Free and Open Source CAD Software for Linux

Computer-aided design (CAD) is the use of computer technology for the design of objects whether 2D or 3D, real or virtual. It is heavily utilized in many applications, including animation, automotive, shipbuilding, aerospace industries, industrial and architectural design, prosthetics, and many others. Because of its enormous economic importance, CAD has been a major driving force for research in computational geometry, computer graphics (both hardware and software), and discrete differential geometry.

AutoCAD is a CAD software application that's popular among professionals. But since it's very expensive and is only available for Windows, Linux users may want to take a close look at some of the free and open source programs that perhaps can equal most of the features offered by AutoCAD.

Here are some of the best free and open source CAD software for Linux that you may want to check out:

BRL-CAD (BRL stands for Ballistic Research Laboratory) is a powerful solid modeling system that includes interactive geometry editing, high-performance ray-tracing for rendering and geometric analysis, image and signal-processing tools, a system performance analysis benchmark suite, libraries for robust geometric representation, with more than 20 years of active development and production use by the U.S. military. Although it can be used for a variety of engineering and graphics applications, the package's primary purpose continues to be the support of ballistic and electromagnetic analyses. In keeping with the Unix philosophy of developing independent tools to perform single, specific tasks and then linking the tools together in a package, BRL-CAD is basically a collection of libraries, tools, and utilities that work together to create, raytrace, and interrogate geometry and manipulate files and data.

Open CASCADE is a software development suite for 3D surface and solid modeling, visualization, data exchange and rapid application development. It can be best applied in development of numerical simulation software including CAD/CAM/CAE, AEC and GIS, as well as PDM applications.

Some of the main features of Open CASCADE:

* Foundation Classes provide a variety of general-purpose services such as: primitive types, strings and various types of quantities, automated management of heap memory, exception handling, classes for manipulating aggregates of data, math tools etc
* Modelling Data supplies data structures to represent 2D and 3D geometric models.These services are organized in the following libraries: 2D geometry, 3D geometry, geometry Utilities, topology
* The Modelling Algorithms module groups together a range of topological algorithms used in modelling. Along with these tools, it is possible to find the geometric algorithms that they call

QCAD specializes in drafting in two dimensions (2d). You can create technical drawings such as plans for buildings, interiors, mechanical parts or schemas and diagrams. QCAD was designed with modularity, extensibility and portability in mind. It has an intuitive user interface that you don't need any CAD experience to get started with QCAD immediately.

Some of the main features of QCAD:

* 35 CAD fonts included
* Over 40 construction tools
* Over 20 modification tools
* Construction and modification of points, lines, arcs, circles, ellipses, splines, polylines, texts, dimensions, hatches, fills, raster images
* Various powerful entity selection tools
* Object snaps
* Measuring tools
* Part library with over 4800 CAD parts
* Scripting interface

FreeCAD is a general-purpose 3D CAD modeler that is based on OpenCascade, QT and Python. It is aimed directly at mechanical engineering and product design but also fits in a wider range of uses around engineering, such as architecture or other engineering specialties. FreeCAD features tools similar to Catia, SolidWorks or Solid Edge, and therefore also falls into the category of MCAD, PLM, CAx and CAE. It will be a feature based parametric modeler with a modular software architecture that makes it easy to provide additional functionality without modifying the core system.

Varkon is a powerful 2D/3D CAD and modeling tool used in engineering, design, architecture, etc. It will let you do anything from traditional 2D drafting to fully parametric interactive modeling in 2D and 3D, sculptured surface modeling, and even animation. Though Varkon can be used as-is right away, it's almost completely customizable, allowing you to design a special purpose application with a user interface specific to that application. Models are described in Varkon's MBS programming language, interactively in a graphical window, and or manually in a text editor. You can also use Varkon to write or change the model's -or other- code on the fly.

If you have other free and open source CAD software to add to our list above, please share them with us via comment.

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  1. These look cool, but do they support AutoCAD's file formats? The reason is a viable drop-in replacement for MS Office is because the former supports the latter's file formats. If people using these tools are going to work with their AutoCAD-using colleagues, this issue could be a showstopper if they don't.

  2. Try VariCad. It is not free but educational license is very afordable. Supports AutoCad file formats.

  3. caelinux has some chops too

  4. I should point out that there are other kinds of CAD software, namely electronic / printed circuit board design. For these applications, as well as circuit simulation, there is a toolset called gEDA, which is opensource and runs quite well on linux.
    That project's website is
    Note, I am a user of this tool, but am not closely affiliated with the project, just a very happy customer.

    Great article, thanks!

  5. Another open source CAD based on the OpenCascade libraires is HeeksCAD -

  6. CollabCAD

  7. CadSoft's Eagle has done the work for me on circuit board design. Althought it's not FOSS They have a free version (limited in board size) that will do for hobby and it works very well in Linux.

  8. Pls. take note that QCAD is both proprietary and FOSS. The only *free and open-source* is the community edition. Pls. make a thorough study first before posting since your title is "Free and Open Source CAD Software for Linux" to avoid confusion. thanks! :)

  9. There's also (free & open source). It works based on scripts that comprise of primitive's generation, translating, orienting and scaling with through variables and doing boolean operations (union, difference). Also, you can extrude DXF profiles generated in other CAD software. Examples of its usage are here:

  10. If you are looking for a free AutoCAD alternative check out this comprehensive list here:

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