Computer Aided Design has drastically improved the speed and the accuracy which we human create systems with, at the point where it will be impossible to list an area in technology where the added-value brought by CAD is not exploited.
Following this revolution, Many CAD software are being refined and/or launched every day.
There is a variety of sectors where CAD implementation are so needed that there is not a day without a more specialized software is being released.
In this post, we will attempt to list the most Popular CAD software currently on the market.
Most popular CAD software
ArchiCAD is a CAD software by the company GraphicSoft. This software is focused on creating designs for Architecture. ArchiCAD is nearly a must-know software for Architects. “ARCHICAD was developed specifically to address the architect’s desire for great design without compromising on practical needs. GRAPHISOFT ARCHICAD’s innovative BIM solution helps you win more business while letting you concentrate on your core skill – creating inspiring designs” [ArchiCAD Brochure]
Read this post about AutoDesk inventor and its difference with AutoCAD.
AutoCAD is one of the most popular CAD software out there. The most popular version of AutoCAD are:
- AutoCAD Architecture
- AutoCAD Civil 3D
- AutoCAD Electrical
- AutoCAD LT
- AutoCAD Map 3D
- AutoCAD MEP
- AutoCAD Plant 3D
AutoCAD LT is the version supporting 2D but not 3D, you can find more information about AutoCAD on AutoDesk site. If you want to know what AutoCAD can be used for, you will have one more post to read.
MAYA is a 3D animation software. It helps you animate, model, simulate and render. This CAD software by AutoDesk is today one of the leading software in 3D animation allowing artists to create high-quality 3D charterers and scenes.
“Maya has really been know as the go-to app for 3D animators among the industry for its robust rigging and animation tools and its animator friendly workflow” [blog.digitaltutors.com]
AutoDesk 3DS MAX
3DS MAX is a 3D software for animation, modeling, simulation and rendering. Now you will wonder why AutoDesk went ahead and created 2 CAD software that do the same job, but 3DS MAX and MAYA and not identical. Not like MAYA, 3DS MAY is merely used in the film industry, because studios like to be able to create their own set of tools that can help them achieve their job much easier and that is done best on MAYA.
Geomagic Design is a 3D digital mechanical design and fabrication solution that allow to model custom part that can be 3D printed afterward.
“The simplicity, power, and flexibility of Geomagic Design makes it the first tool I reach for in my role as a consulting mechanical design, development, and manufacturing engineer” [Lew Merrick, PE]
Alias is an industrial design software good for surface modeling. It provides sketching, modeling, surfacing, and visualization tools for industrial, product, and automotive design. This piece of Software is mainly used in the automotive industry and for product design.
Different version of Alias are:
- Alias SpeedForm
- Alias Surface
- Alias AutoStudio
- Alias Design
- Alias Concept
Revit is a building and construction software. Its principal goal is to allow users (Architect) to build and visualize architectural designs, MEP and structural designs, and use thus is mainly used the construction industry. It is specialized in BIM (Building Information Modeling)
“MicroStation is one of the leading 2D and 3D CAD and information modeling software explicitly created for the architecture, engineering, construction, and operation of utility systems, roads and rail, bridges, buildings, communications networks, water and wastewater networks, process plants, mining, and more” [MicroStation]
This is a software than compete with Revit while talking about BIM.
Blender is an open source 3D graphics and animation software. “It supports the entirety of the 3D pipeline—modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking, even video editing and game creation” [Blender.org]
BricsCAD is a CAD software for sheet metal design and Building Information Modeling mainly. BricsCAD is currently offered in three editions: Classic, Pro, and Platinum.
|BricsCAD Classic||BricsCAD Pro||BricsCAD Platinum|
|Powerful CAD functions||Powerful CAD functions||Powerful CAD functions|
|2D constraints solving||2D constraints solving||2D constraints solving|
|Full support of LISP||Full support of LISP||Full support of LISP|
|Chapoo connectivity||Chapoo connectivity||Chapoo connectivity|
|-||Direct 3D modeling||Direct 3D modeling|
|-||Rendering, materials, and lighting||Rendering, materials, and lighting|
|-||VBA1 & BRX||VBA1 & BRX|
|-||3D constraints solving||3D constraints solving|
|-||BricsCAD Communicator 2||BricsCAD Communicator 2|
|-||-||3D constraint creation|
|-||-||Design intent recognition|
CATIA is one of the leading design software specialized in 3D CAD product design. CATIA is proactively used in the Aerospace, Automotive, Machine Industry and Maritime Equipment Design niches.
