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INDEX 02: CAD: MCAD (Mechanical Computer-Aided Design)

The MCAD market has traditionally ignored Apple, but things started changing in the late aughts. By 2010 – 2012 major new players like Siemens’ NX (Unigraphics) came to the platform. The strength of the MCAD platform for the macOS platform has grown a lot since, and there are now over 25 native macOS CAD apps meant to tackle MCAD industries.

Here we have a complete list of CAD apps for the MCAD industry for the macOS platform. This list is in alphabetical order below.

A Primer on MCAD for Mac

With the exception of the early 1990’s period, the mechanical CAD industry has largely avoided the macOS platform until the latter half of the last decade, when Autodesk signed renewed interest in the platform. This brought about some big announcements, most notably Siemens’ PLM software for OS X. When Apple faulted with the new 2013 Mac Pro, some of these big MCAD players faulted on their Mac plans due to a poor showing of interest with a lack of ideal Mac hardware. But that hasn’t stopped continued growth in smaller players. While the Catia, Creo, and SolidWorks of the world continue to eschew the platform (though many run those apps on Mac hardware in a virtualized environment or under Boot Camp) smaller players have emerged to fill the void.

One such group is actually a family of rivals, consisting of AutoCAD enemies in Dassault Systemes with DraftSight, Graebert’s ARES Commander (which is the engine in DraftSight), and Bricsys with its BricsCAD platform products. These are all DWG-based solutions and rival AutoCAD, which itself came back to the Mac platform at the end of the last decade.

The other set of MCAD products include web-based solutions or hybrid desktop-web solutions, in products Onshape and Autodesk Fusion 360, respectively.

We spotlight three MCAD apps for Mac below.

Mac MCAD Industry Notable Apps

The first one is BricsCAD Sheet Metal, a dedicated focused mechanical CAD application that is fully macOS native (as is the whole Bricsys family of products which support all three main platforms.). Certainly, BricsCAD itself—which comes in Classic, Pro, and Platinum versions is well suited for mechanical CAD. A comparison of AutoCAD shows it has more features in this department, like “assembly viewing,” and “assembly constraints,” and “assembly modeling” things that AutoCAD does not have on either PC or Mac. The Sheet Metal version adds more mechanical capacity to this Belgium-based application.

Moving away from the DWG-based new upstarts who are delivering powerful competitive pressures to Autodesk, new companies like Onshape are disrupting the biggest MCAD players due to the fact that the whole product is delivered through the web browser on any modern platform. They even have an iOS version that is exceptional. Onshape is aiming its arrow directly at Solidworks but from a disruptive position under the latter’s market. Onshape features ARES technology in its new drafting engine, and while Graebert is making an ARES Mechanical product, that product isn’t quite out on the market yet and may not be macOS compatible. Onshape has had a competitive influence on Autodesk’s similarly aimed product in Autodesk Fusion 360.

01 – BricsCAD features an extensive mechanical design feature set and a dedicated product devoted to sheet metal design.

02 – Onshape is the CAD industry darling at the moment with its fully web-based platform.

03 – IMSI/Design’s TurboCAD Pro Mac is fully ACIS based and punches way above its weight for a entry-level MCAD on the Mac platform.

IMSI/Design’s TurboCAD Mac Pro, which has been reviewed here on Architosh, is an ACIS based multi-disciplinary CAD system but one that is much stronger on the MCAD side. It’s PC sister app actually utilizes a different CAD engine and is not a one-to-one version of the Mac app. TurboCAD Mac Pro has sophisticated rendering built in and overall delivers a lot of bang for the buck.

When Architosh published its first Digital Practice Guide (Architosh DPG) back in 2000, the list of MCAD products was pretty slim. It has grown tremendously in rich options, even greater than the Mac side of the AEC market, where two sister (Nemetschek) companies dominate that market at a tremendous level. Of course, those sister companies, given their size, have grown their add-on application market tremendously on the global scale.

One thing that happens when a CAD platform gets really large is you get a whole family of third-party add-on applications sprouting up. We could see that happening to some of the leaders in the MCAD market that are new and still growing.

INDEX 02: A complete listing of Mac MCAD Apps

The list of MCAD apps for Mac has grown substantially since Architosh first launched in 1999. Below you will find….

