Free Engineering Software for Students
Meghan Brown posted on September 20, 2016 |
39 software packages and platforms to help engineering students get the most from their education.

The Importance of Learning Engineering Software in School

A large part of an engineer’s education is more than facts, calculations and theories. A strong engineering education should prepare young engineers to enter the professional world with all of the skills and knowledge they need to succeed.

Many engineering disciplines are becoming increasingly digital, which means relying on an increasing number of digital tools.  Often these tools take the form of software packages and platforms for every possible engineering application: CAD/CAM/CAE design and simulation, product development and management, and many more.

It is essential that engineering students learn to use the same software programs during their time at university as they will be expected to use in the professional world, so that they can then bring those skills into their internships and first jobs as.  Projects and competitions, whether in school or on the job market, also require engineers to take full advantage of available software tools.

The question is, if learning to use all this software is essential, how can engineering students get their hands on it?

Student Versions and Why They Matter

Luckily for engineering students, there is a growing trend for engineering software companies to offer student versions of their programs for free, or at greatly reduced cost.

And everyone likes the word “free,” right?

Of course, free or discounted student versions usually come with restrictions, such as limitations on storage or file size, the length of license terms or the kinds of work for which it can be used. Most such student licenses permit the software to be used for academic and non-commercial projects only, meaning students can use the program to complete coursework, pursue hobby projects or participate in engineering competitions, but cannot commercialize anything they used the software for without a full professional license.

Aside from that, most student versions offer the same functionality, toolsets, and models as the professional versions, which makes sense, since only learning half of a program wouldn’t provide the professional-level skills that new engineers need.

Being able to access engineering software during your education is vital, and being able to access it for free makes a big difference. Students already incur enough costs pursuing higher education. Having free access to essential software can mean the difference between a student mastering the skills they need or only learning the basics.

Any university or college program worth its salt will have campus computer labs with the necessary programs you need to complete all your courses, but as any engineering student knows, relying solely on lab access isn’t always ideal.

Every other student in your class will need the same software you do, which is why labs are often busy – sometimes even at capacity. The labs could also be closed, or (let’s be honest) you simply may not want to be stuck on campus in a computer lab all day and night.

The solution to the lab problem, of course, is having the software you need available on your own computer, ready for use at any time and any place you want to work.


Software Licenses and Options

There are typically two ways students can access free engineering software.

Academic Institution Software Licenses

Along with the licensing agreements universities already require in order to offer software on the machines on campus or in computer labs, many institutions arrange an additional central licensing agreement that allows students and faculty to download software to their personal machines. This is often purchased and downloaded, or downloaded for free with a license key, through your school’s campus IT services or a campus-operated online storefront.

These software agreements usually involve a limited-term license (such as per year or per semester) and require registration through your school’s academic IT service department. This is to confirm your student status and eligibility for the software as well as to receive any license code or key needed to authenticate the download.

These student licenses are usually for academic, non-commercial use only.

Individual Download Through the Software Vendor

On the other hand, many companies have started to offer their free student software versions directly through their own websites. This still requires users to register in order to prove their eligibility, typically by using an academic email address, student ID number, an access code from your school’s IT services or other proof of enrollment in a college or university program.

License terms can vary, but these student versions are most often on a per-semester or per-school-year basis and require renewal with your student credentials at the end of the license term in order to keep using the software. These licenses are also almost always limited to academic and non-commercial uses.

How and Where Can I Get This Software?

Not all the software listed below is available for free; some licenses are only available for purchase at a discounted student price. As a general rule of thumb, check with your school’s campus or department IT services first to see what software you can access for free or at a discount through your institution. Chances are good that many, if not all, of your software needs will be covered by bulk academic licenses.

For other programs you want or need, we’ve compiled a list of free and discounted student software resources for a wide range of engineering design, simulation and product development needs.

