5 Tools Every CAD Designer Needs

Updated Jun 14, 2017
5 Tools for CAD Designers

CAD can be complex. Design involves a wide range of different software, and takes place both at your desk and on-the-go. No matter your budget or your company’s needs, there are always ways to increase your productivity and efficiency. In this article, we’ll cover 5 tools that every designer needs. We’ll discuss everything from how to keep your files safe through to the best conversion software on the market.

1. The Right Software

The CAD software that you use impacts on all of your design projects. It’s therefore critical to choose the right software for your needs. After all, if your software is too simple or too complex, then you won’t be able to produce the right kind of drawings. In order to choose the right software, you’ll need to take into account your budget, your design needs, and whether you want to work in 2D or 3D—amongst other factors.

AutoCAD logo AutoCAD is the flagship design program from Autodesk. It’s the most widely-used CAD program in the world—and for good reason. Equipped with world-class design features, this software even allows designers to draft in 3D. You can also use the software’s native DWG file format to take full advantage of these features, and create more complex designs. The only downsides are the price, and the fact that its 3D capabilities are somewhat lacking in comparison to other software on the market.

FreeCAD logo FreeCAD is an open source, parametric 3D CAD modeler, on par with most popular CAD software out there. And, in case the name didn’t give it away, it’s free. You don’t even have to download anything to make use of its extensive features—ranging from real 3D solids to 2D drafting. The software is perhaps most useful for beginners and for those learning CAD, so if you’re looking to design professionally, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

ArchiCAD logo ArchiCAD is aimed at the AEC (Architectural, Engineering and Construction) sector. It has specialized features, including extensive libraries of building objects, plus 2D and 3D drafting and visualization capabilities. If that wasn’t enough, it has a modification replication feature, which enables you to replicate any changes you make to the overall design across every view—including plans.  

Autodesk Revit logo Autodesk Revit, like all of Autodesk’s products, is a leader in the CAD industry. It’s fully integrated with BIM (Building Information Management). BIM provides users with functional aspects of their projects, such as gravity levels and functional weaknesses. It’s more complex than AutoCAD, meaning that it takes more time to get used to. However, if you’re looking for incredible 3D and 4D capabilities, or you work on large-scale projects, then Revit is perfect for your needs.

Though this list is a great starting point, these programs are just the tip of the iceberg. Before you commit to purchasing a piece of CAD software, take your time to fully consider your options, and work out what you need from the program.

2. Mobile Apps

Nowadays, you don’t need to be at your desk to be productive. Everything is accessible on your mobile device—and CAD is no different. As we’ve previously discussed, there’s a huge range of mobile CAD apps available, helping you view, edit, and create your designs on-the-go. So, no matter where you are, you can make your CAD work more flexible and efficient. Just take a look at the apps below for a glimpse into the world of mobile CAD.

AutoCAD 360 logo AutoCAD 360 (Android and iOS)

If you’re looking for a tried and trusted app, then look no further than AutoCAD 360, the mobile offering from the Autodesk stable of products. The app allows users to view 2D and 3D CAD files, and share them via email or cloud storage. You can draw, measure and edit shapes. Upgrade to the pro version, and you’ll also be able to make use of arcs, offsets, and other premium features. With AutoCAD 360, it doesn’t matter whether you’re working online or offline—you can still create great designs. 

eDrawings logo eDrawings Pro (Android and iOS)

This app may be a little pricier than some others, at $9.99, but it’s worth the outlay. With eDrawings Pro, you can view 2D and 3D CAD files, and make comments with freehand notations and text notes. In addition to support for the common DWG an DXF formats, it also supports eDrawings files and native SolidWorks files. It even offers Augmented Reality, so you can visualize your 3D models in real-life context, at a 1:1 scale.

Still looking for more from your CAD apps? There are hundreds of apps available—this list here only just scratches the surface. No matter which app you choose, going mobile gives you the chance to stay productive no matter where you are. So, break free from the laptop and head out into the wide world of CAD!

3. The Cloud

The impact of the cloud on CAD is clearly making itself felt. The CAD sector has been making use of the cloud for storage purposes some time. In recent years, however, the CAD sector has begun to embrace cloud-based software. This means that CAD is now available in-browser, with no downloads necessary. Thanks to these applications, teams can now work truly collaboratively on a single platform. Not only that, but these tools are cost-effective, as you can pay for monthly subscriptions and use it on any device.

onshape logoOnshape

Too often, cloud-based apps are seen as merely complementary to the real deal: the desktop app. Not so with Onshape, the first full-cloud 3D CAD application. As such, there’s nothing to download, and no need for updates—the app exists and evolves entirely online. Through Onshape, entire teams can access, edit, and create together, in real-time. It doesn’t matter which device you’re using, or where you are—as long as you’re online, Onshape is there.

autodesk logo Fusion 360

Fusion 360 is Autodesk’s first foray into cloud-based CAD. It does require a download, but the software is fully cloud-enabled. With Fusion 360, you can create, edit and collaborate from anywhere. The app is available across a range of devices, and because you’re downloading the app onto your device, you can even edit offline—giving you the best of both worlds!

With cloud-based CAD becoming increasingly common, this list is far from complete. There are a wide range of applications out there, meaning that you can easily find an accessible, cost-effective design tool to suit your needs.

4. Security Tools

We all face risks to our online security—and for CAD users, that means that keeping files safe is a priority. A lack of security could leave you vulnerable to intellectual property theft and plagiarism. When you’re working on a critical design, that’s a risk that you can’t afford to take. To help minimise these threats, you can start by following our manual steps on how to secure your files. For an added layer of security, however, it can also help to take advantage of the many security tools on offer.

autodesk vault's logo Autodesk Vault is a data management app that doubles up as a great security tool. You can use it to track work progress and to collaborate in teams. It comes with a range of security measures: you can place user-based permissions on your CAD designs, plus Windows security authentication. The software provides management features to help you keep track of your revision history, and take additional steps to improve your file management

dwg lock logo

AutoDWG Lock is one of the many free encryption tools on the market. You can use it to protect your CAD drawings from being copied or modified without your permission, helping to prevent against theft and plagiarism. It supports AutoCAD drawings from R2.9 to 2016, as well as DXF files. It’s a standalone application, so you don’t need AutoCAD to use it. 

It’s also worth coordinating your security tools with the CAD software you use. If you use Autodesk programs or SolidWorks, then you can take advantage of the security measures bundled with this software, which range from password protection to user-based permissions. Check out the security features that your software has to offer to make an informed choice.

5. The Right Converter

Image Conversion - Pixelated raster to vector When creating a design, you’re likely to use both raster and vector images. This can prove to be a real stumbling block if you’re looking to take a design from a hard copy into your CAD software of choice. When this situation arises, you could spend hours tracing your image manually. You could put your faith in an untested, unsecured online converter. Or, you could go pro, and choose the conversion software built to handle every type of image. Go for Scan2CAD.

With almost two decades of history, Scan2CAD is the market-leading vectorization software. Architects, engineers, sculptors and emergency services have all put their trust in our software, helping them to get the job done.

Scan2CAD supports no less than 33 file types, meaning that you can import practically any raster image file or PDF, and export to vector formats such as DXF, DWG and SVG

Not only that, but Scan2CAD comes complete with a raster and vector editing suite. With these features, you can optimize your image prior to conversion, and make finishing touches afterwards, helping you get perfect vectorization results. Plus, the software’s OCR capabilities give you the ability to convert images and text side-by-side, meaning that your technical drawings stay intact.

Try out Scan2CAD’s free 14-day trial and make use of all its professional features—without any limits. Convert as many files as you want, with no watermarks or restrictions!

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