2016 is here and CAD is becoming more and more useful both as a job and a hobby. It can be very expensive though, especially for someone that is starting out. I have compiled a list of the best free CAD alternatives in 2016.
|SketchUp||yes||freeware||no||fast and easy to learn, fun to use, perfect for hobbyists.|
|Draftsight||no||freeware||yes||powerful 2d drawing tool, useful for professionals, loads of tools available|
|FreeCAD||yes||open source||yes||programmable, extremely powerful, parametric modeling|
|LibreCAD||no||open source||yes||lightweight, loads of language options|
|OpenSCAD||yes||open source||yes||made for programmers, very customizable|
|NanoCAD||yes||freeware||yes||multipurpose, powerful, professional|
|QCAD||no||open source||yes||intuitive user interface, portable, customizable|
|Archimedes||no||open source||no||easily extensible, lightweight, its purpose is for architectural use|
My Top 3 Choices
Keep in mind that for every enthusiast, hobbyist, professional engineer, architect and programmer there is a software that fits them. These 3 choices have been made from my point of view (a mechanical engineer), they’re applicable for other areas too!
First up is SketchUp.
It’s simple and has a fun vibe, you can make anything you envision and you can make it fast. It does have some lack in usability but if you’re starting out then I would highly recommend this piece of software.
SketchUp is based around the idea that you can get good at it in a matter of days. This is because they’ve managed to emulate the feeling of working with a pen and paper. There are a few issues with SketchUp which are based on the fact that a lot of tools are missing. These tools might be available in other free CAD alternatives but if you decide to pay for their professional version you will have a ton of plugins available which will fix this issue. Not only that but Google (Yeah… SketchUp is Google product) keeps an insane library with literally thousands upon thousands of designs that you can download and modify.
Second up is Dassault (creators of both CATIA and SolidWorks) and their free 2D CAD software.
If you’re into schematics and don’t need or want 3D then Draftsight is one of the best free alternatives to AutoCAD. If you are used to 3D modelling it can be a bit difficult getting into, don’t let this stop you from trying out this amazing piece of software!
Ah, the beauty of open source!
This software is much more than just drafting and 3D models, it can do almost anything. It is a whole suite filled with things such as simulation, meshing and rendering. Being open source has its perks, it is 100% free and always will be.
FreeCAD is an amazing free alternative to SolidWorks and Autodesk Inventor, it might not be as polished but for the price you are paying ($0) it has a high standard. A powerful and useful software that any CAD artist worth his name will at least know about.