www.makeuseof.com The 6 Best Free CAD Software for 2021
It can be daunting for beginners to get started in the world of computer-aided design (CAD). In addition to the learning curve associated with CAD programs, the software itself can be quite expensive. If you're just starting with CAD or running a small business, some free CAD software may be better suited to your needs, or at least while you start.
As such, we've picked out the best free CAD software candidates that are feature-rich and help you get your work done for less.
FreeCAD consistently tops the list when it comes to free CAD programs, and for a good reason. This open-source software is primarily focused on 3D parametric modeling but also offers limited 2D capabilities. While the program has all the features you may need as a designer, many additional features can be added using plugins. FreeCAD also allows you to export your project to external renderers.
FreeCAD is particularly suited for users familiar with Python, as it has an integrated Python console. Using this, you can record macros, code your own tool, and create full-fledged custom workbenches. In addition, being aware of some common Python functions can further enhance your experience with FreeCAD.
Being open-source, FreeCAD has an active community of users that help and support each other. The only pitfall of FreeCAD is its underwhelming 2D capability. The interface can also be a little daunting for complete beginners. FreeCAD is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux.
Download: FreeCAD for Windows | macOS | Linux (Free)
2. SketchUp Free
SketchUp is arguably the most popular free CAD software in the world. The free version is entirely web-based and a great entry point for beginners. Despite this, it doesn't compromise on any essential features. For example, creating 3D models is a breeze using the program's intuitive design, and the CAD software also provides you with 10 GB of cloud storage for your projects.MAKEUSEOF VIDEO OF THE DAY
Related: How to Use SketchUp for 3D Design?
Free users also get access to SketchUp's open-source library of 3D models made by other users. In addition to this, SketchUp also supports extensions to enhance the program's functionality in the form of an Extension Warehouse.
Despite its features, a lot of the new extensions aren't available to free users. Additionally, you can't change the dimensions to exact values on SketchUp free. However, since it is web-based, You can access SketchUp Free on any web browser on any platform.
If your design focus is on 2D objects, then LibreCAD is one of the best free CAD software available right now. Like FreeCAD, LibreCAD is also open-source and has an active community of independent developers behind it. As a result, it's ideal for users looking to create 2D designs and circuit boards.
Other useful features include a benchmark suite, ray-tracing, and a customizable interface. The free CAD software also supports DWG and DWF file formats, allowing you to import your projects from other CAD programs. Take a look at some tips to get the most out of LibreCAD to increase your productivity further.
While LibreCAD is stellar when it comes to 2D design, its 3D design features are thoroughly limited. Being open-source, support turnaround is nowhere as quick as that of proprietary software. LibreCAD is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux.
Download: LibreCAD for Windows | macOS | Linux (Free)
For users comfortable using a textual description language to design and create 3D CAD models, OpenSCAD is sure to interest you. If precision and exact values are what you're after, OpenSCAD is one of the best free CAD software to satiate that need. Additionally, OpenSCAD provides you with ample documentation to understand how descriptions work, making beginners feel at ease.
Related: The Best Design Apps for designers on a Budget
Despite this, OpenSCAD is usually preferred by developers and people familiar with coding. This is because the UI can be overwhelming for people without the required skill set. However, if you still want to give OpenSCAD a try, ensure that you go through the documentation, as it is helpful both in the short and long term.
OpenSCAD is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux.
Download: OpenSCAD for Windows | macOS | Linux (Free)
Another free CAD software suited for beginners, Tinkercad, doesn't require you to download anything. The UI is by far the simplest to use. Creating objects is a breeze, thanks to a block placement approach. Even complete newbies can create 3D designs using fun tutorials.
While Tinkercad is nowhere as feature-rich as other entries in this list, it does have a few nifty features. These include HTML 5 support, stellar integration with 3D printing services, and support for Autodesk file formats. Additionally, Tinkercad has plenty of lectures to help beginners create 3D objects and geometric designs.
Since Tinkercad is entirely web-based, you can access it on any web browser on the platform of your choice.
Developed by Pixologic, ZBrushCoreMini is a good free CAD program if you focus on 3D sculpting and designing. Popular brushes are carried over from ZBrushCore. These 12 brushes are handy for sculpting and 3D models. Additionally, this free CAD software offers vector displacement brushes (VDMs) as well. Due to this, adding custom shapes becomes substantially easier.
Other features include real-time ambient occlusion, language localization, and 3Dconnexion support. ZBrushCoreMini also contains 8 different materials for you to choose from, and all the materials support RGB colors. This is especially useful when exporting your models since you can view them in different forms.
Related: What Is Design Thinking & How Does It Make You More Creative?
ZBrushCoreMini is available for macOS and Windows, with minimum system requirements of at least 4 GB RAM and a Core2Duo processor.
Download: ZBrushCoreMini for Windows | macOS (Free)
Plenty Of Free CAD Software
This article is only the tip of the iceberg for free CAD programs that are available currently. While most of them may not be as feature-rich as proprietary software, they are more than enough for beginner and intermediate designers.
You may not have a powerful enough machine to run programs that require a download if you're starting. In such cases, cloud-based CAD software serves as a lifesaver. However, if you use macOS, there are many other free CAD programs available that could be better suited to your needs.The Best (Free) CAD Software for Mac Read NextShareTweetShareEmail Related TopicsAbout The AuthorManuviraj Godara(142 Articles Published)
Manuviraj is a Features Writer at MakeUseOf and has been writing about video games and technology for over two years. He is an avid gamer who also spends his free time burning through his favourite music albums and reading.MoreFrom Manuviraj Godara
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