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SolidWorks is one of the most popular CAD programs on the market. It is estimated that it has around 3 Million users worldwide.
That being said it is not perfect, as anyone who has experienced "Zero thickness geometry" errors will attest.
Yet despite this, and its popularity, it is very expensive if you can't get a free license. If you can't justify the investment, there are some good alternatives to it out there.
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Can you download SolidWorks for free?
Yes and no - it really depends on your personal circumstances and preferences. If you are a student you can get a heavily discounted SolidWorks package for $150.
But of course, that isn't free.
The best thing to do is to contact your school's CAD Administrator to find out if you are eligible for Student Access Licensing. This is available to any school that has a certain number of networked seats of SolidWorks (credit to scan2cad.com for the following information).
- If your school has 45 or more networked seats it qualifies for a Student Design Kit program. This provides access to students for SolidWorks Standard that can be installed on your PC.
- If your school has more than 100 networked seats it qualifies for the Student Engineering Kit. With this program, students can install SolidWorks Premium locally.
- If none of the above apply, it is always worth asking the relevant administrator if you can borrow an existing license to use.
But you might want to consider downloading the SolidWorks Free Trial version. This is great if you are unsure whether you want to commit to parting with your money to buy your own version.
You can choose between a downloaded, local version or test the product online at my.SolidWorks.com. The latter is preferable if you don't want to download a hefty CAD program onto your computer.
Finally, and not really recommended, you could "risk it" and get your hands on a 'cracked version'. But note this is not only risky but is actually illegal.
For those who are willing to take the risk, make sure your anti-virus software is up to date. But, once again, we do not condone nor recommend this!
Does SolidWorks have a free version for students?
As we have just detailed, there are no free versions of full SolidWorks per se. You can try trial versions of it online or locally, or try to get a user license from your school if you are a student.
How much does SolidWorks student cost?
SolidWorks student version costs around $150. For reference, a full license will set you back just shy of $4 K!
You can explore some more nefarious means of getting a "free" version, like cracks, but that avenue exposes you to the threat of viruses and, of course, breaking the law!
What are some good free alternatives to SolidWorks?
If you are unable to get your hands on a SolidWorks license for free, as detailed above, you might want to consider some alternatives. The following are some of the best free or open-source CAD programs out there.
This list comes courtesy of learn.g2.com, and is far from exhaustive.
1. FreeCAD is great and open-source
FreeCAD is a parametric 3D modeling program that has the capability for plugins to be added for more functionality. With it, you can import and export files in multiple formats.
It also comes with an architecture module that ostensibly functions like a BIM program. FreeCAD, as the name suggests, is completely free and is all open-source.
2. Fusion 360 is free for students, hobbyists, and startups
Fusion 360 is a great little CAD program that is free for startups and amateurs. It comes complete with various 3D modeling tools and also offers a variety of assembly modeling, motion studies and simulation tools.
If you do not qualify as a startup or hobbyist, you can pay $25/$40 a month for the standard version. Alternatively, you can drop $125/$190 a month for its Ultimate version.
3. Onshape is pretty interesting
Onshape is another free alternative to SolidWorks but only if it used for non-commercial purposes. It comes with a variety of import and export options, and version control.
Add-ons are also available from its app store that can provide a wide variety of extra options and functions. Onshape, unlike other CAD programs, stores all data on a central DB which is accessible to all other users rather than saving local files.
If you want to use it for commercial use it will cost you $125 a month which is billed annually.
4. nanoCAD is 'industrial standard'
nanoCAD is a great little CAD program that has a variety of APIs and powerful table editor. It can easily handle 2D and 3D models and is 'industry standard'.
It has multiple methods of creating geometric shapes available, and many of the features are also customizable.
The basic software is free to use but you can pay for the plus version ($180) or pro versions ($290).
5. OpenSCAD comes recommended
OpenSCAD is another great open-source CAD program specifically for solid 3D models. It is not, however, an interactive sculptor.
Rather it is an interpreter of script files which then creates 3D models. OpenSCAD is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
6. Tinkercad is mainly for kids
Tinkercad is free and browser-based. This one, unlike others, is primarily aimed at children and beginners.
It is based around a building block system and can be used to import vector shapes and convert them to 3D. It also offers 3D printing services, integration with all 3D printers, and exports to laser cutters.
7. LibreCAD has an extensive wiki user guide
LibreCAD is another free open-source 2D CAD program available for Windows, Apple, and Linux. If you get stuck it has an extensive wiki available for users who need help with its features.
The program is fully customizable and hackable with extensive support from the user community and creators.