What free software is currently most popular in amateur maker communities for designing 3D objects intended for manufacture using 3D printers or CNC milling machines? Something similar to SolidWorks (at least in purpose), but free, and still relatively mature?

Last time I spent some time looking for free CAD software for Linux, the only solutions were either 2D or hopelessly alpha - missing rudimentary capabilities. I'd hope the situation has improved until now, and I saw there are a few CAD packages for Linux on the market, but I didn't notice any slanted towards manufacturing physical items by additive or substractive CNC.


2 Answers 2


There is FreeCAD

  1. Free and opensource
  2. Multiplatform
  3. 3D CAD
  4. GUI and command line
  5. Compatible with files created by other CAD software

FreeCAD is a parametric 3D modeler. Parametric modeling allows you to easily modify your design by going back into your model history and changing its parameters. FreeCAD is open source (LGPL license) and completely modular, allowing for very advanced extension and customization.

Who is FreeCAD for?

The home user/hobbyist. Got yourself a project you want to build, have built, or 3D printed? Model it in FreeCAD. No previous CAD experience required. Our community will help you get the hang of it quickly!

From http://www.freecadweb.org/

Screenshot from its webpage: enter image description here

Install it in Ubuntu Linux with sudo apt-get install freecad.


It has been a few years since this question was posted and I wanted to add another more recent option. Onshape is a 3D solid modeling application that runs in the browser and thus is cross platform. It works amazingly well. It is not open source, but has a free option for non-commercial applications. There are excellent learning resources provided including videos and webinars.

enter image description here

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