Solidworks vs Inventor: How to Decide Which Is The Best Pick?

Solidworks vs Inventor

When designing a prototype or creating something that you’d like to print, you can rely on CAD software to help you with the task. Two of the most recommended programs are SolidWorks vs Inventor. These two give you a range of excellent and easy to use tools to help you create and fine-tune 3D objects for your printing needs.

But if you look into these two more closely, you’d find that some things are different and these differences may help you decide to choose one over the other.

Main Differences Between Solidworks vs Inventor

The main differences between Solidworks vs Inventor are:

  • SolidWorks costs more upfront, whereas Autodesk Inventor is available on a subscription basis that may be cheaper at first, but tends to add up over time.
  • SolidWorks is known for being easy to learn and intuitive to use, whereas Autodesk Inventor comes with a steep learning curve.
  • SolidWorks has a growing and large user community that you can tap if you have problems or questions. whereas Autodesk doesn’t have such an offer within their products.
  • SolidWorks works with resellers that can give you better technical and customer support either via phone or e-mail, whereas Autodesk Inventor users are told to use e-mail for their questions.
  • SolidWorks has more career opportunities available for users, whereas Autodesk has a slim selection of companies and industries that require their employees to have Autodesk Inventor experience and skills.

So what should you know about SolidWorks and Autodesk Inventor? Which one is better for you? What are the features and tools that they offer? Pull up a chair, get yourself some coffee, and read on!

What is SolidWorks?

SolidWorks is a suite of tools that allows you to make, publish, simulate, and manage everything about your project and data. The range of products offered is very easy to use and learn. SolidWorks makes designing a lot easier.

 

The first SolidWorks package was released in 1995, which makes it older than some millennials. Dassault Systemes originally made it to be a complete 3D modeling program that works on Windows, but it has since added features that allow it to compete with the best computer-aided engineering and computer-aided design software.

Over the years, SolidWorks also launched simulation and virtual reality features. Today, design and engineering professionals use SolidWorks for stress testing and prototyping.

SolidWorks Features You Should Know

SolidWorks comes with several tools and features that can make life easier for you. First, they have the sustainability tool that will give show you how your design will impact the environment.

SolidWorks also offer you a range of simulation tools that helps you see how your design will hold up to different temperatures, stress, or pressure. In short, you can see how that particular design will perform in real-world conditions without you having to build it first to test it.

 

But what makes SolidWorks a more noteworthy program is their use of virtual reality and augmented reality. No longer are you just confined to simulations, you can test your design in different situations and environments.

SolidWorks’ design review can also accommodate millions of components because of its large size. What’s more, you can work with all the components you need without draining your CPU’s resources.

How Much does SolidWorks Cost?

SolidWorks charge both for its license and upgrades. You pay $3,995 for the license and then pay another $1,295 for upgrades and support.

  • SolidWorks Standard is the cheapest option but it already has all the design and modeling tools that other versions offer, plus basic rendering and animation tools.
  • SolidWorks Professional adds tools and features for design checking, visualization, and costing, as well as photo-realistic rendering. Professional also allows you to use a scan of a part and reverse engineer it.
  • SolidWorks Premium is the most expensive version and gives you access to all the features offered by SolidWorks. You will probably need this version if you use simulation tools extensively, as well as routing features.
Product Permanent license Annual subscription
Design
SolidWorks Electrical Professional $9,995 $2,750
SolidWorks Premium $7,995 $1,995
SolidWorks Electrical Schematic Professional $5,995 $1,695
SolidWorks Electrical 3D $5,995 $1,695
SolidWorks Professional $5,490 $1,495
SolidWorks Standard $3,995 $1,295
Design validation
SolidWorks Plastics Standard $4,995 $1,499
SolidWorks Simulation Professional $4,177 $2,375
SolidWorks Simulation Standard $3,995 $1,000
SolidWorks Plastics Premium $22,495 $5,624
SolidWorks Plastics Professional $14,995 $3,794
SolidWorks Flow Simulation $13,995 $3,919
SolidWorks Simulation Premium $11,595 $3,675
Data management
SolidWorks PDM Professional Viewer $2,995 $995
SolidWorks PDM Professional CAD Editor $1,895 $495
SolidWorks PDM Professional Contributor $1,350 $395
Technical communications
SolidWorks Composer $5,490 $1,495
SolidWorks Inspection Professional $3,995 $999
SolidWorks Inspection Standard $2,295 $599
SolidWorks MBD Standard $1,995 $499
Sustainable design
SolidWorks Sustainability $2,995 $995

As you can see, there are a lot of flavors for SolidWorks, so it’s best to talk to a reseller about what you need and allow them to match your requirements with the right version.

What Might Need Improving About SolidWorks

One of the things that you might not like about SolidWorks is the fact that it doesn’t offer students and teachers a free license for their software. Users from the academe can download the student edition, which will cost them $99, and that only lasts for a year.

See how SolidWorks compares to others:

What is the Autodesk Inventor?

Autodesk Inventor came four years after the first SolidWorks came out. The inventor directly challenged SolidWorks as it is also a tool for a mechanical design that allowed you to work with both 2D and 3D designs. It also had a good set of simulation and documentation tools.

 

How Much Does the Autodesk Inventor Cost?

Autodesk uses a subscription model for Inventor, requiring you to pay $1,985 per year. You can save by paying for a three-year subscription at $5,360.

Autodesk Inventor Features Worth Noting

Autodesk Inventor has some editing tools that make your work faster. First, it automates the math behind complex designs. for example, if you’re designing a kinetic blade, the program will do the advanced math behind the scenes, so you can concentrate on designing while Inventor takes care of the minute details.

