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3D CAD Software

3D CAD (computer aided design) software assists in the creation of 3D drawings for manufacturing, engineering, 3D printing, and architecture. 3D CAD modeling automates design and visualizes objects for engineers, designers and architects. Open source 3D CAD software is related to 3D Architecture and Architectural CAD software. Browse the best CAD software in Canada for your organization.

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3D CAD software provides modeling, drafting, and visualization for architects, engineers & infrastructure professionals. Learn more about MicroStation
MicroStation is the only 3D computer-aided design (CAD) software purpose-built for infrastructure design, helping architects, engineers, and construction professionals like you bring their vision to life, present their designs to their clients, and deliver their projects to the community. Providing you power, flexibility, and best-in-class tools, without requiring add-ons, MicroStation makes it easy to work the way you want, leaving you time to do what you do best. Learn more about MicroStation

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  • Data Import/Export
  • Bill of Materials Management
  • For 3D Printing
  • For Manufacturers
  • For Architects
  • 2D Drawing
2D and 3D CAD software with design automation and industry-specific toolsets, plus web and mobile apps.
CAD software used for precise 2D and 3D drafting, design, and modeling with solids, surfaces, mesh objects, documentation features, and more. It includes features to automate tasks and increase productivity such as comparing drawings, counting, adding objects, and creating tables. It also comes with seven industry-specific toolsets for electrical design, plant design, architecture layout drawings, mechanical design, 3D mapping, adding scanned images, and converting raster images. Learn more about AutoCAD

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  • For 3D Printing
  • For Manufacturers
  • For Architects
  • 2D Drawing
Built on 50 years of experience and fueled by innovation, Sage’s construction suite covers preconstruction, operations, and finance.
As the longstanding leader in construction financial solutions, Sage has been the go-to choice for years, and continues to be at the forefront of innovation. Our native cloud construction suite seamlessly integrates preconstruction, operations, and financial management solutions, while also connecting with commonly used applications to streamline data management and business operations. Backed by our extensive partner network, trusted by thousands of construction companies for over half a century, Sage offers the vital capabilities, adaptability, and support crucial for thriving in the construction industry. From expediting estimating processes and optimizing profitability to simplifying operations, Sage provides the comprehensive toolkit you need to excel. Join the satisfied ranks of customers who rely on Sage's construction suite to drive their businesses forward. Learn more about Sage Construction Suite

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  • Animation
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  • For 3D Printing
  • For Manufacturers
  • For Architects
  • 2D Drawing
With a powerful 3D modeler, 2D documentation, cloud storage, AR/VR visualization apps, and more, SketchUp's suite gets the job done.
The most popular 3D modeling and design tool in the world, SketchUp users model everything from treehouses to intricate, energy-efficient buildings. Owned by Trimble Inc., an entrepreneurial company focused on leveraging technology to change the way the world works, SketchUp is both intuitive and powerful for professionals and creatives of all kinds. SketchUp supports creatives of all backgrounds across a variety of industries, including architecture, engineering, construction, and much more. Learn more about SketchUp

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  • Animation
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  • For 3D Printing
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  • For Architects
  • 2D Drawing
Mechanical CAD, design validation, product data management, design communication, and CAD productivity tools in a single package.
SolidWorks Premium seamlessly integrates powerful design tools-including industry-leading part, assembly, and drawing capabilities with built in simulation, rendering, animation, product data management and cost estimation. SolidWorks will help you get work done faster and easier than before, using innovative phases of product creation to achieve a more productive 3D design experience. Learn more about SolidWorks Premium

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  • Animation
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  • For 3D Printing
  • For Manufacturers
  • For Architects
  • 2D Drawing
Revit® BIM software includes features for architectural design, MEP and structural engineering, and construction. Call (818) 639-7755.
Revit® BIM software helps structural engineers, detailers, and fabricators Design, detail, analyze, and document structural systems quickly and effectively. Use Revit to: - Model 3D concrete reinforcement in an advanced BIM environment. Create detailed reinforcement designs and shop drawing documentation with rebar bending schedules. - Connect steel design and detailing workflows. Define design intent for a higher level of detail for steel connections in the Revit model and so much more! Learn more about Revit

