3D Learning Hub

What is the best open-source CAD software in 2024?

Introduction

3D modeling software are useful for many different applications and could be a great asset for your business. It is a real advantage to develop your project, and it can be used for architectural projects, in the medical field, or even in the fashion sector. Everything is possible. In this blog post we are going to see how a 3D modeling program could help you in your daily work and what an open-source software exactly is. Then, we will see what are the best available open-source CAD software in order to help you find the right CAD tool for your company.

What is an open-source CAD software?

Open-Source software has a free public code that can be downloaded and modified by developers. It can be great if you want to add features to specific software in order to improve it and adapt it to the use of your business. All the community can participate in the software development, anyone can write an extension to make the software better. It clearly has a collaborative aspect.

There are various open-source CAD software programs available, that you can download for free. You can use them to create and modify your 3D models and develop your professional projects. Are you interested in starting 3D modeling with open-source CAD software? Let’s see what the best programs are for your business.

 

The best open-source CAD programs - General open-source software

Here is a selection of the best open-source 3D CAD software for 3D applications. You will mainly find software for advanced users, as these programs are addressed to professionals or programmers. For engineers, architects, and developers seeking powerful yet customizable CAD solutions, the realm of open-source software offers a wealth of options. These free open-source solutions boast many more great features than traditional proprietary software, making them the perfect choice for diverse applications.

FreeCAD

FreeCAD is a parametric 3D modeling software. You don’t need previous experience with 3D modeling to use it, but you can totally achieve complex models with it, for engineering or architecture projects. Indeed, it has professional features adapted to work for mechanical engineering.  It can be used by anybody: home-users, designers, programmers, and even educators. This program stands out as a versatile and multiplatform tool, providing functionality for 2D drafting, parametric modeling, and a wide array of tools and plugins. Its customizable interface caters to the specific needs of users, whether they’re creating detailed drawings or preparing models for printers. With FreeCAD, the advantage lies not only in its flexibility but also in its accessibility as free software, available for Windows and other operating systems. By providing a comprehensive list of modules and options, FreeCAD empowers engineers, architects, and programmers to unleash their creativity and tackle complex design challenges with ease. If you need to 3D print your part, check our tutorial to learn how to prepare your 3D model to 3D printing using FreeCAD.

Blender

Blender is a widely used open-source software. It is useful to create various 3D designs, from electronic projects to digital art. It can create impressive models, using polygonal modeling techniques. You can use Blender to create simulations and animations. You need to be experienced with 3D modeling, but if you need a little help, Blender has a really large community, offering a lot of tutorials. If you are planning to 3D print your model, check out our tutorial to prepare your design for 3D printing using Blender.

OpenSCAD

OpenSCAD is an open-source parametric software, that can be used to create 2D designs, and 3D models. It is a great tool to make 3D objects designed for additive manufacturing. While using OpenSCAD, you can’t modify directly with your mouse the CAD model that is in the viewer. This software uses its own language. OpenSCAD is perfect if you need to create accurate models, but you have to keep in mind that it is really programmer-oriented. openscad

Wings 3D

Wings 3D is a free open-source software. It offers a great variety of modeling tools, that could help you with all of your projects. It is a good software to create your CAD models and work on texture and materials. However, it is not the perfect tool if you need a CAD program for animation and rendering. We have a tutorial that could help you to create your 3D model with Wings 3D. wings3D

OpenCascade Technology

OpenCascade Technology is a complete 3D modeling tool: from modeling to visualization, everything is possible. The geometric, topological and visualization algorithms of this program will allow you to create 3D models for any type of sectors, just for visualization, or for manufacturing processes. opencascade

SolveSpace

SolveSpace is a parametric 2D/3D modeling software. It is a good tool if you need an open-source CAD software to export your 3D files for 3D printing. It has all the basic features of a 3D software, and it is possible to make complex designs. You can work on the design of an object or process mechanical simulations with this program.

