The 25 Best CAD Software Tools for Design Engineers

Last Updated: July 28, 2022

Design engineers use their expertise to bring products to life through a complex design engineering process. Through 2D drawings and 3D models, along with many iterations, prototypes, and other steps, design engineers make it possible to translate ideas from the screen and into a manufacturing environment. This helps brands not only clarify their vision for a product or OEM component but also reduce cost and improve product quality by incorporating best practices and following any relevant regulatory standards.

Most design engineers use computer-aided design (CAD) to do the heavy lifting. But there are so many CAD tools on the market that it can be difficult to choose the best option for your team. Check out these top 25 CAD software tools to speed up and improve your engineers’ work.

1. 3DXpert

@3dsystems

3DXpert

Do you want to iterate product designs with 3D printing? 3DXpert is a great CAD tool that integrates with both plastic and metal 3D printers. Use this tool to speed up additive manufacturing in the most efficient way possible.

Notable features include:

  • Support for both plastic and metal 3D printers
  • Customized medical implant models
  • Native imports from CAD

2. ActCAD

@ActCADsoftware

ActCAD

ActCAD is designed to be fast and simple to use. It’s popular for architecture, civil, electrical, automotive, and many other applications. Designers can use this affordable CAD tool for either 2D drafting or 3D modeling.

Notable features include:

  • API programming tools
  • Flexible licensing
  • Batch auditing and conversions

3. Archicad

@archicad

Archicad

ArchiCAD is a building information modeling (BIM) software created specifically for architecture. Build better structures with its smart simulation tools that are perfect for testing energy efficiency.

Notable features include:

  • Compatible with several industry-standard file formats
  • Free 30-day trial license
  • Test energy efficiency

4. AutoCAD

@autoCAD

AutoCAD

AutoCAD is an incredibly popular software tool that millions of design engineers trust. Create both 2D drawings and 3D models in customized workspaces that help you design for the future.

Notable features include:

  • Web and mobile app
  • Collaboration workflows
  • Customized workspaces

5. CATIA

@Dassault3DS

CATIA

With CATIA, you can create products in a digital environment and test them with real-world use cases. It’s perfect for engineers, designers, and construction professionals who need to test products and components before production.

Notable features include:

  • Real-time design and collaboration
  • Simulations
  • Integrations

6. Civil 3D

@AutodeskCivil3D

Civil 3D

Civil infrastructure designers rely on Civil 3D to model roads, cities, topography, and much more. Civil 3D integrates several systems into one intelligent model for better team collaboration, too.

Notable features include:

  • BIM modeling
  • Real-time collaboration
  • Multiple extensions available

7. CorelCAD

@CorelDRAW

CorelCAD

CorelCAD gives designers in architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) the power to visualize structures and buildings in a collaborative environment. It makes it possible for designers to create 2D drawings, 3D models, and even 3D prints with ease.

Notable features include:

  • Layer palette and layer group filters
  • Collaboration and project-sharing
  • Automation and customization add-ons

8. Creo

@PTC

Creo

While other CAD software tools specialize in 2D drawings, Creo solely focuses on 3D CAD. It’s a next-generation solution that integrates with augmented reality, real-time simulation, and IoT to build better products, faster.

Notable features include:

  • Ergonomics design and analysis
  • Generative design
  • Additive manufacturing

9. DesignSpark Mechanical Software

@DesignSparkrs

DesignSpark Mechanical Software

DesignSpark bills itself as an easy, beginner-friendly 3D CAD modeling software tool. It’s lightweight enough to be user-friendly while delivering great value in the form of tools like advanced sketching and integrations.

Notable features include:

  • Workflow integration
  • 3D component library
  • Customization for shortcuts, rendering, and color schemes

10. DraftSight

@DraftSight

DraftSight

If you primarily work in DWG files, you’ll enjoy working in DraftSight. This is mostly a 2D drawing app, although it’s also compatible with 3D models if you integrate with 3DEXPERIENCE.

Notable features include:

  • Securely collaborate with other users in one environment
  • Mark up drawings from any device
  • Create, edit, view, and mark up DWG files

11. DriveWorks

@DriveWorks

DriveWorks

Unlike the other CAD software tools on this list, DriveWorks isn’t reserved just for design engineers. Salespeople use DriveWorks to create custom-configured solutions for customers, which makes it a popular choice for remodeling and construction businesses.

Notable features include:

  • Create order-specific sales documents and manufacturing data
  • Design, engineer, and configure orders on any device
  • Create a custom online 3D sales configurator

12. Fusion 360

@adskFusion360

Fusion 360

Fusion 360 actually offers more than CAD software: it also includes CAM, CAE, and PCB software in its suite. It’s perfect for iterating 3D product designs in the cloud.

