- 2023 Update
In this latest 2023 update, we have compiled a comprehensive list of the best free CAD software for 3D printing which can cater to people from students to professionals. These free software have some limitations but as starters, these software can be relied upon for learning and modelling purpose. These best CAD software for 3D Printing are a great source to quickly get some hands-on experience of designing.
Best Free CAD Software for 3D Printing
Let us look at some of the best free 3D CAD software for 3D printing available for beginners, intermediates and experts.
Tinkercad is the most basic and best free CAD software for 3D printing. It is a browser-based 3D design tool. It begins with basic tutorials and gradually guides you through all of the functionality. You can learn the lessons whenever and as many times as you want. This tool is easily appealing to all new learners, enthusiasts, students, and even children. This software is also capable of editing and repairing STL files.
Tinkercad recently added an intriguing new physics simulation feature called the ‘Tinkercad Sim Lab’. This feature, which allows users to add gravity and materials to their 3D designs, is sure to pique the interest of students who want to experiment with physics concepts like momentum and gravity. It is a place where you can have fun while learning about STEAM concepts.
It is accessible through Tinkercad’s navigation bar. When you enable it, all shapes and designs become moveable by default (and can be toggled to static if you prefer). Materials will behave differently in your simulation by influencing the weight, bounciness, and ability of your shapes to slide when in contact. They will also add texture to shapes when mixed with the colour you choose.
You can make marble mazes, in which you create a maze and then add marbles to the maze, and the marbles slide along the length of the maze, as well as Dominoes, a roller coaster, and other things.
3D Slash is one of the best free cad software for 3D printing learners. It was developed by Sylvain Huet who got inspiration for the tool while watching kids play Minecraft who in turn used tools to develop sophisticated 3D models without even noticing it. 3D Slash is however is meant to design models for 3D printing. So, you can actually export the models in formats like STL and get them 3D printed.
3D Slash uses a simple approach to modelling imitating a stone-cutter and his block. This block building technique is fun and easy to use for non-designers. The original toolset of the software provides a hammer, a trowel, chisel, brush, wood filler, milling machine and picture projection on cuboid, all of which perform various tasks like add or remove cuboids, colour the cuboids, cutting out objects according to a picture shape, and more. The 3D Slash app offers complementary advanced tools. Free STL files downloaded from Thingiverse can be edited in 3D Slash.
ZBrushCoreMini is the scaled down version of the original and vastly popular ZBrush. These software programs are offered by Pixologic. The same company that brought Sculptris. But in mid-2020, Sculptris was discontinued and thus it is no longer available for download or support. The ZBrushCoreMini sits between Sculptris and the professional ZBrush software. This new software is a free digital sculpting solution with a streamlined interface designed to be incredibly easy for users of all ages and skill levels to learn.
ZBrushCoreMini is a 64-bit application and so will run on all modern computers. It also perform better than Sculptris but interestingly it also includes the Sculptris Pro features. Pixologic encourages all Sculptris users to switch to the new software.
FreeCAD, as the name implies, is a free and open-source parametric CAD software for 3D printing. It is an excellent starting point for engineers who want to learn modelling. FreeCAD is a free alternative to Solidworks that uses parametric modelling to allow designers to create complex models that can also be easily modified. The user interface is not visually appealing, but it produces excellent results. Solidworks is an expensive tool, and if you don’t want to empty your wallet or the project isn’t too complicated, FreeCAD is a great modelling option for you.
Because the software is open-source, you can even create add-ons or modify the programme to meet your needs. It can also be used to edit and repair STL files. It is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux systems.
SketchUp Free is one of several products in the SketchUp software range that provides a free 3D printing CAD software. This is a web-based version offered to Engineers, Architects, Designers, and others. If you are working on a hobby project then you can avoid the hassle of downloading the complete software suite and use a free version of the software. Users can try the software and get a taste of the capabilities and then move on to the more premium software solutions such as SketchUp Pro.
What makes SketchUp Free so good is that it can be accessed directly from the Web, have a 10 GB cloud storage, great interoperability capabilities with import SKP, JPG, PNG file types, and export SKP, PNG, STL file types.
Furthermore, the Sketchup library, known as 3D Warehouse, allows users to import user-generated and manufacturer-produced models directly into the existing design. This software is widely used in the automotive and architectural industries.
Fusion360 is an Autodesk commercial computer-aided design (CAD), computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), computer-aided engineering (CAE), and printed circuit board (PCB) design software application. It is a complete platform for collaborative product innovation and development.
Fusion360 is a cloud-based software, so you can use it regardless of your operating system and access your work from anywhere in the world.
Monthly, annual, and triennial subscription plans are available for the software. It also provides the software for free to certain groups of users, such as personal users, Startup users, educational users, and collaborators (note that you must first determine your eligibility for these free plans).
Blender is a popular open source and free CAD for 3D printing that offers a full 3D modelling solution. It is commercial software that supports the entire 3D pipeline, including modelling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing, and motion tracking, as well as video editing and game development.
Stability for Blender, an official Stable Diffusion plug-in that adds a suite of generative AI tools to Blender’s free 3D modelling software, was recently released by Stablity AI. This add-on will allow Blender artists to create new images, textures, and animations by reusing existing projects and text descriptions. It is important to note that, for the time being, the plugin does not generate 3D models, but rather 3D images that users can use as references.
This software is most commonly found in the animation industry. It is an entry-level professional 3D modelling software and one of the best free CAD software for 3D printing.
PTC Creo Elements/Direct Modelling Express (Version 6.0)
PTC is a household name in the 3D modelling and design industry. The company has created numerous software solutions for Computer Aided Design (CAD), Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Service Lifecycle Management (SLM), and other applications. One such software is Creo Elements/Direct, which has a comprehensive system for mechanical engineers and designers who create products using the direct modelling approach to 3D CAD.
It is software aimed at aspiring designers with some experience in 3D modelling. Such a user can benefit from the software and use it to create high-quality 3D models. You can use this software to design a part from scratch, create one-off parts, or create massive assemblies. Furthermore, anyone on your team can pick up where you left off and continue to design the part.
You also get a number of extensions, including Direct 3D Access, Direct Advanced Design, Design Share, Direct Finite Element Analysis, Direct Sheet Metal, and others.
Autodesk Maya & 3ds Max
Both of these Autodesk software suites are excellent alternatives to the free CAD softwares mentioned above for 3D printing.
Maya is more than just a 3D modelling software because it creates more lifelike models. It is primarily used for animation, simulation, and rendering.
3ds Max is a comprehensive modelling software that is primarily used by game developers and graphic artists. This software is best suited for users who have experience with animation and modelling in professional software such as Maya.
Both of these softwares have paid versions, but, like Fusion360, they also offer free versions for students and Startups for three years. Both of these programs are extremely professional and rank among the best free CAD software for 3D printing among all modelling software suites.
With the rise in popularity of 3D printing and designing, the ned for engineers to learn 3D modelling has also increased. Designers today are expected to be familiar with CAD software for 3D printing. Although there are many other similar software programs, this list of the printing, best free 3D modelling software for 3D printing is a great place to start your design learning journey. This comprehensive list of the best free CAD software for 3D printing will give new learners a direction to start 3D modelling and enter the world of 3D printing.
About Manufactur3D Magazine: Manufactur3D is an online magazine on 3D printing which publishes the latest 3D printing news, insights and analysis from all around the world. Read more such informative articles on our 3D Printing Education page. To stay up-to-date about the latest happenings in the 3D printing world, like us on Facebook or follow us on LinkedIn.