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The Complete Guide to Free CAD software

Written on:April 1, 2016
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Whether you a beginner or a professional with years of experience, there are plenty of free CAD software out there that is suitable for any level and needs. From the most popular free CAD software to colorful, easy-to-use alternatives for kids and complete beginners, here is the only guide to free 3D CAD & modeling software you’ll ever need.

How to get started: free CAD software for beginners

Read this section first if you just want to give 3D modeling a try and don’t have any background in 3D modeling or any relevant experience. As a complete beginner, you need to start with quite simple programs to learn the 3D basics first.

Note: Some programs were created for 2D drawings or 3D modeling only but some of the best programs combine a range of features for both. As a rule, free CAD software offers features either for 2D or 3D only so you’ll need to decide whether you want to create two or three dimensional objects. Later on, you can switch to more complex (and expensive) programs like TurboCAD Deluxe that offers a big set of drawing tools for both 2D and 3D renderings.

The idea of buying the professional CAD software from the very beginning is quite tempting. However, there is a wide range of free and cheap programs that have just enough tools and features for you to get a solid start.  Even if your first 3D program look like a game (3D splash, for example, was created for kids and the whole idea of it was born when Sylvain Huet watched his kid play Minecraft), you need to start somewhere and also stay motivated along the way. The more complex software is not recommended if you’ve never worked with 2D or 3D models before; most likely, you’ll be confused from the start and will get the wrong idea that it’s too hard and impossible to learn. On the contrary, 3D modeling can be easy and even entertaining. All you need is to begin with the right program and learn how to design simple shape models first.

Free CAD software for complete beginners:

  • 3D splash. This bright program is as fun and easy contrary to the popular belief that CAD software is always boring and hard to use. 3D splash resembles a colorful game, which makes it perfect for kids or adults of all ages who want to start with something easy and even entertaining.
  • 3D Tin is a browser-based app with a simple interface and a big library of already designed professionally made templates.
  • You don’t need any previous experience to use FreeCAD, a program that is quite popular among engineers and architects because its features are mainly adapted to mechanical engineering. It’s a free software comparable to the best paying ones that uses Parametric modeling and can be used by everyone: from the home user to the programmer. However, you’ll have to upgrade if you want to use some of the more advanced features.
  • Draftsman is a universal program for various projects that is widely used among beginners because of its simple interface and a lot of great features.
  • K-3D offers innovative artistic approach to both 3D modeling and animation. It’s also free but you can upgrade your version and add more plugins later. Also, the developers of this software offer a lot of interactive tutorials to get you started.
  • Meshmixer is software adapted to modeling and sculpting for 3D printing. It’s great for a variety of purposes and the best thing about it is that you can create a new model from existing one. Moreover, it includes a lot of useful tools for 3D printing such as inspecting, cleaning and healing for 3D files.

Free CAD software for advanced users

Experienced CAD users also use free software from time to time. Whether you can’t invest in expensive software right now or want to explore some other opportunities of 2D or 3D modeling for free, here is a list of the best free CAD software for experienced users, inspired by the best professionals ones.

  • Art of Illusion is animation-oriented but it offers a great mix of both modeling and rendering.
  • Blender is a powerful free app and is well known among experienced CAD users for its great steep learning curve.
  • BRL-CAD offers an outstanding geometric modeling system, also based on CSG. It’s a complex program that is mainly used in advanced technology; the developers of it even claim that this software is used by the US Army to model weapon systems.
  • Fusion 360 is the most advanced free CAD software but it’s free for a non-commercial use only.
  • 3D Crafteruses drag and drop approach to create models and because of this it’s a pretty intuitive program suitable for user with even little experience.
  • Meshlabis widely appreciated by advanced CAD users for its mesh and point cloud processing functions as well as its ability to manage even very large files.

As you can see, there is no need in expensive software to get started with 3D modeling. At the end, the final result of your work can be so much more than just two or three dimensional sketches and plans. Even with free CAD software you can create a whole lot of 2D/3D objects for 3D printing or for other purposes. Either way, it’s not that hard to learn some theory first and then apply your knowledge and skills to create your first two or three dimensional objects with this free and easy-to-use free software. All you need is to get started!

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