Using quality CAD software helps improve design quality, documentation, and designer productivity while enabling you to create a database of designs for manufacturing.

As a result, your production lifecycle becomes faster with quality and accuracy, which delights your customers and retains them for long terms.

Similarly, students can use CAD software to learn how to design and document models or parts and bring their ideas to reality for innovation. It can also open the window of opportunity for their career growth.

So, if you are a student or a professional looking for an efficient CAD software solution, this article is for you.

Let’s discuss what CAD software is and the best options for it.

What is CAD software?

Computer-Aided Design (CAD) refers to the usage of computers to create, modify, optimize, and analyze a design. And the software that enables this type of designing on a computer is called CAD software.

CAD software comes with an easy-to-use interface and various tools and features to make the design process seamless and accurate. You can create 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional models of physical components and print the designs on a page to be taken to the next steps for production.

CAD software also facilitates the design process flow from designing to manufacturing and simulates a model’s movement in 3D. The software is used across industries, including engineering (such as aerospace and mechanical), architecture, automotive, jewelry, graphic design, healthcare, motion pictures, and more.

What are the benefits of using CAD software?

Automation has become increasingly important in every sector, be it manufacturing or print media. Hence, businesses of different sectors have been using CAD software as it offers many benefits in terms of time, cost, and effort. Here’s how it can benefit your business.

Quality design

Instead of using the traditional pen-and-paper methods, CAD software helps designers create quality models free from errors. They can work much faster and easier by leveraging the useful tools and features from the software.

For example, if designers want to draw a circle, they don’t have to do it manually. They can just select the circle option from the workbench and move to the next step. It saves their time and effort and eliminates inaccuracies.

In addition, if something is wrong or needs modification in the model, it’s also easier to erase it and design the new elements, which used to be tedious in the traditional modes. Hence, designers can create quality models with accuracy and speed so their designs can be approved quickly. It also helps the design move to the next step in the manufacturing process, reducing the production timeline.

Streamlines design process

Designers can visualize how their design looks from all angles through the 3D models. It also allows the product managers to verify whether the design is acceptable for the end product. They can also connect different design parts and simulate the model to see how it works.

If there’s any error, designers can iterate their designs quickly and produce the perfect models. Every stage can be documented and analyzed using the CAD software so the entire team can be on the same page, which streamlines the design process and increases productivity and the chance of completing the project successfully.

Comprehensive documentation

CAD software can generate documentation automatically that acts as a reference when you have to make some design decisions. It can list product details, components, parts, assembly, calculations and measurements, geometry and dimensions, material specifications, etc. It’s also helpful to clear out doubts and common questions that people keep asking. They can look at the documentation and help themselves, which saves time for the entire production team.

Simplified communication

Using CAD software keeps all the people in a team in sync and helps communicate clearly with the projects’ progress. It helps them follow a standard process for designing, assembly, simulation, and other related functions. It also helps managers understand the design by looking at its 2D or 3D model and its specifications to give the instructions or approve it for production.

Maintaining a database

Keeping a record of all the parts, materials, models, specifications, and other minor details of a project takes so much time and effort if you do it manually. But using the CAD software makes it easy to maintain a database of all these details so you can track all the products designed and manufactured while taking inspiration for further innovation. In addition, you can also reuse a part by tweaking some specifications instead of designing it from scratch, which again saves your time.

What are its applications?

CAD software is used by a lot of professionals and students in various industry verticals. It’s used by:

  • Mechanical design engineers for designing, manufacturing, and simulation of mechanical parts
  • Architects to design and draft models for construction
  • Manufacturers to inspect, fabricate, and inspect parts
  • Structural engineers to accelerate fabrication
  • Civil engineers to design for construction
  • Electrical engineers to design control systems and document them
  • Automobile engineers to design, conceptualize, and render parts

In addition, CAD software is used to protect inventions and products for patent applications, design prosthetics in healthcare, computer animation, special effects in motion pictures, digital content creation, creating technical manuals, and advertising.

