3-D CAD is not a prototyping technique but rather a step in the process. If you want a precision part, then you need to have a 3-D CAD model made. CAD stands for computer aided design. It’s using powerful (expensive and hard to learn) software to generate a virtual model of the design on the computer. The great thing with CAD is that you can do so much with it.

If you have a CAD model you can:

  • Make 2-D drawings for a provisional patent application
  • Generate a photo realistic rendering
  • Create an animation of your product to demonstrate how it work and make it into a video
  • Generate the files need to make prototype parts

Here’s a rendering of an iPhone in the holder I designed with SolidWorks 3-D CAD modelling software.

This is essential if you want to:

  • Injection mold
  • 3-D Printing
  • CNC Machining

Free CAD Software

There are some free programs out there if you really want to try. Buyer Beware. Some free programs are just demos.

I do not recommend it. You will get frustrated. I’ve used CAD for almost 20 years and I still get frustrated. If you need help, please contact me. My rates are very competitive. I can provide references and examples of my work. I take PayPay for payment and I don’t get the final payment until you are satisfied.

CoCreate Free personal edition of their commercial 3D CAD modeler. The unique feature about CoCreate is that it does not use a history based modeling philosophy. Assemblies are limited to 60 parts. Every 3 days it requires a new license, if you’re connected to the internet it does this automatically, otherwise you’ll have to log-in to your account on their website for the license.
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Created by PTC Inc.
T-FLEX Student A 2D & 3D parametric CAD version of their commercial product, includes an FE solver and dynamics simulator. Files created by the student edition cannot be opened by any other software including their own commercial version. Expect other limitations to the features available. Commercial use is prohibited.
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Created by Top Systems Ltd..
Kompass 3DLT This is a reduced 3D CAD version of their commerical product, it does not permit assemblies. It includes 2D drafting.
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Created by Ascon Group.
FreeCAD It’s a free open source 2D/3D CAD program that is a work in progress.
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HeeksCAD Free open source 3D CAD program that is a work in progress.
Created by Dan Heeks.
DraftSight 2D CAD that works with AutoCAD dwg file formats. Good AutoCAD clone.
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Created by Dassault Systemes.
AutoSolids AutoSolids greatly extends the 3D capabilities of AutoCAD, enhancing not only its solid modeling capabilities but the coordinate system (UCS), viewing, and visualization commands. Saves to native dwg format. Supports AutoCAD versions prior to 2008.
Created by AutoSolids, Inc.
Powershape-e Free 3D CAD designer using wireframe, surface, solid & triangle modeling. Files can only be saved in their propreitary format. Will run on XP but not on Windows 2000, 95, 98, Me or NT
Created by Delcam Inc.
GraphiteOne Software is free only for personal, educational, or research use. Works only on the Linux operating system. Has both 2D drafting and 3D designing ability.
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Created by GraphiteOne.
X11 A free 2D/3D CAD system without any features crippled. Screenshot
Created by GrayTech Software, Inc.
Solid Edge Layout Free fully functional 2D drafting program.
Created by UGS Inc.
CADVANCE A free 2D CAD system without any features crippled. This used to be a commercial system back in the early ’90 through ’95, but since the company’s latest product is now CADVANCE 2000 they are distributing this older version free of charge.@5MB . Screenshot
Created by F.I.T. Inc
CadStd The well known completely free 2D drafting package. The system is fairly simple to use and is capable of being used for most drafting work. @1MB. Screenshot
Created by John Apperson.
FelixCAD LT A free 2D CAD system, with over 300 professional 2D design and drafting functions.
Created by FelixCat GmbH
Dexter CAD The Dexterpen cad demo is a lite version of the full version. It is a light parametric 2D design software which allows you to alter dimensions using sliders to see the resulting changes in real-time.
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Created by Owen F Ransen
JustCAD 2D CAD software complete with all the required tools.
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Created by Jon Hoke
VectorEngineer A compact & efficient 2D CAD software, some features have been disabled in the free version, but nothing you can’t live without.
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Created by Duncan Aylwin
A9CAD General purpose 2D CAD program.
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Created by A9 Tech Inc., Inc
Desi III A free fully functional 2D CAD program. A very professional program, and fairly easy to use. Although listed under Architecture CAD software, it can also be used for general mechanical CAD work. Good explanations have been provided for using the software. @2.5MB
Created by Hugo Marein
ProgeCAD Smart A 2D CAD program.
Created by ProgeCAD
BRL CAD The U.S army has released a CAD system to open source, which is now being enhanced by the open source community. It runs on Windows, Linux, Mac & Solaris.
Draft IT Good 2D drafting program. Light version of their commerical product.
Created by CAD Logic
APM Graph LV 2D parametric program. The only restriction is an absence of database that contains drawings of Russian standard details and manufactures.
Created by APM R & D.
Cap Completely free simple & smart 2D CAD program.
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Created by Michael Henderson
AllyCAD Free version of their commerical product, file size limited to a maximum 150kb. Can be used for both architectural & mechanical work.
Created by Knowledge Base Pty Ltd
DoubleCAD Free 2D CAD drafting program, just like AutoCAD LT.
Created by IMSISOFT
Wings3D A free 3D subdivision modeler that is more suited to artists than engineers. Runs on Win/Mac/Linux.
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Created by Open Source Volunteers
TdhCad A free 2D vector graphics software with layers, grouping, line/curve paths, color gradients, copy/paste, merging, scaled export to SVG, PNG, PDF.
Created by Tim Hirrel

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