Free CAD Software Options

Hi All! After attending a short course on 3D printing at SLAS, I wanted to share some free CAD programs that I was not aware about. We have 3D printers and I have played around with slicing parameters before, but was unable to design anything due to a limited # of licenses for the NX CAD software we have. These options will allow me to learn a little more about design, which I am looking forward to, as our 3D printers have saved us before in the past in supporting our liquid handlers.

These include:

  1. TinkerCad
    a. Limited, but good for simple designs
    b. Browser based
  2. Onshape Free
    a. More complex but more powerful.
    b. *** Anything designed here is publicly accessible***
    c. Browser Based
  3. FreeCad
    a. Must be downloaded.
    b. YouTube tutorials available.

Feel free to post others. Hope this helps someone in the future!


we use the free version of Fusion 360. It ‘only’ allows you 10 active projects at a time, but its easy to toggle projects in and out of archive so you can have more than 10 if you need to.

So far we have not hit any CAD limitations, but we aren’t doing anything too complex/


+1 for Fusion 360.

Tons of great resources for it as well so I was able to move from curious about CAD to modeling in one weekend with this series.

It also looks like they have a new series for 3D printing but I haven’t seen it yet,


Also used Fusion 360 for a few years now, both under academic license and hobby (both are free but the academic is a full fledged version only obtainable with an academic email).

The software is by far the most potent and intuitive, for its capabilities, I came to tinker with (including the ones you mention above). And as Luis mentioned above, there is a wealth of resources and tutorials out there.

Cheers !


Yeah it’s great software for getting your head around the basics which can carry over from one CAD software to another. Plus it’s super intuitive.

For those who prefer to read over videos, I recommend No Starch Press’ beginner’s guide: A Beginner's Guide to 3D Modeling | No Starch Press


I’ll give another vote toward Fusion360. Been using it for a few years now. It’s really great for more ‘technical’ modeling, using strict dimensions.

Blender needs to be on this list as well. It’s more suitable for sculpting and modeling non organic shapes. It’s completely free and opensource but is extremely versatile and powerful.

1 Like

I love OnShape and use it whenever I can, it was made by many of the developers who made SolidWorks so the interface is very similar. It’s also free and runs in the browser, with many computational operations performed serverside, so it can run a lot faster and with less memory than typical CAD programs. It’s super easy to share files as links that others can view without downloading, installing, or making an account.

1 Like

If you are a coder then you may be interested in OpenSCAD, a code-based CAD tool.

+1 for Fusion 360.

I’m also really curious about OnShape.

I use TinkerCad. I feel like a 12 year old when using it… but its fun and does what we need for simple designs and prints.

4 Screws
3 parts
Same plate location
MFX DWP Module