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  • Animation
  • Data Import/Export
  • Bill of Materials Management
  • For 3D Printing
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  • For Architects
  • 2D Drawing
Onshape is the only product development platform that unites CAD, data management, collaboration tools and real-time analytics.
Onshape is a next-generation SaaS design platform that speeds up product development. Its an all-in-one system that combines CAD, release management, workflow, collaboration, analytics, admin tools, and an API with more than 50 engineering applications. Onshape helps extended design teams work together faster and helps executives make better business decisions with real-time analytics and unprecedented visibility into their companys design and manufacturing processes. Learn more about Onshape

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  • Animation
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  • Bill of Materials Management
  • For 3D Printing
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  • For Architects
  • 2D Drawing
Inventor 3D CAD software offers professional-grade 3D design, documentation, and product simulation tools. Call us at (844) 849-3393.
Autodesk® Inventor® software provides engineers with powerful mechanical design solutions for their most ambitious ideas. Work with a complete set of tools for 3D modeling, simulation, and documentation. Learn more about Inventor

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  • Animation
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  • 2D Drawing
Cloud-based 3D CAD/CAM tool to bring your design teams together and connect your entire product development processes on one platform.
Cloud-based 3D CAD/CAM tool to bring your design teams together and connect your entire product development processes on one platform. Learn more about Fusion 360

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  • Animation
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  • Bill of Materials Management
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  • 2D Drawing
ANSYS SpaceClaim is a multipurpose 3D modeling application providing efficient solutions to common modeling tasks.
ANSYS SpaceClaim is a 3D CAD solution designed to help engineers and analysts create parts, auto surface mesh data, and recreate fixtures. The platform enables professionals to remove geometry problems associated with various 3D CAD operations, such as design or concept modeling, repair of translated CAD files, general model defeaturing, and complete model editing. It also lets administrators parameterize CAD files and prepare models for 3D printing using a unified interface. Learn more about Ansys SpaceClaim

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  • Animation
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  • 2D Drawing
Lumion: real-time 3D rendering for architects & designers. Intuitive workflow, unparalleled speed, immersive visualization.
Lumion is a real-time 3D rendering software for architects, designers, and visualization professionals. Compatible with major CAD and 3D modeling software (SketchUp, Revit, Archicad, Rhino, AutoCAD, Allplan, Vectorworks & many more), Lumion allows for a seamless and intuitive workflow. With a fast rendering speed and a library of over 10.000 objects and materials, Lumion makes it easy to visualize with unparalleled speed and accuracy and transform designs into immersive experiences. Learn more about Lumion

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  • Animation
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  • Bill of Materials Management
  • For 3D Printing
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  • 2D Drawing
Run fluid flow, structural, or thermal high-fidelity engineering simulations in minutes via a web browser. No special hardware required
SimScale enables engineering teams to access accurate and fast simulation, on their terms, without compromise. We make engineering simulation technically and economically accessible from everywhere, at any time, and at any scale, in the cloud. We deliver instant access to fluid, thermal, and structural simulation to hundreds of thousands of users worldwide. With SimScale, high-fidelity multiphysics simulation has moved to an agile, cloud-native engineering simulation platform. Learn more about SimScale

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  • Animation
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  • Bill of Materials Management
  • For 3D Printing
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  • For Architects
  • 2D Drawing
Open-source parametric 3D modeler with modular architecture for designing machine tools and architectural designs in 2D and 3D.
Open-source engineering CAD solution that helps architects create and modify designs of multiple objects for generating production-ready drawings. Designers can use FreeCAD to adjust the dimensions of a product and sketch geometry-constrained 2D shapes and drive formula-based models using an integrated spreadsheet. Using its technical drawing module, team members can generate 2D views of 3D models, perform graphical modification operations, and save files in SVG or PDF formats. Learn more about FreeCAD

