Free and cheap CAD
This page is devoted to free or cheap Computer Aided Design software. It ain't pretty, but I hope it's useful!
Many years ago now I worked as a mechanical engineer, using SDRC IDEAS (briefly), Pro-ENGINEER (quite a bit) and AutoCAD (a lot on version 10 in the distant past, and briefly on 12). Now I'm a publisher and just using (mostly 3D) CAD as a hobby. So I developed an interest in (legal) CAD software which is cheap, or, even better, free!
Update Dec 2011: I'm not using CAD myself at all at the moment, though that may eventually change (I'm starting to dabble in home-built CNC machines :-). But for now this page is maintained purely by reader-submitted updates - please email me (to peter atsignthingy eland dotty org diespammersdot uk) with your experiences of the software listed. Please do also suggest new ones I've missed - I'll include them if they are free or cheap (a few hundred pounds/dollars/Euros) and useful for engineering CAD rather than just as 'visual effects' modelling. To keep this page useful I want stuff that is free or cheap long-term - not just free 30-day trials. I'll try to download and play with the ones suggested, but alas I may just not get round to it, so this page relies on your comments. Most recently added or updated stuff is at the top of the list.
NOTE:. Please do not bother asking me to help you locate illegal copies of commercial CAD software. The whole point of this page is to help people who want to use CAD software legally - but want it cheap or free. There is plenty of good stuff listed here - use it!
ALSO NOTE: There's also not much point in contacting me asking for a recommendation for your particular needs. All I know is written here. Just download some of the free ones and see if they work for you!
Forum threads collection - links to relevant threads from engineering forums discussing CAD:
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Creo Elements/Direct Modeling Express
Dec 2011 Dunno about the less than snappy name but Creo Elements/Direct Modeling Express looks good (and free!). Christopher K writes "Pro/ENGINEER FREE!!! limitations - 60 elements? That seems pretty good for a lot of uses, and it's Pro/E!" He's referring to Pro/Engineer, a serious industrial system (though it seems to have now been replaced/rebranded as 'Creo')... if there's a free version that's all good! However, a closer look at the FAQ and data sheet PDF suggests that it saves only in its own format, with limited export (VRML, STL only). But could be a great way to learn a professional CAD system even so. The 'Direct' bit of the name refers to the type of modelling actions used - see here on Wikipedia for a brief explanation.
Dec 2011 Many people have emailed with news of DraftSight. Larry B writes: "It is pretty much an AutoCAD 10/11 clone. It's really nice for ex-drafters like me that know the AutoCAD cli [command line interface], and are too lazy to learn a new interface.". David L writes: "I noticed that you're missing one of my favorites, Draftsight by Dassault Systems (makers of CATIA) It's available for free. I've used it quite a bit myself and find it to be very similar to AutoCAD LT. It's 2d only but has some great functionality at an IDEAL price!". Looks good! I liked the command line too way back in my AutoCAD using days - a bit 'old school' for those used to mouse-driven work but very fast once you're used to it!
Dec 2011: There's now a '123D Catch' add-on which lets you create 3D models automagically from a series of pictures. Discussed e.g. here.
June 2011: Autodesk 123D appears to be a new, free 3D system from the same people who make AutoCAD, one of the longest-established industrial CAD packages. According to the press release it appears they want to make it pay by linking it to manufacturing services, and being poised to take advantage of the growing 3D printer market too. Some details of its import and export capabilities are here on the support forum. See also a HSM forum thread and this video.
APM Design LV and APM Structure 3D LV
Sept 2010: Clayton Macdonald writes: "APM Design LV and APM Structure 3D LV are available free for institutional, student and non-commercial use from APM Research and Devlopment. They are said to be full versions lacking only the databases of standard Russian parts. Some of the translations to English are a little imperfect, but I found the simpler APM Design to be pretty quick to learn. I think both are only for Microsoft OSs. Here's the website: www.apmwm.com/eng/free/"
That could be very useful, especially the 'Structure' one - I don't recall seeing free 3D finite element analysis software before. There's a more detailed page here about the full version, which may give an idea of the free version's capabilities.
Sept 2010: Clayton Macdonald writes: "Cademia: based on Java modules and available for Linux, Mac, Windows. Version 2.0 is apparently soon to be released. Open source." Nice find. Seems aimed mostly at architecture, and entirely 2D as far as I can tell.
