Several free CAD programs are available online that can be downloaded for various mechanical engineering, product designing, or other purposes. This article lists out the top free 3D CAD programs and platforms that you can employ for the same.

CAD software helps with different types of works, such as visualization, simulation, or 3D printing. People usually think that they need to spend a fortune to use these programs. Well, it may be true at some point but not in all cases. There are many free CAD software available for use.

3D CAD Software
3D CAD Software

The CAD programs available for free can be either downloaded or used online. So, you can use them at your convenience. Apart from listing out the top free 3D CAD programs of 2021, we will also share some of their features along with a few insights on how to choose the right one.

What is CAD?

CAD stands for Computer-Aided Design. Here, computers are used by the industries to gain support with the process of creation, optimization, analysis, or modification of a design. Using CAD software is one of the best ways to bring your design ideas to life.

Not just designers, but engineers, architects, and even animators use it to improve their design quality. By employing CAD software, you can create a complete model in the imaginary space by visualizing different properties like distance, width, material, height, etc.

Advantages of CAD Software

There are many advantages of using CAD software. They are:

  • Ability to clearly visualize and create 2D and 3D objects
  • Easy to make modifications in the designs
  • Availability of specialized tools and features
  • Inexpensive and less difficult than the traditional fabrication methods
  • Adding detailed representations to the designs closer to real life
  • Easy to carry out simulations and test for the design flaws

Free 3D CAD Software programs to use Online

  • 3D Slash

    This 3D modeling tool, targeted at beginners, comes for free (standard version) and used through web browser. The modeling method is almost similar to how models are created using Minecraft. Notably, desktop, tablet, and mobile versions are also available. The designs can be shared on social platforms or as 3D prints.

  • BlocksCAD

    In this 3D software, CAD objects are coded in OpenSCAD. The difficulty level is high.

  • SculptGL

    This free online CAD tool can be accessed via web browser. The learning curve is not steep. Users can get acquainted with the sculpting process by using the basic tools that this platform features.

  • TinkerCAD

    This free CAD program is available online and is a cloud-based application. It works on the “what you see is what you get” principle. Different pre-built designs are included and such designs can be easily customized. The platform lacks advanced modeling functions, but the user interface is very friendly. Additionally, there’s a dedicated user community that shares ideas and aids in problem solving.

  • Smoothie 3D

    This online 3D modeling software is ideal for designers and artists. You need to register before using intuitive and user-friendly browser driven interface. You can import objects in STL and OBJ formats and export them as VRML2, STL or OBJ formats. You can export the designs to 3D printing service providers like Shapeways, 3DHubs etc.

  • Edges

    This free tool available online has many innovative features. You need not register to use the platform. However, for exporting files, you need to use your Google account for signing up or logging in.

  • Clara.io

    This free 3D CAD tool has many powerful features for basic level 3D modeling. You can use polygon modeling features to bevel, loop, and cut, extrude, slice etc. For texture maps, you can avail of UV mapping.

  • SelfCAD

    This online CAD platform is free to use. You can design and 3D print complex objects at ease.

  • Vectary

    The user interface of this free CAD tool available online is innovative and facilitates collaboration. You can quickly adapt the mesh with selections and sliders of parametric modeling.

  • ImplicitCAD

    Ideal for engineers, you can code with programming languages in this open-source CAD tool for creating objects. End print ready 3d designs are compatible with printers.

  • Leopoly

    The user interface is ideal for beginners. ZSpace has created free to use Leopoly in the online form. You can conduct training for new designers regarding creation, customization and preparing of 3D models meant for 3D printing. CAD and 3D sculpting go side by side on this platform.

  • eMachineShop

    This free CAD tool is owned by an online 3D printing and CNC milling service. After completing your design in 2D or 3D, you can place order for parts right away. Both beginners and advanced users can utilize the tools of this CAD platform. Sheet metal bending, chamfering and other features are available.

  • BRL-CAD

    This open source 3D CAD modeler offers cross-platform compatibility. You can edit geometry interactively, ray trace in high quality for analyzing geometry or for rendering, and can perform product engineering related tasks.

  • Onshape

    SolidWorks had released Onshape for more innovative and qualitative CAD modeling.

  • OpenJSCAD

    This 3D modeling platform combines JavaScript and OpenSCAD. You can create accurate 3D product models to print them. You need to define model features through script files’ parameters.