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  • Animation
  • Data Import/Export
  • Bill of Materials Management
  • For 3D Printing
  • For Manufacturers
  • For Architects
  • 2D Drawing
Comprehensive mechanical CAD including modeling, sheet metal, drawings, rendering, scripting, automation, design libraries, API & more.
Lifetime licenses you own. Over 23 years, Alibre's mature 3D CAD solutions have grown to power engineering for tens of thousands of businesses and individuals. Comprehensive part and assembly modeling, sheet-metal modeling, 2D documentation & BOM creation, configurations and data-driven modeling automation provide the engineering foundation. Extend for your use case with a robust API, create marketing/bid/POC materials with rendering, and work with others with industry-leading interoperability. Learn more about Alibre Design

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  • Animation
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  • Bill of Materials Management
  • For 3D Printing
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  • 2D Drawing
CAD solution that helps businesses create 3D or 2D figures and variants of configurable products using direct and parametric modeling.
Creo is a 3D CAD solution that helps you build better products faster by accelerating product innovation, reusing the best of your design and replacing assumptions with facts. From initial concept to design, simulation, and analysis, Creo provides designers with innovative tools to efficiently create better products. Thousands of leading manufacturers worldwide use Creo's CAD, IoT, and Augmented Reality capabilities, in the cloud and on the desktop, to turn their ideas into reality quickly. Learn more about Creo

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  • Animation
  • Data Import/Export
  • Bill of Materials Management
  • For 3D Printing
  • For Manufacturers
  • For Architects
  • 2D Drawing
KeyCreator's best-in-class translators & direct modeling make it ideal for handling files from different sources and conceptual design.
KeyCreator's industry-leading translators and direct modeling simplicity make it ideal for handling files from many different sources or developing one-off or custom solutions. More than just compatibility, KeyCreator lets you actually work with geometry of imported models: no more re-building from scratch just because of unrecognized features. The unlimited feature tree lets you easily organize parts and assemblies all within one file. When solving problems fast is key, you need KeyCreator! Learn more about KeyCreator

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  • Animation
  • Data Import/Export
  • Bill of Materials Management
  • For 3D Printing
  • For Manufacturers
  • For Architects
  • 2D Drawing
Produce professional 3D models and renders for design visualization, game development, and animation with 3ds Max's robust design tools
Produce professional 3D models and renders for design visualization, game development, and animation with 3ds Max's robust design toolkit. Learn more about 3ds Max

Features

  • Animation
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  • Bill of Materials Management
  • For 3D Printing
  • For Manufacturers
  • For Architects
  • 2D Drawing
This uninhibited free-form 3D modeling tool allows users to create designs quickly while maintaining accuracy and measurements.
This accurate 3D modeling tool allows for free-moving design, maintaining the accuracy of all elements and measurements. It can be used as an additional drawing tool when combined with other design, CAM, drafting, rendering, illustration and animation software. Rhino 7 preserves the accuracy and complexity of engineering software blueprints, which means that it can also be used for in-depth and accurate analysis. The tool allows users to create organic shapes, with a high level of accuracy and editability enabled by Rhino 7’s SubD geometry types. Users may move several planes, edges, lines, and vectors at once with pin-point accuracy, and snap them back into position as required. Designs can be transformed using meshes, curves, BlendEdge and Boolean operations. Built-in compatibility means that plans from other software can be loaded into this tool without losing any integrity of designated form or scale. Learn more about Rhino 7

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  • Animation
  • Data Import/Export
  • Bill of Materials Management
  • For 3D Printing
  • For Manufacturers
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  • 2D Drawing
An AutoCAD Clone that works with AutoCAD DWG files. No learning curve for AutoCAD users.
progeCAD Professional - 2D/3D "AutoCAD Like" CAD system that will allow you to "Afford your Design". progeCAD uses AutoCAD DWG files, no need for conversion and the interface uses the same menus and commands, no learning curve for AutoCAD users. Just 1/10th the Price, An easy replacement for AutoCAD or AutoCAD LT. Add-ons for Land Development, Architecture, HVAC/Piping, Structural, etc. Learn more about progeCAD 2010 Professional