CoCreate Modeling Personal Edition
Dec 2011: See "Creo Elements/Direct Modeling Express" a few sections up - it seems to have replaced CoCreate.
Sept 2010: this has moved to www.ptc.com/offers/tryout/pe3.htm and offers "3D CAD Software for free lifetime use". Still looks impressive.
Update April 2008: note received from Co-Create: "We have now launched an update to our Modeling Personal Edition. And besides that we are now part of PTC." The new 2.0 edition seems to have pretty much the same limitations as mentioned below, but it does appear to export STL and VRML and can go up to 72 hours offline. They also now call it an "explicit' system rather than 'dynamic'. Useful user forums in various languages are now available, too. Link: http://www.cocreate.com/products/PE2/ModelingPE2.aspx -Ed
Jan 2007: Press release from Co-Create:
"CoCreate OneSpace Modeling Personal Edition (PE) is the world's first free Dynamic Modeling based 3D CAD software. This software stands apart from any other CAD system you may have tried or are currently using. Built on a history-free foundation, this Dynamic Modeling based 3D CAD software helps you design products, create associative drawings and analyze design ideas quickly - it's like getting Microsoft Office-like productivity from a CAD system. Download a FREE version of OneSpace Modeling PE today and see the "dynamic difference" yourself."
Not tried it yet but looks like a rather professional package, going by the website, and the paid-for version appears to be an industrial-strength 3D CAD system. The free version is free with no expiry but check the FAQ page for details of the limitations - principally a 60-part limit for assemblies, no photo-realistic rendering, requires an internet connection for use and saves only in its own file format, which could be a severe limitation for some. -Ed
September 2010 Several people have noted that Sketchup is now available (still free, though they also sell a 'pro' version) at sketchup.google.com and it's developed some way since we last mentioned it here. As this posting on an engineering forum mentions, there are also a huge number of plug-ins and extensions to add more specific engineering functionality.
Dec 2007: JWCraig notes that this is now free via Google at www.sketchup.com. Architecture-oriented but easy to use.
September 2010: Mike Krall writes: "Unless there has been an uprising I have not heard of, Alibre Design Xpress, is no longer free to use...". Thanks - this does seem to be the case. They now have a 'PE' version for US$99. Shame the users of the free edition got cut off.
5th Feb 2010: Note for UK readers: one of Alibre's UK resellers, Draughtmark Ltd, got in touch as follows: "Alibre Design have taken the bold step of reducing the cost of their entire range of CAD software - permanently. The offer prices of $99 dollars etc that have been running for some time have been replaced by this new permanent low pricing. Alibre Design Standard is £89 + vat, so now falls squarely within the ‘Free and Cheap’ bracket. This is the full version 12.1 software and also includes Alibre Translate, with filters for: SolidWorks Export, Pro Engineer Import, Inventor Import, Parasolid Import, Parasolid Export, Solid Edge Import, CATIA V5 Import. The move reflects Alibre’s desire to establish their presence in the small business and hobbyist sectors." Seems like a good move to me - I've now been using v11 for a few months and like it. Note that as well as the rather 'industrial' import/export options listed above it also has more standard ones like DXF, DWG, IGES, STEP and many more - see e.g. here. -Ed
1st Oct 2009: The offer below seems to have ended.
24th August 2009: URGENT UPDATE! Go NOW to alibre.com and on the front page you will see an offer for the full version of Alibre Design v11 for $99 (was $999). Offer will end when v12 comes out. More details on the Alibre forums. Discussed e.g. here on HSM. Applies to customers in most countries - see e.g. here for UK. I just bought a copy! -Ed.
November 2008: Alibre write to update our old entry below: "Alibre Design Xpress no longer has Google banner ads appear inside of it, nor do we require a user to connect to the internet to use the program - the USD 49 fee we once charged to get this functionality is no longer a restriction on Xpress. Otherwise everything else is OK. Since your last posting on it (July 2005) we've moved from version 8.2 to version 11, so the program (even the free Xpress) has added a good deal of features and capability."