  • Argon — CAD and 3D precision modeling software for Mac and Windows. It offers wireframe, solid and surface history-free modeling with precision drawings, photo-realistic renderings, and animation. (Mac OS X and Windows)
  • ARES Commander — powerful CAD software for day-to-day work as well as complex projects. Leverage the productive tools and intelligent features for drafting and design that you’ve come to expect from top CAD products plus some exclusive productivity features, at significant cost savings. (Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux)
  • AutoCAD LT for Mac — the fully macOS native version of AutoCAD LT offers near feature parity with its Windows version and delivers it in a superior user-interface than its Windows version, taking advantage of unique Apple Mac user-interface features and integration, like support for the Apple Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro. (Mac OS X)
  • Autodesk Fusion 360 — a modern web-based 3D CAD, CAM and CAE tool aimed at product development and engineering and simulation. It features a modern development model and includes simulation tools. (Mac OS X and Windows)
  • AutoCAD for Mac — this is the complete professional CAD package for AutoCAD on the macOS platform and has all the features of LT above plus a whole lot more in the form of 3D. (Mac OS X)
  • BricsCAD — offers all the familiar .dwg 2D CAD features, yet it adds time-saving tools and 3D Direct Modeling. (Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux)
  • BricsCAD Sheet Metal — this innovative product offering adds specific feature sets for the sheet metal industry to the base BricsCAD product offering. (Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux)
  • BricsCAD Communicator — a high-quality 3D data exchange between major MCAD formats. This optional module to BricsCAD Pro or Platinum users can import and export 3D CAD data with all the major MCAD programs.
  • BRL CAD — BRL-CAD is a powerful open source cross-platform solid modeling system that includes interactive geometry editing, high-performance ray-tracing for rendering and geometric analysis, a system performance analysis benchmark suite, geometry libraries for application developers, and more than 30 years of active development. (Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux)
  • Cobalt — the premier parametric 3D modeling and CAD program from Ashlar-Vellum. This application includes 2D and 3D production drafting along with advanced parametric modeling with geometric dimensioning and tolerancing. (Mac OS X and Windows)
  • CorelCAD — an ARES-based DWG-native 2/3D CAD program that has unique ties to CorelDraw useful to manufacturers with extensive CAD and technical illustration workflows. (Mac OX and Windows)
  • DraftSight Professional — an ARES-based native DWG 2D CAD system by industry giant, Dassault Systèmes. In terms of CAD usage, DraftSight has one of the largest user-bases in the world, with over 2 million downloads and counting. It comes with its own API and Dassault has largely used this platform to thwart Autodesk’s dominance in the CAD market.
  • DraftSigth Enterprise — this version is just like the version above but for large organizations, NGOs, governments, who want full DWG native 2D CAD but with network licensing and built-in technical support plans.
  • DesignFreeQ — is a drafting program is used in CAD/CAM to produce high precision drawings, but also in areas like technical illustration, documentation and education. Due to DesignFreeQ’s unique Inference Engine, drafting is made as easy as sketching on a piece of paper. (Mac OS X)
  • DeltaCAD for Mac — is a fully-featured CAD application specially designed for architects and engineers that need an easy-to-use yet powerful drawing app. It features a distraction-free interface.
  • Graphite — When you want 2D and 3D CAD software that’s easy to use, yet absolutely precise, that’s Graphite. Formerly known as Vellum®, Graphite offers extremely powerful, precision wire-frame drafting with the elegant ease-of-use that makes it productive even when only used occasionally.
  • HighDesign — award-winning 2D CAD program originally made exclusively for Mac OS X, it ships in LT and Pro versions. The Windows version is currently in Beta.
  • LibreCAD —  free Open Source CAD application. (Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux)
  • MacDraft — UK-based native Mac OS X CAD program comes in both Professional and PE (Personal Learning) editions, while Professional can open and edit AutoCAD DWG files. (Mac OS X)
  • Onshape — Design, version, and share parts, assemblies, and drawings from anywhere for less than your legacy CAD maintenance fees. (web-based)
  • OpenSCAD — a programmer’s solid 3D CAD modeller available for Linux, UNIX, Windows and Mac OS X. Its free open source software.
  • SharkCAD — SharkCAD is a comprehensive 2D/3D CAD program that ships an entry and pro versions. It features KeyShot Live Linking and advanced NURBS surface modeling. (Mac OS X and Windows)
  • TurboCAD Mac Designer — IMSI/Design’s entry-level 2D drafting CAD program is a well-regarded stable in the Mac CAD community aimed at the prosumer market. (Mac OS X)
  • TurboCAD Mac Deluxe 2D/3D — IMSI/Design’s mid-level CAD package for Mac features ACIS modeling tools along with strong 2D drafting CAD features, including support for 3D printing and both AEC and MCAD tools. (Mac OS X)
  • TurboCAD Mac Pro — is IMSI/Design’s professional mid-level 2D/3D CAD package and includes both ACIS modeling, AutoCAD DWG compatibility and powerful rendering tools along with 3D printing support. (Mac OS X)
  • Vectorworks Designer — The complete package of all vertical industry series solutions of the Vectorworks product line. (Mac OS X and Windows)
  • Vectorworks Fundamentals — the entry-level version of the Vectorworks product line, focused on general CAD and modeling needs across various industries. (Mac OS X and Windows)
  • ViaCAD — like SharkCAD made by PunchCAD and aimed at the prosumer or consumer CAD market, ViaCAD ships in 2D, 2D/3D versions and ViaCAD Pro. Taken together the PunchCAD product line ranges in price from $40USD – $1895USD. (Mac OS X and Windows)
  • Xenon — this is a full-featured 3D modeling and production drafting (2D/3D) application by Ashlar-Vellum similar to Cobalt but without parametric modeling. It has associative 3D modeling instead which is not as powerful. This is Ashlar Vellum’s mid-range product. (Mac OS X and Windows)

Growing This List

Have we missed a key software package? If you think so please email us at [email protected] and tell us about it. We will be sure to add it to the list at the next update AND we will give you a complimentary annual subscription to Architosh INSIDER premium membership.

series index page: Mac App Guides for CAD/CAM/3D/AEC industries.

Architosh will be reviewing and updating all our App Lists on a regular basis. See the dates below.

Listing of Updates by Date

15 Dec 2017 — Page last updated on.

01 Nov 2017 — Creation Date.


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