AutoCAD vs Blender: Head to Head Comparison

While both AutoCAD and Blender subsume under CAD yet there is remarkable difference between the two as Blender is a 3D computer graphics software serving fields related to animated films, visual effects, art, 3D printed models, interactive 3D applications and video games whilst Autocad is well known for serving architectural engineers, project managers and graphic designers to name a few. In this article we will delve a bit deeper to highlight the main features setting these two softwares apart.

AutoCAD vs Blender: Head to Head comparison

AutoCAD has been the topic of discussion in several other articles (see the AutoCAD vs Inventor comparison) but let's checkout where each of these softwares excel in their fields. So let's find out:

Features at first glance: Cost, popularity and  requirements

Blender was released about 20 years ago in 1995 by Dutch animation studio Neo Geo and Not a Number Technologies (NaN) who developed it as an in-house application. It is a well-known open source project fairing off with the Goliath of the arena, namely AutoCAD. Moreover, Blender, being open-source is contributed to by a huge society of freelance coders and volunteers who donate code religiously. AutoCAD has a comparably larger community but on its own weight Blender can prove to be a useful package with good support services. Since Blender is open-source, it’s free of cost and license restrictions. AutoCAD is almost 1500 USD more expensive for a single seat license. Where AutoCAD requires at least 8GB of RAM for optimum performance, Blender is so lightweight (a mere 53.3 to 120.9 MB depending on the operating system) and resource-intensive that it comes pre-installed in Ubuntu, for a Window-user user-friendly flavor of Linux. Where AutoCAD is native to Windows only and has a version for Mac while Blender is native to all three.

  AutoCAD Blender
Hardware Expensive Relatively cheaper
OS Windows-native, Mac capable Win/Linux/MacOS native
Learning curve Long Short
Industry Engineering, construction etc. Automotive/furniture design etc.
User Engineers, architects, constructors Academic, semi-professional
Cost ~USD1,500 for one seat Free, GCC distributable

Which does what best?

For a detailed review of the software packages, let’s take a look one by one. Blender is good for part modeling, small scale drawings/illustrations. It further has the built in capability of exporting those models to a game scene or render for film development. Virtual walkthroughs and tours top it off for Blender. In comparison, AutoCAD is a platform, or rather it has grown into a base platform for more of their subsequent technologies to act as extensions and modularize the software according to the user-base, in this case is necessary, since the user base is humungous one.  AutoCAD is better suited to large-scale projects, for development of houses and sky scraper designs for constructors and builders, machines workflow simulation pre-development, and simulation-based analysis for those projects. And undoubtedly, AutoCAD is a great documentation tool. Hence AutoCAD has administrative capabilities as well as development/rendering whereas Blender is better suited to small scale development only.

They are targeted at?

Blender is targeted most by educational institutes and students apart from professional designers. Hobbyists are also common because of the OS-independence, and the short learning curve. If you’ve ever taken up an engineering course with AutoCAD you know what I’m talking about. But due to the huge range of AutoCAD products AutoCAD enjoys an industry wide reputation amongst not just engineers and automotive designers but also between corporations as an industry de facto when collaborating. For that purpose AutoCAD’s system requirements are top notch even though SolidWorks is the standard benchmark for CAD machines.

In addition to benchmarks, AudoCAD has a range of development purposes that Blender does not incorporate. The GreenBuild engine is a personal favorite allowing you to simulate energy efficient lighting combinations based on estimated lighting conditions. The constructors would feel right at home with AutoCAD’s BMI modules allowing one to simulate the demolition phase of the project before a single brick has been laid. The extent to which AutoCAD accommodates modern day engineering challenges lives up to the resource consumption. But for those looking to not get into that amount of detail, Blender is the better option. Keep in mind, if you want to 3D print, that’s only possible with AutoCAD, yet.

File compatibility

AutoCAD reads and writes in DWG series of formats for the most part and is available in several languages. Together with DWG its interchange file format DXF have become the standards for sharing information particularly those related to 2D drawings. With Autocad having included support for DWF format it is possible to publish CAD data as well.

Within blender is an internal file system capable of packing multiple files into a single file called .blend file. These files are forward, backward and also compatible across other versions of blender both new and old. Blender however has reads and writes in 3DS format (to which AutoCAD reads and writes) and other filing formats such as AVI and JPEG2000.

Final thoughts

Where AutoCAD has a corporation backing it, Blender has the Blender foundation who have just recently released a film created solely by open-source tools. A huge achievement for the open-source community, “The Elephant Dream” is a must watch. The animation and rendering were well up to the mark. And in another Blender foundation project, Blender was used on green screens.

An odd couple, enjoying famous reputations in the CAD arena, both serve their purpose well. We hope you enjoyed this AutoCAD vs Blender comparison.

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