What are the best CAD software programs according to: 1) Best overall? 2) Affordable?

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(George Allen) #1

What are the best CAD software programs according to:

  1. Best overall?
  2. Affordable?
  3. Ability to be used on a MAC?
  4. 2D & 3D modeling?
  5. Ease to learn/use?
(Kyle Kerr) #2

Fusion 360 is not a choice I would make, but, I will bet a number of replies will suggest it to hit all/most of your requests.

(Don Kleinschnitz Jr.) #3

I use F360 and find it meets all the above except #5.

It has a steep learning curve especially if like me you were a stanch SU user. That said, there is a lot of help and info to climb that curve.

Once learned (I still am) the integration of CAD, CAM and Drawing is the best I have used.

(George Allen) #4

Currently, I use Fusion & Inkscape, neither, I think,of which are technically a CAD program. I have been using Fusion, and jscut for CAM (though I just bought Meshcam- CNC Cookbook gave a discount for $200). I saw on the net where folks are showing a “cracked” version of Artcam, but I don’t use it b/c it’s illegal & you can attract malware. I’ve never really tried other CAD programs, except Autocad years ago and it was as complicated as Fusion. I’m not sure it’s wise for me to buy a CAD program, if the more expensive ones provide greater features and performance, if they are not easier to use. Fusion has more features than I can learn. I can’t understand all how to use blender. Sketch up has a CAD program, but it’s expensive. Online, I’ve seen discussions (obviously about Solidworks, but I cannot afford that), Autocad, Turbocad, Viacad, Dolphin Cad and I cannot remember the others.

(George Allen) #5

I think Zbrush is a 3D graphics/animation software (maybe similar to Cinema 4D Studio).

(George Allen) #6

I generally go by the principal, if the software costs more than my computer system, I can’t afford it.

(Jay Polo) #7

@George_Allen I’m not a CAD guru, but how is Fusion 360 not a CAD package? I’ve AutoCAD way back when. Parametric modeling seems incredibly powerful. Agreed with the other comment about the learning curve.

(Don Kleinschnitz Jr.) #8

@Jay_Polo @George_Allen what am I missing.

+George Allen Not a CAD program, did you intend to start a debate … lol :).

I have used multiple CAD programs and the CAD module in fusion eclipses all of them and I have only used part of its ability.

The problem I have had with every other CAD program is that they only provide part of the tool chain and I had to tweak the CAD to get the CAM and associated drawings to work.

Fusion is seamless. Now I go from CAD to CAM and drawings with no conversions necessary. The TinyG post processor in Fusion CAM works perfectly with my OX.

Yes, I struggle with Fusions vernacular and new (to me) interface but its clear that investment will bring huge returns including advanced CAM, simulation, sheet metal, patch, render and animation … all from a single design.

(Gee Willikers) #9

Inventor and Mastercam.

(Kyle Kerr) #10

A number of 3d printing channels I watch on YouTube have begun using fusion 360 and some even have some simple tutorials. Maker’s Muse comes to mind.

(George Allen) #11

@Kyle_Kerr I’ve seen his channel a couple of times. I didn’t know he used Fusion.

(George Allen) #12

I didn’t realize mastercam was CAD too, but for the price it should be. I thought inventor was for “rendering,” Though I’m not sure of the technical definition of rendering and how it would differ from Autocad.

(Kyle Kerr) #13

@George_Allen , he does indeed. He has some simple tutorials on using fusion too. NYC CNC also uses fusion and they have tutorials on CAD/CAM in fusion 360

(George Allen) #14

@Kyle_Kerr NYC CNC is sponsored partly by Fusion & Tormach.

(George Allen) #15

Yes, I’ve been subscribed to NYC CNC for about a year and a half. Converting DXF to mesh I can do, it’s the other way around that gets dicey.

(Mark Fuller) #16

Sorry in advance for the rambling:

My daily driver at work is Catia, with Enovia for the Product Life Management. Large aerospace projects, etc.
Very steep learning curve, but you can eventually bend it to your will.
Does 3D, 2D drawings, gobs of plugins for about every FEA problem, composite design, wire harness routing, CAM, you name it. Has a decent API for making your own custom modules. Cost is in the “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it” range. Last I heard ~$10K per seat to start.
Not small-shop friendly. At all. Not for beginners.

Same company, Dassault Systèmes, owns SolidWorks. Still not cheap, but a very solid system. I used that in a prior job and it was very productive, and has an easier learning curve.
Much better ease of use than any product from Autodesk. I’ve been an autodesk product user since AutoCAD V1.3. The UI and work-flow of the current products just slows me down.
It’d be my choice for a small business.

Did Pro-Engineer for a while. Another expensive product with much power I had no use for. Today, its PTC Creo Parametric. Looks to play in the same space as Catia. Expect similar price.

For conversion between formats, I’ve used Kubotek KeyCreator. Useful for importing odd formats. I haven’t used any descendants of CadKey for part creation since Kubotek absorbed CadKey back in '03. I still keep a copy of CadKey

I tried OnShape as part of online Additive-Manufacturing certificate. Not bad for a cloud app, but is dependent on a good connection. UI reminds me of Freecad a little bit.

Tried sketchUp Free, good for sketching, but if you need dimensioning or saving local, not so free.

Tried TinkerCAD…Meh.

Cheap(free) is FreeCAD, I actually like it. Lots of power, runs on your machine, but still a steep learning curve. It’s what I use at home for 3d work. I have done 2d with it, but really haven’t required it enough to get quick with it.

2D drawings, seldom needed.
Anyone I use to make parts for me prefer 3D models.
Old-school drafting table is my go-to for a quick sketch for paper output.

2D artwork, I can do what I need with open-source products. InkScape for vector graphics, Gimp for images.

Other 2D, Circuit boards, Mentor Graphics at work, same class of product line as Catia. $$$$$
Small board projects at work or home, I use freeware KiCad. Straightforward workflow, good tools. Schematic drawing is built-in.

Point-cloud and mesh repair or cleaning, surface reconstruction, 3d scan alignment, etc…
Meshlab (open source), steep learning curve, but lots of power. Used it to fix bad thingiverse stl’s.

Work side metrology requires software certification, so it’s Polyworks or SpatialAnalyzer, both $$$$$.

I avoid cloud based CAD in general. Variable performance, browser issues, intellectual property protection (private storage usually costs). Your cloud service can go away due to attacks/hacks, or get bought out and disappear forever. I’ll do my own backups, thanks.

Unless you already are familiar with modern CAD, the learning curve to get productive will be steep.
Ease of use tends to lock you into a limited tool-set, but does let you crawl before you run. How much time you invest before frustration drives you to better tools is up to you.

(George Allen) #17

@Mark_Fuller Yes, I understand Catia is the Father of HSM SolidWorks

(Aaron Grogan) #18

I’ve been quite happy with FreeCAD.

(George Allen) #19

@Mark_Fuller Thanks for the comprehensive input. Right now, what I think I’m going to do is generate most of my 3D models using Meshcam. Though it’s cam, it allows me to make most (if not all) of the 3D files I need, and on my Mac. I bought it for ~$200 with discount through CNCCookbook. For my 2D & 2.5D I will continue with Fusion & Inkscape.

(George Allen) #20

@Mark_Fuller BTW Meshcam is not in the cloud. He emphasized that in his description. At the time I didn’t know why that Was important.