3D CAD Software

3D CAD Software

howtodetails 24 Min Read

Engineers, product developers, and designers utilize 3D CAD (3-dimensional computer-aided design) to produce virtual prototypes of three-dimensional items that are fully functioning. Designers may build and edit every detail of a product, part, or assembly in real-time using 3D CAD. Simulation testing, sketching and drafting, manufacturing, data administration, computer-produced animation, and other areas of product engineering are all aided and automated by 3D CAD software. These three-dimensional models will be utilized in simulation studies to predict however the item can answer stress and environmental factors, they will be rendered to form photo-realistic pictures to be used in sales and promoting materials and/or elaborated drawings will be sent to producing for production (or, within the case of additive producing, the CAD file will be sent on to a 3D printer).

Here’s the list of top 3D CAD Software’s

MicroStation’s advanced parametric 3D modeling, visualization, and drawing production capabilities allow you to create and produce projects of any size or complexity. Solids, surfaces, and mesh modeling, as well as complex geometric restrictions, are all available. You can bring your models to life with integrated ray tracing and animation while producing complete, multi-discipline models, documentation, and other outputs.

MicroStation cost starts at $250.00 a month as a flat fee. There is no free version available. A free trial of MicroStation is available.

Solid Edge makes advantage of synchronous technology to help you speed up product design, make faster updates, and reuse design data. Solid Edge enables you create at the speed of creative thinking with quicker 2D sketching, best-in-class sheet metal design, flexible part and assembly modeling, built-in photo-realistic rendering, and unrivaled mobility.

The monthly cost of Solid Edge starts at $75.00 per feature. A free version is available. A free trial of Solid Edge is available.

OnScale is the first platform for Cloud Engineering Simulation. OnScale blends sophisticated multiphysics solver technology with cloud supercomputers’ infinite computational capability. Engineers may use OnScale to perform a large number of full 3D multiphysics simulations in parallel to generate real Digital Prototypes, which are digital representations of actual high-tech gadgets that capture the device’s whole behavior over its operational envelope.

A free version is available. A free trial of OnScale Solve is available.

Altair SimSolid is a game-changing simulation solution for designers, engineers, and analysts because it performs structural assessments on fully-featured CAD assemblies in minutes. It does away with geometry preparation and meshing, two of the most time-consuming, expertise-required, and error-prone procedures in a traditional structural simulation.

There is no free version available. SimSolid provides a risk-free trial.

4MCAD is a free AutoCAD replacement with the same look and feel of AutoCAD, ZWCAD, BricsCAD, and other CAD tools. The affordable pricing and easy-to-use AutoCAD-like interface are two major advantages. It includes features such as 2D/3D CAD Complete Design, Rendering, BIM/IFC import, 3D Solids, and VBA support.

The price of 4MCAD starts at $60.00 for a one-time payment. There is no free version available. A free trial of 4MCAD is available.

SolidWorks Premium combines industry-leading part, assembly, and drawing capabilities with built-in simulation, rendering, animation, product data management, and cost estimation. SolidWorks will assist you in completing tasks more quickly and easily than ever before, by utilizing revolutionary product development phases to generate a more productive 3D design experience.

A free version is available. A free trial of SolidWorks Premium is available.

Onshape is cloud-based design software that accelerates product development. It’s an all-in-one system with over 50 engineering applications that include CAD, release management, workflow, collaboration, analytics, admin tools, and an API. Onshape enables extended design teams to interact faster and executives to make better business decisions by providing real-time data and unique visibility into their company’s design and production processes.

A cloud-based 3D CAD/CAM application that connects your complete product development process and brings your design teams together.

Engineers and designers can use Autodesk® Inventor® software to create the professional-grade 3D mechanical design, simulation, visualization, and documentation solutions. Engineers can use Inventor software to construct a virtual representation of the final product in order to verify its form, fit, and function before it is manufactured. Autodesk Inventor includes powerful modelling tools, as well as multi-CAD translation capabilities and native drawings, all of which can help you save time and money while developing your product.

The monthly cost of an inventor starts at $275.00. There is no free version available. A free trial of Inventor is available.

