Free CAD Software for 3D Printing

Source: FreeCAD

Explore our guide to the free CAD software for 3D printing, with top picks for beginners, intermediate users, and advanced professionals.

Computer-aided design (CAD) software is an essential tool for anyone looking to bring their design ideas to life. CAD software for professional use can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year. Fortunately, there are free programs available that are compatible with the big software suites and mirror their feature set. These completely free products are surprisingly robust and, in many cases, every bit as good as some of the paid programs.

Fortunately, free CAD software is widely available for both professional and hobby designers. Unfortunately, given the differences between CAD programs, it can be challenging to choose the right one.

To help, we’ve listed our six picks for free CAD software (in no particular order) that we really love and four honorable mentions worth checking out. We include both those that are limited in use and those that are free with no strings attached. We use these products ourselves, so we know how easy each software is to use, the standout features, practicality, and how well it can scale with your projects.

Our list focuses on CAD software for product design, mechanical engineering, or architecture. If you’re looking for CAD software for animation or game design, check out Top 10: Best 3D Modeling Software in 2024. And if you’re specifically looking for design software for 3D printing with easy interaction with the 3D printing process, check out The Best Free CAD Software for 3D Printing in 2024. But for everything else, this list should give you a good idea of where to start looking.


Okay, no, Fusion (formerly named Fusion 360) is not free for everyone, but it is free for a lot of people. Let’s explain. For personal and noncommmercail use, a limited, but still feature-rich, version is available for free, which gives you access to all of the most essential tools. Plus, there’s a free license for students and educators. This software is easily the mightiest all-rounder design software, if you are in product design or 3D printing. Fusion (formerly called Fusion 360) is a part of Autodesk, so this program comes with a hefty price tag if you want to use it for professional projects. Eligible startups can make use of the commercial version of the software at a decent discount – about $150 per user for up to 10 users. On top of that, it’s surprisingly easy to navigate, even for newcomers!

  • Why we like it: Native computer-aided machining (CAM) (saves you from importing/exporting and working with another program), design method variety (you can use it for direct, parametric, and subdivision modeling as well as others), uses collaboration and cloud to run better and simplify things like storage.
  • Best for: Noncommercial projects from simple tools to complex machines.
  • Free for: Students and educators

SketchUp Free

We think this free version of SketchUp is the simplest 3D modeling software available on the web. It’s simple, fun, and predictable. While it is more feature-restrictive compared to Fusion 360 for free users, SketchUp Free provides web-browser-based model creation, 10 GB of cloud storage, and limited access to the 3D Warehouse. The 3D Warehouse is full of pre-built models to use so you don’t have to start your designs from scratch.

SketchUp Free is completely free for primary and secondary schools with a G-Suite for Education or Microsoft Education account, and there is a deeply discounted version available for higher education and non-profits. As a browser-based software, it ensures quick access anytime and anywhere, allowing you to easily showcase your designs on mobile devices.

  • Why we like it: 3D Warehouse (a repository of thousands of 3D models that can easily be imported into your design), geolocation (import your location directly into your workspace—however, the free version only allows for 2D maps), and Walk Tool (allows YouTube to view your model from eye level).
  • Best for: Architecture, landscaping, or setting up scenes to view your model in a representative 3D virtual space before fabrication, plus 3D modeling.


Onshape is free for qualifying start-ups, students, educators, and content creators with a free limited-feature version for non-commercial use. It offers a powerful, web-based CAD program for engineers and designers who need to collaborate with teams and other stakeholders. The limited-function free version, called the “Free Plan,” allows users to experience working in a collaborative environment with robust piece of engineering software. It includes free access to online training and a wealth of tutorials and resources on the software’s website. Although the Free Plan is feature-rich, it lacks release management and photo rendering features available in paid versions, and, oddly enough, all creations are publicly accessible online.

Onshape provides free accounts for schools and educators, complete with lesson plans, and a free version for “Content Creators” in the product development space. Talented creators can even earn up to $15 per thousand views on their YouTube content featuring Onshape through their Content program.