You can also do some direct editing and free-form drawings, on top of the parametric design. Software like the Inventor and SolidWorks use parametric modeling, wherein your design’s geometry will be based on and changed by certain values.

The free-form modeling and direct-edits capabilities of Inventor allow you to break free of parametric modeling. Further, the Inventor has simulation features that can help you see how your 3D designs work in real-world situations. You can simulate pressure on the joints, or see what happens when a welded part gives way.

 

Aside from these design and simulation features, Autodesk Inventor is also noteworthy because of its speedy loading times. The program loads your design in lightning-fast times because it can ignore the resources-hogging geometric data when you open a design.

Lastly, Autodesk Inventor offers students and teachers a free subscription. The three-year free plan will be excellent for academics to save a lot of money and still be able to use and learn Inventor, as well as other Autodesk products.

What You Won’t Like About Autodesk Inventor

Autodesk Inventor is notorious for being too difficult for beginners to learn. Autodesk products are not known for ease of use and for being user friendly.

What makes matters worse is that Inventor doesn’t have a thriving online community that can help you when you hit a wall. Autodesk tries to make up for this by releasing support materials and tutorials.

Autodesk also prioritizes users who paid for more expensive licenses for their products. So even if you’re first in line, you get bumped off if there’s somebody else who paid more to use Autodesk products.

See how Inventor compares to others:

Autodesk Inventor vs SolidWorks: The Comparison

If you’re choosing between SolidWorks and Autodesk Inventor, we can just imagine how difficult it is for you. These are both very capable CAD and CAM software that focus on machine part design and 3D rendering.

These are also forerunners in the space, with established companies behind them. They have excellent tools for visualizations and simulation.

However, to make it easier for you to decide, here’s what’s the same and what’s different with each one.

What’s the Same?

Both programs share a lot of 3D modeling capabilities as both use parametric modeling but also allow you to directly edit your designs. They both offer policy-based automation, parts library, and design tools for weldments, configurations, and even for creating with metals and plastics.

Further, they can also do the same things when it comes to visualization, utilizing animations, exploded views, lighting, materials, textures, and other visualization tools.

The Differences Between Autodesk Inventor and SolidWorks

However, these two programs do have several differences that make one better than the other. What are these?

3D Modeling Features

Autodesk Inventor has 3D modeling features that are absent from SolidWorks, including t-splines, electrical harnessing, and tube routing. However, SolidWorks does have a large design review that allows you to work with a lot of components without slowing things down.

Simulation Features

Autodesk Inventor allows you to do finite element analysis both at the assembly and part level, you can only do part level FEAs with SolidWorks. It also has a shape generator that allows you to fine-tune your design so that it’s lighter or smaller, but still structurally efficient.

You can also do dynamic simulation and injection mold analysis with Inventor. Meanwhile, SolidWorks allows you to quickly conduct symmetry checks and geometry comparisons.

SolidWorks also has closed pipe computational fluid dynamics, which lets you see how gas and liquid can flow through your design. However, the biggest advantage that SolidWorks has over the Autodesk Inventor is its ability to use virtual and augmented reality to simulate real-world situations that can affect your design.

Costs

When it comes to costs, SolidWorks is more expensive upfront: a one-time license fee of around $4,000 for the Standard version. You can also opt to buy a subscription add-on for around $1,300. However, pricing for SolidWorks can vary depending on the version you buy and which reseller you work with.

Autodesk Inventor only charges $1,985 a year. What’s more, Autodesk offers you a free three-year subscription for their products if you are a student or a teacher.

Ease of Use

One of the things that you’d like about SolidWorks is how intuitive its user interface is, and how easy to use it is. Autodesk Inventor can sometimes frustrate users who are just learning to use it.

Demand

More companies are using SolidWorks than Inventor. You can see this in the jobs that require these skills. If you are currently trying to figure out which between these two is more in demand, here’s the number of job openings on Indeed and LinkedIn for SolidWorks and Inventor.

SolidWorks

Indeed.com: More than 6,000 jobs in the United States

 

LinkedIn: More than 25,000 jobs worldwide.

 

Autodesk Inventor

Indeed.com: Around 400 jobs in the United States.

 

LinkedIn: More than 1,000 jobs worldwide.

 

Side-by-Side Comparison: Autodesk Inventor vs SolidWorks

To make things easier for you, here are the costs and features of both SolidWorks and Autodesk Inventor, side by side aaa.

  SolidWorks Autodesk Inventor
License fee $3,995 N/A
Subscription (per year, per user) $1,295 $1,985
3D modeling features
Part modeling Yes Yes
Assembly Yes Yes
Parametric modeling Yes Yes
Mesh modeling No Yes
Hybrid modeling No Yes
Direct editing Yes Yes
B-rep surfacing Yes Yes
Rules-based automation Yes Yes
Parts library Yes Yes
Bolted connections Yes Yes
Configurations Yes Yes
Weldments Yes Yes
Sheet metal Yes Yes
Plastics Yes Yes
T-splines No Yes
Design accelerators No Yes
Electrical harnessing No Yes
Tube and pipe routing No Yes
Large design review Yes No
Simulation features
Design for manufacturing Yes Yes
Interference checking Yes Yes
Wall thickness Yes Yes
Part level finite element analysis Yes Yes
Draft analysis Yes Yes
Sustainability analysis Yes Yes
Assembly level finite element analysis No Yes
Shape generator No Yes
Dynamic simulation No Yes
Injection mold analysis No Yes
Symmetry check Yes No
Closed pipe computational fluid dynamics Yes No
Geometry comparison Yes No
AR and VR simulation Yes No
Visualization features
Animations Yes Yes
Exploded views Yes Yes
Walkthroughs and flyovers Yes Yes
Camera view controls Yes Yes
Lighting Yes Yes
Materials Yes Yes
Textures Yes Yes
Ray trace photo rendering Yes Yes

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, we answer some of the questions you might find yourself asking when deciding between SolidWorks and Autodesk Inventor.

