Compared: The 10 Best 3D CAD Software

Updated Sep 21, 2020
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Design is a very crucial step in any manufacturing and creation process. Despite its importance, there was once a time when Design was subjected to limitations and inaccuracies present in the use of the traditional drafting desk and physical tools. Following the need to eliminate these inaccuracies, CAD software applications were developed.

Over the years, several advancements have been made in the CAD industry. Hundreds of powerful CAD software that are capable of highly complex designs and 3D modeling, now exist. However, certain packages are leading the way in terms of functionality and capabilities.

In light of this, we at Scan2CAD have compiled a list of the top 10 3D modeling software available today. In this article, we will be going through their features, capabilities, compatibility, supported file types, and other features that make them stand above the rest. Note that while some of these software programs have 2D drafting capabilities, we will only be considering their 3D modeling capabilities. That being said, let’s proceed to the list.

1. AutoCAD

AutoCAD 3D modeling screenshot

AutoCAD 3D modeling (Source)

AutoCAD is a highly functional 2D and 3D CAD modeling software by Autodesk – the most popular and prestigious CAD software developer. While this software was first released in 1982 as a 2D drafting software, several advancements over the years have seen AutoCAD grow to include powerful features that cater to the modeling needs of numerous industries. Although it is marketed as a single package, AutoCAD comes with many industry-specific toolsets that can be, themselves, considered as individual products. These toolsets, their features, and their capabilities are as follows.

AutoCAD classic comes with the familiar AutoCAD interface, which allows users to create 2D drafts, produce 3D models, and annotate models in 2D.

AutoCAD Architecture, as the name implies, is a toolset for the architecture industry. It contains features for the production and documentation of architectural designs and the creation of building models.

AutoCAD Mechanical is developed for DFM (Design For Manufacturing). It is used for creating, modifying, and documenting mechanical models.

AutoCAD Plant 3D allows you to model very detailed plants with complex pipe routes and numerous machinery.

Other toolsets are AutoCAD electrical and AutoCAD MEP.

  • Operating system: Windows, Mac
  • File formats: DWG, DFX
  • Interested? Check out our AutoCAD pricing.

2. Inventor

Inventor 3D modeling screenshot

Inventor 3D modeling (Source)

Also known as Autodesk Inventor Professional, Inventor is a 3D mechanical modeling CAD software for all things product design and engineering. In line with its name, Inventor Professional comes with professional-grade tools for all your 3D mechanical design needs. These tools can be classified into product design, modeling, simulation, visualization, and collaboration. With these tools, you can easily create and edit individual 3D models, couple several parts to form an assembly, and produce detailed drawings for manufacturing. Inventor’s modeling tools also enable you to design complex sheet metal parts, build pipe and tube routes, and integrate electronics your mechanical models.

The simulation tools allow you to analyze the behavior of your model under real-life conditions of stress and applied forces.

Finally, to help you properly visualize and study tour model, Inventor includes powerful visualization and rendering tools.

  • Operating system: Windows
  • File formats: IPT, IAM, IDW, DWG
  • Interested? Check out our Inventor pricing.

3. Solidworks

Solidworks 3D modeling screenshot

Solidworks 3D modeling (Source)

Solidworks is our first entry from Dassault systems, one of Autodesk’s major rivals. It is a solid modeling CAD and analysis software. Its equally impressive lineup of highly advanced modeling features makes it a worthy adversary of Inventor. Whether you are modeling an individual component, or an assembly comprising of numerous parts, Solidworks has the right features that enable you to do it. However, Solidworks didn’t earn its place on this list through its design features alone. The software has powerful simulation tools that allow you to carry out the following analysis on your model. These include high cycle fatigue, computational fluid dynamics, and endurance under stress.

Furthermore, visualization and rendering tools allow you to turn your models into animations and high-quality images. Other features of Solidworks include technical communication, electrical design, 2D CAD, product data management, and communication. Some of these features are available as add-ons.

  • Operating system: Windows
  • File formats: SLDDRW, SLDPRT, SLDASM
  • Interested? Check out our Solidworks pricing.

4. Vectorworks

Vectorworks 3D modeling screenshot

Vectorworks 3D modeling (Source)

Vectorworks is a multipurpose 2D drafting and 3D modeling software that caters to numerous industries. It consists of several fully functional, individual products for a variety of industries. These industries include mechanical engineering, entertainment, civil engineering, architecture, landscaping, manufacturing, and stage management. The different Vectorworks products with 3D modeling capabilities and their respective industries are as follows.

