First, SolidWorks is awesome, I am about 1/2 thought the demo period and already I've done some awesome things with it. But I'll have to go back to Fusion 360 when the demo is done as I cant afford $4K or 1.5K/Year to use SolidWorks for my 3D Printing hobby.
I'm not trying to start a flame war, I really want to use SolidWorks but I cant see how to justify the cost. Is there another option for hobby use where we don't have to pay so much? Why not offer a light, or non-commercial version?
A student version is available. It sounds like what you need: http://www.solidworks.com/sw/education/buy-student-edition-software.htm
The $1.5K per year is only if you are on a maintenance contract. If you are using this for a 3D printing hobby, it is unlikely that you'd need the most up to date version of the program each year.
I don't know if they are legitimate versions of the software, but you can often find PCs being sold on eBay that have SolidWorks installed.
Here is a "buy it now" for under $300 with SolidWorks 2015 installed: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Dell-Latitude-ATG-E6420-i5-2-6-GHz-4GB-80-GB-HD-DVD-RW-Window7-SolidWorks-2015-/301860746208?hash=item46484d73e0:g:0w4AAOSwLzdWSy4i
Thanks FredSWUG. From what I can tell, only a student enrolled in a university can purchase a student version.
I'd be happy with 2012 which is what I've got to play with here. Is there a way to buy a valid license for the older versions at near student prices?
Yes, you must be a student to buy the student version... Or at least know a student who will buy it for you.
I'm not sure what the cost of a student version is, but $300 for a laptop and an installed seat of SolidWorks 2015 from ebay sounds like a really good option.