What is CAD software?

Computer-Aided Design software allows design professionals to create more precise designs without spending too much time on it. You only create a 2D shape of the object you’re creating and the software will expand that into a 3D model that you can modify. You can add holes, snaps, and threads to the object as you see fit.

Do you need CAD software for your 3D printing?

For the most part, you can also use 3D modeling software for your 3D printing needs. A 3D modeling program lets you work with 3D shapes instead of starting with a 2D printing. Some 3D modeling software even allows you to shape your 3D object like you would shape real-life clay. Check out software such as SculptGL for programs that offer this functionality.

But which one is the better bet for 3D printing enthusiasts? 3D printing
gear and other simple objects can easily be done with CAD software. But if you have more complex projects such as a character or a figurine, you will want to use a 3D modeling software.

Then again, if you are prototyping a part that you are already designing on CAD software, then you will be happy to know that you can still print these parts, just be sure that your software can save it into STL files so that you can provide the printer with the G-codes it needs to print your object.

Are there any alternatives to SolidWorks and Autodesk Inventor?

Yes, there are worthy alternatives to both Autodesk Inventor and SolidWorks. some of these are free, while others offer something more than what Inventor and SolidWorks can give you.
Fusion 360, a cloud-based CAD program that allows you to create complex designs and collaborate with a team of designers. What’s more, you can use the resources of the cloud to render your designs. You can store all the steps you made with the design, including the corrections and changes made along the way. Fusion 360 gives you a wide range of features and design capabilities. You pay $297 per year or it comes free for personal use.


FreeCAD is a free program that also gives you parametric 3D modeling. If you’re still starting with CAD designs, this is a good place to start.
AutoCAD is another Autodesk product and is one of the best and most established CAD programs out there. It comes with a steep learning curve and is better suited for 2D drafting, but it does have some 3D capabilities that you shouldn’t snub. You pay $210 per month or $1,690 per year if you choose this program.


CATIA brings together tools and features for CAD, CAM, and CAE. As such, designers, engineers, and product designers can use this for their work. This program also allows for easy collaborations. Made for professionals, this software can be quite expensive with rates starting at $10,000.
OpenSCAD is free CAD software that allows you to create solid 3D models. It allows you to extrude 2D drawings and create a 3D object. Programmers and coders will like using OpenSCAD but the general public will probably find it difficult to use.

Autodesk Inventor vs SolidWorks: Which Should You Choose

When deciding between SolidWorks and Autodesk Inventor, you will probably lean towards SolidWorks more. It’s easier to use and has a better set of features than Inventor. What’s more, if you’re using it for 3D printing, SolidWorks has its roots in 3D modeling.

What’s more, SolidWorks has a vibrant and helpful user community. But don’t discount Autodesk Inventor just yet. This software comes from a company that may be considered as a pioneer in the CAD software space, and they do have free options for students and teachers to learn their software. They also have an excellent range of tools for 3D design.

Freecad vs Fusion 360: Which Should You Choose?

In this FreeCAD vs Fusion 360 comparison review, we’re going to explore the features of these two amazing computer-aided design software. There is a wide range of 3D modeling software available (previously covered here) and both FreeCAD and Fusion 360 are widely recognized as great tools for creating incredibly detailed designs for 3D printing.

So which software tool is better?

In this comparison, we will be exploring the main features of each software, the user interface, supported file types, and ease of use. We’ll be comparing the minimum system requirements of each and exploring the toolsets and extensions that you can use. In addition, we’ll be showing you some of the alternative software available to design the products that you want to 3D print.

Main Differences Between FreeCAD vs Fusion 360

The main differences between FreeCAD and Fusion 360 are:

  • FreeCAD is open source and therefore will always be completely free, whereas Fusion 360 has free licenses only for educators and students.
  • FreeCAD has a steeper learning curve, whereas Fusion 360 is relatively user-friendly and intuitive.
  • FreeCAD is still in development, whereas Fusion 360 is a complete product.
  • FreeCAD is free to extend, whereas Fusion 360’s extensions and plugins are of an additional cost.
  • FreeCAD allows you to maintain control of your files, whereas Fusion 360’s files are stored in the cloud.

These are both extremely high functioning software that can be used for complex designs, and many of the features are likely to be used only by those with a background in engineering, however, there is plenty to attract a hobby user, learner, or small business user too. So let’s get into the details and find out more about FreeCAD and Fusion 360.

What is FreeCAD?

 

FreeCAD is a 3D modeler used mostly for designing real-life objects of any size. It’s primarily aimed at those working in mechanical engineering and product design, and with its scriptable CAD, there are options for electrical or architectural design too.

FreeCAD was released in October 2002 by authors Jürgen Riegel, Werner Mayer, and Yorik van Havre who wanted to create open-source CAD software to work on all platforms.

One of the key things to know about FreeCAD is that, as an open-source project, it is completely free for all to use. Because it is open-source, you can also add functions to the software using Python programming.

So who uses FreeCAD? A poll on the FreeCAD forum suggests that most people (52%) using FreeCad are doing so for their hobbies – whether the hobby is Computer-aided design or they are making personal real objects. 36% of users said they used it for professional purposes, largely mechanical engineering design and FEM (finite element method) analysis.