  • Why we like it: Live collaboration (you and a co-designer can markup and edit in real-time), design branch and merge changes (a great way to experiment without risking the need for undoing massive changes later)
  • Best for: Designing mechanical parts and complex objects via a powerful, browser-based parametric design program.


Like SketchUp, Vectary offers an easily accessible limited-function free plan called Starter, which, unlike other professional software’s free versions, can be used for commercial projects. Vectary combines mesh modeling, subdivision modeling, and parametric design, creating shapes based on the numeric parameters and dimension values given, with a focus on digital art. It is ideal for users intimidated by professional CAD software but familiar with digital art programs or needing artistic-quality renderings. However, the free plan is a trial, allowing only 10 projects, except for schools, which can access the Starter plan without limits.

  • Why we like it: Real-time rendering, 3D assets (i.e. a library of free models, materials, and lighting effects), photorealistic rendering.
  • Best for: Artists who are familiar with 2D design programs and want to start working with 3D models.


FreeCAD is a locally installed, powerful CAD software that is free forever. Its open-source parametric modeling excels in all primary CAD tasks, including product design, mechanical engineering, and architecture. Unlike a lot of other free programs, your projects can be used commercially without any restrictive terms. While beginners might face a learning curve and should watch interface tutorials, intermediate users can customize the UI and take advantage of numerous advanced features in this open-source software.

  • Why we like it: Python Integration, 2D Drafting, OpenSCAD Workbench.
  • Best for: No strings attached, free and open-source design through a locally installed program.
  • Free for: Everyone.

Solid Edge

Siemens Solid Edge offers a very generous and feature-rich Community Edition for free, along with free full versions for teachers and students, but sadly, it is available only for Windows.

Solid Edge provides robust tools for professional mechanical and electronic product development, including assembly design, simulation and analysis, drafting and documentation, cloud collaboration, and additive manufacturing for 3D printing. Solid Edge is known for its ease of use among CAD software users, though it might not be the most beginner-friendly. Siemens provides free training resources to help new users learn the software.

  • Why we like it: Synchronous technology (it allows you to adjust individual components without messing up the whole model), simulation, 3D printing features
  • Best for: Mechanical, electrical, and engineering design; students, hobbyists with at least an intermediate CAD knowledge base.

Here’s our list of Honorable Mentions:

The above are all robust CAD solutions that are widely used, documented, and offer plenty for the free user. But the list doesn’t really end there – there are plenty of free CAD programs offering unique features, targeting specific industries and design processes. Here is some more free CAD software that we just couldn’t leave out. If the options above don’t quite work for you, take a look at these alternatives:


Software mostly used for creating animated films, visual effects, art, and 3D games, but also offers a pretty comprehensive suite of tools for 3D modeling, sculpting, texturing, and rendering, compositing.

Best For: Professional 3D modelers, 3D designers, and game developers. Also hobbyists interested in artistic design with some flexibility.


A parametric design program used for 2D and 3D modeling that’s open-source and free for anyone to download. Users can see, study, and improve their code, plus, it’s a great way to learn the basics of parametric design. Its UI only shows code, so you can’t see what you’re designing in real-time, which would be a nightmare for artistic types but a dream for code warriors.

Best For: Die-hard coders.


A professional-grade computer-aided design (CAD) software designed for creating and editing 2D and 3D models. You could think of it as a cost-effective alternative to other CAD solutions, offering a user-friendly interface and a range of tools for drafting, designing, and documenting various projects.

Best For: Advanced users looking for a free alternative to AutoCAD.


A free and open-source CAD software that steps away from the 3D interface and renderings. It’s a lightweight CAD software with all the basic tools you’ll need to model and modify your designs, but only in 2D. Because of its limited dimensions, the program is especially lightweight – taking up a modest 30 MB on your hard drive. But don’t worry too much about sacrificing full 3D, LibreCAD displays isometric views to make up for its missing dimension. Also interesting about LibreCAD is the fact that it’s available in over 30 languages with cross-platform support for macOS, Windows, and Linux.

Best For: Users of all skill levels who want an especially lightweight program and don’t mind sacrificing a fully 3D interface or renderings.

For a more detailed overview of free CAD programs please check out the Top 10: The Best Free CAD Software in 2024.