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  • Animation
  • Data Import/Export
  • Bill of Materials Management
  • For 3D Printing
  • For Manufacturers
  • For Architects
  • 2D Drawing
IronCAD is an intuitive 3D and 2D design solution that increases productivity, and facilitates collaboration throughout the enterprise.
CAD Programs Designed for Collaboration. The IronCAD Design Collaboration Suite is a complete range of CAD products that provides seamless collaboration between 3D and 2D to optimize your engineering teams design process and simplify 3D and 2D CAD data management and communication throughout your organization. Create bidding proposals quickly, design more iterations in less time leading to better products, and simply design faster than any other CAD system available today. Learn more about IronCAD

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  • Animation
  • Data Import/Export
  • Bill of Materials Management
  • For 3D Printing
  • For Manufacturers
  • For Architects
  • 2D Drawing
Engineering CAD tool that provides floodway mapping, 2D modeling, GIS mapping, 3D viewing, reporting, etc.
GeoHECRAS significantly speeds up HEC-RAS model creation and review, producing better and more accurate results. Rapidly construct HEC-RAS models from a variety of data sources. Accelerate engineering workflow and streamline analysis review. Compute water surface profiles for steady and unsteady flow models, bridge and culvert roadway crossings, FEMA floodplain encroachments, stream restorations, inline reservoir structures, off-channel storage areas, and much more. Learn more about GeoHECRAS

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  • Animation
  • Data Import/Export
  • Bill of Materials Management
  • For 3D Printing
  • For Manufacturers
  • For Architects
  • 2D Drawing
KeyShot is the best at creating fast, accurate and amazing visuals. Featuring a real-time 3D rendering workflow
Made by designers for designers, KeyShot is a unique, easy to use computer rendering program that enables you to create photo-realistic results within minutes of opening the application. Even though KeyShot seems simple at first, more experienced 3D professionals will also find the depth of functionality to satisfy their needs. Excellent for designers who need to evaluate complex lighting scenarios in less time than it takes to render traditionally. Learn more about KeyShot

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  • Animation
  • Data Import/Export
  • Bill of Materials Management
  • For 3D Printing
  • For Manufacturers
  • For Architects
  • 2D Drawing
Vectorworks Architect offers all the design, rendering, documentation and collaboration tools you need.
Built to showcase your skill and creativity, Vectorworks Architect allows you to sketch, model and document in a fully integrated workflow with the world’s most design-centric BIM solution. With superior 2D graphics, 3D modeling and visualization tools, Architect is built to deliver absolute creative expression and maximum efficiency. Learn more about Vectorworks Architect

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  • Animation
  • Data Import/Export
  • Bill of Materials Management
  • For 3D Printing
  • For Manufacturers
  • For Architects
  • 2D Drawing
Solid Edge enables the future of 3D product development with generative modeling, additive manufacturing and reverse engineering.
Solid Edge uses synchronous technology to help you accelerate product design, make revisions faster, and improve design data re-use. With faster 2D drafting, best-in-class sheet metal design, flexible part and assembly modeling, built-in photo-realistic rendering, and unmatched mobility, Solid Edge lets you design at the speed of creative thought. Learn more about Solid Edge

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  • Animation
  • Data Import/Export
  • Bill of Materials Management
  • For 3D Printing
  • For Manufacturers
  • For Architects
  • 2D Drawing
It is a 3D CAD solution that helps users create designs using a built-in library of shapes, numbers, text, characters, and more.
It is a 3D CAD solution that helps users create designs using a built-in library of shapes, numbers, text, characters, and more. Learn more about Tinkercad

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  • Animation
  • Data Import/Export
  • Bill of Materials Management
  • For 3D Printing
  • For Manufacturers
  • For Architects
  • 2D Drawing

3D CAD Software Buyers Guide

3D CAD (Computer-aided Design) software assists in creating 3D models and technical drawings for several fields, including manufacturing, architecture, engineering, and 3D printing. This software enables users to create detailed 3D models of a potential item or structure, allowing them to plan out every aspect of the structure in virtual space before any materials need to be used. It also allows for the visualization of a finished product or project, which can be beneficial when pitching something to senior management or potential investors.