Key features of FreeCAD:

  • Architecture
  • Full parametric model
  • Rendering
  • Sketcher
  • Robot simulation
  • Modular architecture
  • Geometry kernel
  • Path mode
  • Standard formats.

What is Fusion 360?

 

Fusion 360 was designed by Autodesk, the creators of well known and respected AutoCAD, which has been around since the 1980s. In this development, the designers were given free scope to redesign CAD tools, aiming to create a futuristic CAD tool from scratch, thinking about all the things they felt a premium CAD tool should have going into the future.

Designed with educators and students in mind, it aims to help them prepare for the future of design. It is a combined, cloud-based 3D CAD, CAM, and CAE tool. In one platform you are able to conceptualize various versions of your design, combining multiple modeling elements. A variety of analysis methods mean that you can ensure the form, fit, and function of your products.

In addition, you can add electronic intelligence using the Schematic design, PCB layout, and routing capabilities embedded in Fusion 360. With managed user permissions, version control, and cloud storage you can easily manage your data and gain more control.

Fusion 360 allows great collaboration and teamwork in real-time. It’s very easy to then move into 3D printing to see how your prototype works. Within the system, you can test your design using digital simulations of real-world conditions. 2D manufacturing drawings or animations bring it to life for potential investors or customers.

Key features of Fusion 360:

  • Overview
  • Sketching
  • Freeform modeling
  • Surface modeling
  • Parametric modeling
  • Mesh modeling
  • Direct modeling
  • PCB Design Integration

FreeCAD vs Fusion 360 – Features

 

To help you decide which software would be a better fit for you, we need to look at how they compare in different features and functionality.

User Interface

There are several key components of the new Fusion 360 interface, which was introduced in 2019 and has, to be honest, had mixed reviews. There are four key areas of this interface:

  1. First, when you log in, you get a new blank project. In the top left is the Application bar.
  2. The second key component of the interface is the data panel, where you can see your project and within them, your project files and collaboration.
  3. The third element of the user interface is your own profile area and help section.
  4. Finally, the fourth element is the main toolbar. This differs according to the type of workspace you are planning to use.

The User Interface on FreeCAD is based on Qt, a well known graphical user interface (GUI) used often in Linux but also available in Windows and macOS.

For the uninitiated, it can be a little clunky and over-complicated. It consists of the main view area (and 3D view); a panel containing the tree view and task panel, property editor, selection view, and report view; a Python console; a toolbar area and workbench selector.

Supported File Formats

FreeCAD mainly uses its own file format – FreeCAD Standard file format (.FCStd) – which is a standard zip file holding the files within a particular structure. Within this, Document.xml files have definitions of geometric and parametric objects, GuiDocument.xml has visual representations of these objects, and prep-files include items such as thumbnails of drawings.

In addition to FreeCAD’s own file format, files can also be exported and imported as STEP, DXF, OBJ (Wavefront), SCAD (OpenSCAD), IFC, SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics), IGES, DAE (Collada), IV (Inventor) and STL (STereoLithography) file formats.

Fusion 360 supports Autodesk Alias (.wire), AutoCAD DWG files, Archive files from Fusion 360, Sim 360 and Autodesk Inventor, Catia V5 files, DXF files, FBX, IGES, NX, OBJ, Parasolid and Pro/Engineer files, Rhino files, SAT/SMT files, STEP files, and STL files. Files can be imported into Fusion 360 and then converted into native files within the software.

Ease of use

Both of the software’s are quite complex with many different functions and it will take a little time to get the hang of all the things they can do. There are many tutorials available on the internet to support you learning different features not to mention the “Get Started in Fusion 360” in the Autodesk help area and the FreeCAD forum.

FreeCAD, in particular, has been described by many users as having a “steep learning curve” but nearly all said that once they had got the hang of it it was a user-friendly software.

System Requirements

FreeCAD has minimum system requirements of

  • Windows 7 or younger, Ubuntu 12.04 or younger, Mac OSX or younger.
  • FreeCAD does not support parallel processing but using a good CPU won’t hurt.
  • The more complex your model the more RAM will be needed. A 64-bit operating system and 8GB of RAM would be a minimum.

Fusion 360 has a minimum requirement of

  • Windows 8.2 or 10, Apple Mac)” Catalina 10.15, Mohave v10.14, High Sierra v10.13.
  • A CPU with a 64-bit processor, 4 cores, 1.7 GHz Intel Core i3, AMD Ryzen 3 or greater.
  • 4 GB of RAM (integrated graphics recommended 6GB or more).
  • The Internet should be at 2.5Mbps or faster download and 500Kbps or faster upload.

Toolsets and Extensions

 

Both FreeCAD and Fusion 360 can be used to make detailed and precise drawings and models for your design.

In FreeCAD the functions are divided into workbenches. Each digital workbench has its own set of tools grouped by task So for example you may use one workbench for drawing a 2D shape and another for working further on them. There is a wide range of built-in workbenches, for example:

  • Draft Workbench – for basic 2D and 3D CAD operations.
  • Arch Workbench – for architectural parts.
  • Part Workbench – for working with CAD parts.

You can also easily program your own additional workbenches using Python, and there is a wide range of Addon Workbenches made by others in the community.

Fusion 360 has previously had two levels of function: Standard and Ultimate. Both already had a range of functions with tools for modeling, rendering, simulation, data management, and manufacturing all self-contained within the software.

They have now introduced Fusion 360 Extensions. This means that those with a Standard license looking for a different set of tools for their project, can purchase the appropriate extension bundle – for example, a Manufacturing Extension to give you tools for metal additive manufacturing – for a specified time period and these tools will immediately become available to you.

