Developing and designing ideas is an important step in the creative, engineering, and work process, and 3D designs or products are no different.
Whether it is for play or high-level projects, we need exquisite and functional 3D tools that do the job. That’s where FreeCAD and SketchUp come in.
With both software, you have access to a 3D modelling computer program to cover all sorts of domains from architecture to interior design.
The freedom with these programs is endless, and to select one for your studio, team, school, or even playgroup, you need to understand what you are getting into. And that’s what we are here for.
FreeCAD is the 3D design software that engineers use to create computer-aided designs (CAD) work on building information and finite element modelling.
This open-source software allows users with programming skills to extend the capabilities that FreeCAD can do, and make for a more scalable and robust design application across FreeBSD, Linux, Unix, macOS, and Windows.
However, SketchUp, a subscription-based 3D computer program provides design capabilities for users across Windows and macOS to create architectural, engineering, and creative drawing and designs.
Geared towards more creative design, it is less rigid than FreeCAD and allows for development and design across theatre, film, and even video games.
FreeCAD is free, and everyone loves free things. However, is this the free platform you will love? and does this free software measure up to its competitor, Sketchup? Yes, or no?
We will find out more in this article. In the case of Sketchup, is its price model worth it, and how does it measure up to FreeCAD in features and capabilities? Let’s find out.
With this article, you will have all the important knowledge about FreeCAD and SketchUp, their pricing, features, capabilities, usability, and support among other things.
We will lay up the pros, and cons and what makes them distinguishable and worth of use.
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FreeCAD authors designed FreeCAD for 3D Modelling, CAD, CAM, BIM, and FEM, and have over the years garnered usage and development over the specific areas with numerous file supports. FreeCAD is a popular choice among students because it is free and easy of learning.
FreeCAD offers a local 3D parametric modeller platform that allows users to create production-ready and engineering-precise drawings in 2D and 3D.
With the parametric modelling feature, you can modify your designs via model history and parameter changes.
Also, you can develop with constraints and make use of a 2D design base for 3D component designs. With its CFD and FEA tools, simulation can be done in one suite instead of across multiple platforms such as SolidWorks and ANSYS.
FreeCAD serves as a great general-purpose design and development program for the everyday user.
Without the help of an architect, a civil engineer, or a structural engineer, users can create floor plans, furniture schematics, and blueprints with FreeCAD.
The software features a drag-and-drop interface that allows users to quickly construct a working model. Users can also drag and drop project elements as needed, changing the blueprint to get the best outcomes.
Understanding how to create the plan correctly is one of the most crucial aspects of utilizing FreeCAD as a model maker.
Popular among students for a completely different reason, SketchUp allows for a creative process that other software such as FreeCAD, AutoCAD, and SolidWorks doesn’t provide.
Additionally, the ‘great’ support for 3D printing, that FreeCAD doesn’t have is another killer feature that drives users to its platform.
SketchUp has different subscriptions, Studio, Pro, Shop, and Free. In addition, SketchUp allows web users across the different subscription tiers for collaborative and customizable design.
Also, SketchUp workflows allow for easy documentation in 2D after a rigorous 3D design process. For a more specialized design process, SketchUp brings a ton of value across its distinct features.
To add to SketchUp’s feature-rich platform, its 3D Warehouse allows you to access other users’ 3D models to modify and use for your projects, and extensions that can increase the capabilities of SketchUp.
Just as with FreeCAD, you can drag and drop models you find, and provides support for numerous material types.
There are a ton of model viewers that are available to view the models you have created using SketchUp which makes the process of design and development a lot more collaborative and easier.
For the pricing model, the features that exist in Sketchup are worth the license fee that you pay.
Ease of Use and Setup
Both are easy to use and come with a good setup process. However, FreeCAD has a better and more user-friendly user interface. Though, SketchUp has a more appealing user interface.
Furthermore, you can open different file formats, however, with FreeCAD, you can easily review 3D models, especially when a commercially available software like AutoCAD, or SolidWorks.
FreeCAD is better for such reviews because of the engineering drawing features it provides and the parametric modelling supports it provides.
FreeCAD supports SVG, DXF, STEP, IGES, SCAD, DAE, OBJ, and many more. As for SketchUp, SKP, 3DS, DAE, DEM, DDF, DXF, DWG, IFC, IFCZIP, KMZ, STL, BMP, JPG, PNG, PSD, TIF, and TGA are all file formats that it supports in terms of importing.
When it comes to exporting layouts or full Sketchup designs, the file formats can be different. You can find out more about SketchUp file format support on their support site.
Overall, both are great on usability and setup with SketchUp taking it with its modern look and wide variety of file format support.
FreeCAD takes the pricing price. However, SketchUp provides tons of value via its Pro version. From a minimum of Windows 7, Mac OS X 10.12 Sierra, and any Linux Distro, you can get the FreeCAD application via their downloads page for free.
However, you can access SketchUp via three main tiers, Primary and Secondary, Higher Education, and Commercial Use.
Via the primary and secondary tiers, SketchUp for Schools is available for free using either a G Suite or Microsoft Education account.
However, with Higher Education, you can access Sketch Up as a student or educator which comes at the same price, $55 per year.
Although with different customization for teachers and students. There is a plan for universities that’s available via a different context pricing model.
