Whether you’re a stage director, an architect, or just a hobbyist 3D modeller, 3D CAD software helps plan and develop 3D designs for manufacturing, engineering, and 3D printing. However, it can be tricky to know which is the best free 3D CAD software for your needs.
Some tools come in the form of native apps available for desktop and mobile, which makes it easy to design without requiring an internet connection. However, cloud-based SaaS solutions offer significantly more processing power to help with advanced simulations of 3D models.
Whichever one is most useful to you will depend on your specific needs and what you are looking for. Read on to discover and help you choose the best free 3D CAD software to design your next project without having to pay a premium for it.
Best free 3D CAD software for 2021
The best free 3D CAD software available in 2021 allows users to easily design and model virtually anything, whether it be drone parts to be 3D printed or architectural sketches and models to show clients. Different modelling software tends to specialise in a particular area, whether that be offering easy tools to turn 3D models into 2D plans and blueprints, or offering advanced physics simulations like heat transfer and fluid simulation. This list has been curated based on a number of factors, including having a free-forever version available to users. (*For the full methodology we used to create this list, skip to the bottom of the page.)
Overall rating: 4.5/5
Ease of use: 4.4/5
Customer service: 4.2/5
SketchUp is a 3D CAD software package that is suitable for professionals and hobbyists alike. Its primary focus is on designing and modelling buildings, and it offers a range of features aimed at this. SketchUp supports a wide variety of platforms, which include desktop Windows and Mac versions, as well as native iOS and Android apps and a cloud-based SaaS solution. The multi-platform nature of SketchUp makes it very user-friendly and easy-to-use, regardless of device.
In addition to providing an extensive suite of 3D modelling tools, it also includes features that make it easy to turn your 3D models into 2D blueprints and design documents. It additionally supports third-party extensions that allow the user to add new features.
Price to upgrade: SketchUp offers a free version and a free trial. A premium version starts at $119 USD.
Overall rating: 4.6/5
Ease of use: 3.9/5
Customer service: 4.2/5
About ANSYS SpaceClaim
ANYSYS was founded in 1970 and provides professional software solutions for everything from fluid dynamics to optics and 3D CAD. SpaceClaim is a 3D modelling CAD software aimed at professionals, with a specific focus on providing advanced simulation physics and features. It also includes full-featured 3D modelling software that works well with a range of CAD file formats and supports model editing, model de-featuring and can repair translated CAD files. ANSYS SpaceClaim focuses on the simulation-driven design and supports a range of tools that allows for 3D modelling, reverse engineering and manufacturing of a wide variety of 3D components, from cars and oil rigs to buildings and rockets.
Price to upgrade: ANSYS SpaceClaim offers a free version, pricing for a premium version is available by request.
Overall rating: 4.5/5
Ease of use: 4.2/5
Customer service: 4.6/5
SimScale was founded in 2012, offering a SaaS engineering-simulation and 3D modelling app. It supports a wide variety of industry-standard file types. The cloud-based nature of its toolkit means that it is accessible from anywhere. It supports solid and fluid dynamic simulation for free, with paid versions offering parallel simulations that take advantage of the cloud to deliver results for different prototypes quickly, making it very useful for computationally-intensive simulations. SimScale provides up to 3,000 core hours (CPU/GPU) absolutely free with its community edition, with premium versions including access to live support with simulation experts.
Price to upgrade: SimScale offers a free version and a free trial. Pricing is available by request.
Choosing the best free 3D CAD software
Many of the best free CAD software available are suitable for designing and developing 3D models for 3D printing or drafting designs. Advanced features like solid and fluid dynamics and other simulation features are available as part of premium versions. For most hobbyist level 3D design, modelling and printing requirements, the non-premium features are perfectly suitable.
In order to make this tool list, tools had to be:
- Free (offer a free trial for a free-forever version for users)
- At least 90 real-users reviews exist on Capterra website
- At least an overall rating of 4 / 5 on the Capterra website
- A high number of monthly searches for the brand name in Australia at the time of writing the article (December 2020)