Looks pretty impressive, with full 2D and 3D features (Xpress feature/restriction list here). You get to use the paid features for 30 days, then it reverts to free. They also do a free CAM package Alibre CAM Express. Forums looks busy and helpful too. -Ed
July 2005: X-Cad, as described below, turns out to be Alibre Design Xpress. This is a free 3D package (even for those who didn't register already), but with a pane of Google ads and a need to be online as you work. There are a few other restrictions too on assembly size, exports etc - see e.g. here and here on the Alibre forum for some discussion. Those who registered in advance get a few fewer restrictions. The software will be available for download from August 1st apparently. A USD 49 'upgrade' will remove the banner ads and let you work offline.
August 2009: Xiangwei Li writes:
"A9CAD is a free general-purpose CAD program supporting industry standard DWG and DXF format."
Looks like a straightforward 2D system. The 'Pro' upgrade is only US$29 and that adds a few extra features. They also do batch converter software which handles DXF <=> DWG and also between the various versions of these, again in free/cheap forms. -Ed
Feb 2009: press release from IMSI:
"IMSI/Design, maker of the #1 best-selling CAD in retail [TurboCAD -Ed], announced today it is entering the corporate CAD market with DoubleCAD XT, an AutoCAD LT work-alike that will be distributed online at no charge.... DoubleCAD XT works like AutoCAD LT but goes beyond in a number of important areas, including innovative features like self-healing, ADT-compatible walls, self-aligning blocks, advanced handle-based editing, snap prioritization, a brush editor, and smart dimensions ... DoubleCAD XT also has superior compatibility with Google SketchUp, importing all visible geometry, layers, and components, converting all components to DoubleCAD blocks to optimize drawing performance, creating a paper space from each SketchUp scene, and allowing you to visualize 3D models, even with hidden line and perspective, giving you a printable 2D drawing from the moment you import a model ... We're not constraining printing, saving, file sizes... we're not including untimely time-outs... we're not even constraining the software license -- our free DoubleCAD™ XT can be used for unlimited personal and commercial use."
Main product page is here, download it here and support forums are at forums.doublecad.com. It all looks really promising, and the Sketchup functionality sounds really new and useful. Looks like a strong new contender in the free 2D CAD field - to our benefit as users, making a 2D version available free is a great way for manufacturers to showcase their latest interface and functionality work, and to attract users who may then be tempted to pay for more heavyweight versions or plug-ins. In fact, even the Pro version of DoubleCAD also just about qualifies as 'cheap' for our purposes too at US$695, and adds several interesting capabilities. -Ed
Update Sept 2008: Richard Serna of IronCAD writes: "IronCAD’s software is a 3D dynamic solid modeler and only uses 2D as a method of providing detail drawings for the 3D model. As such we do not provide a standalone 2D product. Our unique approach to 3D design ensures the product is easy to use and allows much more flexibility and freedom in the design process than is typical with conventional CAD modelers and as such is ideal for creative minds and inventors, who wish to allow their designs to evolve on screen. We offer a free 30 day trial of the product on our website and our commercial products start from as little as £600 for a license and student licenses are available for considerably less! If you or any of your readers would like more information on our range of products please contact me (rserna 'at' ironcad.com) and I will be very happy to assist."
Dec 2007: JWCraig notes that this is a free download at www.ironcad.com. But I couldn't locate the 2D free download though when I looked in Feb 2008, just a 30-day trial of their 3D system.
Dec2011 Now moved to here.
Sept 2008: Tom Fenn writes: "You haven't included ViaCAD on your website. VC is ACIS-based (like Solidworks/ Pro/e) and runs on both Macs and PCs- yet is only £50 to purchase. I think that is a bargain- especially as it can also talk with all kinds of other apps, and will also do 2D (as well as 3D). I've a BSc in CAD/ product design. I use Solidworks at work, but like you I'm always on the lookout for good, cheap CAD (I'm a proud user of QCad too!- which you do mention :-)."
Good find - looks pretty impressive at first glance, especially for just US$100.