The Alternatives to FreeCAD and Fusion 360

Sketchup

 

Sketchup used to be known as Google Sketchup. It’s software for creating 3D models. It has a very user-friendly and intuitive interface allowing you to use push/pull toggles to make a flat surface into a three-dimensional object in your design. In addition, it has an extensive database of models other users have created that you can download and use for your own projects.

Sketchup comes with a wide range of pricing plans depending on what you want to use it for, from a free, web-based version through to a professional architect license.

Read our full Fusion 360 vs Sketchup Comparison.

Rhinoceros 3D

 

While Rhinoceros 3D is really a 3D modeling program rather than CAD, it’s probably one of the most versatile modeling software you can find for sale just now.

It has a wide range of design functions and can import a wide range of import files. The best thing about Rhinoceros 3D is that you are able to create such a wide range of shapes with incredible precision, from drawings and sketches and even a 3D scan.

Other Free Options

Here are a few other CAD options that will help you with your 3D printing and that are available for free use.

  • TinkerCAD is another tool from Autodesk. This is a web-based tool giving you easy to use a simple interface yet still allowing you to design complex 3D files. It’s super for design beginners and allows you to save as STL files and also to choose whether to print as solid or hollow.
  • Blender is probably best known for creating 3D computer graphics, but it is also more than capable of producing models for 3D printing. However, it is quite a complex tool to master and has many features that would not be useful to you for your 3D printing.
  • Ultimaker Cura is a great beginners option as it provides tips and recommendations while allowing you to create your own 3D designs.

For some other reviews and comparisons of CAD and other 3D printing software, you could look at our Solidworks vs. CATIA comparison, or check out our verdict on Fusion 360 vs. AutoCAD. We also have a great comparison of AutoCAD vs. Inventor or for another Fusion 360 comparison, we look at how it measures up against Onshape.

FAQs

What is a Computer-aided design?

Computer-aided design – known as CAD for short – is the use of computers to help you design an object. The use of the computer makes it much easier to modify and improve a design, and with extra tools allowing for assessment and analysis and then the addition of 3D printing, you can go from design to prototype all from the screen of your home computer.
CAD helps to improve design quality, supports collaboration, and improves productivity.

How difficult is it to learn CAD for 3D printing?

Both FreeCAD and Fusion 360 are complex software that will require some practice and exploration to get to grips with.
The great thing is that there is a large community of designers on the internet who use both types of technology and not only are you able to find ready-made designs that you can use and customize, but you will also find countless tutorials to support you as you learn the systems.

Is it possible to import files from one type of software to the other?

While FreeCAD and Fusion 360 both have their own preferred file type, these are largely compatible and interchangeable and can also be imported and exported between a wide array of other modeling software. For example, you can import an AutoCAD drawing into Sketchup.

Is FreeCAD really free?

Absolutely. As open-source software, you can use, distribute, or modify the software for personal or commercial work. It really is free!

Can I save my design locally on FreeCAD or Fusion 360?

On Fusion 360 your designs are normally saved in the Cloud. To save them locally you need to click on the details of a design in your dashboard and then click Export and choose which format you would like to download it to your computer. In FreeCAD the files are saved locally.

The Final Word: FreeCAD vs. Fusion 360: Which One Is Better for 3D Printing?

FreeCAD is a great open source project and the contributors and builders are continuing to work on it and add to it with every generation. The fact that it is completely free and will certainly remain so is a huge advantage, and we know that it is only going to get better in the future.

It is flexible and the parametric modeling allows you to design based on existing models. A great feature is the model history, allowing you to make alterations and track your changes. It is great for geometric designs, but not so suitable for organic shapes such as figurines of plants or animals.

However, at this time we would recommend Fusion 360. It is a more complete product with a far more user-friendly interface. The free license for educators and students makes it accessible and if you are working commercially, you’ll find the price-points for the licenses are certainly manageable.

Not only that, but it has an enormous functionality and has the capability to manage, create, and manipulate organic and natural shapes. There are a range of learning options and the extremely active Fusion 360 forum where you will always find somebody willing to give you support and advice.

We think that while FreeCAD is a super piece of software, and definitely a project to support and get involved with, from the point of view of 3D printing, Fusion 360 is the better product.

The Main Differences Between Sketchup and AutoCAD

It is an excellent time to be into 3D printing. For one, printers are getting more powerful and capable while their pricses continue to drop. And you have several options when it comes to 3D modeling and rendering. Two of the best programs out there are AutoCAD and Sketchup, and you are wondering which one is better.

Main Differences Between AutoCAD vs Sketchup

The main differences between AutoCAD vs Sketchup are:

  • AutoCAD is a computer-aided design software, whereas Sketchup is a 3D-modeling program.
  • AutoCAD is more geared towards professional users, whereas Sketchup is an excellent option for hobbyists.
  • AutoCAD is more expensive, whereas Sketchup allows you to save some dollars.
  • AutoCAD offers compatibility with more file formats, whereas Sketchup is simpler to use and master.
Why is AutoCAD Great?

AutoCAD will always be the King of Software that covers a lot of industry functions and gives you data based on your design objects.

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What Is Autodesk AutoCAD?

Autodesk AutoCAD is probably one of the best-known computer-aided design software out there, with some of the top organizations in the world using for their needs, including the California Institute of the Arts, the Durst Organization, and Helix Electric.

This CAD and drafting program has been around since the early 1980s, having the distinction of being the first CAD software that ran on desktop computers. Now you have versions of AutoCAD running on the cloud as a web application and a mobile app.

It can be used to create two- and three-dimensional drawings and models. You can draw your designs by hand. You can even group objects or use different layers.

