Free CAD software for 3D printers can be difficult to find. We have created a list of the best 3D modeling programs that are free.
CAD (computer aided design) is a software (a program) for creating 3D models that can be used by, among others, 3D printers . Architects, engineers and graphic designers are some who use CAD software.
Free CAD programs are more advanced today than they were a few years ago, and include some of the most sophisticated features to take advantage of.
Note that after CAD modeling, it is time to use a slicer program to prepare your model for 3D printing. Read more in our guide on how a 3D printer works.
But with all the differences in the programs, it can be difficult to choose the right one.
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Which CAD program is best?
Which is good for beginners and which is good for advanced users?
We have compiled a list of the 11 best CAD programs for 3D modeling (all are free). You can easily use these programs to create models for your 3D printer.
The table below is not ranked in any way, but is listed in order from Beginner to Advanced according to our own criteria.
Continue reading further down to see detailed information about each 3D program.
Best Free CAD Software for 3D Printing
1. 3D Builder
3D Builder is a program that is becoming increasingly popular, and is included in many versions of Windows 10 as basic software.
You can easily manage files such as STL, OBJ, or 3MF, and make the creation of 3D objects easy with its user-friendly features.
You have access to a library of 3D components, or you can load them from an external file.
You can even scan and import a new 3D design with, for example, the Kinect V2 sensor.
TinkerCAD is a 3D program that is browser-based, and thus works no matter where you are. This CAD program is very friendly to beginners in CAD and 3D printing, which is why we highly recommend this to beginners.
Like 3D Slash, you can use this CAD program to build 3D models from basic shapes and customize the design to achieve your goals.
You can also create geometric shapes (2D vector) in TinkerCAD, and then convert them to 3D models if you wish.
It is worth mentioning that TinkerCAD is somewhat limited, and advanced functionality does not exist if you compare with, for example, Blender, FreeCAD or SketchUp. If you want more control and more powerful programs, you can consider these instead.
3. 3D Slash
3D Slash is also a very user-friendly program for beginners, and is the second program we recommend for beginners on 3D printers.
3D models are designed with a simple concept of building blocks.
You can start with a block, and remove small parts by using tools such as a hammer or drill, and you can also add objects. You can also add colors and images.
Other features include logo support. The logo generator imports an image and creates a 3D model, while the text maker allows you to enter and format text and turn it into 3D text.
3D Slash is free and browser-based. You can get a local offline version that is supported in many operating systems at extra cost.
This CAD design program for 3D printers is another easy to learn. The method of designing models differs slightly from the others.
It can be said that this program is preferable if the goal of the 3D printer is to print statues or figures.
For example, this program would be great if you want to create a replica of your favorite character in any game.
This browser-based program offers a little more power than the previous ones, for fast and convenient 3D modeling. You can customize your own templates or projects and create objects from a library.
There are databases connected to Vectary such as Google Poly with different 3D models.
You can have up to 3 personal projects as a free user, and many functions and tools. Vectary 3.0 has now also come out and has a better and more advanced interface.
However, exporting projects is only available if you subscribe to their packages.
There is also a free educational version for students and teachers.
Figura is a reasonably sophisticated CAD program for 3D printers that has a bit more advanced features, which many people like.
Here you can model 3D objects and use advanced tools to process the model for its purpose.
7. SketchUp Free
SketchUp Free is one of the most popular design software for 3D printers.
This 3D CAD program offers a good balance of simplicity and functionality with a good interface that both beginners and advanced can use.
SketchUp Free is browser-based and has everything to get you started quickly with modeling for 3D printers. Remember to download the STL export plugin, it is free.
8. Fusion 360
This professional and more sophisticated CAD program is created by the pioneers of Autodesk, which can say a lot.
Fusion 360 replaces Autodesk 123D Design!
This program is much more advanced than the many other 3D modeling programs and shows it clearly in its interface and environment.
With powerful tools and analytical features, you can apply this program on an industrial scale without any problems. You can also simulate stresses and strains of the model after manufacture.
Fusion 360 supports cloud-based file sharing, version control, and import / export of the most common CAD files.
Fusion 360 is free for you as a hobbyist or student. However, the requirement is that it must be non-commercial and that you must have a turnover of less than about $ 100,000 per year. For more information, we refer to their website.
This open-source 3D modeling program is a fairly simple CAD program with reasonably advanced functionality. You have good control over the model and you can use a model history to go back and change parameters.
OpenSCAD is another free CAD program that allows you to “program” your model and then complicate it into a 3D model in the user interface.
It is relatively advanced, but gives good control over the model.
This program is ideal for those who want to learn to think like a CAD program thinks to create models. You learn everything about the basics of creating a 3D model.
Blender is also a popular 3D modeling program. It is quite advanced and takes a little longer to learn all the features, especially as a beginner. It may not be the obvious choice for beginners.
But if you want to learn more and CAD modeling and have access to more advanced functionality, this is something for you.
This is actually a relatively powerful CAD program and is also open source. Additions are often created to make it better and better.