I'd like to design some things with bolts, fan belts, levers, motors, etc. So I'd add a bolt here, drill a hole there and maybe take it apart and rearrange. I'd like to do it in 3D and found SketchUp.

Can it be used to design, create and print out dimensioned components for manufacture and assembly? I'm not knocking it, but is Sketchup anything other than a really good conceptual visualization tool?

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    $\begingroup$ Sketch up isn't parametric or all that complicated. The experience is closer to Rhino than it is Catia or Solidworks type of CAD system. $\endgroup$
    – GisMofx
    Jan 12 '16 at 3:38
  • $\begingroup$ I use it quite extensively in designing furniture, and I do that down to the last minute detail, including detailed joinery. In my mind, it can be as accurate as you want it to be. Granted, I have zero experience designing PCBs and the dimensions/tolerances therein. $\endgroup$
    – grfrazee
    Jan 12 '16 at 14:07

If Sketchup cannot produce dimensioned drawings of parts and assemblies, then it is just conceptual. Solidworks has by far the most market share of PC-based 3D CAD for machinery, and has a one-month evaluation. AutoDesk Inventor and Solidedge are similar.

If 2D is okay, you can get a free AutoCAD clone here.

Here's another free 2D product with the same functionality as AutoCAD, but it was designed for Windows and is easier to use if not familiar to AutoCAD command line or DOS commands.

These companies are competitors to AutoDesk, and they give away 2D software so AutoDesk makes less money with AutoCAD.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm very doubtful of your claim that solid works has the most market share "by far", there are tons of shops using PTC software and other products. $\endgroup$ Jan 16 '16 at 20:38
  • $\begingroup$ My comment was "has by far the most market share of PC-based 3D CAD for machinery". It the Chicago area where I'm located it does. $\endgroup$
    – Greg Marsh
    Jan 17 '16 at 20:38

I've used Sketchup for the last 6 years as my go-to 3D engineering program. When combined in the Pro version with Layout, it can be fully dimensioned, rendered, and turned into full scale 2D production drawings that the shop can build from. In the trial version, without the Layout program, it is only conceptual.

That being said - Sketchup is intended for architects. It's built with a bunch of tools for them in mind - including an absolute up and down. As such, I'd only use Sketchup for items on the scale of houses. In my line of work, we build giant ducting systems and process vessels - Sketchup is perfect.


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