Over the years, 3D CAD software has grown to include some incredibly complex core features, from time-saving automated features that make the creation process easier to in-depth calculations that allow a user to perform stress tests on the structure being designed. The core features, however, revolve around creating 3D designs and the ability to output those designs as technical drawings that can produce the designs in the real world. This requires a high level of accuracy and technical detail, as well as the ability to display all of the necessary information clearly in the technical drawings.

3D CAD software makes designing real-world items far more efficient and cost-effective. Things that would traditionally have required extended periods of prototyping can have that prototyping substantially reduced. Tolerances can be refined due to more technically accurate designs, reducing the cost of materials and permitting designs that might not have been possible without CAD software. It is also possible to export certain parts of a design for direct input into Computer Numerical Control machinery that can fabricate the part to a high degree of accuracy using the data created by the 3D CAD software.

3D CAD software can be a specialist or generally focus on what the software must design. For example, some software solutions of this type feature the ability to simulate complex physics to test how a design will react to different forces. Others may be more geared towards 3D printing and have built-in functions to make the resulting item more likely to print correctly, such as automatically adding supportive material to the build. Some closely related software categories include architectural CAD software and engineering CAD software.

Canadian businesses will naturally need to consider many factors when choosing a 3D CAD software solution, not least of which is the features included in the software package. With this type of software, the feature set can vary substantially from one solution to another. Some of the core features that should be included in order to be classified as 3D CAD software include:

  • The ability to model a wide range of structures in 3D to a high level of accuracy, including being able to look around the finished model and easily make changes
  • Output technical drawings that contain all the information needed to manufacture the component or product that has been designed using the software
  • Import and export functionality that will allow a user to bring in designs from other software, export them to other software, or export them for use in CNC machinery
  • The ability to create assemblies—collections of previously designed parts—that can be reused when needed

What is 3D CAD Software?

3D CAD software makes designing structures of varying sizes and complexity much more efficient. It does this by allowing the user to work through many initial problems faced during the early design phase, such as working out how the structure should be arranged or getting a feel for how a structure will look in three dimensions. It can also give a sense of the requirements of the finished piece in terms of how much material it will need and what sort of footprint it will have in the real world.

3D CAD software can be used for several design applications, from small 3D printed components to entire buildings. Furthermore, it can be used for more cosmetic applications, such as planning out the interior design of a room. CAD software tends to specialize. For example, software meant for engineering purposes might come with intensive physics-based stress-testing functions. CAD software intended for interior design won't have stress-testing functionality, but it might come with a library of drag-and-droppable furniture models to speed up the design process.

Businesses can make use of CAD design software for a variety of purposes beyond designing things for manufacture. One example has been mentioned—visualizing interior design plans. It can also be used for presentations, particular if the CAD software supports the creation of animations. Users can generate a rough Bill of Materials (BOM) using CAD packages. This type of software is traditionally sold as a software package to be installed on local machines, though some developers now offer cloud-based alternatives that run in a web browser and store information in the cloud. It should be noted that, due to technological constraints, the browser-based CAD options tend to be more limited than software packages.

What are the benefits of 3D CAD software?

The benefits of 3D CAD for Canadian organizations are focused on making it easier to accurately design real-world items and structures, sometimes taking into account things like the stresses placed on the structure by its weight or other external forces. Ultimately, this type of software removes a large amount of waste in the design and prototyping process over more traditional design methods, thus reducing the costs of designing products or structures. This and many other specific advantages of using 3D CAD software are listed below:

