated by those who enjoy operating on a desktop program. To sum up, NanoCAD is a perfect choice if you are able to pay a one-time fee of $180 instead of paying a monthly or annual membership.
Build your masterpiece using these free CAD applications
So, there are free CAD tools that you can use to design your models. We have attempted to provide both easy to use and approachable CAD software together with some pro tools that would take a bit of a learning curve to use. If you like this post, take a look at our other posts on technical software that is cheap or free. if any decent CAD software is not mentioned here, let us know in the comments below.