There are multiple CAD softwares available, each with different abilities and purposes; Some are developed for industrial usage and have advanced but complex features. Some others are uniquely art-based.
Some of these programs may focus on simplicity, while others are more powerful and harder to learn in a trade-off. Onshape, as a CAD program, is somewhat easy to use. However, the lack of advanced commands and organic designs are its main shortcomings.
This post will help you find an Onshape alternative that suits you best in your projects. Choosing CAD software is a matter of taste. Thus, for each option, we put a video that shows the software in use.
What Is The Best Onshape Alternative?
TinkerCAD is an online cloud base software from Autodesk, designed for beginners and hobbyists. The software has a functional but straightforward interface that allows the user to create 3D models with simple geometries.
The usual workflow starts by creating a few basic shapes like cubes or spheres. The next step is to combine, subtract, edit, or copy the components to reach the desired model. Therefore, the overall process is easy and enjoyable.
This way, 3D printing enthusiasts and beginners can learn the software and create their first models within their initial usage hours.
But this doesn’t mean that TinkerCAD is only popular among beginners; there are many intermediate to professional users that find the software suitable for various simple to slightly complex models. They can always bring their design to the next level by adding and then editing several shapes.
ThinkerCAD can apply light and movement to your design. Thus, you can simulate the design and see how it works in real life.
The software is capable of converting the models into buildable brick models like LEGO models. You can also use and transform these brick models into Minecraft creatures!
TinkerCAD is free. It can produce outputs with STL format, which is the standard input of 3D printer slicers.
In general, TinkerCAD is a fantastic CAD software for absolute beginners who want to create something quickly or don’t want to spend considerable time learning CAD software.
This simplicity comes with the price of some design limitations, though. The user can’t expect the design power that advanced CAD softwares offer.
The video below is an excellent example of using TinkerCAD to design a simple model and its interface in practice.
Because of its simplicity, TinkerCAD can be a perfect Onshape alternative for beginners. If most of your designs are relatively simple and want to create something as soon as possible, look no further than TinkerCAD.
FreeCAD is a parametric CAD software developed with the goal of real-life modeling and relatively complex assemblies. Hence, you can use its features to model a complete truck or airplane.
The “design history” option is one of the best features of FreeCAD compared to many simple CAD software. This feature can be of help when you want to edit your designs and make some slight changes. You will mostly see this option in advanced CAD programs like SolidWorks and CATIA.
Another cool feature of FreeCAD is its modular architecture that accepts plugins. It also uses a constraint solver to make precise 2D sketches. Simulating the model and output direct G-code commands may also become useful in some specific projects.
There are several output formats available. For example, you can choose between stl, step, obj, dxf, scad, and svg. Hence, there is no limit to 3D printing the parts or modifying the output in other programs.
The numerous commands and design options can be overwhelming at first glance. However, you can use the real power of a precise 3D modeling program once you learn them. Therefore, if you can invest the time to dig deeper into a CAD program, FreeCAD is a perfect starting point.
In general, FreeCAD is similar to highly advanced CAD programs. Thus, once you learn the software, you can learn the next level options faster and easier. The overall design process is almost the same.
In the below video, you can find the actual workflow of designing an object using FreeCAD.
If your goal is to find an Onshape alternative that uses standard and simple commands, then FreeCAD is the right choice.
3. 3D Builder
3D Builder is a simple free program from Microsoft that allows the user to create and modify simple 3D objects. If you’ve worked with TinkerCAD, you are familiar with this approach of modeling.
The software is specifically designed for 3D printing purposes. Creating 3D objects without requiring a base 2D sketch can make the whole design process much more straightforward.
The software is pre-installed on some Windows 10 systems, but it can be downloaded and installed on Windows operation systems if you don’t have it. 3D Builder is available on Windows 8.1, Windows 10, and Xbox One. Unfortunately, until today, it’s not available for MAC operating systems.
3D Builder can directly work with some 3D printers like XYZ Printing machines. However, you can always get an STL output from the software and slice it for your 3D printer, whatever your machine’s model may be.
You can use 3D Builder to create or edit objects for 3D printing purposes. However, it can only make the model. You can’t use it for rendering and aesthetic goals though these features aren’t crucial for basic 3D printing procedures.
The overall interface and process of modeling in 3D Builder is simple. It has six tabs that contain most of the necessary features. You can create, import, edit, copy, move and combine basic shapes with each tab’s commands. There are also primary color and texture options available in the software.
3D Builder has an overall minimalistic interface so that you can learn its features and produce objects very quickly. On the other hand, the minimalistic design has severe limits if you want to bring your work to the next level. Thus, it’s a perfect option for beginners and kids because professional designers won’t accept these limits.