Draftsight is a free CAD software by Dassault Systèmes looking and working just like AutoCAD. This free CAD software is a good free alternative to AutoCAD and is able to read DWG file (DWG is the main file extension AutoCAD uses).
FreeCAD as its name, is a free parametric 3D modeler that allow you to easily work on a project back and fort, allowing you to come back and change paremeter of an already existing model. This software is mainly used for commercial parametric modeling. It is nicely suited for educator, programmer wanting to manipulate the software using scripts, experienced CAD users for parametric modeling and for hobbyist wanting just to build object for 3D printing.
Femap is a CAD software from the German company Siemens. It is the leader for advanced engineering finite element analysis.
Learn more about Femap.
Fusion is a 3D CAD/CAM tool from AutoDesk connecting your entire product development process in a single cloud-based tool.
IronCAD is a CAD software aiming to give you the most freedom possible while putting your idea into 3D reality. IronCAD offers a high level of design freedom and provides a fresh alternative to traditional history-based parametric systems.
KeyShot is a 3D Rendering an animation CAD software, meaning it is not used for modeling. You will need to use other CAD software to create your 3D object and then use KeyShot to render them. This is the fastest and easiest way to create amazing photographic visuals of your 3D.
Kompas 3D is a CAD software good for managing project of thousands of sub-assemblies, parts, and standard library products.
Key Creator is CAD software meant for manufacturing purposes and analyses. It helps CAD drafters have a flexible fast way to create, change, analyze or communicate a mechanical part or design.
LightWave is a 3D modeling CAD software that combine a powerful-intuitive modeling and animation tools. This is one of the most used CAD software in the 3D animation industry.
MODO is the CAD software that bring a set of 3D modeling, animation, sculpting, effects and rendering in a powerful integrated package.
Moi3D is a 3D CAD modeling software for designers and artists.
MasterCAM X8 is a CAD/CAM (Computer aided design/Computer Aided Manifacturing) application designed for both machinists and engineers. This CAD/CAM software is the program of choice among CNC programmers.
- Full 3D live wireframe modeling.
- Powerful surface modeling and editing.
- Optional solid modeling.
- Broad range of translators allowing you to open any CAD file.
- Associative dimensioning, analysis, and more.
NX is an advanced high end CAD/CAM/CAE software package developped for parametric and direct modeling, static, dynamic, thermal analysis and manifacturing.
You can learn more about NX at Siemen’s website.
OpenSCAD is the best programmers 3D CAD modeler. This CAD software is a free CAD software you might be looking for when you are planning to create 3D models of machine parts but would not be what you are looking for if you are more interested in creating computer-animated movies.
PTC Creo Elements
PTC creo Elements/Direct Modeling Express is said to be a good 3D CAD software created for product design with short design cycles and thus making it the ideal tool for short-series production runs.
The family PTC Creao 3D CAD include the following version
Rhino is a popular CAD software that help you create, edit, analyze, document, render, animate, and create surfaces, solids, point clouds, and polygon meshes.
This software is used in industrial design, marine design, jewelery design, furniture design, mechanical design and many other fields.
You can read more about Rhino here.
Solidworks is a famous CAD software by Dassault Systèmes known to be one of the best for 3D CAD modeling and CAE (computer-aided engineering).
This one is a solid modeler that uses a parametric feature-based approach to create CAD models and assemblies.
SketchUp is a free 3D CAD modeler by Google. The core value of this software is that it aims to facilitate and smother the learning curve to the less possible and is attracting a lot of users from this same fact.
You can learn more about SketchUp here.
SolidFace is a 2D/3D CAD software incredibly cheap (full student version is around $129 for a 2D lifetime license).
One important feature of SolidFace is that it has a built-in 2D/3D Movement Simulation module.
Here are Software you might need to be aware of, as well.
- Space Claim
- Solid thinking Evolve
- T FLEX CAD
- ViaCAD 3D