Download Links
Company Altair
Software HyperWorks 14.0 Student Edition
Applications Student edition based on the HyperWorks Desktop. Applications for modeling and visualization, analysis, performance data management, mathematical modeling and conceptual design.
Company ANSYS
Software ANSYS Student | AIM Student
Applications Software for simulation and design. Includes problem-size, limited versions of ANSYS Mechanical, ANSYS CFD, ANSYS Autodyn, ANSYS Workbench, ANSYS DesignModeler and ANSYS DesignXplorer. The current release is 17.0 and has the following problem size limits: Structural physics - 32,000 nodes/elements, Fluid physics - 512,000 cells/nodes
Company ANSYS
Software SpaceClaim Student Edition
Applications 3D solid modeling for creating, editing and repairing geometry in files from any source. Prepare 3D designs for prototyping, analysis and manufacturing. Check if your school has an academic license. Can also be purchased through the vendor.
Company Autodesk
Software Fusion 360
Applications 3D CAD, CAM and CAE for product development. Combines industrial and mechanical design, simulation, machining and collaboration tools from concept through production.
Company Autodesk
Software AutoCAD
Applications Design tools for 3D design, documentation and cloud collaboration, including a mobile app to access designs anytime.
Company Autodesk
Software Revit
Applications Built for Building Information Modeling (BIM) for architecture and infrastructure design and construction. Offers the functions of all Revit disciplines (architecture, MEP, structure) in one interface.
Company Autodesk
Software (Misc.)
Applications Autodesk also offers a wide range of their other software packages under educational licenses as single programs and bundled software suites. Check out the link for the full list of available software.
Company Bentley
Software Academic SELECT Software Portfolio
Applications A wide range of software is available through Bentley's StudentServer, covering civil engineering and design, structural analysis, modeling and visualization and more.
Company CD-Adapco
Software STAR-CCM+ Student License
Applications CFD solver for fluid or solid flow, heat transfer and stress problems involving multiphysics and complex geometries. Student download includes full version of the software plus access to tutorial and other resources.
Company COMSOL
Software COMSOL Multiphysics
Applications Simulation tools for electrical, mechanical, fluid flow and chemical engineering applications and product development. Includes geometry, equation-based and physics-based modeling, meshing, solvers and finite elements. Check with your campus IT services to see if your school has a COMSOL Academic Server license available for students.
Company Dassault Systèmes
Software SOLIDWORKS Student Edition
Applications Student edition package includes tools for 3D CAD design, FEA and CEA, kinematics analysis, electrical systems design, technical documentation and more. Paid only, or inquire with your school for an institutional license agreement.
Company Dassault Systèmes
Software DraftSight CAD Software
Applications 2D CAD software capable of accessing existing DWG files and creating new files. Free version for students, hobbyists and individuals.
Company Dassault Systèmes
Software Misc.
Applications Dassault also offers a variety of other software for classroom and student use, both for free or for a discounted cost.
Company Dassault Systèmes
Software CATIA V5 Student Edition
Applications Design software for 3D CAD product design, simulation, analysis and manufacturing. Available for $99 through Dassault's 3DS Academy. Current student promotion to download free with promo code.
Company Dassault Systèmes
Software Abaqus Student Edition
Applications Finite element analysis tool for structural models up to 1,000 nodes and CFD models up to 10,000 nodes. Available for free through 3DS Academy.
Company Dassault Systèmes
Software ICEM Surf Student Edition
Applications Software based surfacing and styling for Class A Explicit surface modeling, surface analysis and design visualization. $49 through 3DS Academy.
Company ESTECO
Software ModeFRONTIER
Applications Software for multi-objective and multi-disciplinary optimization. Offers workflow and post-processing tools for statistical analysis, data visualization and decision making. One-year license available at a student price with registration in the ESTECO Academy training and resources community.
Company Graphisoft
Software ArchiCAD
Applications BIM software for architects, designers and engineers to design, document and collaborate on building and infrastructure projects.
Company Maplesoft
Software Maple for Students
Applications Math software to analyze, visualize and solve mathematical problems. Check if your school has academic licensing options to access for free; otherwise, the software can be purchased for $99 for a single student user license through the Maplesoft webstore.
Company Maplesoft
Software MapleSim Student Edition
Applications Modeling and simulation tools for engineering students to build and study realistic designs, system-level interactions, parameter optimization, sensitivity analysis and other design applications. Your school may have an academic license; otherwise the software can be purchased for $99 from the Maplesoft webstore.
