CAD: all about computer-aided design software


Ever since computers came into use in industry, one of the first things they were first applied to was in the CAD design of components. With computers, a design could be made much more practical than using the conventional methods of the time, as well as allowing to modify the design quickly, easily make copies of the design, etc.

Today, the tools CAD have evolved a lot. Currently the software available is much more complete and allows to do much more than the primitive CAD programs. And with the arrival of the Print 3D, these programs have become even more practical in industry and architecture.

What is CAD?

excavator design CAD software

CAD is the acronym for Computer-Aided Design, that is, computer-aided design. A type of software to be able to design a multitude of projects and that is used in different sectors of the industry, from the design of containers, to architecture, through the design of mechanical parts, engines, structures of all kinds, vehicles, circuits, etc.

It can also be used to design characters and use them in movie animation, simulations, etc. The software Today's CAD has come a long way, allowing applications to be even more numerous. In fact, programs have begun to allow 2D, 3D design, application of textures, materials, structural calculations, lighting, movement, etc.

But up to this point, a lot has changed since the beginning. And to see that origin you have to go back to the 50s, when some graphic programs began to be used at MIT to process data obtained by the radar systems of the North American Air Force. That way it could show what was detected by radar on a CRT monitor.

In those same labs, Lincoln Laboratory, the foundations of the computer graphics that we know today would begin to be laid. This would occur in the 60s, allowing you to use a keyboard and a stylus to draw images on the screen. In an almost parallel way, other similar projects were developed in companies such as General Motors, such as the ITEK project, a PDP-1 computer with a vector screen with a hard disk refresh memory, with a tablet and an electronic pen to enter data.

Little by little the systems were improving, coming to bds (Building Description System by Charles Eastman, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. It was basically a library or base with basic architectural elements that could be assembled to design more complex structures.

A system based on ITEK began to be commercialized in 1965, being the first system Commercial CAD It cost about 500.000 US dollars at the time. A few years later, aerospace and automotive companies such as General Motors, Chrysler, Ford, etc., began to use the first CAD systems to design their products.

Shortly after the first system would arrive CAD / CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing), that is, a CAD system combined with a manufacturing system to produce the parts designed in CAD. It would be used in a pioneering way by Lockheed, a company in the aeronautical sector.

CAD systems from the late 70s drop in price to $ 130.000, but are still expensive. It would not be until the 80s when cheaper CAD software began to be implemented, coinciding with the founding of AutoCAD (Autodesk) in 1982. John Walker's company has been ruling the industry ever since, offering software for less than $ 1000 and making it more widely used and used.

In the 90s, CAD systems began to conquer other platforms (beyond Sun Microsystems workstations, Digital Equipment, etc.) of less expensive computers, reaching Microsoft Windows and the PC. From that moment on, this type of software has continued to evolve and lower its prices, even appearing a multitude of free and free projects ...

Best CAD programs

If you wonder about CAD design software that you can use today, here is a good selection of them. And although there are some very important and widely used in the industry such as Autodesk AutoCAD, because it is a free hardware blog, we will also focus on free software:



It is one of the best alternatives to AutoCAD, in addition to being free and free software, it is one of the most professional programs that currently exist. FreeCAD offers a great user experience, with a multitude of tools available and truly professional results, both in 2D and 3D.

It also supports MCAD, CAx, CAE, and PLM-based modeling. Opencascade, that is, a very powerful geometry kernel developed in Python. In addition, it is cross-platform, working both on Windows, macOS and GNU / Linux.




FreeCAD It is another of the best alternatives for AutoCAD that exist. It is also open source and free, like the previous one. It has a large development community that is very active, and it also works for Windows, GNU / Linux and macOS systems.

It is centered on the 2D layout (in DXF and CXF formats), and arises as a project derived (fork) from another free program called QCAD. A lot of work has been put into it to make it light and work on older computers or with limited resources, and it allows a quick adaptation if you come from AutoCAD, since its interface is similar.




DraftSight is a professional tool that arises to replace AutoCAD in 2D design, with a paid version for professional use with some extra features over the free version. In addition, it is cross-platform for GNU / Linux, Windows and macOS.

The free version allows you to create, open, edit and save files in native Autocad DXF and DWG formats, as well as exporting projects to others formats such as WMF, JPEG, PDF, PNG, SLD, SVG, TIF, and STL. Therefore, it has great compatibility if you handle files from other programs ...


3D printing software

printer 3D

Now, if you are wondering which of those programs are used to design objects and then print them on a 3D printer, then you should have some programs that you can use for that. I have already mentioned one of them in the previous section, since it is FreeCAD. Besides that, you also have other free or open source options like:

  • Design Spark Mechanical- is a free CAD software created by RS Components and SpaceClaim Corporation. This project was specially designed for professional use and for 3D designs. In addition, it is very easy to use, with a pleasant graphical interface suitable for low-medium level users.  Download.
  • Sketch up- It has a very simple free program that is gaining popularity because it allows quick sketching and has great applications in architectural design. Its interface is web-based, so it can be used from various systems, allowing export to STL for 3D printers. Sign in.
  • TinkerCAD: It also has a free web app to draw small simple pieces in 3D. Widely used in education due to its characteristics, being able to be used with primitives, such as cubes, spheres, cylinders, etc., to be able to integrate, rotate and position them to create more complex shapes. Of course you can export the models to STL for 3D printing. Sign in.

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