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3D CAD software

3D CAD software, or three-dimensional computer-aided design software, is used for generating virtual 3D models.

Processes 3D CAD software can help with include drafting construction plans and the simulation of designs to determine performance once construction is complete.

If you’re interested in using 3D CAD software, check out our guide and browse the most popular products on the market below.

View our guide to the best 3D CAD software

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3D CAD Software
3d cad software expert guide
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More about 3D CAD software

Once an extraordinary concept, today, 3D CAD modelling software is becoming commonplace. Often used for tools and equipment in the manufacturing and construction fields, 3D CAD’s versatility and suitability mean it is now used in a wide variety of industries.

With tremendous advances in technology, as well as the ‘standard’ tasks the software is known for, it can now handle many more intuitive and elaborate processes. For instance, a variety of complex parameters can be simulated with 3D CAD software, enabling a much faster and cheaper workflow. So, before any physical models have even been created, strength or temperature resistance, for example, can be determined to ensure the right structural integrity of a design before it goes into production.

Chances are, the brilliance of 3D CAD software will be able to bring benefit to your company. Read on to find out if and how you can enhance your operation.

3D CAD software

Is 3D CAD software right for your business?

3D CAD software is most commonly used for animation, architecture, industrial design, mechanical design, structural engineering, and 3D printing.

With the aid of 3D CAD software, engineers, for example, are able to create virtual prototypes to visualise their concepts. Paired with the application of scientific principles, they can design machines and develop manufacturing methods.

Engineers often work with 3D CAD software in disciplines and fields such as aerospace, electricity, mechanics or computer hardware; but with technological advances resulting in the software becoming more accessible and more useful in a range of other industries, CAD is now being used to create designs and products in almost all markets.

If your work comprises processes such as creativity, design, invention, adaptation, construction or manufacture, it’s likely that there’ll be a 3D CAD product to complement, streamline, and ultimately, save money on your processes.

What difference can 3D CAD software make?

3D CAD software can bring a variety of benefits to your operation, through efficiency, cost-savings and increased quality.

Reduced losses

Once created, 3D CAD software designs can be reviewed – in granular detail – and then adapted, endlessly. This means a design doesn’t have to go into production until you’re sure it’s 100 per cent ready.

Increased productivity

3D CAD software speeds up productivity. Original designs can function as masters or templates for adaptations to be created from, rather than having to draw from scratch.

Better teamwork

As various users can be connected to the same 3D CAD software, collaboration becomes simplified. This is especially beneficial for large projects where team members applying various disciplines can work seamlessly together.

Ease of use

Although 3D CAD training is always required to some degree, getting started is relatively easy with some software. And ultimately, regardless of the program's complexity, using CAD software eliminates the skill dependency of drawing.

Features of 3D CAD software

Common features of 3D CAD software

Although 3D CAD software has only become more familiar and commonplace in recent years, the first versions were actually created in the 60s. The capabilities and functionality of CAD software have come on leaps and bounds since then, with a range of impressive and useful features available in any package you choose. Below are just a few of the common features of 3D CAD software:

3D animation
You can build objects with 3D modelling software. With some software, you can use motion capture, which consists of recording an actor's movements for digital animation.

Multi-platform
With many 3D CAD software packages, you can create, edit and view on desktop, web, and even mobile.

Cloud storage
Modern 3D CAD products usually come with cloud storage applications. Even if it’s not part of the package, you can usually connect to other cloud storage providers.

Realistic modelling
For the creation of realistic 3D models, you can build designs using solid, surface, and mesh modelling tools.

Rendering
With the application of lighting and materials, you can give your 3D models an even more realistic appearance.

3D navigation
3D viewing and navigation tools allow you to move around and view your 3D model from any angle.

User interface customisation
With many 3D CAD software products on the market, you can customise the user interface for improved accessibility and productivity.

Standards checker
This feature allows you to define standards within your CAD software so that consistency can be maintained across layers, text and dimensions, etc.

Cost of 3D CAD software

How much does 3D CAD software cost?

There aren’t many products out there with as wildly differing price points as 3D CAD software. But that’s a good thing. It means that no matter which grade of software will match your business requirements most, there’ll be an option available to suit, in terms of complexity, and price.

For instance, you can get SelfCAD’s all-in-one program, which features tools such as 3D drawing, advanced transformations and sculpting tools, for about £12 per month or £110 for a year’s subscription. SolidFace offers different package levels, such as its 3D PRO software, which you can get for under £400 (lifetime licence). It’s about £630 for the 3D Collaboration version, with which you get real-time 3D cloud collaboration modelling.

Both of these products – as with many others in the market – come with a free trial. Even if you’re sure you’ve found the 3D CAD software you’re looking for, we’d recommend you always make use of the free trial, especially if you’re new to computer-aided design.

How to choose the best CAD software

Choosing the best 3D CAD software

Free demos and trials are definitely a great way to explore 3D CAD software products, but although some providers offer free versions without a time limit, it’s usually best to settle on a software that you’re willing to spend a bit of money on.

If you’re serious about CAD software and it will definitely enhance your processes, it’s rare for a free version to continually deliver the level and range of functionality you’ll benefit most from.

Deciding on a CAD software package certainly requires some forethought and planning, but at EXPERTcomparison.com, we help you narrow down your options and make an informed, confident decision.

As well as our 3D CAD software guides and insights, we list all the best and most popular products available on the market today. You can compare prices, features, and all the other key information from each software. You can also check out approved reviews from current users – giving you that extra peace of mind that you’re choosing a software that’s ideally suited to enhancing your business.