Free CAD Software programs to download

  • 3dc.io

    3D modeling can be done easily with this tool and you can 3D print all designs. You can share files on multiple platforms and view them on different devices. With built-for-collaboration platform, you can make creative and immersive designs.

  • SketchUp Free

    You can draw layout functionalities as well use different styles for surface rendering. The exchange repository is included in the online free software. You can download about 2.2 million models rich 3D Warehouse right in the online platform.

  • MonoWorks

    This open source 3D CAD suite has numerous features and flexible tool sets. You can access designing, engineering and drafting tools along with modeling libraries and object oriented mathematics. Interactive viewing option is available. You can perform simpler modeling activities, visualization and advanced automation.

  • Sculptris

    Pixologic has released this free 3D software for offering enriched sculpting toolset which enables creation of complex designs like dragon.

  • SketchUp Make

    You can use it for creating architectural designs and other types of 3D designs.

  • DraftSight

    This free CAD editor allows creation, editing and viewing of projects in native DWG mode. The standard features set can be leveraged by students and professionals alike. You can use text, polylines, lines, dimensions etc. for creating plans with professional appearance. The UI is minimalist.

  • FreeCAD

    This free open source parametric 3D modeling tool is aimed for mechanical engineers, architects and production designers primarily. You can create meshes, 2D drafts, 3D solids etc. Features like right hand coordinate system make it powerful.

  • KiCAD

    This open source and free Printed Circuit Board (PCB) designing tool comes accompanied with project manager, PCB editor, footprint selector, schematic editor, and GERBER file viewer.

  • QCAD

    This 2D CAD design software is open source and free. You can draw technical parts, mechanical components, diagrams, buildings etc. QCAD is modular, extensible, and portable. The user interface is intuitive. Even beginners can use it. Other features include 4800+ CAD parts’ library, different fonts for CAD, blocks, and layers.

  • LibreCAD

    This 2D CAD software offers ease of use and superior features like layers usage, inside drawing measurements, snap to grid etc using this best free drawing software.

  • 3DCrafter

    You can 3D model or create animation in real time with features like drag and drop. Complex models can be created with Shape Building Tools and 3D primitives. For animating, you need to place subject at predefined points across a timeline.

  • NanoCAD

    This free 2D CAD free drafting software is an alternative for AutoCAD. You can use sophisticated CAD tools and superior performance. The table editor is power packed. More advanced features are available in NanoCAD plus and NanoCAD pro.

  • 123D

    AutoDesk has released this cad software suite. You can sculpt, model, draw, create circuits, manipulate 3D files and do other things. Tools are simple yet even a beginner can create complex models.

  • Blender

    With this open source modeler, you can model, rig, animate, simulate, render, motion track, and perform compositing. You can edit videos and create video games.

  • OpenSCAD

    You can create solid 3D models. CAD model’s properties and mechanical dimensions are given preference over artistic composition.

  • SolveSpace

    This parametric 3D CAD software is suited for product engineering for modeling 3D parts for printing, preparing CAM data, designing mechanisms, and using solid or plane geometry. You can build solid models, analyze them, sketch and do other things.

  • Meshmixer

    This 3D CAD tool is from Autodesk. You can work with triangle meshes. You can precisely do 3D positioning through pivots or design objects for fitting another shape.

  • DesignSpark Mechanical

    This 3D CAD modeler allows product engineering in 3D in innovative manner. You can do rapid prototyping and reverse engineering quickly.

  • MeshLab

    You can process and edit unstructured triangle meshes in 3D with this open source 3D CAD modeler. The triangular meshes can be edited, cleaned, healed, inspected, rendered and converted.

  • K-3D

    You can avail of flexible plugins in this 3D CAD programs for artistic 3D modeling. Visualization pipeline architecture is also present.

  • Antimony

    This 3D CAD modeler from Matt Keeter allows fabrication, rapid prototyping and interactive editing.

  • 3D Builder

    This free CAD tool can be used on desktops, Xbox One, Windows Hololense, and Windows Mobile. You can download free cad online models for editing and 3D printing.

  • MagicaVoxel

    The user interface of this free CAD program is intuitive. Color palettes to the left of interface allow painting of voxels when traditional textures are not present. You can custom define or load palettes. The render settings do perfect work. Patterns and brushes consisting of voxels are defined beforehand.

  • Wings 3D

    The basic features suit the needs of beginners. Professionals can use the advanced features.

