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Need CAD Software Recommendations

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    Need CAD Software Recommendations

    I need recommendations for software for a project I have in mind. I want to design a toy truck for my special-needs son. The idea is to design a toy semi truck that he can assembled from pieces like a puzzle. The pieces would be small enough to fit in 3D printer build volume.

    I need software that will allow me to design the individual pieces and will render the entire assembled truck so I can check the fit of adjacent pieces. For instance, if the doors are separate pieces, I need to render the doors separately for printing but also need to render the doors and cab as completed assembly so I can check fit of the doors to the cab.

    I used SolidWorks years ago. It had a "smart mate" feature that allowed mating of adjacent parts. I need some freeware that does something similar or better. The completed truck will have a lot of parts and all of them need to designed to fit with adjacent parts. I have seen 3D-printed gear boxes and other assemblies so I know there is a tool out there that can do this.

    I have investigated Blender, Sketchup, and OnShape. I can’t tell which would be suitable.

    Needless to say, I'm a newbie at this. I have a mechanical engineering degree but most of my time is spent writing software.

    Any recommendations?

    Thanks in advance,

    I love SolidWorks, but it can be pricey. I have used Blender with some success, but I don't know how well it can do assemblies. Sketchup for some reason always made me nauseous. I've never used OnShape.


      Hi Chuck, interesting for a mech eng to go into Software. That aside you are likely referring to generating assemblies when you say render. Rendering in Cad typically refers to generation of photorealistic content. On shape will do what you want but also check out auto desk suite, depending on your proficiency in Cad they will have a product to suit your needs. Alternatively just get a solid works trial and complete your project in the trial period.


        Oh, yeah I forgot about the trial. That's probably a good way to go.


          FreeCAD will probably do what you want. It has a Part Design Workbench which allows creation of 3D models based on Sketches attached to Datums.

          There are a couple of assembly plugins (Assembly2 and Assembly2+) which differ in their solver mechanisms.

          FreeCAD is free software and you can use it any way you choose without restrictions for commercial purposes. Available at no cost, you might want to give it a try.


            Hi Chuck, give DesignSpark mechanical a go. It's free and has all the features you could need.


              It's been a couple of months. I researched options and evaluated OnShape and FreeCAD. Observations:

              Blender and SketchUp and several others are more for "organic" 3D models, e.g., 3D sculpture. These are not engineering tools. I don't plan to develop a 3D model of Yoda or Gandalf so that is not for me. A lot of the hobby-grade tools fall in this category. These tools should be called "CAD" at all IMHO.

              There are several freeware CAD tools that appear to have atrophied due to lack of support

              Both Autocad (Fusion360) and OnShape offer cloud-based solutions that are free to use but you have to pay if you are a commercial user. I never tried Fusion 360. I used SolidWorks *WAY* back in 2000 and since OnShape developers came from Solidworks I gave it a try.

              OnShape was very capable and reliable. It was intuitive and easy to use. Amazing that it works so well in a web browser. I created a model of a sheet-metal box and the unfolding was painless. The conversion to 2D tech drawing was painless and used US ANSI drawing standards.

              FreeCAD is very capable but very buggy. It can be made to work but it takes more effort. I designed the same sheet-metal box in FreeCAD and it was easy to break the flattening feature. Also, sometimes the model would get completely scrogged. FreeCAD can get very confused if you delete a feature. While learning the tool I saved the model with a different file name at different points so I could roll-back to an earlier version if I screwed up the model. I had to back-up and start over several times.

              The 2D tech drawing feature (TechDraw) works but is more work. The drawing templates are European ISO standard. I downloaded some ANSI templates but they did not work. You can create your own templates if you have a vector drawing program. I installed InkScape for that. I used Inkscape first to delete the FreeCAD logo from the ISO templates and that worked. Further customizing of the templates broke the templates.

              The sheet-metal box had a front piece and back piece that needed to be mated in an assembly. The mating features of OnShape are easier to use than FreeCAD and more flexible and versatile. Again, you can make FreeCAD work but it takes more work and more tinkering time.

              I found myself creating the model first in OnShape and then duplicating it in FreeCAD. Creating the model in FreeCAD outright is easier to make mistakes. This gets mitigated over time as you gain experience with FreeCAD and learn its idiosyncrasiesand best practices.

              Bottom line, OnShape is way better. No question. But OnShape starts at $3999 and my company doesn't have that kind of money to throw around for something we might use 2x per year. Also, we don't like idea of having our tools and data locked in the cloud. FreeCAD gives you the satisfaction of having your copy of the app on your own machine and your data stays local.


                Originally posted by Marchie View Post
                Hi Chuck, give DesignSpark mechanical a go. It's free and has all the features you could need.
                As I understand it, You download DesignSpark and can use it for free but it will not save a STEPS file or STL without paying a fee, is that correct? How much does it cost?


                  Some good info in here. I'm in the search for a good easy program to use with no software background or design ha


                    Now learning fusion360 and i believe it has all the things you would need. Its a free license if you are not a commercial maker making more than 100k/yr off it. There is a couple utube videos on how to get it free, and lars christansen does the tutorials on utube.



                      Free, useful, simple, tasty.

                      Nice videos showing how it can tackle most of the CAD world here.



                        You can go for AutoCAD 2019.
                        It is very easy to use and learn.
                        It comes with unlimited technical support. It might help you in all aspects