Sept 2008: David Usher writes: "I cannot find DeltaCAD on your list. I originally bought a copy on CD about ten years ago while working in the middle east. I just wanted something a bit simpler than AutoCAD for personal use. I had an early demo version off a magazine disk that did not have an expiry date but was a bit limited. It was working on Windows 3.1. The bought copy offered more features and in practise offered me what I wanted. This was version 5. A couple of years ago version 6 appeared and no upgrade was offered. As it only cost £20 for the code to activate the download I went and bought it. I now use it all the time for 2D work. It is quick and easy and I cannot recall it ever crashing. Printing is a doddle. I have tried other low cost/free CAD systems but in my opinion non hold a candle to DeltaCAD. It imports .dxf files from AutoCAD. Those I have tried have seemed OK. Screen dump images are great for producing non vector files to go on web pages. It has a built in programming facility. Supplied is one for drawing the outlines of gears, otherwise I have not used it. There are weakness. Cross hatching has to be done manually! other that I cannot think of one, and I do litle cross hatching anyway and the little I do is easy enough with the parallel line feature. A demo version is available for 30 days. Worth a look."
Thanks for the info - always good to hear of new ones!
Update Sept 2008: They're now on to VariCAD 2008 3.0, and there's a new website with a discussion forum - always a useful facility to get a feel for the user experience. Prices are around GBP400 for a full license, so still just at the top of end 'cheap' but a pretty capable system. Windows and Linux - FWIW a forum post confirms no plans for Mac OSX in the near future.
Comment originally from 2000ish?:I'm still using this so better add it to the list: VariCAD (http://www.varicad.com) is a budget 3D mechanical modelling system from the Czech Republic. I've used trial copies of the latest versions as they come out, but am still on Version 7 (!) for now. I'll probably upgrade soon... It's a decent 3D modeller with 2D drawing generation. Fast on quite complex assemblies even on limited hardware (works fine on my old P233 laptop). Excellent part and symbol libraries, including standard ball bearings, nuts, washers, bolts etc - all of which is most helpful for building assembly models. Seems a little behind the times when it comes to more advanced surface modelling - it's best at fairly simple shapes, can't do much in the way of 3D filleting or any even vaguely free-form curvy shapes. Not truly parametric, though objects created from primitives can have dimensions edited after. Also includes some useful tools for stress calculations on beams etc. Interface much improved recently, and not too pricey at a few hundred dollars. Windows or most flavours of Linux."
Update Sept 2008: They say "The program was updated last year and low cost updates were added. So now there are 4 versions - Draft IT (the free one), Draft IT PLUS (£10), Draft IT PRO (£49) and Draft IT Architectural (£99)(15 day trial avalialble).
July 2005: The press release says: "A powerful and easy-to-use 2D CAD system suitable for all users, in the office or at home. Allows you to create, print and save your drawings without restriction. There is no time or usage limit, just download it, run the installation and that’s it." Sounds good! See http://www.cadlogic.com/products/draftit/Default.aspx.
April 2008: 'Stephen' writes with news of: "Another cheap cad package - focused on architecture" at www.octree.de. Appears free for non-commercial use, Windows and Linux versions. -Ed
Updated March 2008: Weber Systems sent a price list: all packages are available for both Windows or Linux. 2.5D costs $250, 3D surfacing $750, and 3D solid modelling $1250 (all US dollars I assume). There is a 30 day free trial but no mention now of the free Linux version.
Jan 2005: Karl Hammerschmidt writes:"Weber Systems (www.webersys.com) makes a CAD/CAM package based on the Parasolid kernel. There is a Linux version that is free without the CAM and solid modeling. They don't say what the full version costs, but they don't seem to be as established as Solidworks or PTC, so it might be cheaper."
Update March 2008: One of the former staff at AllyCAD wrote to explain the 'for life' issue mentioned below - it was for the life of major software version, i.e. minor updates free, but major upgrades require another purchase, which seems pretty standard in the software industry. That should have been made clear at point of sale. He also explained the naming history, but as I doubt that'll be of interest to anyone except CAD historians I won't repeat it all here!
May 2006: David Williams writes: You might add AllyCAD to your list. It's been around for years under the names of ChoiceCAD, TrueCAD and now AllyCAD. I bought a commercial copy of ChoiceCAD a long time ago for around £75 then paid to upgrade it to TrueCAD even though the salesman claimed that my ChoiceCAD included free upgrades for life – apparently the program's life, not mine. I really like their method of building up a drawing from construction lines. Now the price of the full version has risen to over £900 plus £120 annual maintenance fee which I feel is high, but AllyCAD lite is available as freeware. It's on www.allycad.com.
Solid Edge Free 2D
Update Dec 2007: JWCraig writes: Solid Edge 2D. Free to download. 1 year license, renewable. Very professional. Go to www.solid-edge.com and select Free 2D.
