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Affordable 3D MCAD

These are low cost programs suitable for designing mechanical assemblies.

Don’t forget you can use multiple programs to overcome the limitations of one program.

Open Source

Both NaroCAD and FreeCAD are under active development, but I’m pretty sure neither one is anywhere close to ready for production use.

They are still worth checking out, because they might have enough functionality for what you need to do.

Free Commercial MCAD

These programs typically have a lot of limitations, the terms can change at any time, but they are still potentially useful.

  1. PowerSHAPE-e.  Very powerful, but costs money to export.
  2. Autodesk 123D.  Appears to be good match for modeling personal PCBs; has STEP import and export.
  3. CoCreate PE, now creo elements/direct PE.  Limited import and export, limited to 60 parts, but good to see PTC has moved it into the Creo world.
  4. MEDUSA4 Personal.  Available for Windows and Linux.
  5. Autodesk Labs Inventor Fusion Preview.  Time limited preview of the Fusion direct editing MCAD software.

MCAD Under $500

  1. Alibre PE ($199).  Very limited import and export options.

MCAD Under $1500

  1. IronCAD Draft ($595).  Not a full MCAD program (e.g. can’t create parts), but can create assemblies.
  2. Alibre Professional ($699).  Adds import/export options and more.
  3. VariCAD ($710).  Available for Windows and Linux.
  4. IronCAD INNOVATE XG (~$1300).  Meant for conceptual design, but according to the product comparison it includes “assembly modeling within  a single scene”.
  5. Alibre Expert ($1399).  Adds CAM, Motion, MoI, and more.
  6. The combination of Rhino ($995 list, available for less) and RhinoWorks ($595, adds parametric and assembly capabilities) might work well.

Other Options worth considering

  1. ZW3D ($2500 for Standard).  ZW3D 2011 adds direct editing.
  2. IRONCAD ($4000 and up).  Innovative MCAD.
  3. SpaceClaim ($2450 and up).  Well known for easy direct editing.

Update 4/18/2011: Added Rhino/RhinoWorks

Update 5/22/2011: Added Autodesk 123D, updated Alibre PE price.


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