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2D and 3D Cad Software Recommendations

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David Jenner22/06/2021 08:50:15
11 forum posts

I want to find a suitable software program for 2D and 3D drawing.

This will be for hobby (non Profit) use.

I'm currently using Fusion 360 for producing 3D print files and while I'm comfortable with using it the lack of ability to produce engineering drawings is disapointing, I had previously been able to get these but the last paring back of features in the free version seems to have removed this feature.

I've used Autocad at tech and Draftsight (now no longer free) in the past and have tried FreeCad and SolidEdge with limited success.

I don't mind paying a reasonable price for a product but some of the prices I've seen seem very expensive for hobby use.

What do others use or suggest?

Dave J

Zan22/06/2021 09:18:52
282 forum posts
19 photos

Although the free version of 360 has reduced the availability of drawings ( only one drawing sheet per file), they are still possible within the 10 active file limit. It just mean a bit more work on the aspect of which file you keep editable

it takes a lot of effort to learn a new application even if you are familiar with either 2d or 3D cad, they all work differently. I now find fusion a bit frustrating, but i am certain it is still the best free system availiable

John Hinkley22/06/2021 09:24:13
1171 forum posts
390 photos

There are a number of threads on the forum which cover this question with as many suggestions as there are contributors. Everyone has their own favourite software. If you are looking for free or shareware programs, your choice will be limited, naturally. I personally use a combination. QCAD Pro - for 2D drawings, simply because I started using it when I needed to produce drawings for the workshop. I also took advantage of the offer in MEW a couple of years ago to try Alibre Atom 3D for an extended trial period. To my utter amazement, I got on with it like no other 3D program I had tried previously and believe me, I'd tried an awful lot, with limited or no success. Additionally, I am using the free version of Fusion 360 at the moment, but only to produce Gcode, not for design. For Gcode it's fine for my requirements, but I dislike intensely the use of the "cloud" to save one's work. There is the facility to save files locally but it doesn't suit me particularly well.

The choice really boils down to a couple of choices:

How complicated are the drawings that you want to produce? Can a simple 2D program will suffice for simple drawings, but probably won't have the facility to progress the drawings to 3D.

How much are you prepared to pay? One man's bargain is often out of reach for another.

QCAD, for example, is available as a full program for no charge. and the Pro version as a free time-limited trial. You can opt for annual subscription for either version if you wish.

I bought a licence for Alibre Atom after my trial period because I was so pleased with the results I obtained and I also pay the yearly maintenance fee, which entitles me to version upgrades and support.

So, you asked for recommendations. Those are mine. One can be had for no outlay, the other is a paid-for piece of software, admittedly after a free trial period. No doubt others will be along to tell you their choices and then it's down to you.

Good luck with your search!


David Jupp22/06/2021 10:04:29
784 forum posts
17 photos

I have a commercial connection, so won't give a recommendation for a particular CAD package.

I would suggest that you try before you buy, both the software itself and look at training materials and any other available resources (user forum, help documents, etc.)

You may well find that some packages are a more natural fit than others for the way your mind works.

JasonB22/06/2021 10:25:18
21315 forum posts
2419 photos
1 articles

F360 will still give you drawings in PDF format which is OK for workshop use but will give problems if you want to send off a DXF for laser or water jet cutting for example. I don't tend to do my drawings on F360 so can't comment on what is does them like, it just gets used for the CAM.

I tend to design in 3D and produce my 2D drawings all with Alibre, I have Pro which may be too expensive for hobby use but their slightly pared down version called ATOM3D will produce drawings in several formats and can either be purchased as a one off or you can also pay a yearly fee and get updates etc. I tend to print them to disc as pdfs which makes them easy to share by e-mail or file hosting sites so anyone I want to see them can and they are also good enough for publication into the mag without any tweaking. They have a 2 week free trial.

Clive Foster22/06/2021 10:25:29
2817 forum posts
101 photos

At the moment the community edition of Solid Edge seems to be best bang for buck as it is both free and a permanent download. Once you have got it its yours to keep.

For practical purposes it seems to be the same as the full commercial package except for restrictions on export formats and watermarking of drawings. Seems to be aimed at 3 D printing / maker folks so the primary export format is STEP which may cause issues for metalworking CNC folks.

Monster program and very capable so you need to schedule proper learning time. Which I still haven't managed.

The 2D part can take abit of finding due to the way it is embedded in the main program. Obvious and logical when you know but ...


jann west22/06/2021 11:00:33
82 forum posts

I recently had to draw something simple for waterjet cutting, and found that I could download and install Autodesk Autosketch v10 from the internet. It's easy to use for simple 2d drawings, and outputs industry standard cad files. Technically it is not "free" but is no longer sold or actively marketed, and seems to come under the label of abandonware - certainly it is easy to find and if Autodesk wanted it removed the process is relatively straightforward.

