View Full Version : [Question(s)] Affordable CAD software?

03-16-2010, 05:55 PM
What CAD software do you all use to generate drawings, DXF files and the like? I'm interested in making some small additional parts. I'd love to use something like Solidworks but paying $5K or so for it just doesn't compute relative to the overall finances of making robots.

Some of the over-the-net production companies provide software - onlinemachineshop has something which seems to work quite well, and Big Blue Saw has a Java app which seems pretty limited (doesn't do metric and doesn't appear to have any way to do radiused external corners, just for starters).

Is there something affordable that is suitable for this kind of hobby stuff rather than being aimed at full-time professional use?


03-16-2010, 06:09 PM

An excellent program. You can try it out for free for 30 days and then they let you keep a limited version of the program. Or you can also buy the normal version for something like 200$ (it comes on sale at 100$ sometimes).

It's really easy to do pretty much everything you can think of.


03-16-2010, 06:32 PM
I use Alibre as well. It's an incredibly frustrating piece of software, but if you put in the time you can beat it into submission eventually. I originally bought it for the $100 deal Just before the end of the year I did the $150 deal that gave me maintenance until the end of this year which is supposed to get me up to version 13 (shipping this summer.) They are constantly fiddling with deals and prices so keep an eye out. Definitely do the free trial as Sam suggested.

03-16-2010, 06:42 PM
I use QCad, open souce / freeware.
I suggest using it on Ubuntu/Linux as on Windows at has some serious performance issues (2ghz with zooming in).
After 2 days of trail and error and little "how-to-googleing" I made all my DXF for the CNC-people with it.
Worked out very good.

03-17-2010, 07:43 AM
If you're a student or a teacher, you can get Rhino for $195. Rhino is incredibly powerful and easy to use (and of course they have a free trial as well).

- Jon

03-17-2010, 08:07 AM
I also use QCAD under Linux. I can't speak for the Windows app but it runs great under Linux. It's pretty easy to use too.

03-17-2010, 09:54 AM
I have a friend who has a CNC machine, and he uses Google Sketchup ( completely free, and can run on windows ). Once you have downloaded it ( its a monster to bandwidth an 20Mb ) you simply google " ruby script for sketchup for CNC machine" or something lke that. Sketchup is great because you draw like a pencil and then rotate your view to draw the 3d stuff, i also allows you to mesure what you are doing ( becasue it was built with designers and architects in mind. ).

03-17-2010, 10:08 AM
I think sketchup works nicely for 2D, but once you start trying to assemble something from multiple parts it gets pretty tedius.

03-17-2010, 10:16 AM
The most amusing CAD package I've been using lately is OpenSCAD (http://openscad.org/). Rather than having a GUI to manipulate parts, you "program" them into existence. Obviously, it's not for everyone, but you can draw a 2D model in QCAD or similar and then do some really funky 3D stuff in OpenSCAD. I've been using it a bit to draw parametric parts for my 3D printer (it's really nice to program once, and then regenerate parts in a number of sizes/variations, etc)


03-17-2010, 11:01 AM
If you're a student or a teacher, you can get Rhino for $195. Rhino is incredibly powerful and easy to use (and of course they have a free trial as well).

- Jon

I had no idea you could get it for so cheap! I have tried out a free trial for Rhino and I find it easier than Alibre to make organic looking parts with lots of curves in 3 dimensions.


03-23-2010, 10:40 AM
There was a decent size thread on this exact subject a few months back :)