Now look, there’s no reason to suddenly start flailing about. Even if you’re being eaten alive by mutant aphids there are options that will help distract you enough to, not only, improve your CAD modeling skills, but escape the mental torture that goes along with being ravaged by unfriendly insects.

You may be out of work or trying to find new work. If so, these five programs will give you an increased sense of how to work in 3-dimensional space and add a pretty little line to your résumé letting any intelligent employer know you’re on top of the game. Ya ready for some learnin’? Here we go.

SolidWorks Stimulus

It’s meant for out of work, furloughed or otherwise jobless people looking for a way to improve their skills, but you can download it for free and give it a go. SolidWorks (as many of you may know) has everything from is loaded with parametric features that allow for quick updates.
Download SolidWorks


Rhino is the staple of nurb-based modeling. Get curvy and start to understand this program. Not only is it powerful, it’s cheap (compared to most mid-range modelers) and just about anyone that knows anything about 3D modeling has heard of Rhino.
Download Rhino


It’s been around a while and has quite a bit of support in engineering companies. It’s approaches 3D geometry from a basic, yet extensive and highly flexible, modeling approach. Just plop some primitives right in and experiment with the controls.
Download IronCAD


Sketchup is fun and easy. It”s intuitive interface make messing around with 3D a bit of an adventure. For those who like parametrics, it may be a little frustrating at first, but just start with some simple shapes, see how the push/pull command works together with the sketching. You’ll have fun.
Download Google Sketchup


Blender is cross-platform and free. It’s amazing for creating characters, but you can also create a lot of mechanical structures. Not only can you model with it, you can also render and animate. It doesn’t get much better than this for free open-source 3D modeling system.
Download Blender

More Options

You didn’t think there would be just five did you? I just couldn’t leave these out.
SpaceClaim – It’s direct modeling and imports a variety of formats. Request Trial
Inventor Fusion – It’s a tech preview, but explores new ways of modeling. Download
MoI – Probably the easiest approach to modeling, simple but powerful. Download


Josh is founder and editor at, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.