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Top 5 SketchUp Alternatives

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Since it was launched in 2000, SketchUp has become a very popular CAD program among designers, engineers, and architects due to its simple intuitive user interface and fast learning curve.

SketchUp is primarily used for architecture rendering, making 3D models of robots, sculptures, and 3D printable products.

It was developed to run on Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems.

SketchUp comes in two versions; the free Sketchup version and the Paid SketchUp versions. While free Sketchup Version is purely web-based, the paid versions (SketchUp Shop and SketchUp Pro) are available as web versions or as downloadable applications that run on standalone computers. The SketchUp Shop goes for $119.00 per year while the SketchUp Pro goes for $299.00 per year.

Compared to most CAD programs, SketchUp offers one of the cheapest pro versions of a CAD program. Most paid versions of CAD programs cost thousands of dollars a year, which is at times way above what most designers, engineers, and architects are willing to spend on CAD software.

Nonetheless, in case someone needs to perform additional tasks that are not possible with SketchUp, they could look for SketchUp alternatives.

And while it is hard to find other CAD programs that can check all the boxes checked by Sketchup in terms of affordability, user-friendly interface and ease of learning, and a wide range of 3D modeling features, Scan2CAD has compiled a list of the top 5 CAD programs that can be used as SketchUp alternatives.

Autodesk Inventor

Autodesk Inventor

Figure 1. Autodesk Inventor (Source)

Developers: Autodesk

Features: 2D drawing tools, 3D modeling tools, simulation tools, FEA analysis tools, documentation tools, and can export into several CAD file formats.

Suitable for: Parametric, direct, and free-form modeling, 2D drawing, assembly drawing, designing mechatronics systems, simulations, and FEA analysis.

Operating system(s): Windows

Cost: It has a free student version and a paid version which goes for $260 per month or $2,085 per year (though users may opt to try it for free for one month)

If you are looking for a 2D drawing and 3D modeling CAD program that you can use instead of SketchUp, Autodesk Inventor is a great choice. And although it is costlier than SketchUp, it has more features than SketchUp.

This is a product of Autodesk that has been in the market for over 20 years. 

It was built for professionals and designed to handle large industrial projects. It can be used for making both 2D and 3D mechanical designs. And besides 2D drawing and 3D modeling, it also has lots of post modeling tools that enable users to perform rendering, simulation, and documentation. 

Though it requires more training compared to SketchUp and a bit of Engineering knowledge, it has quite a user-friendly interface and it is easier to use compared to other CAD programs that are designed to perform similar tasks.

Autodesk Fusion 360

Autodesk Fusion 360

Figure 2. Autodesk Fusion 360 (source)

Developers: Autodesk

Features: 3D modeling and sculpting, like 3D rendering, simulation, animation, and CAM tools.

Suitable for: Parametric sculpting and modeling, and rendering.

Operating system(s): macOS and Windows

Cost: It has a free version that can be used by hobbyists, students, educators, and start-ups earning under $100,000, and a paid version that goes for $60 per month or $495 per year (with a free one month trial).

Fusion 360 is another Autodesk product and it is a cloud-based CAD program. 

It is a great SketchUp alternative especially for designers or engineers looking for a CAD program with more powerful modeling capabilities than SketchUp.

Its parametric modeling system makes it easy for users to track changes. Also, it stores the design files in an Autodesk account to enable users to access them from any other computer rather than the one that was used to generate them.

The only disadvantage with Fusion 360 in comparison to SketchUp is that its user interface is more complicated and may take some time for a beginner to learn how to use it.

The recent release has a built-in-3D slicer that makes it possible for users to perform slicing when 3D modeling and designing.

Tinkercad

Tinkercad

Figure 3. Tinkercad (source)

Developers: Autodesk

Features: Gallery of Things containing thousands of already created models available to the users for use in 3D modeling

Operating system(s): Wed-based

Cost: free

Tinkercad was initially developed to make it easy for less technical users to do 3D design. The original company behind this CAD software was acquired by Autodesk in 2013. Being web-based enables even persons with lesser space on their computers to download, install and run a CAD program to design 3D models.

Tinkercad is a browser-based CAD program and it has a user interface that is almost similar to that of SketchUp. It is easy to learn and use and anyone including people with less engineering, design or architectural knowledge can comfortably use it to generate 3D printable models.

The software has gained popularity within the 3D printing world with enthusiasts opting for it due to its ease of use.

One of its most impressive features is that it provides users with a gallery of things containing thousands of already created models that they can drag, drop and arrange accordingly to come up with a complex 3D object.

It also comes with lots of tutorials that make the learning curve quite fast compared to that of SketchUp.

It is best suited for CAD beginners who are looking to make 3D printing models real quick without having to take a lot of time learning how to draw 3D models.

Art of Illusion

Art of Illusion

Figure 4. Art of Illusion (Source)

Developers: Peter Eastman

Features: surface modeling tools, 3D rendering tools, animation tools, texture creation tools and compatible with a wide range of plug-ins and scripts

Operating system(s): Windows, Linux, and macOS

Cost: free

Art of Illusion is an open-source CAD 3D modeling software that was launched in 1999. Over the years, it has become prevalent among the RepRap community due to its built-in image rendering tools, fast learning curve, and intuitive user interface.

The software provides users with surface modeling tools which makes 3D modeling quite easy and fun. It also has built-in 3D rendering tools, animation tools, and texture creation tools.

Users can also add several plug-ins and scripts through its “Plug-in Manager”. For instance, if a user wants to export files in STL file format for 3D Printing, they should install a suitable plugin such as the “STLTranslator plug-in”.

Shapr3D

Sharpr3D

Figure 5. Sharpr3D (source)

Developers: Shapr3D Zrt

Features: semi-professional 3D modeling and design, and an intuitive user interface

Operating system(s): iPad Pro

Cost: It has an educational free version while the pro version allows users to make two designs for free and then they have to pay $240 per year.

Sharpr3D is CAD software that was made to be used on iPads using the Apple Pencil. It was launched in 2016 after the release of the iPad Pro. Therefore, it provides a perfect SketchUp alternative for designers or engineers who are always on the go and want to design semi-professional 3D models.

Sharpr3D was among the first Computer-Aided Design programs to be integrated into a handheld device to allow for semi-professional 3D modeling and design.

It provides engineers and designers with the capability to design and draw on the go. Its user interface is very easy to use and intuitive and it almost feels like taking a pen and sketching on your notepad.

It uses the same Siemens engine that the SolidWorks CAD program uses.

Conclusion

SketchUp is popular for being cost-effective and easy to use. However, designers, engineers, or architects may require other CAD programs to perform specific tasks that SketchUp may not be able to perform well. And that is why Scan2CAD has compiled this list of the top 5 SketchUp alternatives.

Although several other CAD programs can be used to perform the same functions as SketchUp, the above-mentioned CAD programs are the best SketchUp alternatives. 

And although some of these alternatives may be more expensive compared to SketchUp, they provide added capabilities that may be of more help compared to SketchUp.

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