A Drafting Duel: AutoCAD vs. Other Drafting Software for Beginners
Computer-Aided Drafting and Design was invented in the late ’70s by engineers and architects who wanted a better way to create drawings that could be used for engineering, drafting, and manufacturing. Sitting at a drafting table for hours upon hours creating and modifying drawings with pencil and paper was a very tedious and time-consuming process. Here enters AUTODESK’S AutoCAD software, which is largely considered the first computer-aided drafting and design tool. Let’s look at computer-aided drawing software for beginners and discuss how some of the other products stack up against the old tried and true AutoCAD.
Will you be drawing in 2D or 3D?
AutoCAD is almost hands down the universal winner for 2D drawings. It will also do anything you need to do for 3D drawing as well, but it may not be quite as intuitive as some of the newer software products that are designed specifically for 3D drawings.
AUTODESK’S TinkerCAD is a free 3D drawing product geared towards complete beginners who have no prior design experience. You might not be able to build or manufacture from these drawings, but it’s a great tool if you just want to create drawings with a computer.
FreeCAD is another free drawing tool that provides a parametric approach that is easier for beginners to grasp. It is also open-source, so it is always growing and becoming more powerful.
What will your drawings be used to create?
If you are creating files that will be used for 3D printing, then AutoCAD is capable of creating STL files from drawings. While it is generally used for manufacturing and architecture, using an algorithmic method of creating drawings, it can be used for almost any type of drawing.
Solidworks is a program for creating drawings for 3D printing and manufacturing. It uses a parametric approach to creating drawings and is very much an STL output centered tool. However, it is not very adept at importing and modifying STL files generated by other programs.
BlocksCAD is mostly used for educational purposes and is considered a very intuitive and user-friendly tool for beginners. It uses a building block method similar to using LEGO bricks, which most of us will take to very easily.
Will your drawings be industry-specific?
CATIA has traditionally been used in the aviation industry. It can be used for CAD, CAE, and CAM which makes it very useful for creative designers, mechanical engineers, architects, IT designers, and industrial systems architects.
Creo is used to design engines and create drawings that illustrate moving parts. Its use of structural, motion, thermal, and freestyle surface generation make it very useful in designing automobiles and other types of vehicles with moving parts.
AutoCAD can also be used for these purposes as well as architecture and engineering, but you would have to possess the knowledge to create the algorithms necessary to create these types of drawings. Instead, REVIT is another tool offered by AUTODESK that is designed to be the company’s flagship architectural product. It can be used in architecture and civil engineering to create scaled 3D drawings of structures and buildings.
Do you need to access your drawings from anywhere?
Cloud computing technology is permeating every aspect of the computing world and computer-aided drafting and design are no different. Cloud-based software as a service allows you to collaborate on drawings with other members of your team and easily access them from anywhere with a plethora of devices.
OnShape is one of the most powerful 3D drawing software tools on the market as of the writing of this post. It is also completely free and cloud-based. You can use it to collaborate with other teammates in the cloud from your phone, tablet, or any modern web browser. It is also becoming very popular among professionals and would not be a waste of time to learn at all.
Fusion 360 is another cloud-based program. Its strongest feature is its version control system that allows you to save different versions of your drawings and then revert to a prior version completely or just merge features from previous versions into your current drawing.
Whether you are a complete novice with no computer-aided drawing experience whatsoever or you’re a seasoned professional with years of experience under your belt, there is sure to be a CAD software offering out there to fit your needs.
If you have any questions about computer-aided design software or would like information on AutoCAD training, we would love to help!