While there are many free CAD software tools on the market, not all of them have the features that are important for 3D printing.
The most important is ease of interaction with and integration into the 3D printing process. Essentially this is the ability to generate 3D models that can be transformed into instructions for 3D printing. The most common way to accomplish this is to save the model in what’s known as an STL file.
Another important aspect is the creation of machine instructions for creating 3D objects using additive manufacturing. This is achieved with CAM technology.
Model printability is also an important feature, especially when manufacturing or customizing parts. Some platforms create models that will need to be repaired after printing.
Lastly, CAD software for 3D printing should also be easy to use when modeling and creating objects.
Having seen what makes CAD software ideal for 3D printing, let’s take a look at the best options.
Tinkercad, from Autodesk, is one of the most popular educational CAD tools and one of the best for beginners to use. Its interface is friendly and easy-to-use, making the process fun for kids, hobbyists, educators, and designers.
Tinkercad is ideal for 3D printing because it saves objects as STL files and offers solid or box modeling parameters for 3D printing geometries. Another great feature is that it’s completely web-based, so no downloads are required. For instructors looking to teach CAD, the platform offers specialized services and resources.
SketchUp is one of the most intuitive and powerful free CAD tools available on the market. The combination makes is ideal for beginners and intermediate users, alike. The platform is also completely compatible with the needs of anyone looking to 3D print.
SketchUp boasts a 3D Warehouse, which has lots of pre-made models, including ones made for 3D printing. Other aspects include special services for teachers and a paid Pro version, which extends the platform’s functionality.
FreeCAD is a free, open source parametric CAD software modeler. It’s considered to be a great entry point for designers and mechanical engineers new to the modeling world. Parametric modeling means that one can modify a 3D model by browsing the model history and adjust or change individual elements.
FreeCAD is ideal for precision design, which is good for technical and replacement parts.
Considering the broad spectrum of professional features available through AutoCAD, there’s little that can’t be done with this platform. The engineer-esque interface offers tools for both 2D and 3D modeling. Those created for the later can readily be saved as STL files.
If you’re interested to get started with AutoCAD, here are 6 Easy Steps for Beginners.
OnShape is the first and only CAD platform that is completely cloud-based. That means any computer or mobile device with an Internet connection can operate this software. This allows design teams to access and work on the same data simultaneously.
OnShape is excellent for technical and spare parts, whether manufactured or assembled. The fact that the platform is web-based makes it easy to take advantage of online 3D printing services.
It’s true that trying to find a suitable CAD software for 3D printing can be hard. This article has tried to identify the best so far from the numerous platforms that are known to be compatible with the 3D printing process. Their popular use speaks volumes for those who wish to pursue further with 3D modeling with CAD.
License: The text of "Best Free CAD Software For 3D Printing" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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