You can work with a database of your objects, which makes it reusable in the future. You can resize, reshape, and relocate various properties of your object.

Who uses AutoCAD? Architects, interior designers, aeronautics designers, artists, cartographers, and graphics artists can enjoy the software’s many features.

There is also a few similar programs like AutoCAD such as Turbocad, Solidworks, Revit etc, so here check how how they all compare, and which would be the best for your type of work…

Autodesk AutoCAD: Features

What are the features that you can expect from a program that is older than some of its users? Not surprisingly, this program offers a lot of functionalities including industry-specific toolsets for:

  • Architecture
  • Electrical
  • Three-Dimensional Map
  • Mechanical
  • Plant 3D
  • Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing
  • Raster Design

It also has tools for two-dimensional drafting, annotation, and drawing. You can work with text, centerlines, and even link data from spreadsheets, among other things.

When it comes to 3D modeling and visualization, Autodesk also offers a wide range of features and tools, including:

  • Mesh, solid, and surface modeling
  • Section planes
  • Point clouds
  • 3D navigation
  • 3D rendering
  • Visual styles
  • Cloud rendering

What’s more, Autodesk makes it easy for you to collaborate, allowing you to use PDF files, sheet sets, DGN files, and even use model references.

What Is SketchUp?

Sketchup, which used to be known as Google Sketchup is a software that lets you create 3D models. It is very easy to use with its Push and Pull tool, which allows you to make any flat surface into three-dimensional objects. Click on any flat object and then pull on it until it looks the way that you want it to look.

Plus, it has an extensive database of models that other users have created that you can download and use for your own projects.

Video game creators, furniture designers, 3D printers, interior designers, and just about any other design professional can find tremendous help in using Sketchup. Sketchup also allows you to draw in 2D.

What makes Sketchup more fun is the presence of plugins that are created by third-party providers. Sketchup has the Extension Warehouse, where you can download these plug-ins. Think of it as the Play Store for downloading apps for Android devices.

There is also the Sketchup 3D Warehouse that allows you to download files other users created. If you need a model of something, you do not have to create it from scratch. Instead, you can look up the Sketchup 3D Warehouse and search for completed models that you can modify.

Autodesk AutoCAD vs Sketchup Features

If you are trying to decide between Autodesk AutoCAD and Sketchup for your 3D printing needs, then you should know how they differ from one another.

1. User Interface

When you are using Sketchup, you will be more reliant on shortcut keys and the tool icons in designing your objects. The user interface is simple and easy to master, plus you will have no problems finding your way around.

AutoCAD, however, offers you more ways to use it: menus, tool icons, shortcut keys, and command lines.

2. Supported File Formats

Autodesk AutoCAD is compatible with more file formats than Sketchup. Sketchup has a wide assortment of compatible file formats, but AutoCAD works with more.

Both programs work with:

  • 3D Studio 3DS
  • Drawing or DWG
  • Drawing Exchange Format or DXF
  • Filmbox or FBX
  • Joint Photographic Experts Group or JPG
  • Portable Network Graphic or PNG

In addition to these, Sketchup also works with Wavefront OBJ and stereolithography (STL) files, while AutoCAD works with:

  • Rhinoceros 3DM
  • Inventor IPT
  • Portable Document Format
  • The standard for the Exchange of Product Data or STEP files.
  • 3. Budget: Pricing and Licensing

Sketchup offers a lot of pricing and licensing options for its users. There is a free Web-only option for those who will be using it for their own personal purposes. If you like it or if you want to use it for your personal projects, you will need to spend $119 per year for the Sketchup Shop.

If you want to use Sketchup for your professional projects and get access to the desktop version of the program, you can opt for the Sketchup Pro. This plan will set you back $299 a year.

Other plans include:

  • Sketchup Studio for professionals who design buildings, $1,199 per year.
  • Sketchup Studio for students, $55 per year
  • Sketchup Studio for educators, $55 per year
  • Sketchup for Schools, free with a Microsoft education or G Suite account
  • Sketchup pro for computer labs, free with a state grant

If you want access to the 3D Warehouse, you will need a Sketchup Shop account, while a Sketchup Pro account will give you access to the 3D Warehouse and the Extension Warehouse.

Autodesk AutoCAD, on the other hand, has a much simpler scheme. You can get a license for anywhere from $1,400 to $2,400 depending on the frequency of your payments. Students and teachers can enjoy using AutoCAD for free.

If you are a network administrator, you can opt for the network license that will allow you to share one license with a number of users.

4. Ease of Use

Autodesk AutoCAD is a CAD software. It helps you design things easily. Meanwhile, Sketchup is a 3D-modeling program.

Sketchup’s main selling point is how easy it is to use and master. You can probably get the hang of it in a few hours. AutoCAD requires long hours of practice and a lot of familiarities before you can confidently say that you’ve mastered it.

5. System Requirements

AutoCAD requires a faster and more powerful computer to work. For instance, your Windows computer should at least have:

  • 64-bit operating systems
  • A fast processor, they recommend that you should get a three gigahertz processor or faster
  • A minimum of eight to 16 gigabytes of memory
  • A 1,920 by 1,080 pixels display with True Color or a 3,840 by 2,160 4K display
  • 1 GB graphics processing unit
  • Around 7 gigabytes of free disk space
  • .NET Framework version 4.8 or later

Meanwhile, Sketchup works on a Windows machine with:

  • 1 gigahertz processor
  • 4 gigabytes of RAM
  • 500 megabytes of free hard-disk space
  • A 3D class video card that has 512 megabytes of memory or higher
  • The video card should also support hardware acceleration and at least OpenGL 3.1.

6. Toolsets and Extensions

You can use both Sketchup and Autodesk AutoCAD for your design needs. They can help you make detailed and precise drawings and models.

Sketchup makes your life easier with its selection of plugins and tools that they have in the Extension Warehouse. However, you can only access these when you have a Pro or Shop license.

With the Extension Warehouse, you will be able to add more functionality to Sketchup and get tools for very specific workflows and customization. You can get plugins for 3D printing and other activities. You can install only the plugins that you need.

AutoCAD, on the other hand, has toolsets for different activities such as mechanical designs, electrical drawings, and floor plans, among others.

Sketchup vs. Autodesk AutoCAD: Which One Is Better for 3D Printing

Both AutoCAD and Sketchup are powerful tools for 2D drawings and 3D models. These programs have a range of features that can make your life a whole lot easier.

However, Sketchup is more geared towards 3D modeling than AutoCAD. It is a software that makes 3D easy and has been designed as such from the start. In contrast, AutoCAD can be described as a 2D drawing program that has 3D modeling capabilities.

On the other side of the coin, it can be said that AutoCAD is for those professionals that need high-quality technical drawings. It can create a level of accuracy, adaptability, and detail that Sketchup cannot offer.

As such, Sketchup seems to be the better choice for 3D printing. It can deliver a good-enough level of accuracy, while making modeling easier and visualization a breeze. It is also more affordable than an AutoCAD license.

The Alternatives to Autodesk AutoCAD and Sketchup

If you are figuring out what to use for your 3D modeling jobs, you might want to consider other software aside from either AutoCAD or Sketchup. Here are some that you can consider:

Autodesk Fusion 360

If AutoCAD is geared towards professionals, then consider another product from the same company: Fusion 360. This 3D printing software brings together engineering, manufacturing, and design features in one powerful software.

You will have full control over the shapes, and access powerful features to help you create detailed models. It also allows for quick collaboration work with other hobbyists and designers.

The best thing is that it is cheaper than both the paid versions of Sketchup and AutoCAD. You only pay $42 per month for the annual license and $60 for the monthly license.

Rhinoceros 3D

Rhinoceros 3D is probably one of the most versatile modeling software that you can find on the market right now. You can enjoy the assortment of design functionalities that it offers.

You can import files coming from different programs, including OBJ, STL, STEP, DXF, and other file formats.

The Free Options

There are also 3D printing programs that you can use for free.

  • Ultimaker Cura is an excellent option for beginners as it provides tips and recommendations while allowing you to create your own 3D designs.
  • TinkerCAD is a web-based tool that gives you an easy to use and simple interface but still allows you to design complex 3D objects. You can proceed to print immediately because it supports STL files.
  • Meshlab gives you the tools to easily process and edit 3D meshes.

FAQs

What is computer-aided design?

Computer-aided design is the process of using computers to help create, modify, analyze, or optimize a design. CAD has several benefits in that it:
– Helps the designer become more productive
– Improve the design’s quality
– Create documentation of the design, which improves communications
– Create a manufacturing database

Is it easy to learn CAD for 3D printing?

While there is a learning curve, it is entirely possible to learn AutoCAD or Sketchup for your 3D printing needs. Between these two, Sketchup is probably your better option if you’re a beginner. But if you’re looking for more powerful designs, then you can try out AutoCAD.

For some designs, you can get into online communities and find ready-made designs that you can use. All you need to do is to customize them to what you need.

Here are some tips on how to learn CAD for 3D printing:

Does Sketchup work with AutoCAD?

Yes. You can import SKP files into AutoCAD using the Sketchup Import plug-in that is provided by Autodesk. You can also type IMPORTSKP command to insert a Sketchup model into your AutoCAD drawings.

Conversely, you can import your AutoCAD drawings into Sketchup.

The Final Word: Sketchup vs. Autodesk AutoCAD

Why is AutoCAD Great?

AutoCAD will always be the King of Software that covers a lot of industry functions and gives you data based on your design objects.

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Sketchup is a capable software that allows you to make 3D models with ease. It does not have a steep learning curve and has a lot of features that can make your life a lot less complicated.

Its cheaper price point and free Web-only version should draw users into trying it out, but the paid versions allow you to access third-party extension and user-created content that can further help you work smarter.

That being said do not discount Autodesk AutoCAD just yet. If you have plans of going pro with your 3D printing, then AutoCAD will not be a bad investment. It has its own set of features, functionalities, and tools that allows you to get better quality 3D models that are both highly detailed and precise.

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Blender vs Fusion 360: Which One Will You Like More?

When you want to come up with your own designs for 3D printing, there is several computer-aided design software that you can use. Two of the best are Blender and Autodesk Fusion 360. Both are widely used and have a range of features that you can use. But which one should you choose?

Main Differences Between Blender vs Fusion 360

The main differences between Blender vs Fusion 360 are:

  • Blender has a confusing user interface, whereas Fusion 360 has a more intuitive user interface that relies on drop-down menus.
  • Blender requires plugins so it can work well with 3D printing, whereas Fusion 360 has more advanced and enhanced 3D modeling and printing tool.
  • Blender is free to use with an open-source license, whereas Fusion 360 costs around $500 and is free only for hobbyists and start-ups earns no more than $100,000 annually.

Read on as we discuss each software, their features, and go more in-depth about their differences. Finally, we answer the question of which one you should use.

Autodesk Fusion 360: Everything You Need to Know

Autodesk Fusion 360 offers you mechanical design, manufacturing, and organic shapes modeling all in one package. This computer-aided design, computer-aided engineering, and computer-aided manufacturing software are cloud-based, making collaboration easy in every stage of product development. It allows iteration and exploration with ideas, as well as collaboration even with a product team with members distributed around the world.

