Thursday, January 14, 2016

CAD Applications for 3D Printing

By far the biggest limiting factor in 3D printing is easy to use CAD software. Here is a list of the best CAD software applications that I've found.

Sketchup - Great for woodworking, but unusable for 3D printing since it only is good down to 1/16 of an inch.

Solidworks - By far the best software package out there. Very expensive out out of the reach of the average person. The student version is $100, the regular version is $4000 with a $1500 yearly license but the one you really want if you want to build assemblies is the $8000 version with a $2000 yearly license. You don't actually own the software and it's more like buying a car than buying software since you have to go through a sales guy that deeply discounts the price at the end of the year, but if you are making money on what you're building then this is the software you want.

AutoDesk - I see people get amazing results from this. I'm not one of them since there are some serious bugs on the Mac. For some reason the model will just disappear in the middle of working with it. I also can't stand the fact that all saved files are in the cloud.

FreeCAD - This is an open source totally free CAD package that is rather good. I doesn't work on the Mac at all. They have a version but don't bother, it's way too old. Lulzbot uses FreeCAD exclusively supporting their open source tradition. If you have Windows or Linux, this is a pretty good package!

OpenSCAD - Like FreeCAD it's open source but it's different than all the other CAD programs out there. At first I was put off by how it works but I now appreciate it. You program everything. This is cumbersome for large models, but actually it works pretty good once you get used to it. My only complaint which has been solved is that you can't anchor an object to a point on another object and have it's world view relative to that point. Rather everything is translated from 0, 0, 0. If they fixed that one problem this would be a much more powerful and competitive product. But I love the parametric functionality and for some things this is what I've been using. Also you can send someone a file in email without an attachment!

ViaCAD - I've settled on ViaCAD. They have some inexpensive options and a lot of features. It makes a lot more sense to me than AutoDesk and I can save files locally and it works on Mac!

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