The Best Free Cad Software [May 2019]
Computer-aided design and drafting software, CAD (or CADD) is a technology that replaces the manual drafting process with an automated one. Made for designers, drafters, architects, and engineers, CAD can help you draft construction documentation, simulate a real-world design, and visualize concepts through 2D/3D renderings.
There are plenty of choices out there when it comes to CAD software. Most of which come with a hefty price tag. But even those will often offer a free trial period to test out the software and see if it’s to your liking prior to purchase.
“Are there any that are actually free?”
There most certainly are completely free options. When choosing a free CAD software program, though it may not be as sophisticated as a commercial version, so long as you know what you’re looking for you can make the smart choice based on the features that you need. This is especially true depending on your experience in the use of such software.
Some of the free options fair better for beginners while others are for more advanced users. Which is the right choice will depend entirely on you. In this article, I’ve provided an overview of the single best CAD software option that I feel stomps all competition regardless of your particular focus and experience level.
The most popular 3D design, engineering, and entertainment software and services you can find today are all made by Autodesk. Autodesk’s most prolific CAD software is AutoCAD, arguably the most powerful 3D CAD tool on the market.
AutoCAD is built and developed for product designing and manufacturing planning, building designing, civil infrastructure, and construction. It is also used for 2D drawings, drafts, and documents on top of 3D models and visualizations.
Though not free for commercial use, AutoCAD offers a free, fully functional version to students and faculty members where the only limitation is a watermark. It also offers those same students the opportunity to download free licenses for the bulk of the current suite of AEC packages.
AutoCAD is the perfect software for a student in need of making 2D drawings, drafts, and documents, as well as, 3D models and visualizations. The 2D drawing, drafting, and annotation features that AutoCAD offers, allow you to control the appearance of texts, create dimension styles automatically, link and update data between Excel spreadsheets and tables within drawings, and work with dynamic blocks.
When it comes to the 3D models and visualizations side of things, AutoCAD users can add lighting and materials to these models in order to achieve a more realistic appearance and rendering. Not only that but controlling the edges, lighting, and shading of the models has never been easier when using AutoCAD. You can easily analyze the interior details of 3D objects using this software.
Interested in the ability to make collaboration between colleagues on modeling and design projects a simple task? AutoCAD allows you to import all of your data via a PDF file in order to review your models and drawings as a group. You can even customize the software’s UI in so that tasks are streamlined and access to AutoCAD’s functionalities and features is made much easier for all.
AutoCAD aids in the prevention of product failure and warranty issues, enables the innovation of products and improvement of their performance, and opens the door for users to win more bids by providing the tools and workflows to design and build great products. The software also has the objective of assisting users with machine prints, inspections, and the ability to fabricate quality product parts for things such as a car, a wind turbine, and aircraft components. With AutoCAD, students will be able to design better buildings, deliver scalable and sustainable infrastructure projects, manage construction costs, and predict project outcomes.
In order to make all of this happen, the 3D CAD program offers 3D modeling and visualization features and functionalities. One of these features is the capability to apply different 3D modeling techniques that will allow the user to create realistic 3D models of products and their parts. This means that if 3D wireframes, solids, surfaces, and meshes are what is needed, this program gives you the tools to pull it off.
AutoCAD allows users to attach materials to 3D objects, as well as, add lights to scenes in order to achieve a photorealistic rendering of 3D models. The user will be able to control the dynamic features in these 3D renderings, such as the appearance of the attached materials, the lighting, and the shadows. This makes it so that a clearer vision of their conceptual designs are provided to their teammates and prospective clients.
The software has another feature for 3D modeling and visualization, which is the capability to create section planes. Using section planes, the user is able to achieve cross-sectional views of 3D objects. These can be modified and moved around in order to examine the inner details of 3D objects, granting the ability to cut through solids, surfaces, meshes, or regions.
With AutoCAD, you can even control the appearance of texts in all of your 2D drawings. All you have to do is adjust the drawing’s text settings, and by doing so, users will be able to change the font, line spacing, justification, and color. Not only that but when the text settings are changed, all text objects will be automatically updated so long as they are using the current settings.
Dimension setting configuration is yet another feature provided by this amazing program. This includes controlling the arrowhead style, text location, and lateral tolerances. AutoCAD provides those who use it the capability to create and apply dimension styles to every dimension of your 2D drawing.
The 2D drawing feature is a very powerful inclusion of AutoCAD. You can link tables within your 2D drawings to any of the data found in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. This allows you to import formulas and calculated data from Microsoft Excel directly into any table you add to your 2D drawing. When rows or columns are added to a linked spreadsheet, all changes will then be reflected on the table you’ve linked it to. This will also update the spreadsheet itself whenever any changes are made to those tables.
Sharing & Collaboration
Looking to share and reuse design data that resides on your PDF files? AutoCAD enables those who choose to use the program, the ability to import data from PDFs into the drawings that were created using the program. This affords you the opportunity to import 2D geometry, TrueType texts, and images into AutoCAD. An SHF text recognition tool is offered by the program, allowing you to convert text containing SHF fonts into a text object.
AutoCAD introduces this PDF import enhancement because SHF texts from PDF files created within AutoCAD are imported into the program as geometries. Since the PDF file format can’t recognize SHF fonts, the imported texts contain lines, arcs, and circles that are not conducive for editing. With its SHF text recognition tool, SHF texts from PDFs that are imported as geometries can now be transformed into text objects, allowing users to edit SHF texts more conveniently.
In addition, users will be able to import non-Autodesk 3D models into AutoCAD, insert geographic locations and display online maps in their drawings, and attach drawing and image files to current drawings as external references.
Key Product Points
- AutoCAD users are guaranteed tools used for creating and communicating almost any design with 3D modeling and visualization tools.
- The program is highly customizable, providing an increase in a user’s productivity and ensure CAD standards of design.
- Collaborate effortlessly with teammates on any project using data from PDF and DGN files, Navisworks, Bing Maps, and the AutoCAD mobile app.
- AutoCAD provides PDF import enhancements, external file references, object selection, text to Mtext enhancements, and so much more.
Without a doubt the best Free CAD software you’ll find in 2019. The only caveat being you’ll need to have a student or faculty ID for a college or university before being gifted this amazing program. No other program comes close on the CAD software market so if you have the ability to scoop AutoCAD, don’t hesitate.