ANSYS SpaceClaim is a 3D CAD tool that engineers and analysts can use to construct parts, auto surface mesh data, and reproduce fixtures. Professionals can use the platform to fix geometry issues that arise during various 3D CAD activities, such as design or concept modeling, translating CAD files, general model defeaturing, and complete model editing. Administrators can also use a uniform interface to parameterize CAD files and create models for 3D printing.

A free version is available. There is no free trial available for Ansys SpaceClaim.

3D CAD Software Buyers Guide

The instrument that delivers a design to a manufacture-ready stage is CAD (computer-aided design). It’s the crucial software environment in which designers and engineers turn idea sketches into three-dimensional models that may subsequently be viewed, optimized, simulated, and 3D printed or manufactured using traditional manufacturing methods.

Over several decades, a core foundation of CAD programs has expanded out to encompass dozens of viable alternatives, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, modeling methodologies, and niche applications. Let’s have a look at the options so you can make the best decision possible when it comes to choosing a virtual work environment that will serve you for the rest of your career.

What is 3D CAD Software?

Computer-aided design (CAD) is a computerized approach for creating 2D and 3D drawings and models that has mostly replaced manual drafting in a variety of sectors. Designers may use CAD software tools to explore design ideas, readily tweak designs, visualize concepts through renderings, model how a design operates in the real world, generate documentation, share designs for feedback, and more—all of which help organizations innovate and come to market quicker.

CAD software has been around since 1959, when Doug Ross, an MIT researcher, invented the word after designing a program that allowed his team to draw electronic circuit schematics on the computer, therefore understanding its potential for quick change and exploration.

CAD had become incorporated into the workflow of automotive, aircraft, and consumer electronics businesses that could afford it by the early 1980s. Boundary representation, a more consistent manner of describing virtual objects by their borders and linkages, was added to solid modeling engines in the 1990s. SolidWorks (1995), SolidEdge (1996), and Autodesk Inventor (1997) all followed this approach (1999).

Open-source CAD solutions, such as FreeCAD, became popular in the 2000s. New features and modules for a variety of CAD programs were also developed, allowing designers to not only design the physical product but also effectively make, visualize, and induce it, as well as combine product development into the overarching project management and product lifecycle management processes (PLM).

The latest CAD software systems are cloud-based, allowing developers to work on the same model from several workstations and outsource heavy techniques like generative design, simulation, and rendering to the cloud. Advanced simulations enable for testing of a design based on a variety of mechanical elements in a matter of hours rather than days. Using artificial intelligence, the generative design turns the computer into a co-creator, suggesting ideal forms to solve specific mechanical issues.

Key Features of 3D CAD Software

Here are some of the most prevalent 3D CAD software features:

  • 3D modeling: Develop a three-dimensional model/design of your idea to provide a realistic view of its size, material, optical qualities, and properties.
  • Annotations: To link various parts of the project, use highlighting and hyperlinks to tag files.
  • 2D drawing: Create 2D drawings to show how your idea will be made and assembled.
  • Collaboration tools: Use multi-user settings, annotations, and merged coding to collaborate and co-edit a 3D infrastructure model.
  • Animation: Design 3D animation for many areas of your project to provide an engaging experience.
  • Data import/export: Import and export data files, schematics, and 3D models are all supported.
  • Drag & drop: To create the user interface, drag and drop pre-built design components onto your 3D model.
  • Version control: Version management allows you to track changes to a 3D design over time and restore particular versions as needed.
  • Component library: To create immersive presentations, use the component library to include interactive elements including words, photos, animations, flowcharts, and diagrams.

Compliance management: Manage complex compliance requirements proactively to reduce administrative burdens and mitigate risk.

Benefits of using 3D CAD Software

The following are some of the advantages of CAD integration throughout the product development process:

  • Rapid concept development: Envisioned ideas may be correctly drawn for early visualization and 3D printed quick prototypes.
  • Specialization: By implementing CAD across the business, particular expertise is developed, resulting in a shared understanding of how to get certain parts to the manufacturing-ready level.
  • Visualization: Cutting-edge 3D renderings, animations, and virtual reality experiences of works-in-progress may inform and impress clients and target customers.
  • Optimization: In a virtual environment, faults and flaws may be recognized and optimized considerably more quickly. Using precisely toleranced mechanical drawings, gaps between design intent and manufacturing reality are bridged.
  • Quick manufacturing: Using CAM systems and rapid manufacturing technology, products may be brought to market faster.
  • Enhanced communication:3D CAD software enables designers to develop highly interactive designs/models with comprehensive geometric dimensions, material requirements, and surrounding constraints, resulting in improved communication. It creates a clear image of how a design will be made and assembled, allowing designers and engineers to communicate more effectively.
  • Increases efficiency and productivity: Using 3D modeling and animations, this program helps designers and engineers to envision their concepts. From any angle, a 3D model in action may be easily examined, enabling immediate detection of any stress areas or faults. It boosts productivity by speeding up the design process and minimizing design expenses.
  • Easier prototyping: Designers may convert 3D CAD models into STL (Standard Tessellation Language or STereoLithography) files for 3D prototyping with this program. It has navigational features, images, and interactions that may be used to construct prototypes that show how the final product will work.
  • Improved data management: With each modification or update to the design, designers and engineers must record the bill of materials (BOM). This software’s 3D modeling functionality reduces human data maintenance by automatically updating the BOM as the design changes.

CAD’s Uses

  • CAD software systems often result in the creation of a collection of mechanical drawings that instruct the manufacturer on how to manufacture a product, as well as the manufacturing method, materials, mold finishes, and tolerances necessary. They now, however, do a lot more:
  • Internal presentations and marketing brochures require lifelike representations.
  • Integration of BOM (Bill of Materials) for controlling all parts in an assembly and cost estimation.
  • Direct import of standard mechanical components and/or decorative elements from numerous providers’ connected databases.
  • After setting up some fundamental parameters, create an injection mold design from a component.
  • Providing support for the modeling and development of sheet metal components, welded frameworks, and composite structures.
  • Suggestions for optimization were derived through stress and buckling analysis (FEA), drop test simulation, and generative design (GD).
  • For injection molding, a mold flow study is performed.
  • Analysis of thermal, vibration, and aerodynamics
  • Assembly motion analysis and interference detection
  • Analysis of ergonomics using posable 3D manikins
  • Die-cut drawings based on a 3D model require surface flattening.
  • Nesting algorithms for improving item arrangement on a laser cutter’s or 3D printer’s 2D bed.
  • For jewelry creation, automatic gemstone prong settings are available.
  • Fabrics and inflatables simulation
  • Assemblies, part version history, releases, engineering modifications, file formats, metadata, cost estimation, vendors and suppliers, collaborations, access control, revision control, manufacturing process planning, and associated part files, papers, and presentations are all managed by PLM systems.
  • To transmit design intent and improve the manufacturing process, advanced geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T) are used.
  • Data from 3D scanning may be directly imported for reverse engineering.
  • Getting models ready for 3D printing
  • Texture painting and texture mapping for art, video games, films, and full-color 3D printing

Types of 3D CAD Software Systems

CAD, as opposed to 3D software, is often used in more purist professional circles to refer to a parametric system with a history tree and sophisticated ability to deal with highly limited and intricate assemblies. In this post, we’ll refer to CAD as any software that can create usable 3D models for manufacturing techniques like injection molding, thermoforming, or 3D printing. The level of parametric control is, in the end, a program parameter that the designer might choose to use.

Freeform modelers or virtual clay sculptors provide the least dimensional control, allowing the user to create forms out of a base mesh object and change it freely without any numerical limits. ZBrush and Mudbox are two of the most well-known examples.

Polygonal Modelling: The user starts with a base mesh in polygonal modeling, also known as mesh, wireframe, or box modeling, but instead of coarsely carving out shapes, the user deforms it using operations on the mesh’s elements: its vertices, edges, and faces. Modifiers/deformers that function on the complete shape, such as bending, twisting, smoothening, and morphing forms, are also available. Although portions remain independent of all other sections of the model, this gives the designer considerable numerical control. Although Wings3D is a free option, box modelers like 3D Studio Max, Maya, Blender, and Cinema4D provide advanced animation and rendering capabilities.

Solid Modelling: Solid modeling is the most straightforward method of creating manufacturable models in 3D. The virtual design is regarded as a manufacturable solid object from the start, with the user adding or removing material using constructive solid geometry (CSG) methods. Sketches on various portions of the model may then be extruded or rotated around an axis to create additional features using programs like SolidWorks and SolidEdge.

