Free 3D CAD Software
To make 3D designs or models, you will need a CAD software, but to get it you don’t need to have a significant budget, you can use the freely available 3D CAD tools. One main benefit of free 3D CAD software tools is that they are often more intuitive than commercial software, and are often user-friendly for all levels of experience. Choosing the right software will depend on your 3D design needs and expectations, and most importantly, profitability.
Here are some 3D CAD software tools that you may consider for both professional or personal purposes:
If you want to make simple designs or have never used CAD software before, 3D Slash is for you. The program is not ideal for expert works as due to its lack of some conventional features such as extrusion and sweeps. It rather uses block logic where 3D designs are created from a cuboid that can be divided into smaller solid blocks. This idea behind design with 3D slashed derives from playing Minecraft. Design with the software is done using tools such as the drill, chisel, and hammer. These tools enable making of amazing models, even for those with no previous designing experience.
Due to the program’s drag and drop modeling approach, 3D Crafter is quite an intuitive software. The program is designed to make complex models using simple 3D objects. It also allows printing and sculpting, and can as well be upgraded with advanced features to enable rendering of photorealistic images or for game development. Also, the software is included with tutorials helpful within the first stages of your creation.
This open source CAD software is adapted for 3D modeler and designers on a budget. Its functionality is kept to the CAD software conventions. DesignSpark features the standard tools of CAD modeling. Moreover, its UI is inspired by AutoCAD which makes it suitable for those looking for alternatives to that commercial program.
OpenSCAD is another free CAD software for 3D modeling and printing. As such, the program is more adapted for solid CAD modeling rather than artistic design. OpenSCAD is different from other CAD software as it does not allow interactive modeling. Instead, it compiles 3D models from details of objects. As such, OpenSCAD input is a document written in a textual description language to define geometric primitives and specify the modifications and manipulations made to them to create a 3D model. Such an approach enables code reuse for other projects. Also, the extrusion of 2D outlines and the use of Constructive Solid Geometry (CSG) make OpenSCAD a pretty intuitive software. Nevertheless, professional users working with complex models may find it to be too limited.
Sculptris enables easy learning of 3D modeling. The program is built with a user-friendly interface and a complex level of model creation. It dynamically divides the design process allowing users to create their models step by step. It is possible to locally redefine the model’s internal structure, which would be useful when creating lighter structures suitable for 3D printing.
Open Cascade presents a good alternative for professional CAD software. It has standardized Data Exchange interfaces that allow examining and querying the input files, converting their contents into CAD models and running of validity checks on fully translated shapes.
FreeCAD is an open source general purpose 3D CAD software. The application is aimed mainly at product design and mechanical engineering but also finds a broader range of purposes around engineering, like architecture. It uses parametric modeling and has a modular software architecture making it easy to offer more functionality without changing the core system. Thus, FreeCAD is suitable for anyone with interest in learning 3D CAD before using more complex programs.
KOMPAS 3D Home is a free CAD software well-known for its strong set of powerful features for parametric modeling of 3D and 2D designs. The program is adapted to a dynamic 3D modeling platform that allows the parametric creation of 3D models. The parametric functionality allows generating a range of designs, all based on one model. The software is made intuitive by its KOMPAS ABC learning feature that provides numerous samples of 3D models helping you learn easily. The powerful collection of functions helps in producing clear diagrams, accurate plans, and even male vector-based illustrations.
BRL-CAD is an open source geometric modeling program that is based on CSG system. Other features of the modeler include interactive 3D solid geometry, high-performance ray-tracing for rendering and geometric analysis, image and signal-processing tools, network-distributed frame buffer support, a system performance analysis benchmark suite, libraries for robust geometric representation and analysis library, path-tracing and photon mapping support for realistic image synthesis and embedded scripting interface. The program’s main use is in the advanced technology industries such as Automotive or Medicine industry.
MeshLab is a free, portable, and extensible platform for the editing and processing of unstructured 3D meshes. Focuses on helping process the typical not-so-small unstructured 3D models, MeshLab provides a set of functions to edit, clean, heal, inspect, render and convert this type of meshes. It is specifically suitable for more professional users due to its numerous point cloud and mesh processing features as well as its capability of managing even very large models, making it a best fit for use with high-quality data from 3D scans.
OnShape is an open source powerful enterprise-grade 3D CAD software. The software suite is aimed at design expert, who seeking collaboration building and version control. With OnShape’s collaborative mode, all your work is instantaneously synced to the cloud, which means that you can work on the same file with your project collaborators. Another great feature of this mode is the ability to manage a master design with no need for saving copies or tracking numerous versions of a file.
Vectary is another collaborative CAD software built with an innovative UI. The software is browser-based and currently in the beta mode. Thus, its functionality can be expanded constantly through plugins. Nevertheless, the open source CAD tool already has parametric modeling capability. A function that enables quick mesh adaptations using selections and sliders that are mainly found in professional 3D CAD suites. 3D designs with the application are done through subdivision modeling which makes it better adapted for designers. Besides, Vectary allows collaboration as files are easily shared and stored in the cloud.
For those interested in learning parametric 3D CAD, SolveSpace is a free CAD program for you. The feature enables one to easily make changes to a design by going back into the model history and modifying its dimensions. SolveSpace’s modeling tools include the NURBS surfaces and Bezier curves. Another crucial function is the simulation of spatial or planar linkages using slide joins, a pin, or a ball. The feature is quite helpful as it shows inconsistencies and possible blockages in a design in the early stages of the design process, which saves you time. Moreover, the built-in STL repair feature makes your 3D models printable.
Meshmixer is focused on 3D meshes and more adapted for the mechanical functionality of the 3D designs. The program prepares meshes for 3D printing. It allows designing and making 3D designs through the combination of several models in a few steps. Moreover, the 3D CAD software has quite sophisticated optimization techniques often found in enterprise-grade software. For instance, MeshMixer supports sculpting features such as refining and molding surfaces in real-time, thereby reducing the cost of 3D printing significantly. Also, the program has repair functionalities such as scaling, hollowing, and mesh simplification that are invaluable in 3D printing.
OpenFX is a free 3D animation, rendering, and modeling suit. The program’s powerful set of features includes NURBS support, a raytracer engine and full renderer, morphing, kinematic-based animation, and a dynamic plugin API. The plugin functionalities include image post-processor effects like depth of field, fog, and lens flare. Also, animation effects like dissolves, waves, and explosions add significantly to the program’s flexibility.
Another reminder of Minecraft is MagicaVozel, an intuitive free CAD program. The application is based on block logic where the smallest unit known as eponymous vozel, is used in creating amazingly sophisticated models. The clearly arranged UI enables the user to easily find their way around the program.
If you need a new perspective on parametric 3D design, Antimony is the kind of free 3D CAD to try. It is a great choice for 3D designers and programmers. With the software, all meshes are subdivided into the smallest primitive shapes, logical components and transformations that enable making of sophisticated objects by manipulating them.
By allowing users to connect nodes in creating or defining transformation and shapes in graphs, Antimony becomes much more intuitive than similar CAD software that are difficult to use by beginners in 3D modeling. Such a modeling workflow is the best fit for most designers. The software also allows defining custom shapes in case those available do not meet your design needs. However, Antimony is not for everyone as its shapes are represented using prefix string syntax.