For Commercial Use, SketchUp Go, Pro, and Studio (Windows only) come at $119, $299, and $699, respectively.
Lastly, the free version that’s only available via the web is often hard to find and gives you a 3D web modeller, 10 GB cloud storage, and mobile viewer access, which can be found via their Trial Page.
For you, if using multiple features is a key part of what you are involved in, FreeCAD delivers a ton. Because it is developed via open-source, it allows for you to contribute to what can be built and gives room for more accessibility.
With yearly releases, you are sure to get standard updates and follow the trend in the world of design especially engineering designs.
Overall, with FreeCAD, you have access to 2D drawing, annotations, collaboration tools, data import and export across different file formats, and experimental modelling and simulation.
For SketchUp, you get all the said features that FreeCAD provides, but provides 3D printing, animations, and a component library in addition.
Across the different pricing tiers except for Go and Primary and Secondary plans, you have access to the desktop modeller, Trimble Connect, mobile viewer, VR viewer, 3D and Extension Warehouse, Sefaira, and the iPad application.
With the Go, tons of these are available except for the desktop application, which is a poor deal for $119. The Sefaira provides early-stage analysis for better building performance and the Trimble Connect provides a continuous medium to access all SketchUp project information from anywhere at any time.
If you know some python and are a frequent open-source user, you can upgrade the capabilities of FreeCAD, and tweak it to form the CAD that fits your need.
However, if you are just looking for more power and access to other models, SketchUp allows you to have access to tons of them via its Extension Warehouse.
From texture effects manager to concrete column support, the SketchUp Extension Warehouse provides additional capabilities from other developers. With FreeCAD, you can build from the source, and add your native functionalities.
In addition, there is a C++ and Python API that allows you to embed FreeCAD and develop new workbenches. There are tons of macros that you can install to complement your FreeCAD application.
With SketchUp, you have access to the Developer centre and its Ruby API and C SDK. The API and SDK allow you to interact directly with SketchUp files and create an importer and exporter interface.
You can also interact with SketchUp LayOut documents. Also, via its Extension Warehouse, you can easily upgrade the capabilities of SketchUp.
FreeCAD is available on Windows, Linux, and macOS. However, SketchUp is available on Windows, macOS, and iPad depending on the license acquired. Also, you can only access SketchUp Studio, the advanced workflow plan via Windows.
In addition, you can access SketchUp via Web and Mobile (Android and iOS). Its availability via web and mobile allows for collaboration and immersive design process via VR and mobile viewing.
SketchUp takes this section, and FreeCAD can be found wanting. Overall, there is only chat support for FreeCAD. However, with SketchUp, you have access to email support, a help centre, FAQs, a forum, and phone support.
Though, for both, there is no 24/7 live representative. You can, however, find tutorials and learning materials on their wiki page and Stack Exchange.
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From all the features and functionalities discussed, you might have caught a few of the pros that make FreeCAD and SketchUp great 3D modelling software options.
With FreeCAD, the big pro is in the name, it is free, and allows people who have less than advanced knowledge of design and engineering drawing to be able to review and access design and modelling files.
The user interface is great and easy to get used to and allows hobbyist to develop their 3D models, but also, allows for early-stage development.
The creative process is a ton easier with SketchUp, especially with the Extension Warehouse, and the rendering capabilities are top of the line. SketchUp has integration with tools such as DynaScape and Lumion, and it is fairly accurate with its modelling capabilities.
Unlike FreeCAD, the learning curve is simple and makes it easier to teach especially in higher education.
Everything good has its flaws and FreeCAD and SketchUp are not without theirs. Largely because FreeCAD is maintained by a community of developers, there are bound to be bugs, but more often than not, there is an update that deals with that in time.
Regardless of the user-friendly interface, the learning curve can be steep. With SketchUp, as much as the rendering capabilities are great, there are limited, and achieving certain levels of realism is not possible, and would require additional tools.
Also, SketchUp could log you out once in a while and require sign-in again, which can be frustrating.
When using the web version, there can be issues when importing or exporting files or models. It is not as good as FreeCAD when it comes to engineering drawings, especially in terms of precision.
Better for smaller teams, individuals, and design beginners, FreeCAD is a top-notch 3D modelling application. SketchUp is more functional for larger teams, and organizations such as high schools, studios, and architectural firms, and takes a more creative path to designing 3D components and products.
With SketchUp 3D support, hobbyists can be swayed, but the user-friendly interface, simulation, and ability to tweak to preference on FreeCAD, make it an individual favourite.
With its collaborative features and Warehouse extension, SketchUp is just right for everyone especially the studio designing that stadium in the town square.
The pricing model for Sketchup can be restrictive for people who are starting, but the web version can be useful. However, the continuous need for the internet can be further restrictive. That’s where FreeCAD takes advantage of the typical user.
However, with Sketchup 3D visualization, collaborative features, and high-quality graphics, it takes the best overall 3D modelling software between both.
Aside from the simulation and parametric modelling technique, Sketchup is far more performant, faster, accessible via the different environments, and supports more tool selection and file formats.
The fact that FreeCAD is free and provides so much value makes it great software and top-choice for 2D and 3D design and modelling. For various needs, both provide exceptional features, however, SketchUp is the better choice.