25 May 2023. Article by Olivia Davis. Approximate duration of reading: 6 minutes.
Autocad Is Expensive, but Alternatives Exist
If you are interested in designing and drafting, you have undoubtedly heard of AutoCAD. The layering structure, latest drawing tools, and compatibility with various plugins are among the software’s essential attributes, making it the most popular drafting program on the market, and also the most expensive. At present, the latest AutoCAD version costs several thousand dollars, and a yearly subscription costs around $1,690. Many legitimate reasons explain why the software is out of reach for many beginners and hobbyists. Thousands of people indeed use it, but for most aspiring designers, however, the sum is too high.
Fortunately, the industry has recognized that independent designers and small companies could use a quality drafting application at a fraction of the cost. Several powerful drafting software are available on the market, such as SketchUp, Onshape, and SolidWorks. They offer a more accessible pricing model, including basic licenses completely for free, which are perfect for anyone who is just starting in drafting.
CAM Software is another fascinating option that allows you to program computer numerical control (CNC) machines using computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software. This tool is more oriented towards the production and manufacturing sector – just like AutoCAD – but it also offers additional benefits for businesses that need to automate their manufacturing process.
Free Versions of Autocad Are Available for Students and Educators
Students and educators have an opportunity to explore computer-assisted design at a lower cost. With Autodesk’s “Education Community,” students and teachers with an educational email address can secure most Autodesk software and services, including AutoCAD, at no cost (yes, free). It’s not even limited to AutoCAD – other Autodesk products, such as Fusion 360, Inventor, 3DS Max, and Maya, are also included.
For hobbyists or people who aspire to learn AutoCAD, a free trial is available. It provides complete access to every tool and feature found in the software. The risk-free trial lasts about 30 days, giving you time to check out the program – if you have the stomach to download the 9GB installer file.
CAM Software is a professional tool that helps businesses cut costs and speed up their manufacturing process. However, for students who are just exploring interest in the drafting field, AutoCAD’s free trial or “Education Community” products are an ideal launching point.
Some Companies Offer Free Trials of AutoCAD
If you’re not a student or educator, you can still try out AutoCAD for free without having to spend any money. It is possible to download a free trial version of the software that gives you complete access to all of its features for 30 days. This is the perfect way to test the software and determine if it meets the needs of your project, without having to commit to purchasing it. However, bear in mind that the AutoCAD installer file is a massive 9GB in size, so you’ll need to make sure you have the necessary storage and processing power to download and run the software.
If you’re looking for an affordable option, you can try other drafting software that offer a more accessible pricing model, like SketchUp or Onshape. While not as popular as AutoCAD, these programs offer similar features at a lower cost, including some versions that are completely free. Additionally, if you need a computer-aided drawing (CAD) program specifically designed for civil engineering, you might want to try out some of the civil engineering software like AutoCAD Civil 3D or Infraworks.
Civil engineering software like AutoCAD Civil 3D or Infraworks can simplify your drafting and designing needs. They prioritize the essential applications and tools needed in civil engineering jobs, making them ideal for civil engineers who need to automate drafting and design processes for any infrastructure development project.
Open-Source Software Can Be a Viable Option
If you’re looking for an alternative to AutoCAD’s proprietary software, you might want to try some of the open-source alternatives available. Open-source software is free and can be customized to your liking, making it an attractive option for designers and drafters who want more freedom and control over their work. One excellent open-source CAD software is LibreCAD, which offers 2D drawing features, excellent drawing capabilities, standard layering, and annotation styles.
Another good option is BRL-CAD, an open-source CAD system, with robust solid modeling capabilities, geometry editing tools, and much more. Its ability to perform numerous tasks such as rendering, ray tracing, simulation, and analysis is a plus point that puts BRL-CAD among the best open-source CAD systems available.
While these open-source alternatives may not have the same level of technical support as AutoCAD or other commercial software, they can still provide many of the essential drafting features that you’ll need. As well, if you’re a professional who needs more advanced features or support, you can always consider purchasing a commercial CAD software. But for students, hobbyists or anyone who needs a simple drafting software, open-source could be a viable option to look into.
Online Cad Platforms Provide Another Way to Access Autocad-like Tools
Aside from downloading and installing software on your local machine, there are other ways to access Autocad-like tools. Online CAD platforms are becoming increasingly popular as they allow users to create 3D designs, collaborate with team members, and store projects online. Some of the leading online CAD platforms include Tinkercad, Fusion 360, and Onshape.
One of the significant advantages of online CAD platforms is accessibility – all you need is an internet connection, and you can start drafting from any device, including your smartphone or tablet. These platforms also offer a “freemium” pricing model, allowing users to use the basic features for free and then upgrading to more advanced features for a nominal fee. While these online platforms may not offer the same level of functionality as Autocad, they are still a great alternative or complement to traditional drafting software.
Consider the Pros and Cons of Each Option before Choosing a Solution
Before choosing a drafting solution, it is essential to consider the pros and cons of each option to ensure that you get the best value for your money. While Autocad is undoubtedly the most popular drafting software, alternatives like SketchUp and SolidWorks can do the job just as well at a fraction of the cost.
Another point to consider is your level of expertise. Are you a beginner or a professional designer? If you’re just starting, then a free version of Autocad or an online CAD platform could be the best solution. On the other hand, if you are a professional designer or a company that needs to automate their manufacturing process, investing in an advanced CAM software like Mastercam or SolidCAM could be a more significant advantage.
The bottom line is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to drafting software. It’s all about finding the right balance between functionality, affordability, accessibility, and your level of expertise. So, take your time to explore your options, read reviews from other users, and consider the pros and cons of each solution before making a final decision.