Computer-aided design, or CAD, is an essential tool for any manufacturing or product design business. There are plenty of different software programs out there that can help you with this function, but knowing which ones to choose can be a bit tricky.
Dan Taylor, content analyst at software review and research platform Capterra said in an email to Small Business Trends, “You have to be careful choosing CAD software, because while CAD is used in manufacturing it is also used in construction, and some software may be suited more for one than the other. This is why it’s important to try out software first.”
If you’re looking for a new CAD software to try out for your manufacturing business, here are a few different options to consider.
AutoCAD is a 3D CAD program that Taylor says is popular with a lot of manufacturing and product design companies. It’s available for Mac and Windows on a subscription basis, with different rates depending on the length of your subscription. Features include 3D modeling and visualization, customization options and a mobile app for working on the go.
From TurboCAD, DesignCAD is a software suite that offers both 2D and 3D design options. The 3D CAD program includes features for rendering, animation, modeling and more. The program costs $99.99 with optional upgrades also available.
Solidworks 3D CAD
Solidworks offers three different versions of its CAD software. The standard edition includes 3D design features for creating parts, assemblies and drawings. The premium and professional versions then include some advanced collaboration and simulation options to take those designs to the next level. Pricing is customized based on each company’s needs, so you need to contact the team directly to determine the cost and features you need. A free trial period is also available.
Vectorworks offers a number of different software options for different types of design and products, ranging from architecture to structural design. So you can check out the different options and find the one that best fits with your business’s niche. The company also offers mobile solutions and a trial version.
FreeCAD is a product design and modeling platform that is, as its name suggests, free. It’s an open source tool with multi platform reads and open file format options. Since it’s so customizable, it takes a bit of tech knowledge to navigate, but the price allows you to at least try it out without making a major upfront investment.
Creo Parametric 3D Modeling Software
A 3D CAD tool specifically made for product development, Creo Parametric offers both design and automation features intended to help product makers bring their ideas to market faster. You can use it for everything from framework design to sheetmetal modeling. There’s a free trial with customized pricing options available afterward.
TurboCAD Deluxe 2018
The latest version of TurboCAD, this option includes both 2D and 3D design options. The 3D design capabilities allow you to create realistic renderings of products perfect for those who need to present new product ideas. It does also include some architectural features as well as 3D printing capabilities. Priced at $149.99, there’s also a free trial option available.
Shapr3D is a tool for iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. It’s not as fully featured as some other 3D CAD tools. But for small manufacturers that prefer working on a tablet or using 3D printing, it can be a unique and cost effective option. The Pro version is $300 per year, and there’s also a free option available for beginners if you’d like to play around with the technology.
For programmers or those with a knowledge of coding, OpenSCAD offers a free and open solution for creating 3D designs and models. It’s available to download for Linux/UNIX, Windows and Mac. It offers a variety of features that focus more on the CAD aspect than design.
SolveSpace is another free offering that allows you to create digital models of 3D products. It gives you the ability to set dimensions, create 3D shapes, analyze measurements and export the designs. It is an open source tool and offers a constraint-based modeling feature and simulation capabilities for Windows, Mac and Linux users.
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