If you want to buy CAD software, it can be desktop-based software or cloud-based CAD software. You can choose any one of them based on your business scale and needs. Cloud-based CAD software generally costs less, and you need to pay as long as you use it. It’s best for growing businesses. However, if you are a large organization, you can purchase desktop-based CAD software as well.

Let’s now look at some of the good options for CAD software in the market for professionals and students.

Fusion 360

Bring your products to the market with their realistic view and impact your bottom line via connected product development procedures using Fusion 360 to help your idea come out in a 3D picture. Whether you are a student or a professional, CAD software is for everyone who needs to market their products.

You will get modeling tools with engineered products that ensure you will have everything while you are modeling. Use analysis methods to know whether your product works well as per your imagination. You can start with creating and editing sketches with the help of dimensions, constraints, and more. Add materials according to your requirement for the direct modeling process, or continue with surface modeling for complex products.

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Once you are ready with your product, go for mesh modeling and analyze its motion. You can also set the manufacturing process by adding your final product to the interface. Set the milling operation you want and see how you can manufacture your product from raw material.

In addition, you can add electronic intelligence through PCB layout, routing capabilities, and schematic design and bring your design to life. You can also find features like data management, collaboration, additive manufacturing, simulation, extensions, and more.

Fusion 360 is free for qualified hobbyist users with limited functionality. Get the full version at $446/year and enjoy every functionality.

SOLIDWORKS

Engineers and designers need the best tool to develop a high-quality product and bring the same to the market to meet customer demands, and SOLIDWORKS is one of the best ones. It helps you create, validate, communicate, manage, and transform your ideas into great design.

It provides you with easy-to-use tools to help you create structures faster and with accuracy. You can use manufacturing checks and cost estimation tools to design for manufacturing and cost. Besides, interact with your teams easily and discuss with the standardized data management tools.

Analyze the product to eliminate errors, if any, and rework that part. Since sharing a product file with others is complex, but with SOLIDWORKS, the process has become easy. After completing the design, save your data securely to the cloud so that anyone can access it from any browser.

Connect remotely with your teams and collaboratively design every part to assemble it later in the cloud. You can also create organic, complex, and mechanical designs easily on the cloud to access design features and data you need while modeling at any time.

Buy the software to get even more features and benefits, starting from 2D modeling to electronic solutions.

Tinkercad

Tinkercad is an easy-to-use and free web app that gives power to next-gen engineers, students, and professional designers with the skills for innovation such as 3D design, coding, and electronics. From mind to the desktop screen, unleash the imagination by following some easy steps:

  • Place the shape you want on the work plane to remove or add material. You can import shapes or use pre-existing ones. Here, shapes are the building blocks of Tinkerpad.
  • Adjust the shapes by rotating or moving the work plane. Input the perfect dimensions with the ruler and try different angles and views.
  • Combine all the shapes to get a custom shape.

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If you can think, you can make it in Tinkerpad as it helps you in every process, from product models and printable parts to analysis. The 3D design is the first step to start your journey, and you can also simulate electronics processes with circuits. It shows you the path (buttons, wires, and breadboards), and then you can design your circuit.

Tinkerpad not only helps you with the design, but you can also use the code blocks to write programs and allow the software to develop the same for you. You can also use block-based code to create parametric, 3D shapes, adaptive and dynamic designs. In addition, it lets you turn your 3D model into augmented reality by activating the AR mode and pressing the AR viewer button.

Tinkerpad is free, so you can explore, think, and create without limits and come up with an output.

FreeCAD

Get the freedom to design what you want in an open-source parametric 3D modeler with FreeCAD. It helps you create real-life objects of any size, sketch your geometry constrained 2D shapes, and create 3D models by using the 2D shape as a base.

