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Affordable CAD Software Alternatives to AutoCAD

Don't break the bank on your next 3D printing project with these computer-aided 2D and 3D software alternatives.

Apps in this Guide

CAD or computer-aided design software enhances design creation, modification, analysis, and optimization with increased speed and quality. Various 2D and 3D CAD Windows apps are used to exploremore

CAD or computer-aided design software enhances design creation, modification, analysis, and optimization with increased speed and quality. Various 2D and 3D CAD Windows apps are used to explore ideas, render concepts, and simulate performance IRL, but AutoCAD, the original CAD software, is still the go-to CAD app for most Windows users.

Frequently Asked Questions

When was CAD first invented and how did it grow in popularity?
Ivan Sutherland developed CAD in 1961 when he described a computerized sketchpad in his Ph.D. thesis at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). By the mid-1970's, as CAD systems advanced, the cost benefits for companies to switch to CAD -- lower product development costs and a greatly shortened design cycle -- were clear.
Who uses CAD software?
Graphic designers, architects, engineers, project managers, and interior and fashion designers, among others.
What is the difference between 2D and 3D CAD software?
2D CAD software supports two-dimensional (height and width) drawings, such as rectangles, circles, squares, and triangles. 3D CAD software can handle three-dimensional renderings, which incorporate height, width, and depth.

Best CAD Software for Windows Recommendations

AutoCAD

AutoCAD

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Developed by Autodesk, AutoCAD is the first and most widely-used computer-aided design software. AutoCAD allows you to produce comprehensive 2D documentation and drawings and innovative 3D designs, add customizations, and easily collaborate with coworkers across projects. AutoCAD is available by annual subscription. ($1,176-$1,470)

LibreCAD

LibreCAD

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LibreCAD is a free, feature-packed open-source CAD app. But beware that it only supports 2D design.

FreeCAD

FreeCAD

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As its name implies, FreeCAD is a free, customizable, open-source 3D CAD modeler and Building information modeling app. It's also parametric, which means that you can adjust your design by going back into your model history and shifting its parameters. FreeCAD is often used by mechanical engineers, but also by architects and educators.