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 3D printers as well as other hardware. Some of the professionals that use CAD software include architects, engineers, graphic designers, 3D printing enthusiasts, among others.
Today, there are dozens of free CAD programs that are more advanced than they were a few years ago. These programs, though free, come with sophisticated features that makers can take advantage of. In this guide, we’ll look at the best free CAD software for 3D printing.
Given the dozens of programs available and the differences in operations and features, it can be difficult to choose the right one. Below, we provide an overview of the top free CAD software you should consider.
Best Free CAD Software for 3D Printing
Which free CAD software is good for beginners and which should advanced users go for?
Below, we have compiled a list of 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 what we feel will be best for beginners all the way to advanced users.
Continue reading further down to see detailed information about each 3D program.
|CAD Program||Operating system||File format||Retrieve|
|3D Builder||Windows||3mf, obj, ply, vrml, STL||Download|
|Tinker CAD||Browser||123dx, 3ds, c4d, mb, obj,
|3D Slash||Browser||3dslash, obj, STL||Download|
|Sculptris||Windows, Mac||obj, goz||Download|
|Vectary||Browser||STL, OBJ, gITF||Download|
|SketchUp Free||Browser||STL, png||Download|
|Fusion 360||Windows, Mac||catpart, dwg, dxf, f3d, igs,
obj, pdf, sat, sldprt, STL, stp
|FreeCAD||Windows, Mac, Linux||step, iges, obj, STL, dxf, svg,
dae, ifc, off, nastran, vrml, Fcstd
|OpenSCAD||Windows, Mac, Linux||dxf, off, STL||Download|
|Blender||Windows, Mac, Linux||3ds, dae, fbx, dxf, obj, x, lwo,
svg, ply, STL, vrml, vrml97, x3d
Best Free CAD Software for 3D Printing
1. 3D Builder
3D Builder is becoming increasingly popular, and is included in many versions of Windows 10 as basic software.
With this software, you can easily manage files such as STL, OBJ, or 3MF, and create 3D objects easy with its user-friendly features. Moreover, you have access to a library of 3D components, or you can load them from an external file. The software even allows you to scan and import a new 3D design with, for example, the Kinect V2 sensor.
TinkerCAD is a 3D program that is browser-based. Therefore, it works no matter where you are. This CAD program is suitable for beginners in CAD and 3D printing.
Like 3D Slash, you can use the software 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 other software instead.
3. 3D Slash
3D Slash is also a user-friendly free CAD program for beginners. With the software, 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. You can also add objects, colors and images.
Another notable feature of the software is logo support. The logo generator imports an image and creates a 3D model, while the text maker allows you to enter, 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 one that is easy to learn. However, the method of designing models differs slightly from the others.
This would be the best software for beginners that will want to 3D print statues or figures. For example, you can use it to create a replica of your favorite character in any game.
This browser-based program has more advanced features than the previous ones. Moreover, it is fast and convenient for 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.
With the free CAD software for 3D printing, you can have up to 3 personal projects as a free user. Apart from this, you will have many functions and tools. However, exporting projects is only available if you subscribe to their packages.
Vectary 3.0 has now also come out and has a better and more advanced interface. 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 that many people like.
With the software, 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. Moreover, it has a well-laid out 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. This says a lot about it. The software is a replacement of 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 $ 100,000 per year. For more information, we refer to their website.
Read the complete Autodesk Fusion 360 review.
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. With it, you will 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. Therefore, it may not be the obvious choice for beginners.
But if you want to learn more about CAD modeling and have access to more advanced functionality, this is something for you. The relatively powerful CAD program is also open source. Additions are often created to make it better and better.
The above are the best free CAD software for 3D printing. Let us know if you have any questions about any of the software.