View Full Version : Recommendations for the best Free CAD program

05-11-2015, 08:48 PM
Hi, I'm just looking for a bit of advice, I looking for the best Free CAD program.
im a newbie working with wood, there are so many CAD program's out there, but was after advice on which ones would suit me best

05-11-2015, 09:55 PM
What suits you depends on what you plan to do! Can you give some idea? For example, cutting panels, internal and external profiles, holes and pockets, or full-blown 3D carving? Size of objects?

I use Vectric vCarve which is a very easy to use package aimed at woodworkers and includes CAM, but is not cheap. However, the time it has saved me over fiddling about with "free" software had been worth it. Its bigger brother, Aspire, includes 3D capability. Both are available as free trials. If you want a free (really free for non-commercial use) professional-style 3D CAD+CAM package then Fusion 360 would be hard to beat but expect a long and steep learning curve. Great for mechanical design but OTT for woodworking, maybe.

Horses for courses, what do you need to do, and don't expect the earth if you want it free!

05-11-2015, 11:21 PM
Hi thanks for that,
At the moment I make personalised toy boxes, money boxes.
I wanted to carve names onto box lids, cutting out letters, and simple shapes. It doesn't have to be free but I don't realy want to spend a fortune on it.

07-11-2015, 10:17 AM
Hi I think Trimble Sketchup Make has a lot to offer for a free CAD package. Its quick easy to learn and well maintained. Its pretty hopeless for anything really organic but then that's unlikely to be what you need. There are also many free plugins which easily make up for any lack of functionality the free version has. Indeed using plugins you can make it into anything you really need. Its main focus is 3d Cad but it can be pushed to 2d. I teach this to 16-18 year olds and we prepare files for lasercutters and cnc routers using it and export using a free .dxf plugin.

07-11-2015, 11:34 AM
OnShape (https://www.onshape.com/) is worth a look - it's free and browser based. It also works more like a standard CAD program (Solidworks, Cubify etc) than Sketchup so the skills will be more easily transferrable. The help is good as well....

07-11-2015, 03:52 PM
When I first started with my CNC router, I used various bits of free/open-source software. I already had various CAD options to produce dxf files, so I concentrated on the CAM side of things. The two I ended up using most were dxf2gcode for 2D profiling, and PyCAM for 3D. Both are OK, but I spent a lot of time chasing problems, trying to fine-tune, and so on. But they do work, just take rather more effort than some of the commercial tools. I also used f-engrave which turns text to gcode and might be of interest.

OnShape is good, but at least at the moment you would have to use it to produce dxf files and then use something like dxf2gcode to turn that into gcode for the router. Fusion 360 is a bit more complicated to learn, but has CAM built in. Both are free, but could be a bit overwhelming if you are not already a bit of a CAD jockey.

07-11-2015, 06:52 PM
Another good CAM package is Estlcam its not free but the license only costs 27 quid it does 2.5 and 3d machining as well as Vcarving and thread milling its also pretty simple to use.

07-11-2015, 10:03 PM
The only two free CAD programs worth their salt are Fusion 360 and Onshape. The rest are meh...

08-11-2015, 06:15 AM
ive just been looking at Fusion 360. Quite like that.
thanks for the advice.