3D modeling for aeronautics in 2020: Top 10 of the best aircraft design software | Sculpteo Blog

3D modeling for aeronautics in 2020: Top 10 of the best aircraft design software

Posted By Lucie Gaget on Jan 10, 2018 | 0 comments

3D Modeling software is useful for engineers in all sectors. They are becoming an essential tool for the aeronautics and aerospace industries. More and more engineers are using 3D design software in order to 3D print, for prototyping or production. But it can also be used for the visualization of a project. For aircraft design, engineers need to create technical 2D drawings and 3D models. A lot of specific features have to be offered by this kind of software to allow the creation of mechanical designs and reliable aircrafts.

In this blogpost, we will see why 3D modeling is becoming so important for aeronautics. And as we know that finding the right Computer-Aided Design software can be a real challenge, we decided to help you with a selection of the best aircraft design software.


Why is 3D design becoming an essential tool for aeronautics?

Additive manufacturing as a new major asset

The 3D printing technology is taking more and more space in the aeronautics sector. Indeed, additive manufacturing is becoming a great asset for this industry. If you want more details, you can read our blogpost about the future of 3D printing in aerospace and aeronautics, and see how an online 3D printing service such as Sculpteo could help you. Indeed, the way parts are designed and produced is progressively evolving thanks to additive manufacturing. Engineers are now able to create parts with intricate or conceptual designs at the same costs as parts with simple geometries. In order to change the manufacturing process and start using 3D printing, engineers have to find the right software to design those kind of complex projects.


Aircraft design software: the perfect and most efficient tool

Aerodynamics and aircraft designs are requiring tools with a high level of efficiency and accuracy. Moreover, airplane designers need a lot of analysis features and design tools in order to create an aircraft with optimized flight conditions. That is precisely where CAD software is becoming an interesting tool. It can be used for the visualization of a project, for analysis, but also to do some rapid prototyping or directly for production. 3D modeling software is great to understand the structural mechanics and aerodynamics properties of aircrafts.

These projects require programs able to use the finite element method in order to resolve problems linked to structure or fluid flow for example. In aircraft engineering, you have to be able to get aerodynamic analysis, to modify geometries and get accurate views. In order to help you in you researches for the best aircraft design program, we made a top of the best software for aeronautics.


Software dedicated to 3D modeling for aeronautics

Aeronautics require accuracy and efficiency. Here are the design software made for aeronautics, that will allow you to create reliable 3D models.

SharkCAD Pro

SharkCAD Pro is a professional modeling software allowing to design for 3D printing, rendering, drawing or animation. With this software you will find a wide range of design tools, for surface, curve, solid and mesh modeling. This program is a good tool for aeronautics and aerospace engineers

This program is not made for the aeronautic industry, but you can add an interesting plug-in. Indeed, there is a special package available and specifically made to design for aircraft. It is called AeroPack and it is developed by DARcorporation. Aircraft designers will be pleased by these amazing modeling tools  With this CAD software and its dedicated plug-in AeroPack you will be able to work on professional 3D files with a great accuracy. Also, it allows to make good 2D drawings.




ADS (Aircraft Design Software) is a design software developed by OAD (Optimal Aircraft Design). This program is perfect for aircraft designers and builders amateurs . If you are a beginner and you are just getting started with building aircraft, this design software will be perfectly adapted to your needs. It is great to work on aerodynamics and aircraft designs and it has a lot of tools to optimise the configuration of your aircraft.



Cart3D is an efficient software powered by NASA, specially made for aerospace and aeronautics. If you are specifically looking for a program to help you with aircraft design, you have to take a look at the tools offered by Cart3D called GoCart. It is made for aircraft aerodynamics analysis and design. It will allow to deal with geometry inputs and mesh preparation. GoCart has perfect visualisation possibilities and includes a lot of post processing options. Thanks to this design program you will be able to work on computational aerodynamics and control your aircraft stability.




OpenVSP (Vehicle Sketch Pad) is a parametric aircraft geometry tool that will allow you to create 3D models for aircraft. This modeling tool is an open source aircraft design software developed by NASA. It is an intuitive tool, allowing to create models quite quickly. You can also take a look at VSP Hangar, the database of the community, where you can check other 3D models to get some inspiration.

Even if this 3D software is very easy to use, you might want a little help to make your first steps. So, if you’re getting started with this software, here is a video tutorial that will surely help you with your 3D design:


Other CAD software that you can use for aeronautics

Some other modeling software available on the market could help you with aircraft design. Here are the best software for aeronautics:


CATIA is a software that Dassault Systèmes developed in house, for their own needs. The modeling software is used in many industries by engineers, including aeronautics. CATIA is a program that allows to create complex and accurate 3D models. A cloud version of this professional software is now available. It could clearly improve the collaborative aspect of the aircraft design process.

If you want more information about CATIA, check out our tutorial.



Solidworks is a modeling software mainly used by engineers. This design program is efficient and practical for almost every industries. It allows to create everything from quick designs to compex rendering. These software tools could really help you with your aircraft designs.

You are looking to 3D print your model and you’re using Solidworks? Check out our Solidworks tutorial to prepare your file for 3D printing.


Solid Edge

Solid Edge is a great software providing solid modeling, 2D and 3D views. It is a CAD software dedicated to mechanical designers, and it allows to create technical 3D models. It uses synchronous technology, allowing engineers to deal with parametric design and direct modeling. This software can do powerful engineering simulations and you can totally use it to design your 3D aircraft project.

Here is a demonstration of assembly modeling with Solid Edge:



NX is a modeling software that can be used for you aircraft design projects. Airplane designers can use this efficient tool for their development process in aeronautics. NX and its various advanced features will help you to design the best 3D models, using parametric solid modeling. You will be able to create accurate mechanical designs.

If you are getting started with this program, here is a video tutorial that might help you:



Inventor is a CAD software developed by Autodesk. This professional tool is great to work on 3D mechanical designs. You can create technical 2D drawings, preliminary designs but also 3D designs, dynamic simulations and great visualisation for your aircraft design projects. These software tools are efficient enough to work on 3D aircraft designs.

You can find a tutorial on our website to learn how to prepare a 3D model for 3D printing with Inventor.

PTC Creo

PTC Creo (formerly known as Pro/Engineer) is a design software providing solid modeling and assembly modeling, but also good 2D views and useful analysis. It is a good program if you need to work on product design or surface modeling. Indeed, this package will be perfect to optimize your aircraft models. It is possible to use direct modeling or parametric modeling with PTC Creo.

You can watch a demonstration in the video below:



SketchUp is known to be an intuitive program. This free 3D modeling software can be used for many different applications, from architecture to medical, but it can totally fit an engineering project, such as aircraft design. If it is possible to use SketchUp for various 3D projects. It is also ideal for scaled and accurate 2D drawings.

If you are just beginning with Sketchup, check out our Sketchup tutorial series.


As you can see, there are various possibilities when it comes to modeling programs. But we hope that this selection helped you to find the right CAD software to develop your engineering projects.

You are an aeronautics or aerospace engineer and you want to try 3D printing? You can totally 3D print some of the parts that you designed on one of these software, upload them to our online 3D printing service. And if you want more informations about 3D printing, subscribe to our weekly newsletter!


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