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CAD Software Recommendation?

John Mulhern

Sep 7, 2004
Riverside, Calif.
Hello. Any advice on a simple free or low cost 2-D CAD software for hobby use? Any CAM properties are completely un-necessary. It would be for the design of bagpipe chanter bores. Because much of the chanter bore data available is in the form of measurements taken with soft probes, NURBS splining ability would be desirable to connect the measured points. Being able to toss in a revolved surface would be nice too. Other than that, just basic CAD drawing functions are all that's needed. It should be relatively easy to learn also, as I'm posting this question for other hobbyists who are not necessarily machinists. Thanks in advance for any help. - John
I used to use autocad years ago (version 7 to get an idea how long ago). When I got back into this and needed a cad program I tried a couple. Alibre was powerful but the documentation was week and the program had enough bugs to be painful. Bobcad was just painful - I hear that the new version is getting better but I am not going back there again. For the basic cad things that I do (adapter plates, fixtures, 2.5d drawing) I have found that Viacad does a good job ( www.punchcad.com/products/viacad2d3d.htm ). They have a version for both Mac and Windows, and both work well. Documentation is good and there are a lot of tutorials built in. For $99 and a free demo, it is worth it.
www.deltacad.com has a nice shareware cad system that alot of the guys at theshop use for simple 2d drawing. you can teach yourself cad in a couple of hours with it. they ask you to buy another version of dcad but the only differance i think is you can put a legend at the bottom.
DeltaCAD $50

I just purchased the regular version of DeltaCAD. It is slightly crude in some ways, but not nearly as crude as the extremely lame example drawings on their website might lead you to believe. It is the easiest and best thing I've found in the U.S., for my needs as a machinist. One of the key things I like is that you can instantly get the X/Y coordinates for a point on your drawing. Then it is not too hard to select and shift your whole drawing to bring that first point to zero/zero. Then you can get the X/Y coordinates, relative to that, for every corner, hole center, radius/line intersection, and radius/radius intersection in your drawing very easily. This was the most important key feature for me, to use for manual programming of CNC equipment. Also useful for manual machining, if you have a DRO on your mill. It is handy for working drawings to have the X and Y for each feature on one line, all relative to some logical base corner or other point you selected, rather than chasing conventional dimensioning all over the print.

I was using something called CAE2D in Japan for this same purpose, which was far better. It had many more useful features crammed into fewer onscreen buttons, and what you wanted to do just seemed to appear when you needed it. Very intuitive, and apparently designed especially for machinist use. But it was all kanji, so I still needed frequent help learning it. I was probably just scratching the surface of its capabilities, but I loved it. However it is illegal to export that to America, and extremely costly to buy anyway.

I tried several other 2D CAD programs in the U.S. but I could barely make any drawing at all on most of them, much less find the required X/Y coordinates.
Solid Edge Free 2-D

Here is the link for Solid Edge 2-D (free)


And a quote from their website:

Solid Edge 2D Drafting (for FREE)
Whether you are using 2D across your company or for a specific 2D design process, Solid Edge 2D Drafting will give you an immediate advantage with production-proven capabilities including drawing layout, Goal Seeking, diagramming, and dimensioning. It is fully compliant with ISO, ANSI, BSI, DIN, JIS and UNI, and it's absolutely FREE to download and use.

Solid Edge 2D Drafting eases the transition from 2D AutoCAD with import wizards, matched fonts and color schemes, XREF support, paper/model space support and much more. Get up to speed faster with a built-in Command Finder - never look for AutoCAD equilvalent command again.

Solid Edge 2D Drafting requires Windows XP or Vista and now includes the Free Solid Edge Viewer. Make sure you have Internet Explorer version 6.0 or later for the download.
GStarICAD is worthy your trial use

If you are looking for the costly 2D CAD software,I would like to recomend those CAD software belong to ITC,which is a low price,but the performance is ok if you just take the drawing as hobby.(http://www.staricad.com) GStarICAD is a good CAD software among ITC,you can have a try
DesignCAD and ContourCAM

Hi John,

I'd like to recommend one of the DesignCAD products. They are pretty cheap, and most importantly they ar easy to learn.

DesignCAD v. 18 is the 2D product and it comes at $49.95.

DesignCAD 3D MAX v. 18 is the 3D version, which comes at $99.95.

Should you later find that you need a CAM system, ContourCAM is a comprehensive DesignCAD plugin.

You may find information on the DesignCAD series here:


and a trial version of DesignCAD 3D MAX v. 18 here:


and information and trial version of ContourCAM here: www.contourcam.com.

Hope this helps.
Autodesk used to do a free 1-year license for "makers" and hobby users. Not sure about capabilities as I've only used Autodesk products sparingly in the last 15 years. I've read somewhere you sign up for the student/hobby license, but glancing around their site, it looks like there may only be a student version now, as I see no mention of hobby use. Might be worth a little digging. I've run across the info repeatedly on 3d printing forums and other maker-centric sites catering to DIY CNC plasma tables and such.

Cloud Powered 3D CAD/CAM Software for Product Design | Fusion 36
I miss the old days, when hackers would try to sell their good old American-made warez. None of this Made in India (not that there's anything wrong with that) stuff.

Written by Americans, stolen by Americans, and marketed to Americans willing to buy counterfeit software.

What's happened to us? We can't even support American thieves anymore??
Hello Emanuel,

Hope you are doing great. You would have been yelling out loud if you would have found ActCAD. My experiences relates you as I was in shock after getting the best CAD Software alternative with Lifetime validity just under $250/-.

Appy Ronaldo, hope you would have paid the same and experienced that joy of getting a full professional grade CAD Solution at an affordable price.

Highly recommended. Leaving the link below for the community to give a try.


And Emanuel, hoping next time you land on to decide ActCAD for your work needs.


Thomas Parker
Hi "Thomas",

It's curious that ActCAD is getting your recommendation, and your location isn't filled in. But from their website, it sure seems like this isn't a local company. Do you know minu from above?

Contact us
Global Head Office

Corporate Office:
ActCAD Engineering Solutions Pvt. Ltd.
304 Panchsheel Complex, Nizampet Rd.
Hyderabad 500090, India

Registered Office:
ActCAD Engineering Solutions Pvt. Ltd.
#6-464, Sri Mutyala Sreehari Estate
Rangampeta-533291, East Godavari Dt.
Andhra Pradesh, India

Technical & Sales Office:
ActCAD Engineering Solutions Pvt. Ltd.
304 Panchsheel Complex
Nizampet Rd.
Hyderabad-500090, India

And our Indian friend Appy Ronaldo from #16? His suggestion, TrueCAD, has a "Contact Us" that's identical to the "Global" office for Actcad. No coincidence there, I'm sure...