Company MasterCAM
Software MasterCam
Applications CAM software used professionally worldwide for milling, turning, routing and wire EDM. Applications across industries from prototyping to production parts. Check with your school to see if academic student access licenses are available.
Company MathWorks
Software MATLAB and Simulink Student Suite
Applications Bundled software suite including MATLAB, Simulink and ten of the most common add-on products. Applications for prototyping, testing and running models. May be available free through your school, otherwise can be purchased for $99 through the MathWorks website.
Company MathWorks
Software MATLAB Student (unbundled)
Applications MATLAB software only. Available for purchase $49 from MathWorks website. Check if your school has a MATLAB campus license.
Company MSC Software
Software Adams
Applications Multibody dynamics simulation and motion analysis for moving parts, load and force distribution and optimization of mechanical systems.
Company MSC Software
Software MSC Nastran with Patran
Applications Finite element analysis solver for multidiscipline simulation and modeling. Perform analysis of stress, dynamics or vibration in complex systems.
Company MSC Software
Software Marc
Applications Implicit nonlinear FEA simulation solution including capabilities for contact, large strain and multiphysics.
Company MSC Software
Software Actran
Applications Acoustic simulation tool for acoustics, vibro-acoustics and aero-acoustics problems.
Company MSC Software
Software Digimat
Applications Modeling software for material engineering with mean-field and FE based micro-mechanics for simulating materials and structures.
Company MSC Software
Software MSC Apex
Applications Computational parts-based CAE software for performing deformation, stress and normal modes analysis of materials mechanics, structural analysis, natural frequencies or mode shapes.
Company Nemetschek Scia
Software SCIA Engineer for Students
Applications Multi-material structural analysis and design software for BIM modeling in architecture and construction engineering. Offers modeling, mesh generator, finite element solving and tools to check for optimization for international and national building codes. Free student license subscription for one year term, renewable each year.
Company OnShape
Software OnShape Free Account
Applications CAD platform for product design, operating on the cloud and available for multiple devices. Offers 3D CAD modeling for parts and assemblies and easy collaboration with team members.
Company PTC
Software Creo Parametric 3.0
Applications 3D CAD software for design, analysis, simulation and product design.
Company PTC
Software Mathcad Express
Applications Mathematics software for performing, analyzing, documenting and sharing engineering calculations. Can do unit conversion, interactive 2D and 3D result plotting, worksheet integration into PTC Creo models and present calculations with graphs, text and images in a single document. Free-for-Life license; includes 30-day trial of full version PTC Mathcad 3.1, after which license defaults to lifetime access PTC Mathcad Express, which is a lighter version of Mathcad 3.1.
Company Siemens
Software Solid Edge Student Edition
Applications Mechanical CAD software for design, producing 3D digital prototypes and other product design applications.
Company Siemens
Software NX Academic Edition
Applications Model products with 3D CAD, evaluate performance with CAE simulation tools, learn machine tool programming and other aspects of product manufacturing. Available through academic campus licensing, in some cases schools have "loan licenses" for students to use the software at home. Purchase available for $98.95 through several educational online storefronts.
Company SimScale
Software SimScale Community
Applications Engineering simulation platform that operates through your internet browser. Performs a variety of analysis tasks on CAD models, including fluid flow, thermal analysis, acoustic simulation, particle performance and more.
Company Trimble
Software SketchUp Pro Student
Applications 3D drawing tool software for architecture and construction, including programming, diagramming, design development, documentation and RFI's. Check with your school if there is a free license agreement; otherwise, the software can be purchased for $49 through the SketchUp website.
Company United States Environmental Protection Agency
Software EPA Net
Applications Environmental engineering water modelling software. Facilitates the simulations for networks of junctions, pipes, pumps, valves and storage structures, calculating flow of water, pressures, tank elevations and concentrations of chemical species, water age and source tracing.
Company Wolfram
Software Mathematica Student Edition
Applications Technical computing for engineering research and education. Check with your school for an academic license; otherwise, the software can be purchased starting at $120 through the Wolfram website.
Company Wolfram
Software WolframAlpha
Applications Free online computation and calculation engine.

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