There is a great range of 3D modeling software on the modern market. Some are aimed at professionals, and others are beginner-friendly. The computer-aided design (CAD) solutions can focus on a particular industry, mechanical analysis, or simulation. If you are just starting, it can be tricky to choose the right tool.
Students might lack enough time to research all the options when they need to deal with deadlines and college projects. It is hard to prioritize and try out several solutions when you are always late for the essay or research paper deadline. Luckily, there is a way to get help with that – order professional academic writing help. If you think, “I need WritePaper to write paper for me this time,” you can simply ask for assistance at any time. Experienced writers deliver writing, proofreading, and editing of any type of college paper.
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In the meantime, one can check this guide on the best 3D modeling software for student engineers.
Free CAD Software
If you do not have a lot of money to spend or simply want to try several options before you set for one, these picks are for you. Free tools are often limited in functionality. But they are great for beginners and students.
This is a free version of professional software that works on Windows and macOS. It has all the features one might need. And if you are ready to upgrade, you can opt for a paid subscription. This one is delivered by Autodesk for professional use.
It is best for mechanical engineering and product design. One of the advantages is that it has manufacturing preparation features. Fusion 360 is decently easy to use, even for beginners. The main reason is the contextual toolbar. So you get a specific set of functions based on the project. The menu is customizable.
The top features are:
- Native CAM;
- Variety of design methods;
- Cloud storage (10 designs for free:
- Ability to share designs via link (others can leave comments and markups).
The free version has all the fundamental features. The limitation is that it is not for commercial use but for personal (there is an agreement). If you decide to upgrade to a paid version with more advanced functionality, it costs $60 per month or $495 per year.
This is a digital solution perfect for tech students interested in urban planning, architecture, landscaping, or interior design. The full paid-for version is called SketchUp Studio, which costs $119 per year.
The free software has basic features and a user-friendly interface. As the features are limited, it has a smaller learning curve. And it is accessed online, so you do not have to download anything.
The top features include:
- Selection of ready 3D models you can import into your design;
- Ability to upload geolocation;
- Walk tool that ensures you explore the model from the eye level.
This is another browser-based tool for tech majors looking for free functionality. The premium version is also quite affordable. It costs $12 per month or $99 per year. It is not as advanced as other engineering 3D modeling tools. Yet it is a valid choice for beginners.
There is functionality for mesh and subdivision modeling as well as parametric design. It offers real-time rendering, a decent library of free 3D assets, and photorealistic rendering. It can be used commercially.
Onshape is also browser-based. It has enterprise-level functionality and a premium version. Among the benefits, there are version control and collaboration opportunities. However, its interface can be confusing at first, so there is a learning curve.
The program also has a lot of tutorials on how to use it. The free version makes all your projects open-source and available for everyone, which can be an issue for some. Yet, it is a perfect opportunity to try out high-end software for free.
This is the only completely free program on this list. It works for Windows, macOS, and Linux. It is an open-source tool that allows product design, architecture, and mechanical engineering. There is a bit of a learning curve, but it is easier to navigate than Onshape. The interface is customizable, which is a positive thing for more experienced users.
It is integrated with Python, has CAM, allows for 2D drafting, and offers OpenSCAD Workbench.
Best CAD Solutions for Professionals
Here one can find tools that are not free but offer advanced functionality.
This is a well-known program by Autodesk. It works with Windows, Linux, and macOS. The cost is about $1,775 per year. But there is a free subscription for students and educators for a year. It is best for 2D and 3D drawing, construction, engineering, and architecture. It is a versatile tool; hence it has been used since 1982.
And there is a mobile version as well. It has anything one might need and is widely used across various industries.
It is another Autodesk tool that works for all major operating systems and has a mobile version. It is incredibly helpful for mechanical design and product simulation. The price is not very affordable at $2,190 per year. But it is also available for free for students.
It has a variety of modeling tools and documentation capabilities. And it is more user-friendly than other similar solutions, which is a benefit. The main difference between this and AutoCAD is a narrow specialty. Inventor is best for digital prototyping and simulation.
This software is used in heavy equipment design and production, the energy sector, and aerospace. It is aimed at industrial production. However, it is only available for Windows users. SolidWorks is quite expensive as one has to pay a one-time fee of $3,995 and a yearly subscription of $1,295. But there is a student version that costs only $99 per year. It has all the core features.
It is a solid tool with advanced functionality. One of the main benefits is that it applies to a wide range of industries. It is pretty complex, so there is a learning curve.
This tool is perfect for industrial and engineering users in such sectors as aerospace, construction, and automotive. It only works on Windows and costs a pretty penny. The one-time fee is $12,000, and you’ll need to pay a yearly fee of $2,000 as well.
It is a multi-purpose program with high-end functions. It has 3D CAD, CAM, and CAE tools in one. It is great for highly-detailed models and products. And it is one of the top choices in the automotive industry for this reason (used by Tesla, Honda, and Ford). CATIA is one of the most advanced engineering tools out there, which explains the price.
Hopefully, one of these powerful programs will come in handy for engineering students. Whether one settles for a free or premium one, all of them offer a wide range of opportunities. However, it is better to try free functionality before deciding on a deal.