3D sketching and CAD for Mac... need urgently pls!

Hi there!

I just bought a new iMac and this computer is just great, I already installed windows on it too and it runs even better than in a windows based PC.

However, I’d like to move totally to the mac world, and just use windows once in a while.

At the moment I use Solidworks, Rhino and I’m learning how to use Autocad, all of them of course in windows.

Do you know any similar software for Mac OS ? I’ve seen some 3D/CAD software on apple’s web page but I dont know how good they are.

Please if you know something let me know!


Cinema 4D and Autodesk Maya is available on the Mac, other than that there’s not a huge amount of choice as far as I’m aware.

I use macs and I use SolidWorks for uni so I have to have Windows installed too. It’s horrible and I have to let it download Windows/Anti-Virus updates before I can do any work, but it runs SW well and it’s easier than learning a new 3d app…

-Ashlar Vellum
-Google Sketchup (free) or Pro version $$$
-Modo by Luxology

Cobalt (ashlar vellum)


Rhino is in the process of being developed for the mac.

who knows when the commercial version will be out… but until then go ahead and download the beta version here:


a couple of people mentioned Ashlar Vellum, can anyone give a brief comparison of how it’s better, worse or the same as Auto Cad? I’ve never used it.

Also, isn’t it really expensive?

You cant compare AutoCAD to Cobalt, they are not used for the same tasks.

at first glance cobalt’s interface is different in the fact that you work in a single view and use a trackball, similar to the global view in AutoCAD.
Cobalt has a decent, basic internal render engine.
I learned 3d modeling in Cobalt, soon after I picked up rhino and found the interface to be much easier to work in (4 views as one rather than a single view in cobalt)
This was the first time I have opened Cobalt in YEARS so things may have changed…

Do some research on NURBS modeling. You can read up on the different programs and their approach to building surfaces.

here is a screen capture of both programs so you can get a sense of the interface (cobalt(ahlar vellum is on the top, rhino on the bottom)

I was taught Cobalt in school, and if you’re already using Solidworks and Rhino then moving to Cobalt is about 10 steps backwards. It’s got a few decent tools but overall it’s just incredibly clunky and not nearly up to par with Solidworks.

IMO rebooting into Windows to work on CAD would be far less of a hassle then trying to use Cobalt in a mac native environment.


another option if you must stay OS X native is Concepts Unlimited. I needed to do some mac 3d stuff last year, and signed up as a beta tester as the latest version was being developed. you can download a evaluation copy of their software, i think it’s good for 30 days.


they have recently rebranded concepts unlimited, calling it shark fx. it improves on a lot of things, like i believe now you can work in multiple viewports like in rhino. you can sign up to beta test it, if you want to try it out.


and as someone mentioned, there’s also modo, which has a really nice and fast renderer.


this is really useful guys, thanks a lot! At this moment I have to learn autocad urgently for work and asap I’ll go back to improve my solidworks skills and I’ll have a look at cobalt.

Thanks again!

you can also consider solidThinking that it is like rhino but it have also the construction history.

you can download a trial version here Altair | Discover Continuously. Advance Infinitely - Only Forward.

and I suggest you to see these videos that explain the power of solidThinking very well: Altair | Discover Continuously. Advance Infinitely - Only Forward.

wow! it looks amazing! and I love the the fact that it has construction history, thats something really annoying in rhino!


thanks all who responded, Bbarn, cyberdemon et al.

So I gather than cobalt is not really a worthy program to use if one can learn/obtain Rhino or similar.

Apparently I have to learn Autocad at my new school (when i transfer there).

Now what does Pro/E do that Rhino cannot, other than have a construction history list?

What makes it so useful to say designing furniture (which is what I’m going to school for)?

Pls pardon the ignorance – I’d really like to know more about Pro/E – seems like it’s pretty darn important in the industry and I sure don’t want to be left behind.

Also Bbarn I PM’d you.

This is just one feature which I am describing that Pro/E has and Rhino doesn’t. You can create relationships between parts within an assembly so that when a change is made in one part it will also update the other parts that are related to it.

-You have and assembly with part A and part B

-Part A a square block with an 1in diameter hole in the center. Pro/E retains the info of what the diameter size is and later if you want to change the 1” diameter to 2” you just open up the entry field box and enter 2 and the model will update to a hole that is 2”.

-Part B a rod with 1in diameter, but you let Pro/E know that Part B diameter will always be equal with the hole size on Part A basically a relationship that states if hole size in A is changed the diameter for Part B must match it.

-B is placed into the hole in A.

-Let’s say now you change the hole diameter to 2” the rod’s diameter will change also change to 2”.

It depends on what type of furniture you are making.

-Designy furniture (that no one can afford) which is composed of mainly slab like geometry parts, low number of part count and low production volume then I don’t see a significant advantage of using one or the other.

-Office furniture like the cubicle systems where the part count are high and then I could see where Pro/E would be the right choice. Or a Ikea type of company where part geometry are simple but Pro/E would be used for what I can only best describe as “CAD part management” due to the large inventory of parts.

-If you design very organic shape furniture like the Knoll Handkerchief chair then Rhino would be a better choice because modeling organic shaped things is its’ strong point.

  • Comparing Pro/E to Rhino is also kind of like comparing apple to oranges. Pro/E is a 3D CAD program and Rhino is a 3D modeling program and the two are industry standard for what they are intended to do. The ideal answer is to know both because they compliment each other. Ex Modeling very organic shape is tedious in Pro/E but easier in Rhino. In which case you would model the shape in Rhino and imported into Pro/E to add the additional details.

Yes, Pro/E or any 3D CAD programs.

I wouldn’t say Pro E is 3D CAD and Rhino is 3D Modelling - the real way to describe it is Pro E is a parametric solid modeller, Rhino is a freeform NURBS surface modeller. Both are capable of producing CAD ready files for rapid prototyping or production work.

Really the choice should come down to your workflow and what your end deliverables are. Do you need to build production ready surfaces for injection molding tooling? Export files for rapid prototyping? Create 2D control drawings to send to a manufactuer? Create pretty renderings to wow a client?

Picking the right CAD tool is really about understanding the job you need to get done and picking the tool that will get you there the fastest. In reality its almost always a combination of tools (such as Alias for surfacing, Pro E for developing those surfaces into functional parts, and Maya for rendering those parts into pretty pictures) that is the most effective.

UG NX5 has a mac version now.
It’s a solid modeler mainly but has some pretty good surfacing tools.
It’s pretty expensive though.

about the “free hand” 3D sketch look at this video 3D Car Sketch with solidThinking 7.5 - YouTube

I think that this software is the best one to play with the shape, that even exist, in a 3D way… of course just for playing… when you have to model seriously… it’s better to use something else. :unamused: