Computer-Aided Design Software

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Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman:

"Hardware is not useful without software. The adoption of personal-scale manufacturing machines comes hand-in-hand with the emergence of cheaper, and increasingly accessible computer aided design software (CAD).

Industrial designers and engineers have used CAD software for decades. However, CAD software has been slow to reach the consumer market and remains one of the last bastions of software still targeted to, and controlled primarily by high-end industrial users. CAD software is expensive, requires a computer with an excellent monitor and lots of memory, and perhaps most importantly, has a long learning curve that deters casual users. In industry, CAD software long ago replaced drafting tables and paper blueprints. However, due to its cost and complexity, CAD software has remained the tool of trained specialists and professional designers, not home users.

Industrial designers use CAD software mainly to design detailed 3D models or 2D drawings of components or floor plans. Process diagrams are another popular application.

The cost of CAD software is dropping and software companies are working hard to make it more user-friendly." (


  • In 2008, Google entered the CAD game with a no-cost version of 3D modeling software

called SketchUp. Currently, SketchUp is offered in a “Pro” version that costs about $500 (at the time of this writing), alongside a free version."

  • Rhino offers Windowsbased

3D design software from $95 to $1000. .

  • A company called Silo offers Windows and Mac based design software for $99 and $159.


CAD for Personal Manufacturing

Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman:

"Realistically, though CAD software continues to drop in price and complexity, it’s still nowhere near as user-friendly as today’s mainstream office applications.

Another barrier is that even the low-end CAD software described above was not created with personal fabrication applications in mind. Instead, today’s CAD software reflects its industrial legacy and is intended primarily for modeling and visualization applications rather than designing consumer goods and machine parts.

Ideally, to accelerate the adoption of CAD software aimed at the personal manufacturing market, design software would need to be easier to use and optimized for the unique constraints and capabilities of the physical manufacturing process." (

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