The video below is a simple example of how 3D Builder works.
If you are looking for a simple Onshape alternative, then 3D builder can be a suitable option.
4. Fusion 360
Just like TinkerCAD, Fusion 360 is a perfect 3D modeling software from Autodesk company. Most designers, architectures, and engineers know the company by its AutoCAD software. AutoCAD was first released in 1982, and it’s still popular today. However, many things have changed since then.
The CAD programs are becoming more powerful and user friendly. Therefore, Autodesk developed Fusion 360, an advanced CAD software, free for individuals and hobbyists! This action dedicated admirable market share for Autodesk and opened new gates for CAD beginners to use advanced software for free!
In general, you can create super complex CAD models using Fusion 360. The overall design process starts from precise 2D sketches, making 3D objects, and editing the 3D model.
At first, using the software may be overwhelming. However, the standard features of Fusion 360 have the actual capacity of professional software.
Fusion 360 is a cloud-based software that integrates CAD, CAM, and CAE tools to unify design and manufacturing processes in one program. So, it has become a great help to manufacturers, small or big. Hence, upon learning the software, you can create powerful 3D printable objects, getting yourself some job opportunities!
On the other hand, Fusion 360 is a functional modeling software and lacks the robust organic modeling programs’ powerful features. Simply put, You can use Fusion 360 to create precise models that have functional and practical purposes; for example, it’s easier to make gears and RC cars in the software. However, you may struggle to make aesthetic features and organic forms like a flower or a shark’s head.
In these cases, Other free programs like Blender and Leopoly are way more potent though it takes time to master them.
As you may know, 3D printing is a relatively new method of manufacturing and prototyping, so some of the old 3D modeling programs aren’t designed to work with 3D printing. For example, creating complex objects in Blender, especially using automatic plugins, can cause duplicate surfaces while slicing.
As a new CAD software, Fusion 360 is optimized for 3D printing. You can get STL and obj outputs that work perfectly fine.
The software offers several methods like direct, parametric, freeform, surface, and sheet metal modeling that may become handy depending on your project. Thus, Fusion 360 is suitable for day to day printing, serious design, and commercial products creation.
Simulation is another cool feature of advanced modeling software. You can use the software’s simulate tools to test your projects and see how they perform in real life.
The videos below are excellent examples of Fusion 360 in practice.
As a final thought, Fusion 360 is the ideal Onshape alternative if you are looking for more advanced software to create functional models.
Blender is a free 3D modeling software created for various purposes, from modeling and simulation to animation or even rendering! It was initially designed for a private animation studio but quickly turned into an open-source and multi-purpose program.
Because Blender is open-source, many enthusiastic users and fans came together to create a large community that continually enhances the software to the next levels.
Nowadays, there are various plugins available for users to fulfill their needs in different projects. For example, there are plugins that help you create pine trees in a matter of seconds.
However, you should know that some of the plugins are not suitable for creating printable models. They may develop thin layers and sharp edges that cause the slicing process to fail.
The fast-growing popularity of the 3D printing world made the developer provide a solution. They added a feature to the software named 3D Printing ToolBox.
This useful feature can quickly analyze your file and find treats that may cause failure in the 3D printing process. Let’s say you use a plugin that adds hair texture to a surface. This feature can tell if there are pieces thinner than minimum thickness.
Blender has a different approach to 3D modeling compared to Fusion 360 and other functional modelers. It uses polygons to create objects. Hence, the designed model consists of many polygons that make a mesh together. Faces, edges, and vertices are the fundamental elements of a polygon.
The designer’s freedom heavily depends on the number of polygons because more polygons result in a more organic shape. For example, you can create a simple cube with six interlocked polygons. There is also a possibility to increase the number of them in a specific region.
The Blender users typically start their project by creating simple geometries and then increasing polygons in specific regions to add detail to the model. They can also move or deform shapes to sculpt the object.
There are more options available for computer graphics designers, allowing them to add color and movement to their projects and create astonishing scenes through rendering them.
Blender’s ability to create animation and aesthetic products is beyond the scope of 3D printing, though.
In conclusion, Blender is a fantastic option for surface processing and creating aesthetic models like action figures and decorative objects. On the other hand, reaching the best dimensional accuracy is much more challenging due to its successive subdivisions, so organic modeling is the regular use of Blender.
You can see the actual process of designing with Blender in the video below:
Blender can be an excellent Onshape alternative if your goal is to sculpt your designs.
There are various CAD programs. Depending on your goals, the best Onshaper alternative can vary from one person to another. However, The ones we named are the best free options in their own categories.