Notable features include:

  • Design for form, fit, and function
  • Simulation and generative design
  • Convert 3D models to 2D drawings

13. Gstar CAD

@Gstarsoft_CAD

Gstar CAD

Created for the construction and architecture industries, GstarCAD speeds up the drafting process. Best of all, it’s free to download and functions on any mobile device.

Notable features include:

  • Web, mobile, and cloud access
  • Safely annotate and distribute drawings to your team
  • View drawings without downloading any software

14. Inventor

@ADSK_Inventor

Inventor

Inventor is a 3D CAD software tool that designers mostly use for product manufacturing and simulation. Rely on Inventor to safely collaborate with your team in the cloud while reducing repetitive tasks in the product design process.

Notable features include:

  • Rules-based design capabilities
  • Embed manufacturing information into the 3D model
  • A single data model for the entire product lifecycle

15. KeyCreator Pro

@Kubotek3D

KeyCreator Pro

KeyCreator Pro is a popular software tool for manufacturing. Create your own standards library, organize your drawings, and quickly iterate to bring better products to market.

Notable features include:

  • Keyboard shortcuts
  • Customizable toolbars
  • Easily manage legacy drawings

16. nTopology

@nTopology

nTopology

Are you primarily interested in topology? nTopology helps manufacturers design lightweight products that don’t compromise on quality or integrity.

Notable features include:

  • Automated geometry reconstruction
  • Additive manufacturing
  • Reusable processes

17. Onshape

@Onshape

Onshape

Onshape bills itself as the only SaaS software tool that brings CAD together with PDM, collaboration tools, and analytics in one place. Trust Onshape to keep your team moving with flexible, data-centered design.

Notable features include:

  • Real-time review
  • Version control
  • Import and export multiple file formats

18. OpenRoads

@BentleySystems

OpenRoads

OpenRoads is a construction CAD software tool that specializes in roadway design. If you work on road or highway projects, this CAD software tool offers features for automating drawings, high-quality renderings, and more.

Notable features include:

  • Real-time renderings
  • Analyze terrain and earthworks
  • Design custom traffic signs

19. OpenSCAD

OpenSCAD

It might look out of date, but OpenSCAD is a completely free software for 3D CAD modeling. OpenSCAD doesn’t have the advanced features you would find with paid tools, but it’s robust enough that individual designers can get a lot of value from it.

Notable features include:

  • Script file-based renderings
  • Constructive solid geometry
  • Extrusion of 2D outlines

20. Rhino

@bobmcneel

Rhino

Rhino is a robust CAD software tool that allows designers to do free-form 3D modeling. It helps designers build compatible products in a fast, affordable platform built for specialty product design.

Notable features include:

  • Model creation tools
  • Rhino Render
  • Digital fabrication

21. SketchUp

@Sketchup

SketchUp

SketchUp allows designers to create photorealistic building renderings. It’s a smart 3D rendering CAD tool that even integrates with sophisticated tools like VR.

Notable features include:

  • Sustainable building creation parameters
  • Customizable 3D workspace
  • Easily convert 3D models for 2D documentation

22. Solid Edge

@siemenssoftware

Solid Edge

Mechanical and electrical designers use Solid Edge to create simulations for manufacturing purposes. Billed as a complete product development tool, Solid Edge handles every step of the product development process.

Notable features include:

  • 3D printing
  • Computer-aided manufacturing
  • Data management

23. Solidworks

@solidworks

Solidworks

From concept to manufacturing, Solidworks empowers designers to accelerate the product development process. Rely on the Solidworks suite of tools to boost your design team as well as sales and marketing.

Notable features include:

  • Remote data access in the cloud
  • Simulation
  • Data management

24. TurboCAD

TurboCAD

TurboCAD is a 2D drafting and 3D solid modeling software solution. TurboCAD is incredibly versatile: it’s perfect for architectural drawings, remodeling, musical instruments, custom manufacturing, and so much more.

Notable features include:

  • Photorealistic rendering
  • Extensive file support
  • Advanced mechanical design and modification tools

25. Vectorworks Fundamentals

@vectorworks

Vectorworks Fundamentals

Built on the Siemens Parasolid engine, Vectorworks Fundamentals bills itself as the most flexible CAD software tool on the market. With no presets or parameters, it allows designers to create in an unbelievably malleable environment.

Notable features include:

  • Surface and solids modeling
  • Photorealistic renderings
  • History-based modeling

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