AutoCAD: All You Need to Know Before Getting Started

Published on July 8, 2022 by Carlota V.

AutoCAD enables the professional creation and editing of 2D geometry and 3D models with solids, surfaces, and objects. It is one of the most internationally recognized CAD software because of the wide variety of editing possibilities it offers. For these reasons, it is a tool widely used by architects, engineers and industrial designers, among others. Currently, the software is developed and marketed by Autodesk, a leader in the market of design, engineering and 3D animation software. Founded in 1982, Autodesk, a multinational company, began its adventure with the development of AutoCAD before moving on to other software solutions, some of which specialize in additive manufacturing.

The first version of AutoCAD included only a modifiable drawing and a limited set of functionalities. Despite its simplicity, it was at the time a real revolution as it allowed to replace traditional hand drawings with a digital drawings. The name AutoCAD refers to Autodesk of course but also to Computer Aided Design. Initially, the software was not designed for 3D design, it was only dedicated to two-dimensional modeling. AutoCAD has rapidly evolved: so what are its features today?


AutoCAD is one of the most popular CAD software on the market

How Does it Work?

AutoCAD software is available for MAC and Windows, and supported programming interfaces include ActiveX Automation, VBA, AutoLISP, Visual LISP, ObjectARX, and .NET. However, the type of interface to be used will depend on the programming needs and experience of the user. On the Autodesk website, we can see that AutoCAD software offers many different options depending on the type of user. Thus, one can choose specialized tool sets such as Map 3D, dedicated to mapping applications, Plant 3D for piping and instrumentation schematics, and finally AutoCAD Architecture for accelerating architectural design thanks to more than 8,000 available objects.

In AutoCAD, there are four types of 3D modeling. The first is wireframe modeling, where a three-dimensional structure is designed and used as a reference geometry on which various models and modifications are made. The second is the solid modeling where the user will be able to play with different masses. Surface modeling offers precise control of curved surfaces. Finally, mesh modeling allows the user to freely sculpt shapes, create folds and smoothing. The 3D models can be exported in .STL format, which allows them to be 3D printed.

There are 4 types of 3D modeling in AutoCAD

For those who are still in school, Autodesk also gives the option to purchase an educational version free for 3 years, which can be used on a maximum of two personal devices and is aimed primarily at students. In addition, the main versions allow all users to purchase a 30-day free trial period to discover all its functionalities. If by any chance you decide not to opt for this type of software, there are always alternatives, such as FreeCAD, Onshape or nanoCAD. In the following, we will explain the two main versions of AutoCAD, but it is important to mention that there is also a mobile version of the software.

Full AutoCAD, the Most Complete Version

Of course, the full version of AutoCAD includes all the features of the limited version, plus many more. It integrates a palette of industry-specialized tools to reach multiple disciplines such as architecture, mechanical and electrical engineering. It allows 3D modeling, rendering and point clouds capable of generating final products that users will be impressed with. It also provides individual and network licensing, ideal for teams as it does not limit to one license situation per person. In addition, unlike the LT version, this extended version allows export in .stl files for 3D printing. The price of this version is $235 per month, although if you decide to pay annually, the price will be $1865 which in the end is a lower amount than if purchased monthly.

Full AutoCAD is the most complete version and allows 3D modeling functions (photo credits: Autodesk)

AutoCAD LT, the Cheaper, More Limited Version

This LT version of AutoCAD is much more affordable than the full version, so it is normal to wonder what the difference is. The reason is that AutoCAD LT does not have a Z-axis in the drawing, or anything that uses it. This means that it has no 3D modeling capability, it only allows editing in two dimensions. Even so, it allows multiple functions. One of the main advantages of the LT version is its ease of use. It looks and works just like the extended version, but without the clutter of 3D modeling operations, among others. It is therefore ideal for people who are just starting out in this area and are looking to understand the basic commands of the software. The price of this version is $60 per month, having the option to contract a full year for $460, a little cheaper than if purchased monthly.

In conclusion, it is important to remember that, at its inception, AutoCAD was not created as a software dedicated to 3D design. In addition, it has many complex tools that make it difficult to use. Therefore, as it is not a software for beginners, we recommend other simpler software to get started in the world of 3D modeling, such as TinkerCAD. If you already have knowledge in this type of software and you are thinking of getting it, you can find more information on the official AutoDesk website HERE.

Have you used AutoCAD to create 3D printable models? Let us know in a comment below or on our Facebook and Twitter pages! Don’t forget to sign up for our free weekly Newsletter, with all the latest news in 3D printing delivered straight to your inbox!

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  1. Brenda Kilmury says:

    Hi, We use auto can for blue prints can AutoCAD take the 3D renderings of a house and allows us to format the exterior designs and colors as well as interior?

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