  • Reduce waste during the prototyping process: The process of designing a physical item has traditionally been quite a wasteful one. This is because it is challenging to plan a design to perfection the first time using things like sketches and physical models. Invariably, there will be problems that only become apparent once the structure is built. CAD software significantly reduces these errors by giving the designer a higher degree of accuracy, detail, and control during the design phase.
  • Reduce error margins: Even the most talented architects, engineers, and other professionals of that nature can only design things to a certain degree of accuracy. Unfortunately, this means that designing things "by hand" limits what can be designed, particularly when it comes to larger structures. CAD software allows the user to design with much greater accuracy, meaning they can take advantage of smaller margins when designing structural components.
  • More possibilities for experimentation: Being free of the restrictions of physical prototyping practices allows users to try far more variations and styles of the thing they are designing without having to worry about the cost of building prototypes and models first. Other than the cost of the software, the only expense involved with this part of the process is the time it takes to make the design, so there is far more freedom to try things.
  • Faster manufacturing processes with CNC machinery: Though more applicable in engineering and 3D printing than things like architecture or interior design, the overall prototyping and manufacturing process can be much faster thanks to CNC machinery. Using these machines, data can be exported directly from the CAD software to the machine, which can then produce the part in question automatically. This process is considerably faster than traditional methods, such as creating a technical drawing by hand and using that drawing to make the part by hand.
  • Run complex physics-based simulations: Some CAD packages will provide the ability to run complex simulations to test the stresses of the structure being designed. These simulations are often used in architecture and engineering, ensuring that the structure is sufficiently strong within itself and can withstand external forces, such as wind.
  • Track material usage in a prospective build: Many CAD packages will allow the user to keep an accurate record of the materials used in the design. This record is generally accurate enough to be used in a bill of materials (after factoring in things like wastage) and makes estimating the cost of a project much easier and faster.
  • Create detailed technical drawings: Despite the ability to export all the necessary data to CNC machinery, technical drawings are needed regularly in engineering and construction. CAD software makes creating these drawings much easier than doing it by hand. In some cases, there are even automated features to create technical drawings.
  • Use 3D models for presentations and sales pitches: The designs created in 3D CAD software can be used as visual aids to show how a finished project will look. The models can often be exported to specialist software that is designed to render the design realistically, and some CAD packages even have a rendering feature built-in.

What are the features of 3D CAD software?

3D CAD software will typically feature a set of core features and a set of common features. The core feature should be available in all CAD solutions, whereas the common features can vary from software to software. Here are some of the most common features of 3D CAD software:

  • 2D drawing: While the primary focus of this type of software is on 3D design, most packages will still allow for the design of objects in 2D. This may be a straight two-dimensional technical drawing, but it is a prelude to a three-dimensional part. For example, a user might design a flat pattern that, once complete, can be extruded out to a three-dimensional shape. Another example of designing in 2D would involve drawing a "path" that a 3D profile can be extruded along, such as would be the case when making complex tubular frames.
  • Bill of materials management: CAD packages intended for production use will often provide the ability to manage a bill of materials. This allows a user to see what materials will be required for the designed build, even factoring in wastage in some cases. Seeing the bill of materials before proper construction or manufacturing has begun can make the planning phase of a project go much more smoothly.
  • Data import/export: There are many reasons why a user might need to import data to or export data from their CAD package. One reason was mentioned above—CNC machinery. Other examples of the need to export include sending the design to a 3D printer or exporting it to a 3D rendering application for presentation purposes. A user may also need to import a CAD file from a different application.
  • 3D printing functions: In CAD packages intended for use with 3D printing, there will often be automated features to make the process easier. One of the most common 3D printing functions automatically adds a sacrificial support structure to the design to prevent it from sagging or collapsing during the printing process.
  • Animation and presentation feature: CAD software can be used increasingly in pitching and presentation processes. Many CAD packages feature built-in rendering functions that can create lifelike images of the 3D models in the software. Others allow for exporting the models into a format that can then be rendered in a different application. These images can be used in presentations or pitch meetings, allowing the user to give others a clear idea of what the structure will look like without having to build it for real.
  • Assemblies: In certain fields—particularly in engineering and construction—it is common to re-use specific designs many times, both in a single project and across other projects. Many CAD packages will allow users to create assemblies that can be saved independently of the larger models they are being used in. Additionally, these assemblies can remain linked when imported into a design so that any changes to the assembly will automatically update the parts that the assembly included.
  • Collaboration tools: Larger projects will invariably have more than one person working on them, which is why CAD packages intended for large-scale projects typically feature some form of collaborative functionality. This may be as simple as allowing users to leave annotations for the designer but can also include the ability for multiple designers to work together on the same project simultaneously.
  • Simulation tools: Most common in engineering and architecture, some CAD solutions feature simulation functions that can calculate various stresses imparted on a structure—such as wind or the structure's weight—and report on whether the structure would adequately withstand those forces.

