One of the most well-liked some may even say necessary methods used by architects, engineers, hobbyists, and other designers is computer-aided design (CAD). Nearly all human endeavors including the creation of art and functional parts involve CAD. Use of CAD Viewers is required if you want to start 3D printing your own designs.
Free CAD viewers can help with this. You can inspect a design you find on a repository with the viewer and possibly more, depending on the viewer’s functionality. Free CAD viewers may contain functions from more powerful CAD software, letting you experiment with some of its idiosyncrasies. All things considered, these free CAD viewers are an excellent introduction to the various CAD software platforms and to 3D design in general.
The following considerations came into play as we chose the top CAD viewers for this article:
- Free viewing capabilities: Many programs include a variety of features and capabilities that are behind paywalls. We selected those that let users view files without charge.
- Support for popular CAD file types: CAD is a vast field with a wide variety of file formats. The formats include DWG, DXF, DWF, HPGL, OBJ, and STL, to name a few. We made sure to select a collection of viewers that represents every potential type of format.
- Usability: The user is put first. Therefore, we didn’t offer a viewer if learning how to use it would take hours.
First off, there is no need to download anything to access these choices; just use your browser! Browser-based viewers enable you to easily upload a model in a supported file format and view it, even if some may require registration. Remember that they need an internet connection to function.
1. Autodesk Viewer
It is hardly surprising that the company that made some of the most well-known CAD systems would also develop its own viewer. A browser-based CAD viewer that can see both 2D and 3D objects is called Autodesk Viewer. The viewer is free to use, however it does require an email to access it.
Most formats can be seen by Autodesk Viewer, however, some can only be used in conjunction with other Autodesk applications. You also have the option of adding notes to your designs, which enables you to solicit and receive feedback.
Autodesk Viewer is significantly more complicated than ShareCAD, which is simpler and more to the point. For instance, the Rotate tool is a little awkward. There is no need to register and ShareCAD is totally free.
Simply upload a file, and ShareCAD will offer you various viewing options like “2D Wireframe” and “3D Flat Shading.” The view of your 3D object can also be printed on paper.
3. DWG FastView
DWG FastView excels in its chosen field—DWG files—despite lacking the flexibility of the other two viewers. Although it wouldn’t be your first or only stop for all files, this might be it when it comes to DWG. You can choose to join up, but it is not required to view your files. You can access the viewer on the web and on mobile devices after registering.
FastView also permits file sharing with those versions. Unfortunately, only a small number of file types can be imported and exported. However, people have commended the viewer’s usability, so it’s worth trying.
4. Microsoft 3D Viewer
Windows-powered computers come pre-installed with Microsoft 3D Viewer. I’m sorry, Mac users! Although previous versions of Windows might not include it by default, it is free and ready to use.
In certain ways, this viewer surpasses several programs that are similar. Users can alter the presentation, for instance, by changing the lighting and shading. Additionally, it has direct integration with a number of components of Microsoft’s 3D ecosystem, such as Paint 3D and Print 3D.
5. eDrawings Viewer
A 2D and 3D design tool with a focus on teamwork is called eDrawings Viewer. Although commercial versions include more features, the desktop version is free to download. This viewer has the added benefit of converting CAD files into eDrawing files, which uses less bandwidth.
There is compatibility for several of the most popular CAD files. However, eDrawing files cannot be changed into SolidWorks files. Aside: Depending on whether you’re using the desktop or mobile versions of the viewer, the number of file types supported may differ depending on the platform you’re using.
6. SketchUp Viewer
What Autodesk Viewer is to the Autodesk suite, SketchUp Viewer is to the SketchUp software family. On a variety of operating systems, including VR, it is available for free download. SketchUp Viewer also enables you to operate in mixed reality, as you can see in the image.
To fully immerse yourself in your creations, you may also use this viewer in conjunction with augmented reality and virtual reality applications. The SketchUp Viewer ought to be simple to use and intuitive if SketchUp is any hint. However, as it cannot be used in your browser, you must download it.
A free 3D viewer and modeler are both available with FreeCAD. On the Mac, Windows, and Linux operating systems, it is free to download. In terms of design, FreeCAD enables you to convert 2D designs into 3D files and vice versa. The same holds true for its ability to view.
You can preview your designs with FreeCAD before implementing them in actual applications. However, because of its rather complicated UI, it may have a difficult learning curve. In FreeCAD, a wide range of well-liked CAD formats can be viewed.
An iPad app for 3D CAD is called Shapr3D. Shapr3D was developed with the iPad and Apple Pencil in mind, so if you own either of those devices, you’re in luck. Desktop versions are also available. There are numerous premium versions in addition to the free version.
It handles both 2D and 3D files and is marketed as the “most mobile and intuitive” CAD program in the world. Its adaptive user interface makes learning faster and your life easier. It is functional as a 3D viewer, but if you want to use it more, it might get pricy. That being said, it is still much less expensive than some of the other CAD software packages on this list.
9. CAD Assistant
A 3D viewer that can be used offline and even on a phone is called CAD Assistant. You can select from a variety of display styles using CAD Assistant, including hollow mesh, shaded with edges, and wireframe.
It supports a large number of the most widely used 3D formats, but fewer 2D ones. The viewer is simple to use, according to many users, however, larger files could take longer to load.
10. Fusion 360
Fusion 360’s mobile app is available for free, albeit you must first register for an Autodesk account. The fusion 360’s desktop version is not.
With this viewer, you can annotate your designs and collaborate on projects with your team by sending messages and sharing pictures. There is support for several of your favorite CAD file formats.