What is a CAD Library?  

What is a CAD Library?

Whether you’re just getting started with CAD/CAm design and development or have used it regularly inside of a closed network, a CAD library can be a valuable addition to your toolset. However, if you’re new to using CAD programs over the Internet, you might not know what a CAD library is or what you can do with it.  

While the simple answer is that a CAD library is literally a collection of pre-designed parts and pieces, there are many dynamics, restrictions, and variations for you to look out for. Many include models and easily loadable blocks for repeated parts such as tubing, specific components, designs, patterns, etc., which can greatly speed up the process of creating a new design in CAD.  

What Kinds of CAD Libraries Are There?

There are almost as many different types of CAD libraries as there are types of computer aided design. For example, SolidWorks maintains multiple CAD libraries, including but not limited to:  

  • Standard machine components (pre-built/designed) 
  • CAD models (complete, from certified suppliers)  
  • CAD models (Complete, from peers/other users) 
  • Sheet metal forming tools  
  • Sheet metal punch tools  
  • Detailing drawings for CAD  
  • Components (Routing of electrical and piping/tubing) 
  • Prebuilt features (Power connectors, ports, ring grooves, etc.) 
  • Smart components  

So, you can typically find CAD libraries for nearly any specific type of CAD design or machine part. While most libraries are divided based on types of parts, some are divided based on niche (machine parts, routing and electrical), and others include anything.  

What is a Peer Cad Library?

Peer based CAD libraries include any CAD library in which most or all of the design is created and uploaded by amateurs and peers. For example, many free libraries are created by ad for amateur users, who design their own parts and then share them for the benefit of the community. If you work with 3D printing, many of the libraries there are created in the same way.  

What is a Free CAD Library?

Most free CAD libraries are user generated or generated using basic parts by a company or companies that benefit from building trust and social interaction with their userbase. GitHub is typically the largest of these and it is usually user generated. Other free CAD libraries include GrabCad, FreeCad, CadBlocksFree, 3DPartLib and many more. While each of these has some overlap in the free parts they have uploaded, they all provide free CAD blocks and models you can download and use in your design.  

Internal Library

Some companies, especially larger ones, develop libraries of frequently used blocks and parts, enabling them to easily pull from existing designs to create new ones. CAD libraries are also used by large companies to ensure that designs can easily be pulled and reworked or refined as flaws are recognized, models are updated, and new technologies enable higher efficiencies.  

In some cases, individual users can set up similar libraries, although typically on a much smaller scale.  

How Do You Use a CAD Library?

Using a CAD library typically means signing up for an account, downloading a model or block, and then importing it into your CAD software just as you would a design you worked on yourself.  

Most use file formats like FreeCad (.fcstd) and STEP (.stp) files, but you do have to check and verify that the file types are ocmpatible with your CAD software or computer before downloading. Many also offer macro for FreeCad and other libraries (PartsLibrary, fCMacro, etc.) which you will have to set up before using.  

Premium Libraries – Many CAD libraries are not free. Instead, they generate profit by charging a monthly or use fee for users. Here, you benefit from higher quality models and blocks, which you can then use to speed up design. However, prices can be considerable as most libraries are intended for commercial use.  

Click through to the next page to learn the difference between CAD libraries and catalogues.


About The Author
Gardenia Boyle, aka "Deanie," is a freelance writer from Seattle. When she's not busy working on a variety of writing projects, she enjoys volunteering at the Humane Society or hiking. If it's raining though, which it does a lot of in WA, you'll probably find her with a controller in her hand playing one of her favorite games, WoW or Final Fantasy.