Update Sept 2007: John Waghorn writes: "I've just installed the free version of Solid Edge (a fairly lengthy process). When it finally boots up, it informs you the license is for 12 days only. I immediately uninstalled it again, as even 30 days isn't long enough for me, and 650Mb is a lot of disc space."
Update Jan 2007: Anders Andersson writes: "Just a few updates to your list of CAD software. SolidEdge 2D is available in a free version at www.solidedge.com/free2D/. Downloadable from web site. SolidEdge 3D is available in a free "academic edition". The difference from the commercial version is that saved parts and assemblies are intentionally incompatible with the commercial version. Standard import/export formats work normally. Available through local SolidEdge resellers."
Update Oct 2006: from a press release which came in a while ago: "Yesterday, UGS announced the availability of Free 2D - I encourage you to download (www.solidedge.com/free2d) and try it."
Haven't actually tried it but looks like a very capable 2D system for Windows XP. A Fact sheet PDF (758k) and FAQ PDF (3.8M) are also available. -Ed
TurboCAD special offer - UK
24 August 07: This just in from Paul Tracey of Avanquest: "I look after TurboCAD for the UK market and have some of last year's stock which I'm willing to let go at little more than covering my costs and postage. TurboCAD for Mac 2D at £30, 3D at £50. For the PC, TurboCAD Designer 2D £10 and TurboCAD Deluxe v12 at £30. Because of the cost of postage this can only apply to buyers in the UK. The PC versions can go direct through our on-line shop, but the Mac versions would need to come via me. Paul Tracey. Tel 01962 835 081 email firstname.lastname@example.org."
MacDraft and PCDraft
From the manufacturer: "We are the developers of MacDraft for the mac and PCDraft for the PC. We have Personal and Pro Editions of both packages at £79/£239 respectively for the Mac and £23.33/£199 for the PC. Our website www.microspot.co.uk has downloads of each product and we would love for you to try them out."
Look like straightforward 2D CAD packages - feature comparison between Pro and personal editions here. The website seems to emphasise architectural uses, especially with the optional (£75) symbol libraries but no reason why they wouldn't be more widely applicable. A useful addition to the not very long list of affordable CAD packages for Mac. They also do a Mac-based 3D package, the £79 Modeler with matching 3D library. It seems mainly intended for making custom objects for their architectural animation/visualisation package Interiors but might be worth a look for more general 3D modelling. -Ed
Autodesk Inventor LT
May 2007: Spotted here I see that Autodesk are offering Autodesk Inventor LT for free download. It's apparently a very capable parts modeller but significant limitations include:
- Only available for a 'limited period' and only to Windows users in the US and Canada
- Once activated it'll only run until 1st May 2008
- No assemblies, just single parts
There are however plenty of export formats available (especially with the free 'Translator add-ins').
May 2007: I've updated the InstaCAD entry below with some reader comments.
Ar-CAD (FreeCAD, CADSM, StCAD, Alibre Motion)
April 2007: Following a request to update the FreeCAD entry on the older version of this listing I revisited their site, now at www.ar-cad.com. As before the FreeCAD motion simulation package is available for free download, and a commercial version, CADSM, is also available for a few dollars, which includes pretty rendered graphics, more frequent updates and other enhancements. Both are advertised as "suitable for anyone interested in learning 3D CAD and Motion Simulation inexpensively before using more sophisticated packages" and I'd agree. Also on offer is 'StCAD', "a basic 3D CAD framework in Smalltalk (VisualWorks 7.x). It extends the GF/ST 2D drawing framework into 3D. It is "open source using Lesser GNU Public License" and will I guess be of interest to programmers workingin 3D CAD, but that's beyond my expertise. Finally, the site offers "Alibre Motion(TM), a Motion Simulation addon, available in Alibre Design Expert 9.1(TM)". The link takes you to the Alibre site with a note to call their sales team for prices, so I guess this one won't be free or cheap :-) -Ed
Jan 2007: 'Longtrace' writes
"In my quest for a DWG-native program for my Linux computers, I found your page. You mention you don't know of any Mac applications - so I thought I should share what I know. From the maker of GraphicConverter is Cadintosh: see http://www.lemkesoft.com/. I began using this on OS8. The website reports OSX native, but I haven't tested that. It is a decent 2D CAD."
