This came from a G-Wizard newsletter. All I’ll add is that the AutoDesk products also have a hobbyist license available, and MeshCAM is reasonably priced for a lot of capability.
Market leader SolidWorks costs on the order of $4000 brand new. There are steep educational discount, but you’ll have to be currently enrolled in some sort of college CNC program to get them. That’s not a bad idea to take a course to learn CAD, but what do you do when the course ends and you need to renew your educational license? This is not a long-term affordability solution. Here’s a better approach: get the EAA’s SolidWorks Maker Edition. It’s free to members of the EAA
(Experimental Aircraft Association). Here’s the link:
Membership is only $40 a year, which makes the free SolidWorks an incredible bargain.
If you just buy it off-the-shelf from Autodesk, Inventor is pricey–$1935/year or $240 a month. That’s a lot for a beginner/hobbyist to pay. But, you can sign up for a 3 year educational license entirely for free here:
You’ll need to tell Autodesk what school you’re going to, what you’re studying, and when you’ll graduate, but it’s all honor system. Besides, signing up for a course to learn CAD is a great way to accelerate your learning.
Fusion 360 is already highly affordable at $310 a year or $40 a month for the standard edition. That gets you great CAD and CAM in one integrated package.
But you can also get a free 3-year education license here:
Same deal as the Inventor Educational License.
Personally, I prefer true 3D CAD and can’t see why anyone would one old fashioned AutoCad, but if you do, you’re in luck.
It seems Dassault Systems, who make Solidworks, built a pretty darned good AutoCad clone called DraftSight. I think they wanted to undercut Autodesk in the spirit of cutthroat competition,
and we the users benefit.
Draftsight is available starting at $149:
FWIW, Draftsight came in with 3.7% market share, making it the 7th most popular CAD package in our
CNC audience. Not too shabby!
AutoCAD itself came in at 8.4% for 3rd place.