The 6 best free CAD software for 2021


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It can be intimidating for newbies to enter 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 are new to CAD or run a small business, there are some free CAD software that may be better suited for your needs, or at least while you are starting out.

As such, we have selected the best free CAD software candidates that are feature rich and help you get your job done for less.



FreeCAD design interface.

FreeCAD still tops the list of free CAD programs, and for good reason. This open source software is mainly focused on 3D parametric modeling but also offers limited 2D capabilities. Although the program has all the features that you might need as a designer, there are a lot of extra features that can be added using plugins. FreeCAD also allows you to export your project to external renderers.

FreeCAD is particularly suitable for users familiar with Python, as it has a built-in Python console. Using this, you can record macros, code your own tool, and create full-fledged custom workshops. Additionally, knowing some common Python functions can further enhance your experience with FreeCAD.

Being open source, FreeCAD has an active community of users who help and support each other. The only pitfall of FreeCAD is its disappointing 2D capability. The interface can also be a bit intimidating for complete beginners. FreeCAD is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux.

To download: FreeCAD for Windows | macOS | Linux (free)



SketchUp's free online interface.

SketchUp is arguably the world’s most popular free CAD software. The free version is completely web-based and is a great entry point for newbies. Despite this, it doesn’t compromise on essential functionality. For example, creating 3D models is a snap thanks to the program’s intuitive design, and the CAD software also provides you with 10 GB of cloud storage for your projects.

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Related: How To Use SketchUp For 3D Design?

Free users also have access to SketchUp’s open source library of 3D models created by other users. In addition to this, SketchUp also supports extensions to enhance the functionality of the program in the form of an extension warehouse.

Despite its functionality, many new extensions are not available to free users. Also, you cannot change dimensions to exact values ​​on SketchUp for free. However, because it is web-based, you can access SketchUp Free on any web browser on any platform.



LibreCAD interface.

If your design is focused on 2D objects, LibreCAD is one of the best free CAD software available today. Like FreeCAD, LibreCAD is also open source and has an active community of independent developers behind it. Hence, it is ideal for users looking to create 2D designs and PCBs.

Other useful features include a reference 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 and further increase your productivity.

While LibreCAD is stellar when it comes to 2D design, its 3D design functionality is very limited. Being open source, nowhere is support time as fast as with proprietary software. LibreCAD is available for Windows, macOS and Linux.

To download: LibreCAD for Windows | macOS | Linux (free)



OpenSCAD user interface.

For users comfortable with 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 are looking for, OpenSCAD is one of the best free CAD software to meet this need. In addition, OpenSCAD provides you with abundant documentation to understand how descriptions work, putting beginners at ease.

Related: The Best Design Apps For Budget Designers

Despite this, OpenSCAD is generally preferred by developers and those familiar with coding. This is because the user interface can be overwhelming for people without the required skills. However, if you still want to give OpenSCAD a try, be sure to go through the documentation, as it is useful in the short and long term.

OpenSCAD is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux.

To download: OpenSCAD for Windows | macOS | Linux (free)



Tinkercad workspace.

Another free CAD software suitable for beginners, Tinkercad, doesn’t require you to download anything. The user interface is by far the easiest to use. Creating objects is a snap, thanks to a block placement approach. Even complete beginners can create 3D designs using fun tutorials.

While Tinkercad is nowhere as feature rich as the other entries on this list, it does have a few cool features. These include support for HTML 5, exceptional 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 completely web-based, you can access it on any web browser on your platform of choice.



Designing a human face in ZBrushCoreMini

Developed by Pixologic, ZBrushCoreMini is a good free CAD program if you focus on 3D sculpting and design. Popular brushes are taken from ZBrushCore. These 12 brushes are handy for sculpting and 3D models. In addition, this free CAD software also offers vector displacement brushes (VDM). Because of this, adding custom shapes becomes considerably 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 materials support RGB colors. This is especially useful when exporting your models as you can view them in different forms.

Related: What Is Design Thinking and How Does It Make You More Creative?

ZBrushCoreMini is available for macOS and Windows, with a minimum system requirement of at least 4 GB of RAM and a Core2Duo processor.

To download: ZBrushCoreMini for Windows | macOS (free)

Lots of free CAD software

This article is just the tip of the iceberg for the free CAD programs currently available. While most of them are not as feature rich as proprietary software, they are more than adequate for beginner and intermediate designers.

You may not have a machine powerful enough to run programs that need to be downloaded if you start. In such cases, cloud-based CAD software serves as a lifeline. However, if you are using macOS, there are many other free CAD programs that might be better suited for your needs.


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