And it appears to be shareware which costs just 30 Euros to buy if you like it -Ed
Oct 2006: Stefano Gozzi writes with this link: http://free2design.org/ but no comment.
More details here suggest a quite fully featured 2D CAD package which they say will be 'free forever'. No obvious limitations. -Ed
Vector Engineer Quick and Pro Tools
Oct 2006: P D Kulkarni writes: Lately I have been using Vector Engineer's Quick Tools software for 2d drafting and the results are pretty good. It is easy to learn also. The site address is www.vectorengineer.com. An enhanced version of Quick Tools is Pro-tools and is available for download at US $ 20.
The Quick version is a hassle-free free download. And it looks like the Pro version has some 3D isometric visualisation capability - not completely clear from the website but it looks like this is via some basic form of solid modelling. Interesting find. -Ed
Oct 2006: Walt R writes: Have you ever looked at brlcad released as open source by the U.S. Army's Ballistic Research Laboratory? I installed an earlier version on Slackware9.1 and walked through a tutorial for the heck of it, but I am not very familiar with CAD. Brlcad is available for Mac OSX and many other OSs. Website: http://www.brlcad.org/
Oct 2006 again: Ian Fardoe adds: Just downloaded and installed the windows build of BRL-cad, it now comes
with a windows installer, so is at least easy to install. Using it is another matter...It's only a little bit unfriendly. Even the help pdfs don't seem to relate to the program. Was trying to import a dxf. Can't even manage that, the console window (says lots doesn't it, console window) won't accept the listed commands.
Oct 2006: Andrew Sampson writes: Take a look at http://moi3d.com/.
More a graphic artist/modeller tool than CAD, but looks like a clever intuitive interface. -Ed
Oct 2006: Marcelo writes: "Searching for CAD programs I happened across this website, which gives this link direct to an executable installer file: http://wcarchive.cdrom.com/pub/simtelnet/win95/cad/icad20.exe. The text says "InstaCAD a 3D CAD/Modeling program. It is simple and fast and imports DXF files. (3.4KB). I have installed it but I'm on a steep learning curve."
Not too convinced myself about downloading an unknown EXE, and it being in a Win95 folder doesn't bode too well for it being up to date. Readers, test it at your own risk - and please email me with how it goes and I'll report back here! -Ed
Update May 2007: Randy Smith writes:"I have been using Instacad for about a year now, and like it. I use it for 3D visualization of simple mechanisms and parts assemblies. I find it easy to use, by 3D CAD standards, and accurate. The author, Vincent Yu, seems not to be developing it any further, which is a shame, but has been responsive to my questions and suggestions. I run it on both Win2k and XP with no problem."
CAD Standard Lite
May 2006: Bill Porter writes: "CAD Standard Lite www.cadstd.com is free and small enough not to be a resource hog. Great for the home hobbyist or non professional looking to make a professional looking 2D drawing with accuracy and precision. Tool pallet is easy to access and use. Small size means you can start drawing immediately, not a big leaning curve.". Their website says "CadStd is a general purpose, easy to learn CAD/drafting program for creating professional quality mechanical designs, house plans, blueprints, schematics and charts utilizing ANSI drawing standards. The Lite version is free and can read any drawing created by the Pro version. CadStd Lite can export files as DXF so you can share your drawings to your friends with other CAD programs like Autocad. The Pro version can create isometric projections from orthographic views, and has powerful commands like offset, trim, fillet and chamfer. Export drawings in formats like DXF, SVG, HPGL/1 or use copy clipboard to paste images into Office and other applications. Import DXF, HPGL/1 and Gedcom files."
QuickCAM 2D Design
March 2006: Press release follows:
"Denford Ltd have released a new piece of CAD/CAM software which would be great for CNC hobbyists - QuickCAM 2D Design.
It has some very powerful features suitable for engraving, sign making, Gerber PCB routing, milling and is available from EBay for only £150 inc tax http://stores.ebay.co.uk/CAD-CAM-Consumables. Forum: www.denfordata.com/bb. Please feel free to download a trial version and let us know what you think."
Update March 2006: added notes re FelixCAD LT below.