Andrew Johnston22/06/2021 11:10:59
6235 forum posts
676 photos
Posted by Clive Foster on 22/06/2021 10:25:29:

...........primary export format is STEP which may cause issues for metalworking CNC..........

I use STEP and IGES formats for transferring data to my CAM program for CNC milling and for interchange with other engineers using different CAD programs. But I use the STL format for transferring data to my 3D printer slicing program.


Gary Wooding22/06/2021 11:22:01
866 forum posts
225 photos

Although the Personal Use version of F360 can create only a single sheet drawing, you can place multiple drawings on that sheet. You can also create several single sheet drawings.

Each sheet can be printed with a screen-print program, and, if you use a (free) program such as PrimoPDF, you can create PDFs from those screen prints.. The single sheet limitation is not ideal, but with a little bit of extra work it does the job.

AutoDesk has made quite a few improvements to 2D printing in the last few updates

John Hinkley22/06/2021 11:33:35
1171 forum posts
390 photos


Just happened upon this video from James Clough. It may be of use to you with Fusion. I haven't watched it, so I can't vouch for its content in respect of your drawing production issues but it might give you a few pointers.

Creating shop drawings in Fusion 360 by Clough42


IanT22/06/2021 11:37:44
1882 forum posts
182 photos

I've been using Solid Edge 2020 Community Edition for about a year now, having previously been a long term user of TurboCAD 2D.

As Clive states you can draft 2D drawings in Solid Edge 2020 CE by opening a 'draft' document and using the 2D sketching tools. SE is a very powerful tool and has no limitations on it's features (that I am aware of) except that drawings prepared with the Community Edition cannot be opened by the commercially licensed versions.

I can describe my use of a product like SE2020, as swimming in a very deep lake whilst simply trying to keep my head above water. I am reasonably fluent in 2D but 3D requires another level of thought. I am still trying to come to grips with some aspects and only slowly starting to appreciate the importance of 'constraints' and 'design intents'.

I am currently drafting a 3D model of a part-built Gauge '3' Midland Compound I own - for which I have not been able to find any existing plans. I've had a few frustrating evenings struggling to perform certain tasks small but in all cases it has been my lack of understanding, rather than any issues with SE2020. I'll attach an image of my progress on the front bogie - whilst also admitting that I've managed to get the frames on the wrong way around!

I would recommend SE2020CE to anyone who needs a powerful 2D/3D drawing tool and who doesn't like the idea of 'cloud' based software. It is a lifetime licence and runs and stores everything locally. It is Windows only (I use W10 on a 5year old i5 laptop) and has no CAM facility. It has produced useful designs for my 3D printer (e.g. PCB boxes) and as I have no CNC plans at the moment, CAM isn't an issue for me.

It's free, although not of course in terms of the time you need to invest in it but I think that will be true of any tool with these capabilities. In summary - I'm very happy with Solid Edge, it was a good choice for my 3D needs.



Front Bogie DC Motor Control Box

JasonB22/06/2021 11:40:34
21315 forum posts
2419 photos
1 articles

You don't even need a snipping program to do it in F360. Just click "file" then "print" and send to a pdf writer I use cutepdf.

f360 pdf.jpg

Andy Stopford22/06/2021 13:25:04
92 forum posts
9 photos

If you don't mind a cloud-based program, OnShape works well, has good documentation, and can produce First/Third Angle Projection drawings to print out, and it's free (the only limitation is that others can view your creations if you don't have a paid subscription).

Some people object to the idea of cloud programs, but OnShape's been around for a few years now and doesn't seem to show any signs of disappearing, and they claim the pricing policy won't change. An advantage of cloud/browser programs is that they will work on any operating system, but if you have an iffy internet connection it might be a problem.

+1 for QCAD for 2D - you don't have to pay annually for the pro version, by the way, but the updates are only available for a year. I bought it once and continue to use the now several years old version. It works fine, and I doubt that I'll desperately need any new features.

SillyOldDuffer22/06/2021 19:22:48
7482 forum posts
1657 photos

Sorry to hear Fusion 360 have cut back the 2D design feature. I like Fusion and am dismayed to see bits being chopped off to encourage people to buy it. That's life though! I'll be firing it up later to see what the latest free version has lost.

I use QCAD for 2D drawing ; get on with it well for conventional technical drawing, and decided it was worth paying for the pro version. (The community edition is fully functional apart from a few goodies.)

You might try FreeCAD for 3D CAD/CAM. Not as complete or polished as the commercial products and a bit experimental guv, but I use lots for single part work, including 3D printing. (There's a newish assembly workbench that seemed primitive to me on first contact, I've not tested it properly yet.)