What should be considered when purchasing 3D CAD software?

When purchasing 3D CAD software, it is critical to consider what the company needs from their CAD software. This type of software is still commonly sold as a per-seat license, and can quickly become very expensive, so a business will need to make sure it is only paying for features it needs from its CAD software. Smaller businesses may get everything they need from a Software-as-a-Service option, whereas—for the time being, organizations that need full physics simulations and rendering capabilities will likely need to purchase a complete solution. Listed below are some more specific things a business should consider when looking for 3D CAD software.

  • Is the software designed for the correct industry? Not all CAD software is made the same, and the industry that software is for will make a substantial difference in its features and the way it works. Some CAD packages serve more than one industry, some attempt to cover all bases, however many specialize in a certain area. Therefore, it's critical to ensure the chosen solution is suitable for the industry and the use case it will be applied to.
  • How much does the software cost? As mentioned above, CAD software can get quite expensive, especially when dealing with high-end software that can perform complex physics calculations. For this reason, it would be wise to only pay for needed features. Some software providers mitigate this problem by offering modular software. In this case, a "base" package or subscription would be available, with subsequent features such as add-ons or plugins. By carefully selecting the features that are needed, a substantial amount of money could be saved on the cost of the software.
  • Does the business need to make presentations? If the CAD software is intended to be used as part of a pitching process, or if the resulting models will be used to report to management or other parties, the buyer will need to ensure the software can provide those materials. Animations will be crucial for engineering firms that deal with moving parts. The ability to render a design into a photo-realistic image will be beneficial. However, these features add to the cost. If the business does not need this ability from its CAD software, it would likely be better to choose a package that doesn't include them.
  • Does the software store data securely? CAD designs are considered sensitive information and need to be kept secure. Locally-deployed applications will mostly be the responsibility of the company and their infrastructure, but cloud-based alternatives will be storing that sensitive information online, so it's worth ensuring they will be storing it securely.
  • Is the software compatible with other software solutions the company uses? If an organization needs their CAD software to work with other software packages they already have—such as 2D CAD software used in the past—research should be done into whether the potential new software will work with those applications. In most cases, this is just a matter of file compatibility—will the new software open the files exported from the old software—and shouldn't be a problem. It is certainly worth making sure before purchasing expensive CAD software.
  • Is the software being actively developed? CAD is an area of software that is advancing fast, and there will undoubtedly be many changes in the coming years. This makes it vital to choose software from a developer actively working on and improving their product. Failing to do so could see a business missing out on important new features and, ultimately, having to buy more software to keep up.

Because 3D CAD software progresses quickly, it helps to be aware of the trends around this software category to make a more informed purchase decision. Therefore, the most relevant trends related to 3D CAD software are:

  • Cloud CAD: While traditional software packages are still common in this category of software, the capabilities of cloud computing and browser-based applications are likely to make cloud-native CAD applications the norm going forward. This will likely lead to a shift toward subscription-based payment rather than a per-seat license system.
  • Artificial intelligence: Artificial Intelligence (AI) is leading to major improvements in many categories of software, and CAD is unlikely to be any different. Generative design is one area where AI is being used in CAD. This system allows designers to generate optimized versions of a design based on various parameters, such as cost.
  • Additive manufacturing: It was mentioned above that some CAD solutions feature 3D printing-specific functions. This is likely to become less of a specialist feature going forward as additive manufacturing becomes more common.

Sources

The features highlighted were identified based on their relevance and the percentage of products in Capterra’s directory that offer them. The following sources were used for this document:

  1. CAD - Wikipedia (Date accessed: June 8th, 2022)
  2. What is a CAD Workstation? (Date accessed: June 8th, 2022)