It’s been many years since I worked in a design office, working at my drawing board and in later years my computer aided design (CAD), always in 2D but sometime drawing in isometric projection. It’s quite clear that since those days drawing practices and instruments have moved on considerably, 3D drawing has become the norm, especially with the introduction of CNC and physical printing availability.

My question

Getting back into drawing again for the purposes building/making or re-creation of items my question is should I just use 2D, a typical free or paid CAD program or pen/paper (free) or should I learn to use 3D?

My background in CAD

In the mid-80s I used an in-house solution called D.O.G.S at work, it stood for Drawing Office Graphical System. It provided simple but accurate 2D drawing commands and was very efficient through it’s simplicity & focus.

An additional layer upon the CAD system provided some advanced drawing capabilities for our engineering needs, this was written in-house using Fortran; and provided huge efficiencies in accuracy, automation and validation.

I Later used Microstation for CAD, the link doesn’t represent the system I used back then but it’s good to see Bentley Systems are still producing CAD systems.

CAD Requirements

Quite simple really:

  • Simple, I don’t have much time so I want to just used it.
  • Portable, I want to keep what I create so standards are important.
  • Applicable, it has to allow me to create drawings for engineering companies both modern and not.
  • Free or cheap.

I started by looking at CAD systems I found through searching, systems that looked familiar to me as I know that would help with my #1 simple requirement.

So tested out QCAD, overall a great solution and ticked my #1, 2 and 4 requirements. However more modern engineering companies use CNC and whilst 2D was fine, if I wanted to ‘model’ something I was going to end up with needing to draw in 3D. This is when I realised I needed to learn how to model in 3D as well as drawn in 2D!


With my realisation 3D was going to be something I needed to learn, I started to look for something I could try, I learn faster that way.

My first and only test was with Autodesk Fusion 360, this was because I would try it, there were some tutorials by an advocate (Lars) within Autodesk and it also served the purpose of drawing in 3D and automatically producing 2D drawings from these. It is free, but given the benefit I make using it I feel happy to pay.

Autodesk Fusion 360 2D CAD drawing.
Using 3D to generate 2D

So, how do I used Fusion today?

  • Create 3D models and drawings for use with CNC capable engineering companies
  • Create 2D drawings ‘from’ 3D models that are send to plasma cutting companies
  • Model parts on 3D objects scanned or created from photogrammetry
  • Re-create parts from physical objects for Project 32