Surface modelers: Surface modelers interpret a virtual item as a collection of surfaces that can only be declared ‘watertight’ and turned into a solid body ready for production, such as 3D printing if they are entirely linked on all sides. The artist begins by drawing drawings, which are then swept over a rail, rotated around an axis, or lofted toward other sketches. After then, surfaces may be mixed and cut together to form a sophisticated component design. Tangent surfaces are those that flow straight into each other. This is referred to as G1 continuity. Curvature continuous, or G2, is the term used when the change in tangency is uniform over a surface. Programs like Alias, Creo, and Rhinoceros provide advanced surface modeling capabilities in the G2 range. When the change in curvature must also be smooth, such as in aerodynamics optimization, the designer enters the domain of Class-A surfacing, which requires only the most modern software tools, such as CATIA. When choosing a surface modeler, keep in mind if the engine is based on NURBS, Bézier, T-Splines, or the obsolete Coons-type definitions.

Parametric modelers: In contrast to direct modelers, parametric modelers provide the designer with complete control over the modeling process. Every feature may be constructed using a set of measurements and constraints that determine the size, shape, and position of the feature. These components stack on top of one another to form a historical model tree that depicts the model’s construction. Rather than working on the geometry itself, the designer here focuses on the characteristics that drive the design. This improves productivity by allowing sections of the design to be programmed, or scripted, resulting in a vast array of new textures, patterns, and variants for product customization.

Parametric modelers make the most of CAD, but they constantly consider if it obstructs conceptual development. All too frequently, the transition to parametric is done too early in the creative process. Advanced parametric modeling tools are available in CATIA, Creo, and OnShape. Rhinoceros is a direct modeler, but its Grasshopper plug-in is a great example of how parametric control may be used. Instead of being drawn directly into the virtual area, all of the geometry in OpenSCAD is programmed in a separate window. Antimony, like Grasshopper, replaces textual programming with a more comprehensible node-based flow diagram. SolidWorks, too, provides for some data-driven control using a spreadsheet document as an input specification.

Complex solutions are computer-generated in generative design (GD), which are beyond the reach of a human designer’s vision. The model will update if the definition of a design is updated manually by altering the input values. Artificial intelligence, which can complement the 3D-modeling process with recursion and evolution towards ideal forms, as shown in topology optimization, may also perform it partially or completely.

When buying 3D CAD software, there are a few things to keep in mind

  • Business requirements: Before you choose a solution, think about your business requirements. If you work in an architecture business, for example, you’ll require a 3D CAD solution that includes advanced features like 3D rendering, BIM, 3D printing, and drafting. Similarly, if you operate in a metal sheet manufacturing company, you’ll need a system that can handle flat patterns.
  • Integration with existing tools: For graphical support and design version control, 3D CAD software works alongside strong computer setup tools. As a result, it’s critical to make sure the solution you pick is compatible with your current hardware and software stack. Smooth design and corrections are made easier with a well-integrated software application.
  • Cost of management: Software must be tested and maintained on a regular basis throughout its existence. Additionally, some components (such as plugins and other toolsets) may incur additional expenditures. Before purchasing a tool, make sure to think about long-term management and additional costs.


  • How much does 3D CAD software cost?

Most of the CAD software cost more than 500$/ year if you need it for professional purposes. Also, there are many software’s which are very cheap and can be used. But there are many drawbacks to using such software.

  • Is 3D CAD free?

This 3D modeling application is completely free for personal or educational use! Keep in mind that Sketchup’s free edition is a web platform. For expert users, here’s another free AutoCAD option. This is a free drafting program with powerful CAD tools and good performance.

  • Is SketchUp better than AutoCAD?

While AutoCAD is better for 2D and 3D technical, structural, and engineering consultancy designs, SketchUp is ideal for 3D modeling and basic object renderings. SketchUp is more user-friendly and less picky than AutoCAD, but the latter has better rendering capabilities.

  • Did Google sell SketchUp?

SketchUp, a 3D modeling program, is no longer a part of Google, which sold the firm to Trimble Navigation. The team members and technology at SketchUp will be utilized to improve Trimble’s navigation, surveying, and mapping equipment as part of the purchase.

  • Do professionals use SketchUp?

SketchUp and similar tools are used by many professionals. When it comes to generating a variety of products for 3D printing, 3D modeling and design have a vast market currently.