Top Five Affordable CAD Software Packages in 2018

CAD nowadays refers to a broad variety of software packages which include everything from 2D illustration to virtual electrical-component testing. From simulations to renders and animation, every package brings with it new items and features, design techniques and tips and other workarounds or tweaks, CAD packages are an array unlike any other modern day industry-specific software category.

Here we are comparing a few of the most affordable CAD software solutions which offer enough under the hood, for professional engineering designers and manufacturers to students and hobbyists alike. Even DIYers can take on these packages and do a lot with little or no help. Read on for the best economical solutions the industry has to offer.


Top Five Affordable CAD Software Packages

CorelCAD

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The authors of CorelDraw have created CorelCAD for the engineering design and development industry. It has robust feature and functions that combat every other heavy weight CAD software amicably.

CorelCAD supports all the industry-standard formats, including ACIS, SAT and SVG. This allows you to import files from other CAD software. At a relatively affordable price, CorelCAD has a similar look and feel of AutoCAD but is less expensive. However, it still lacks many features that AutoCAD has, like model documentation, dynamic blocks and sheet sets.

If you want CAD software on a Mac OS you should definitely try out CorelCAD. IF you're a Windows user – you will have the added advantage of Visual Studio integration through the Visual Studio Tools for Applications (VSTA) and enhanced LISP support.

ProgeCAD

This is one CAD solution that is termed as AutoCAD's clone. It’s marketed as: “For those who want AutoCAD, but can’t afford it.” The most expensive version tops out at USD500 but has enough off-the-shelf, ready-to-use community contributions for you to think about the price difference. A lot of people will say it rightly, ProgeCAD has an interface just like AutoCAD’s but that’s the purpose it was built for. To help AutoCAD users get the same feel and work environment for almost 1/3rd the cost so as to eliminate the learning curve when moving from package to package.

BricsCAD

This is one package that actually falls in the AutoCAD-like heavy weight category for the amount of features it offers. But only AutoCAD users will be at ease working with it, others might require the same learning span as that with AutoCAD due to their striking similarity. BricsCAD license is proprietary and has an extended base for third party application support. Cloud connectivity and the so-talked-about Quad™ Cursor are features that put BricsCAD way above SketchUp and ProgeCAD but not only is it’ Platinum license for almost USD1,000 it also has some documentation and collaborative features that are a real pain to learn. A standard package (BricsCAD Classic) license is USD500. Hence in the economical category, BricsCAD is a recommendation, just not the first one.

We have previously covered BricsCAD in  BricsCAD – AutoCAD alternative.

DesignCAD 3D Max

USD100. That’s all I have to say about this package, from the developers of TurboCAD who wanted people to be able to use basic CAD functions with as little hit to the pockets as possible. It’s versatile, functional, and easy to learn and to use but also has texture-related features and photo realistic rendering modules. It comes with over 10K symbols free, to choose from with customization and support options (again free) that make you grit your teeth at the fleet of AutoCAD support personnel, whose services can be acquired after you’ve acquired the USD 1,600 license.

One of the major drawbacks, one should expect from such a software is lack of extendibility in terms of future prospects. Since STL files are not supported, 3D printing is a thing of the future just like many other file formats that are alien to the package.

NanoCAD

Another cheap deal, starting at only USD 200. A fully featured version only for USD200 offers enough to make you want to drop AutoCAD, if your professional contributions don’t depend on it. NanoCAD lacks many features that AutoCAD is known for such as associative hatches and solid 3D object manipulations. But NanoCAD has some neat tricks up its sleeve, those which AutoCAD doesn’t know about. Raster manipulations are one thing, an Excel-styled table editor is another. A line type editor makes property operations a breeze. Check out the detailed discussion about NanoCAD.


Conclusion

All in all, SketchUp is one of the best, most affordable CAD software packages available. This is especially true because of first-hand experience with the above mentioned packages. Google’s innovative and intuitive feel and design nature are wildly apparent with every click opening sidelined with a hot-key or shortcut feature that allows you to enter dimensions directly after having clicked on the canvas after selecting a shape. The extendibility of SketchUp and the relative costs involved, all make SketchUp a steal.

Package License type/cost Industry User
SketchUp Single – USD 500 Generic Anyone
ProgeCAD Single – USD 500 Generic Ex-AutoCAD users
BricsCAD Classic – USD 500 Design & Manufacturing Pro
DesignCAD 3D Max Single – USD 100 Design & Manufacturing Semi-pro
NanoCAD Single – USD 200 Design & Manufacturing Student to semi-pro

Note: All prices are estimates for the kind of license mentioned. If a license type is not mentioned, please refer to the product website to see the deals available in your area. Also, prices were taken from product websites at the time of gathering information before writing this article. Please seek advice from support staff and product website in order to get the best kind of license and the best price for it.

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