Art of illusion

Art of illusion is an animation oriented software. It is an open-source program, allowing to work on 3D modeling, texturing and material, but also able to make some rendering. Art of illusion is a high end animation program, powerful enough to be used professionally.

OpenJSCAD

OpenJSCAD is an open-source CAD program. It is quite similar to OpenSCAD, which we discussed previously in this blogpost, but the difference is that OpenJSCAD is a browser-based program. It is easier to use. Indeed, it is a good solution as you don’t need to install any software to create the 3D model that you want to 3D print. Moreover, all the features are well explained on the website, you just have to follow the indications to create your own 3D designs.

JS Sketcher

JS Sketcher is a CAD program that you can access with your browser. This open-source parametric modeling software is written in javascript. For the moment, there are not too many features, so it is a simple software to use if you are just beginning with open-source programs, but you will still need a little bit of training at the beginning. This is a really promising software.

QCAD

QCAD is a free computer-aided design software. It is hosted on GitHub and is open to any contributions. This 2D CAD software offers a wide range of CAD tools. This CAD program can be extended through its complete ECMAScript (JavaScript) interface.

BRL CAD

This CAD tool software has been developed by Mike Muuss at the Army Research Laboratory and used by US military. They used it for academic, industrial, or even health applications. This solid modeling system has been around since 1984, it simply became an open-source project in 2004.  It is now possible to use this program for engineering or graphic applications. 

LibreCAD

LibreCAD is a free open-source CAD with a large community of users, contributors, and developers. This 2D CAD software is really complete and useful for laser cutting projects, for example. The source code can be downloaded directly from GitHub.

Salome

The open-source CAD software Salome works with Microsoft as well as Linux. It offers a wide range of different tools like sculpting and shaping. The user can also benefit from many already existing shapes, fields, or meshes in 3D. Salome can be used by users from any level

LeoCAD

LeoCAD is a great open-source CAD software for all levels and offers a simplistic approach to the design process of a 3D model. This CAD software is available for macOS, Linux as well as Microsoft.

The best open-source CAD programs - Specific open-source applications

Makehuman

If you are looking for an open-source software for chara-design: you have to try Makehuman! It has an intuitive interface, and perfect software tools for beginners. It is allowing you to use parametric modeling to create your characters, and to work on body proportion, faces, eyes, etc. This software offers a lot of possibilities, but you will not be able to create realistic 3D models with this CAD program

makehuman

http://www.makehuman.org/

OpenFX

OpenFX is a 3D modeling software, it has a powerful feature set. This open source software is majoritarly used for chara-design. OpenFX is a flexible program, offering you a lot of possibilities in terms of chara-design. For example, you can make good skeleton structures and skinning with this 3D software. You can even simulate actions with the character that you’ve created, to see how your design reacts.

MolView

MolView is a molecular modeling software. It is a free web-application, with a steep learning curve, so it is possible to use it even if you have no previous CAD experience. This open-source program allows to create various projects such as structural formulas, simulation of proteins, etc.  

You can watch the video below to get more information about this software:

OpenVSP

Open VSP (Vehicle Space Pad) is an open-source software for aircraft. It has been developed by NASA. This is a serious and intuitive tool that will allow you to create CAD models easily and create accurate designs and mechanical overview for all your aircraft projects.

If you are just getting started, here is a tutorial for you to discover the basic CAD software options of OpenVSP:

Which open-source software do you choose?

We hope that this top will help you to find the perfect open-source CAD software for your project. If you already have a 3D model, and want to try additive manufacturing, you can upload your 3D model right now on our online 3D printing service. You will access our 3D printers, allowing you to create amazing 3D printing projects.

If you want to read more about 3D modeling software and 3D printing, don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter.

Get the latest 3D printing news delivered right to your inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter to hear about the latest 3D printing technologies, applications, materials, and software.

[hubspot type=form portal=5154612 id=b27fa532-8013-433b-8ee4-64c465c0eca2]