Need Suggestions for CAD Software


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You should be able to get Fusion 360 free for a hobby license.  It's got a steep learning curve but once you get the hang of it, it's awesome.  I'll find a few pictures of things I've done with it. Lots of official tutorials for it but I've used these: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DrLOPJq_stc&ab_channel=ProductDesignOnline The biggest challenge for tutorials though is keeping up the interface changes. 

https://www.autodesk.com.au/products/fusion-360/personal

 

https://a360.co/3onWrn5 - This is a dining table I made earlier in the year. 

https://a360.co/3o5qtwa - This is a side table idea I've been playing around with. Saw it on Youtube and thought I'd draw my own version.

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Consider looking into FreeCAD (www.freecadweb.org) before going the Fusion or Sketchup routes. FreeCAD is much like Fusion, but with one big difference...it is actually FREE. No "hobby" or "student" license that may get yanked away at any time. It is also a bit less demanding of system resources, and will run one older, less powerful computers. Also, it is offered for MS Windows, Apple's OSX, and Linux of almost any variant. And as source code, should you care to compile it for yourself.

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SketchUp is a very different type of program than FreeCAD or Fusion360. 

One major difference is that with SketchUp every object is composed of line segments.  It cannot draw a true circle, only a polygon with numerous sides.  This is a problem for me in trying model turned pieces.  However, if what you are using it for is modeling flatwork I don't believe you will ever notice.

A second major difference is that the two CAD programs are parametric (I think I have that correct), so you can more easily change the size of a 3D component just by changing the size of the underlying drawing.  

As I said I found SketchUp insufficient once I tried using it for turning, but it was much easier to learn, largely due to the excellent ebook written by Bob Lang (which, though a few years old now, I would still recommend).  

Transitioning to Fusion 360 was difficult, and I can only just barely draw something approximating what I'm trying to visualize.  Which I have to let be enough--I'm trying to turn wood, not become a professional CAD modeler.

So my advice is two fold.  First if your needs are to 3D model rectilinear objects like typical pieces of furniture, then go with both SketchUp and Lang's book.  If you need a parametric CAD program, then choose between them based on the availability of instruction: book, internet, community college, a knowledgeable friend.  

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I’ve used Sketchup for years and wouldn’t use anything else as it is easy to learn and use. They have an online version now but I still have the 2017 version that works just fine and it is free. If you are just designing furniture ot anything for that matter without the need to give photorealism I think it is great. 
 

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I'll toss in that Sketchup is easy for most people to learn (the basics, anyway) because it follows a 'Drag and Drop' model of user interface. Parts can be manipulated quickly with the mouse, although reverting to parameter entry from the keyboard is usually necessary for accuracy. The web version does (most) everything the locally installed versions did, but the interface is modified to be more touch screen friendly. Nice for accessing models from a tablet or phone.

Parametric modelers like FreeCAD or Fusion rely more on the entry of data that constrains each part to the desired shape and dimension. The beauty of such a system is that the parameters can be referenced against one another, and key values stored in a spreadsheet for quick access. I have a model of a 4-leg table, with related parameters and formulas applied such that I can quickly change things like the height, width, depth, or stock thickness, and the model instantly rebuilds itself to those new dimensions. Incredibly useful for checking how the change in dimension affects the appearance or proportionality. There is also an Android viewer app for the .stl files it can produce, so carrying a model around on a tablet or phone is convenient for showing your client.

Pro tip for anyone wanting to build a wooden boat - FreeCAD has a 'ship builder' workbench add-on that allows you to quickly generate a hull from a set of key dimensions. 

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