I’ve bought a few things from Allied Electronics and, of course, got on their email list. It’s usually an interesting email but not very relevant to me. Today, however, I received an email from Allied about DesignSpark Mechanical. DesignSpark Mechanical is a fully featured 3D design and CAD software application for Windows PCs and it’s 100% free.
You do need to register and provide contact information but after that, you get a rather large download – 500+ MB for the 64 bit version – and the program runs with all features and no restrictions – WOW!
I’ve downloaded and used Google’s Sketchup software. The free version is very limited in features and they charge $590 for their fully featured Pro version.
From the DesignSpark Mechanical website:
DesignSpark Mechanical is packed with time-saving features to help you design more easily, quickly and creatively than ever before.
- Produce highly detailed dimensioned worksheets
- Remove bottlenecks by making amendments and additions to your design in seconds, rather than waiting for the CAD department to rework in history-based CAD tools
- Combine your creation with off-the-shelf components from RS Components and the Allied Electronics 3D library
- Create geometry easily with powerful and intuitive gesture-based modelling, no need to be a CAD expert
- And best of all, it’s completely free! This is not a cut down version of an expensive product or software with a time-limited license.
The software is extremely easy to use, almost intuitive. There are lots of hints and tips included with the various commands and options. The web page for the software contains a number of tutorials, both text and video, for beginners who want to master the software.
One of the most powerful features is the ability to import components from both RS Components and Allied Electronics. These are dimensionally accurate. The program automatically generates a bill of materials and even estimates the cost of the project.
Another very cool feature is the ability to save directly to a 3D printer format, in an STL file. You could make a design, send the STL file to your favorite 3D printer shop and have a physical prototype the next day!
I’m sure the software is not as powerful as commercial CAD packages. For example, rendering 3D models is not offered. But it looks like it can do the job of creating 3D designs…and it’s free.
Takeaways: 3D CAD software once cost tens of thousands of dollars, then thousands of dollars, then hundreds of dollars, and now it’s free. Not only free, but designed so well that anyone with a slight bit of mechanical ability can learn it and use it. The companies involved are clever to include their 3D libraries of components. It’s a good bet that if you design with them, you will specify them and buy their components. Not a bad competitive advantage for companies in a commodity business like electronic components.
For resource-poor medical device startups, this free software is a huge benefit. The ability to create accurate and convincing prototypes using 3D printing has never been easier or faster. Now you can add 3D design to those fast, inexpensive capabilities. With DesignSpark Mechanical, anyone can do rapid prototyping very inexpensively and produce high quality designs and models.
Read more/Download the software: DesignSpark Mechanical » DesignSpark.