Has a workbench for producing 2D drawings from 3D models, I rate it 7/10 at the moment. The big advantage of FreeCAD is it's unambiguously free! No license, cloud storage, usage restrictions, adverts, or demands for money. On the downside, an intimidating number of different workbenches, somewhat clunky, a little buggy, avoid out-of-date tutorials on the web, and features may change as it develops. I like it.


Dave S22/06/2021 19:58:33
204 forum posts
41 photos

I tend to use LibreCAD for 2d for the laser cutter. Mostly like AutoCAD used to be and exports a DXF that the Laser understands - Fusion DXF is to new a version for the laser software.


Calum Galleitch22/06/2021 22:16:14
96 forum posts
27 photos

Another vote for OnShape - I have just finished using it to model Harold Hall's QCTP design, a simple enough project but very doable and while there were a few "how do I do this moments" it was all very manageable.

lee webster22/06/2021 22:57:29
19 forum posts

I have been using FreeCAD for a year or two now. It is "buggy" to say the least, but very good for producing some great 3d parts for 3d printing. It wasn't up to what I hope to do so I too downloaded the community version of Solid Edge. A very powerful programme that is going to take some learning. I also decided to re-try DesignSpark Mechanical. I stopped using it when I decided to concentrate on FreeCAD, but getting back into DS with some design experience under my belt I am surprised at how good it is. I believe there is also a way to produce 2d drawings. Something I haven't explored yet. I still use FreeCAD for my one-off simple parts. It will work 90% of the time. The other 10% is what is so annoying about FC.

Nigel Graham 222/06/2021 23:36:11
1676 forum posts
20 photos

I use TurboCAD, the Deluxe 19 edition, which offers a direct orthogonal or 3D choice instead of the 3D-first other makes (including Alibre and Fusion) seem to dictate.

Its makers, IMSI, have released a new edition; I forget its name, but it seems a reasonable price and is a one-off payment rather than subscription. It also saves your work where you decide, unlike Fusion's default on-line saving. To be fair I think Fusion 360 does, or did when I tried it, allow local saving but would rather not. (I can't imagine many professional users would want their design files on the so-called "cloud" , for simple security reasons.)

The agent in the UK still seems to be Paul ('The CAD' ) Tracy, who used to advertise in ME and still has a stand at the main exhibitions...plagues permitting. Try his web-site.

I don't know the differences IMSI have made but my edition still does everything I need and it is capable of far more than I use (or can use, but that's me not it!), such as very advanced 3D modelling. I don't know if it will create CAD/CAM files, and that's not something I need so I've not investigated, but it's worth a look anyway. I would be surprised if the new edition does not.

' ' ;

[Edited to remove one of those blasted grinning-tangerine symbols... Can't the site's administrators switch the damn' things off?]

Edited By Nigel Graham 2 on 22/06/2021 23:38:02

blowlamp22/06/2021 23:38:57
1498 forum posts
97 photos

I use MoI. Here's a video I made a while ago that shows some of its features.

It can export to DXF, PDF, IGES, STEP, STL and quite a few other formats, it also has dimensioning now.


IanT23/06/2021 09:44:35
1882 forum posts
182 photos
Posted by Nigel Graham 2 on 22/06/2021 23:36:11:

I use TurboCAD, the Deluxe 19 edition, which offers a direct orthogonal or 3D choice instead of the 3D-first other makes (including Alibre and Fusion) seem to dictate.

Nigel, my current version of TurboCAD is D/L 16 and I still use it, mainly on my existing 2D drawings.

I purchased it from Paul at the Midlands Show a few years ago and at £20, it wasn't too expensive. I only upgraded because my earlier version (D/L15) was giving me warning errors on opening a file under Win10, although everything still worked OK. Provided you take time to learn the keyboard commands, TC/DL is a very good 2D product - which is what it has basically always been.

I have to say that I found it very hard to draw anything complex in 3D using TC/DL and Paul the CAD himself recommends using the TC 'Pro' version if serious 3D work is to be undertaken. The 'Pro' version of course being much more expensive. So I gave up trying to do 3D on TC/DL.

As I get used to Solid Edge, I think it will be likely that I will also use it for 2D work too. I can open a new 'draft' (2D) document, select the 'sketching' tab and use exactly the same drawing tools as I would use to sketch a 3D object (before extrusion) so it's already familiar.

I didn't use this 2D route into Solid Edge but I'm sure anyone would find SE (in 2D mode) just as easy as TC-2D to learn. Then when they eventually do need (or want) to go to 3D, they will already be using and have some experience of a tool that's designed for '3D' CAD. A very much better way to go 3D than with TC/DL in my experience.



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