Vectorworks Fundamental is a 2D/3D modeling and documentation software that enables you to sketch, model, and analyze. Despite its name, there is absolutely nothing fundamental about this product. Its capabilities include solid modeling, simulation, and coordination.

Vectorworks Architect is used to create 3D architectural models using a suite of intuitive tools and an integrated BIM workflow.

Vectorworks Landmark is dedicated to landscape design and planning.

Other Vectorworks products are Vectorworks Spotlight, Vectorworks Designer, and Vectorworks Braceworks.

5. Solid Edge

Solid Edge 3D modeling screenshot

Solid Edge 3D modeling (Source)

Developed by Siemens PLM Software, Solid Edge is a 2D drafting and solid modeling CAD software package for mechanical and electrical design, and product development. The software combines the flexibility and control of parametric modeling with the speed and simplicity of direct modeling. Solid Edge boasts of a complete set of features required for product development.  One of these features, mechanical and electrical design, is used for creating solid models, detailed drawings, sheet metal parts, and top-down assembly. Other features are simulation, data management, manufacturing, and technical publications.

  • Operating system: Windows
  • Interested? Check out our Solid Edge pricing.

6. Onshape

Onshape 3D modeling screenshot

Onshape 3D modeling (Source)

Onshape is a mechanical-focused CAD software package that is capable of handling all aspects of product development. It is one of the two software packages on our list that are delivered through a SAAS model, online. This cancels out the need for downloads, installation, or upgrades as the latest version is always available through web browsers. Onshape focuses primarily on mechanical CAD, and it boasts of an impressive lineup of 3D modeling features. These features enable you to create complex solids, build detailed assemblies, and exchange files. Also, Onshape includes standard content libraries.

  • Operating system: Windows, IOS, Android, Linus, OSX
  • File formats: PDF, MP4, PNG, JPEG, SVG, GIF, TXT, MD
  • Interested? Check out our Onshape pricing.

7. Fusion 360

Fusion 360 3D modeling screenshot

Fusion 360 3D modeling (Source)

Another powerful entry on our list from Autodesk is Fusion 360. This is a fully integrated CAD, CAM, and CAE modeling software. Fusion 360 eliminates disconnected product development processes as it combines design, manufacturing, and engineering into a single package. The CAD features of Fusion 360 can be grouped into the following. 3D design/modeling, generative design, and simulation. Other features are documentation, collaboration, and manufacturing.

Fusion 360 allows you to create very complex individual or multi-component systems, using both geometric and parametric-based approaches. Its powerful simulation features include shape optimization, modal frequency, event simulation, and static stress analysis.

8. Revit

Revit 3D modeling screenshot

Revit 3D modeling (Source)

Revit is a multipurpose BIM software package that is dedicated to architectural, civil engineering, MEP (Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing) engineering, landscape, and structural designs. This professional software is a complete package for all building and construction design needs. It enables design experts in these fields to design and model 3D structures while annotating with 2D. In addition, Revit’s 4D BIM tools give users the ability to not only track the chronological advancements of a project but also to envision the duration of any stage of a structure’s life cycle.

No matter how complex the infrastructure or building that you ate modeling is, Revit had the tools to help you design, analyze, and simulate your model. Its features can be classified into architectural design, structural engineering and fabrication, MEP engineering and fabrication, and construction.

  • Operating system: Windows
  • File formats: RVT, RFA, RTE, RFT, and others
  • Interested? Check out our Revit pricing.


Catia 3D modeling screenshot

Catia 3D modeling (Source)

CATIA is a multi-Industry 3D modeling software package. It is the second entry on our list from Dassault Systems. Similar to Vectorworks, Catia has a number of products that handle different fields of 3D modeling.

3DEXPERIENCE CATIA is the main product for all design and engineering activities. It enables you to create various types of 3D parts and assembly for a wide range of engineering processes.  The tools of this product are classified as construction, design/styling, engineering, and systems engineering.

With CATIA V5, users can carry out mechanical design, shape design & styling, product synthesis, equipment & systems Engineering, analysis, and machining.

  • Operating system: Windows
  • Interested? Check out CATIA.

10. Creo

Creo 3D modeling screenshot

Creo 3D modeling (Source)

Creo is a 3D CAD, CAM, and CAE software solution for product design and development. This software allows users to design and create their products. It has an amazing variety of tools, capabilities, and features to effectively take your products from a simple concept to a detailed digital prototype. Creo’s features can be classified into modeling and design, simulation and analysis, augmented reality, smart connected design, additive manufacturing, and model-based design.


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