Earth to Mars


Computer Aided Design (CAD) programs are important parts of industry today. Gone are the day of final drafts and blueprints being done by pen and paper. Most people have heard of AutoCAD and other CAD programs. They have also heard about how expensive they are and how steep the learning curve is for them. This was true even only ten years ago. Now there are hundreds of video tutorials, some offered by the companies themselves, and they can be obtained for less than $300 a year or even free. Below are three of the more powerful and inexpensive CAD programs. 

Each section has a purchasing option, tutorial series, and examples of projects that have been built with CAD software. 

Fusion 360

Fusion 360 is free for personal and hobbyist use. It is often used by hobbyist to design and make 3D printable models. It has a low learning curve as most of the functions and the model controls are intuitive. Fusion 360 is a very good first CAD program it offers a large array of options and is more than enough for the average user. There may be some functional limits of the free version but most users wouldn’t notice.


SketchUp is a very intuitive CAD program which is a little more expensive than the other options shown here. The lowest priced option costs $119 per year and the next level costs $299 per year. SketchUP is what most of the projects in our woodworking section were designed in. Matthias Wandal from designed those projects and is a good example of how to incorporate your skills with CAD into other projects.


Solidworks is an industry standard. It is capable of making the 3D model, assembling it, making drawing of it and seamlessly updating all 3 as you work on one. It is also capable of analyzing the part and assembly for weights, moment of intertie, and even fluid analysis.  Solidworks is a little harder than Fusion 360 and costs $100 per year for the student license. The tutorial listed below is from Tim Callinan a Community College professor. He worked in industry before teaching and does an exceptionally good job. The examples contain start to finish build of various projects.