  • Art of Illusion

    This free 3D modeler offers ease of use and industry grade tools. You can engage in subdivision surface-based modeling, carry out animation with skeletons, and create materials or procedural textures with graphical language. The tool is intuitive and power packed.

  • LeoCAD

    You can use the CAD tools of LeoCAD for building virtual designs with LEGO bricks. Models with many parts can be easily built. Kids and beginners can use it. Since this is open source, you too can contribute newer, more advanced features.

  • HeeksCAD

    This 3D solid modeler is used for creating geometric objects with 2D shapes. This free software is ideal for mechanical engineering tasks.

  • Calculix

    This finite element analysis app is open source and adopts an input format like Abaqus. You can find CCX (implicit and explicit solver) and CGX (pre- and post-processor).

  • Salome

    You can use this free architecture software, open source platform for numerical simulation with pre and post processing. Reusable components underlie this open architecture. You may download the binaries and source code from Salome’s official site.

  • Sweet Home 3D

    You can digitally create or remodel home interiors or rooms.

  • DAZ Studio

    You can use virtual characters, props, cars, animals, environs, accessories etc. for creating unique art or animation. After selecting the subject and setting, you can arrange lighting and accessories to create attractive artwork. You can use technological innovations for enhancing user experience.

  • Open Cascade Technology

    This feature rich CAM/CAD/CAE kernel allows 3D model development. You can avail of reusable object libraries in C++ and powerful development tools.

  • VariCAD

    This 2D and 3D CAD program runs on Linux and Windows and is ideal for mechanical engineering related modeling. You will get support for geometric constraints, parameters, shells’ tools, sheet metal unbending, pipelines, assembly support, crash test, bills of materials, calculations etc. You can access the symbol and mechanical part libraries containing bearings, nuts, screws etc. You may also use the calculation modules like beam torsion, mass, volume, springs, center of gravity etc.

  • DesignSpark

    You can design efficiently with this free CAD program and can produce bill of materials for calculating 3D project printing cost. With DesignSpark Mechanical, you can get access to built-in library. The pull feature allows creation of 3D models from a surface only.

  • Varkon

    With this free CAD system, you can draft in 2D, model in 3D and 2D, carry out parametric modeling and visualize. You can avail features for geometric and sculptured surface modeling. The standard library has 350+ procedures as well as functions to facilitate ease of integration, storage in object oriented database, render with OpenGL etc. Files can be imported and exported in DXF, STL, IGES, and PLT formats.

  • Archimedes

    This open source CAD program suits architectural designing needs. It is built on Eclipse’s Rich Client Platform and has many underlying plug-ins. The core is thin and platform is extensible.

  • Misfit Model 3D

    This 3D model editor is OpenGL based. You can work with triangle based models.You can benefit from undo function at multi-level, skeletal animation, scripting, texture mapping, batch processing through command line, and new feature adding plug-in.

How to Select the Best CAD Software for your Needs?

Since there is a long list of free CAD software available online, choosing the right one can be a little confusing. However, to help you avoid confusion, we have collected some of the best tips. Try implementing them and see if it works for you.

  • Choosing software based on your experience

    Using every program requires a level of expertise. If you are a beginner, try to use software that has a simple interface and features. However, if you are an intermediate or professional, you can go with a program having a complicated interface and variety of features.

  • Go through all the features of the software

    Your requirements will differ depending on the type of business or industry you are in. For instance, a person working in the architectural sector will have different requirements than someone working in the fashion industry.

    So, you must select the software that offers features suitable for your 3D project. A cloud-based program can help with data management. But, parametric software can help you create 3D models easily.

  • Considering your budget

    Finance is also an important criterion in the process of choosing the best CAD software. Even though we have discussed some of the best free CAD software here, remember that the use of features might be limited to some extent. Hardly any software will allow you to access all the features for free.

    That is why while choosing the software, make sure to consider both the free and paid features along with its cost.

  • Compatibility of the software with your company’s existing system

    The compatibility factor is often ignored by people. However, you must consider it before finalizing the software. Finding out later that the program isn’t compatible can be an issue.

    While finalizing the software, consider the workstation it needs to run, its licensing model, and whether it allows remote access or not, etc.

We hope that the above information was useful enough to help you choose the right 3D CAD software. With the right selection of software, you can add a great asset to your business and help it obtain its organizational objectives. We wish you all the best for your 3D printing projects.

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