FreeCAD is a highly customizable, extensible, and multiplatform software. It has many tools to adjust dimensions and the option to choose from many shapes and details so that you can create high-quality production-ready drawings.

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To integrate the workflow, you can open different file formats like IGES, STL, DXF, SVG, DAE, IFC, OBJ, STEP, and others. You can also design mechanical components, architecture designs, and many more.

FreeCAD is suitable for students, teachers, professionals, programmers, CAD users, and others. You will also find FEA tools, experimental CFD, dedicated BIM, CAM/CNC workbenches, Geodata, and more.

SketchUp

SketchUp is a full-featured desktop modeler that is built to convert your imagination into reality. It offers the easiest way to design, document, and communicate your unique ideas in 3D. Work in the 3D space to develop a pattern or shape and add material into it.

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Accuracy is the first word SketchUp uses while you start creating a design. It offers features that you will love, including interoperability, customization, extensibility, generating reports, objects, inference, and more.

From formal learning tracks to video tips, SketchUp is always there to help whenever you need it. Discover 3D models for free for your personal use with limited features. Get something more to create precise sketches at $119/year.

Solid Edge

Get a portfolio of easy-to-use and affordable software – Solid Edge – that represents all the aspects of the development process, including 3D model, simulation, manufacturing, design management, etc. It combines the simplicity and speed of direct modeling with control and flexibility of parametric design, made possible with synchronous technology.

You will get 3D CAD, assembly design, 3D print, cloud-enabled productivity, and automated drawings. It helps you design better models to complete your projects faster. Solid Edge also includes 2D drafting, modeling(BIM), 3D part design, assembly design, animation, import, export, and more.

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Well, this is not the end. Apart from 2D and 3D designs, you will find sheet metal designs, weldment design, plastic part design, basic rendering, jig-fixture design, surface modeling, motion simulation, stress simulation, vibration simulation, and a lot more.

Performing reverse engineering and FEA simulation will add benefit to your process. With Solid Edge, the design of the gear, cam, beam, column, spring, pulley, shaft, etc., is super easy. Moreover, electrical design such as routing, PCB collaboration, tube, and pipe is also easy with Solid Edge.

Bentley

Get different applications for modeling, visualization, offshore structural analysis, civil design, hydraulics, hydrology, building design, reality modeling, and a lot more from Bentley Education.

Bentley offers four applications for modeling and visualization, including Microstation, MicroStation PowerDraft, Bentley LumenRT, and Bentley LumenRT Content. If you are looking for Offshore Structural Analysis, you will find MAXSURF Ultimate, Multiframe, MOSES Ultimate, and Multiframe Advanced.

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Similarly, for different purposes, you will get a variety of applications. Engineers, constructors, architects, owner-operators, and GIS professionals use these applications to model, map, sustain infrastructure projects, design, analyze, motion test, and many more things.

Choose your product line from the options and unplug the limitless possibilities. Educators and students will get full access to the Bentley applications. Just log in from your institutional email address or upload your student ID from your alternative email.

LibreCAD

LibreCAD is a mature and feature-packed 2D-CAD application that can give you a fantastic experience with its capabilities. It provides open-source and GPLv2, developed by an experienced team and supported by a great community. It is free to copy and use.

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It supports more than 30 languages along with cross-platform support for Windows, Linux, and macOS. Download the application from SourceForge, which is different for different platforms. If you are using Windows, find the latest stable EXE installer and automate the nightly build installer.

As this is an open-source application, you can build LibreCAD from the source code. Download the source code from GitHub as a ZIP archive. Also, you can clone the repository, which is recommended if you are planning for a contribution.

SOLVESPACE

SOLVESPACE is a free parametric 3D CAD tool that includes modeling 2D, 3D parts, 3D-printed parts, preparing CAM data, mechanism design, solid geometry, and plane geometry. Get options like extrudes, revolvers, Boolean operations, helixes, single section, export as PDF, SVG, DXF, and more that helps you design a model easily and accurately.

