Computer-aided design

CAD software for designers, drafters and creators

Learn how CAD software can benefit your next design

Mechanical design on a cabin in AutoCAD 2024.

What is CAD software?

CAD, or computer-aided design and drafting (CADD), is technology designed for creators to design, draft and produce technical documentation – replacing  manual hand-drawn and drafting techniques with a digital-first process. Whether you’re an architect, designer, or engineer, you’ve probably used 2D or 3D CAD programs such as AutoCAD, AutoCAD LT, Civil 3D, Inventor, or Fusion 360 software. These widely used tools can help you explore design concepts, visualise with photorealistic renders and simulate real-world performance. 

A houseboat designed in Autodesk AutoCAD, using the specialised industry toolsets included in the software.

How to choose CAD software

Choosing the right CAD software is pivotal for design efficiency. To decide effectively, first define your specific needs and goals, then match software features to your project requirements. Next, check compatibility (US site) with your preferred file formats and other software in the design workflow. Lastly, consider available learning resources (US site) such as tutorials, training and a supportive user community.

Autodesk’s best-selling CAD software

Software for 2D and 3D CAD. Subscription includes AutoCAD, specialised toolsets and apps.


Cost-effective 2D CAD software for drafting, drawing and documentation.


Draught, annotate and add field data to your drawings online via your web browser or mobile device. Access and edit DWG files and quickly collaborate with AutoCAD users on designs.


Top Autodesk CAD software for architecture, engineering and construction

Plan, design, construct and manage buildings with powerful tools for Building Information Modelling.


Simplified 3D BIM tool for producing 3D architectural designs and documentation.


Civil engineering design and construction documentation.


Top Autodesk CAD software for industrial and product design

Professional-grade product design and engineering tools for 3D mechanical design, simulation, visualisation and documentation.


Cloud-based 3D CAD/CAM/CAE software for product design.


Industrial design software to sketch, concept model, surface and visualise. Available as Alias Concept, Surface, Design and AutoStudio.


CAD software benefits

Learn about some of the top benefits of CAD software from Autodesk.

Increased productivity

CAD simplifies processes, reduces errors, enhances collaboration and provides tools for efficient design.

Design documentation

Use tools for dimensioning, annotation, bill-of-material generation, title blocks, assembly and sectional drawings.

Repurposed design components

Optimise design workflow with libraries of common components, templates and predesigned parts.

CAD software features

Discover top CAD software tools and features available in Autodesk software

Designers gather around a tablet with a rendering onscreen.

2D drafting

Create intricate designs, technical schematics and architectural plans, minimising manual drafting errors. 

 

A rendering of a helmet is shown on a computer screen.

3D modelling

Sculpt, modify and visualise designs in real time, propelling the iterative design process to new heights.

 

A metal building facade shows off its curves.

Parametric design

Easily adjust dimensions (US site), proportions and variables and see the entire design cascade in response. 

 

A design rendering of a car brake assembly.

Assembly design

Use a powerful blend of design capabilities to see, interact with and optimise intricate components.

 

How do different industry professionals use CAD software?

Autodesk 2D and 3D CAD software is used in engineering disciplines across industries. Explore ways that professionals use computer-aided design (CAD) tools to improve processes – from concept to handover.

Elevator on the Standard Hotel, London designed by Orms Designers and Architects.

Architects

Design and draft with CAD tools developed for architects. Take ideas from design to documentation within a single software environment.


Image courtesy of Orms Designers and Architects

Buildng Engineering project with sunrise.

Building engineers

Together, CAD and building information modelling (BIM) provide a powerful combination of digital tools that empower structural and MEP engineers to deliver safe, efficient and compliant building projects.


Aerial view of Civil Engineering roads and bridge project.

Civil engineers

Optimise the design process, enhance project communication and drive more successful and cost-effective civil engineering projects with CAD software and BIM.


Workers viewing a digital tablet at a construction site.

Construction professionals

Connect every stage of your construction project, from design to operations, to deliver on time and on budget.


Man working on physical product while consulting his Autodesk CAD software.

Product designers and engineers

Design, automate and validate product development through data insights, from the top floor to the shop floor.


Two people review a preview of a factory layout.

Production engineers

Optimise factory equipment and material handling layouts to maximise production quality and efficiency.


Robotic arms on an automated assembly line in an automotive plant.

Advanced manufacturing

Efficiently machine, fabricate and inspect quality parts while reducing costs and time to market to drive business growth.


Rendering of a concept car.

Automotive designers

Conceptualise, design and render automotive designs (US site) using Class-A surfacing and professional rendering technology.


An architect works at her laptop.

Cloud-based CAD software

Cloud-based CAD software operates over the internet, storing design data remotely and enabling access from various devices. This approach enhances collaboration by allowing real-time, multi-user work on projects, while robust version control helps ensure design integrity. Users benefit from easy access to projects anywhere, reduced file-management complexity, automatic backups and heightened security measures.  

Frequently asked questions (FAQ) about CAD software

Which professions use CAD software?

CAD software is used by a diverse range of professions that require design precision and visualisation. Architects and landscape architects; engineers (across disciplines such as mechanical, civil, automotive, aerospace and electrical); designers (including product, industrial, graphic, mechanical, interior and jewellery); urban planners; and professionals in construction and surveying all rely on CAD. This software aids in creating detailed 2D and 3D models, schematics, layouts and plans, empowering professionals to conceptualise, design and optimise structures, products and systems efficiently across industries. 

What are the different types of CAD software?

CAD software is available in various types to serve diverse design needs. Technical drawings use 2D CAD, whereas 3D CAD creates three-dimensional models for product design and architecture. Parametric CAD establishes relationships between elements, while direct modelling offers flexible design modifications. Surface modelling crafts curved surfaces and solid modelling defines volumes and mass. Rendering and animation software visualises designs realistically. Building information modelling (BIM) (US site) focuses on architecture and construction and electronic design automation (EDA) handles electronic systems. CAM generates manufacturing instructions and specialised CAD types exist for plant design, fashion design and more.

Can CAD software be used for 3D printing?

CAD software is a fundamental component of the 3D printing process. It enables the creation of intricate 3D models, optimises them for printing and generates compatible file formats such as STL. CAD tools facilitate the addition of support structures and help ensure model accuracy and scaling. By interfacing with slicing software, CAD helps divide models into printable layers and prepares them for 3D printing. The software also aids in prototyping, refining designs and preventing errors before the final print. In essence, CAD software’s role in 3D printing spans from initial design to creating printer-ready files. 

Are free CAD software options available?

There are numerous free CAD software options available, catering to a range of design needs. Autodesk’s offerings include Fusion 360 for 3D design and Tinkercad for simpler projects. FreeCAD is an open-source parametric modeller; Blender serves both 3D modelling and animation needs; and LibreCAD is specialised for 2D technical drawings. OpenSCAD adopts a scripting approach to design, while OnShape's free plan is cloud-based. SolveSpace focuses on parametric 3D mechanical design, and DraftSight offers 2D drafting capabilities. Additionally, ScorchCAD provides a user-friendly browser-based option. These free tools empower learners, hobbyists and other individuals to engage in design projects without financial constraints. 

See more FAQ

CAD software resources

Discover the top six reasons to opt for AutoCAD over other CAD software options. Experience the benefits of AutoCAD and see why no CAD alternative can compare.

 

Drive toward CAD mastery with Autodesk’s instructor-led, self-paced and online training courses in CAD software, helping to ensure you remain competitive in the field.

Learn the key stages in developing CAD software standards and build a strong foundation for your CAD team's success.

 

Get the insights you need to understand CAD software standards and help your team of CAD professionals excel.

 

Explore the benefits of CAD software, see skilful applications in various industries and learn about emerging trends in the field. 

 

Maximise your CAD software experience with this expert guide on managing and customising AutoCAD installations. See frequently asked questions and resources covering recent releases.

 

More learning resources

CAD software classes

Learn how to use CAD software or enhance your skills through Autodesk’s free and paid learning options.


CAD community

Find answers to your CAD questions, share your knowledge, build your network and learn something new. 


CAD software for education

Eligible students and educators get free one-year educational access to Autodesk products and services.


CAD software inspiration

Discover thought leadership to inspire leaders in architecture, construction, manufacturing, engineering and design.