December 2005: Soren Barr writes:
So far I haven’t tried any of these, but in going back through your old page, I can update you on a few of the programs:
Pro-Engineer Wildfire 2.0 SE
June 2005: Lloyd Pennington writes: "Check this out: PTC Wildfire 2.0 SE for USD299!. For non-commercial use only." Not sure how long this offer will be up there, but it's a great price.
June 2005: X-Cad promises 100,000 free copies of "one of the most powerful parametric solid modelers on the market" to all who register at this X-CAD web page - but only if registrations reach 100,000. The software to be given away "has core technology found in 3D engineering software on the market today" and "In addition to enabling users to create precise 3D mechanical designs equal to well-known mid-range solid modeling brands, X-CAD provides an easy-to-use Windows® interface, integrated Help menus and tutorials, and real-time collaboration with other users wherever they are located." A clever bit of marketing, anyway - worth reading the CAD press mentions too at http://www.x-cad.net/media-coverage.asp for more background. Sounds promising - will be interesting to see how it shapes up. Worth registering I guess, as it's free - and they say the product given away will "not be a demo or trial software". I'm signed up, so we'll see...
April 2005: Gordon Rigg writes with details of a system that only marginally qualifies as 'cheap' in hobbyist terms: Check out www.alibre.com. They were selling this direct to UK in dollars from the USA, but now they have a UK VAR: www.digitise.ltd.uk so the UK price (from £600ish) is a little higher but you should also get online support from them UK time instead of only on Texas time. Advantages and shortcomings of this system are well discussed in the user forums at www.alibre.com. It comes from a background of web collaboration but now functionality has grown. It is being sold as low cost (from US$800ish) direct competitor to systems like Solidworks.
March 2005: Miles Hellon writes with this URL: http://www.graebert.com/FelixCADlt_promo.html. It's a free 2D CAD system for first million downloaders - no indication of how many are left.
March 2006: Ken Taylor writes: "I thought I would pass along my experience when trying to download FelixCAD LT from your link. First it took me to a German site and asked me to register. I did so. The German site then indicated that since I was in North America (US) I had to go to www.givemepower.com which then asked me to register again. After doing so I did not find FelixCAD but rather some PowerCAD programs. I am currently downloading the the LT version. I have no idea if
this is a 30 day trial or a real program."
ProgeCAD LT 2005
March 2005: Miles Hellon writes with this URL: http://news.progesoft.com/en/2005/01/progesoft_annou.html. Another free 2D CAD system..."
March 2005: Carl Grey writes: "I was just looking over your reviews and comments and thought perhaps you might want
to take a peek at our CAD X11 Free software: http://www.graytechsoftware.com/products/cadx11/cadx11free.asp. It is completely free for private or commercial purposes. We started developing the system back in 1983." Looks like mainly 2D, but also some 3D surface/wireframe capabilities.
Feb 2005: Frederico Pinho from Portugal writes: "I've seen this software: A9CAD: http://www.a9tech.com). It seems to be freeware, visually it's very similar to Autocad, and opens dwgs from Autocad2005 with ease! Try it!"
Jan 2005: Karl Hammerschmidt writes:"QCAD is a simple 2D drafting program for Linux, BSD, Windows and OS-X. It's available free with source code, but the company charges for the official binaries. Binaries shipped with several Linux distrobutions, and some of the the BSDs, though. There is a commercial CAM extension too."
Jan 2005: Karl Hammerschmidt writes:"GraphiteOne (http://www.graphiteone-cad.com/en/index.htm) is a startup that has a 3D CAD program written in Python, and based on the Open CASCADE kernel. (An opensource kernel that is in the range of Parasolid and ACIS.) It's free for activities that don't make money, and you're free to modify the code for your own use. You might be able to hack it to run on windows and OS-X, and it might just run on BSD."
Jan 2005: Karl Hammerschmidt writes:"gCAD3D (http://www.cadcam.co.at/freiter/gCAD3D_en.htm) is a free CAD/CAM program for Windows and Linux (in GTK). Seems to at least load some semi-complicated models (see screenshots). There are commercial extensions too."
Also: More are listed on the older version of this page. Some time soon I hope to take the time to trawl through all the links and see which are still active - probably quite a few. Meanwhile, if any reader would like to submit updates about a CAD package that hasn't yet made it to this new list, just email me!
Telescope mount being modelled in VariCAD, alas still unfinished...