Generate STL or STEP to use CAM software for machining. Simulating spatial and planar linkages with the ball, links, or slide joints is now easy using the constraint solver. Get live dimensions in the drawing sheet and replace hand-solved trigonometry.

Moreover, you will find many features, from assembly and drawing, from making a sketch using lines, datum lines, points, rectangles, arcs of a circle, splines, and more. Use constraints to make sure the parts connect well during the assembly, and there will be no change in the dimension.

BRL-CAD

Think, invent, and create from your ideas with BRL-CAD – an open-source platform that you can use for any design purpose for 100% free. It gives you a B-rep kernel and Hybrid CSG with innovative methods for 3D geometry.

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BRL-CAD includes high-performance ray-tracing analysis, geometric analysis, interactive geometry editing, geometry libraries, system performance analysis benchmark suite, and a lot more.

It supports Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Solarius, etc. You will also have the freedom of customization according to your needs. In Addition, BRL-CAD does not charge you anything for the update and support.

QCAD

Get 2D CAD software for Linux, Mac, and Windows from QCAD, an open-source application that allows you to use it for free. It helps you create technical drawings, including interiors, plans for the building, schematics, diagrams, mechanical parts, and more.

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QCAD is designed by keeping extensibility, portability, and modularity in mind. It is a powerful and easy-to-use application for everyone, and its intuitive user interface makes your work easier. In addition, you do not need any CAD experience to work with QCAD. Once you download the free application, you will get every required tool on your screen to start creating your design.

Furthermore, you will get options like layers, blocks, 35 CAD fonts, TrueType fonts, various imperial and metric units, DWG input, printing to scale, printing on multiple pages, 40 construction tools, 20 modification tools, object snaps, and a lot more. In the part library, you will find more than 4800 CAD parts.

IRONCAD

If you are an innovative thinker, try IRONCAD’s 3D modeling software. It gives you an intuitive platform that shows you the tools you need to compare your 3D model to the real one. It offers many predefined shapes which you can use for a faster and better design process.

You can resize parts by stretching with handles. Forget about paper, pencil, and eraser; IRONCAD lets you map out your ideas into reality. Use a single application to perform all the design process from concept to production.

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Explore design ideas as much as you can and create models dynamically with the help of different shapes, constraints, dimensions, and a lot more. It allows you to access files containing information related to the parts, assemblies, and features from the catalogs to quickly make changes to them whenever you want and be more productive.

For various purposes, you will get different products according to your requirement. Use IRONCAD Draft to convert your 3D model to the 2D drawing and showcase the proper dimensions easily. Analyze your design according to the motion, force, frequency, and more with the help of SimWise Motion for IRONCAD.

PTC

PTC provides the best CAD solutions so that you can enjoy building new products. In other words, it is a product development and design software for parametric modeling, product documentation, and simulation/analysis.

PTC introduces Creo that delivers a scalable range of 3D CAD packages and tools. It will give specific features, tools, and capabilities to better design, imagine, and create the products. You will find additive manufacturing options, IoT, augmented reality, model-based definition, and generative design.

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Empower your team to perform thermal, fatigue, mold, motion, modal, and structural analysis. You can compare the result of steady-state and transient simulation and add/remove materials in different ways like extrude, revolve, etc., to give life to the 2D shapes.

Improve your productivity by decreasing your costs with Creo Ansys Simulation. Creo streamlines your workflows, and you will get a creative and seamless experience of product design. As a result, you can see up to 40% increase in operation efficiency, up to 30% reduction in design time, up to 30% reduction in prototype costs, and up to 57% reduction in time to market.

PTC offers flexible licensing and trial options so that you can find the best solution for your requirement.

Final Words

I hope the above CAD software tools help you create beautiful designs with accuracy and ease so you can get them approved faster. It can help you quickly move the designs to the production phase and shorten the product life cycle to accelerate product delivery with quality.