Computer-aided modeling

With Autodesk Fusion 360, you can use a comprehensive suite of modeling tools that allows you to guarantee fit, function, and form of whatever product you have. When it comes to modeling you can create and edit sketches. You can also import geometry into the program and edit and repair it. You can do some parametric modeling, which allows you to change the shape of the object you’re designing by changing the dimension value.

Further, you can design the components that use sheet metal parts and keep track of flat patterns using DXFs and two-dimensional drawings. You can also create designs that specify cutting strategies for plasma, laser, or water jet machines.

If you plan to do some mesh modeling, you can just import mesh models or scans into Fusion 360 and be able to change or repair these. Fusion 360 also has tools that will allow you to analyze assembly motion.

Other 3D modeling features you can get from Autodesk Fusion 360 include:

  • Freeform modeling
  • Surface modeling
  • PCB design integration

Electronics

Autodesk Fusion 360 makes it easy for you to add electronic intelligence using functionalities integrated into this software, such as the schematic design, PCB layout, and routing. You can create and edit schematics, even design a complete PCB layout and even generate drill and assembly files with just one button click.

Further, you can check the integrity of your circuit design and see how the circuit will behave with the integrated SPICE (simulation program with integrated circuit emphasis) simulation.

With Fusion 360, you can set manufacturing requirements with configurable design rules. And because this software integrates both manufacturing and electronics CAD, you can be sure that tour PCB fits. Fusion 360 also makes it easier by offering you a component library that allows you to use ready-made parts rather than creating your own. Lastly, Autodesk Fusion 360 allows you to design an electronics cooling system.

Other features that you can enjoy include:

  • Data management made easy because of a unified development process. You have more control over user permissions, cloud storage, and version control.
  • Collaboration is possible and quickly done because your teams are connected, as well as your customers. Everyone can communicate in real-time and project activity is all in one place.
  • You can design and manufacture prototypes in record time. Your design changes will not mean that your project will need a restart.
  • Enjoy generative design wherein you can specify your design specifications while also improving performance, reducing weight, and using fewer parts.
  • You can test your designs when you simulate real-world conditions and see where the problem areas are, and how to address the issues.
  • You can make animations, renderings, and drawings for your design, making it easy to communicate it to your clients and other stakeholders, while also making documentation a breeze.
  • Program your computer numerical control machines with Fusion 360.
  • You can integrate advanced manufacturing technologies into your design, making it easy to automate while also having more control over the processes and your machine.

Benefits of Using Autodesk Fusion 360

Using this cloud application, you can save time. In fact, some users note that processes and models that used to take days to finish can now be completed in just hours.

No matter what CAD, CAM, or CAE needs you have, Fusion 360 has a tool for that. You have a wide range of modeling tools, as well as environments for making sheet metal parts and surfaces. You also get a simulation environment that will let you see your design and prototype at work. There are also rendering tools that you can use for making drawings, renderings, and animation.

You will be hard-pressed to find another software that offers these many functionalities, features, and tools. What’s more, you have the processing and computing power of the cloud to do all of these things, which means your computer will not crawl to a stop as you conduct a rendering or a mechanical stress test on your designs.

Updates and maintenance are also simplified. Rather than installing, upgrading, and maintaining your CAD software, you only need to install the client. Not only do you avoid spending weeks and weekends planning and executing the installation or upgrade, but you also do not have to worry about servers that might need upgrading.

Autodesk Fusion 360: What Can Be Better

While there is round-the-clock support for this software, you will need to rely on documentation for training your staff. Autodesk does no offer in person or live online training for this software. They also don’t have webinars that you can learn from.

Also, easy collaboration is one of the selling points for this software. However, as far as collaboration tools go, this one is very limited. You can enjoy task and project management tools and version control, but that’s pretty much it. There is no easy way to brainstorm, manage content, documents, and calendar schedules. It doesn’t support discussion boards or video conferencing as well.

Another cause for concern is that it is cloud-based, which might prevent some companies from using it because of regulatory compliance or security concerns.

The Skinny on Autodesk Fusion 360

This cloud-based CAD, CAM, and CAE application is an excellent choice for those who want either a primary design software or a supplemental program to their current design software. You will appreciate how extensive the tools it has, as well as the easy collaboration on data. It really does streamline your design process, helping you save hours and hours of work.

It may not have all the tools and features that you are using with your existing design software, but that should be no problem as Autodesk has been constantly developing and upgrading this program. If you would like to know how Autodesk Fusion 360 compares, check:

What You Should Know About Blender

Blender is a free animation and 3D modeling suite. This open-source software helps you create animated movies, video games, 3D printing models, among others.

Features

Blender is an excellent software for 3D modeling. You have a variety of features at your disposal such as animation, modeling, rigging, rendering, motion tracking, and making composites. To make it easier and faster for you to create 3D models, you can use keyboard shortcuts for some common operations. It also has N-Gon support, edge slide, bridge fill, grid fill, and others.

You can also make use of modifiers that can automatically apply effects to your models, saving a lot of tedious steps and time. Meanwhile, the UV unwrapping features allow you to paint on your models directly. You can have fast cube, sphere, camera, and cylinder projections. You can even work with multiple UV layers and paint directly on the mesh.

Sculpting is also faster and easier with Blender. You can work with 20 different brush types such as blob, clay, crease, deepen, smooth, nudge, and snake hook. Each one of these brushes will have a different effect on your model. Blender also allows for mirrored sculpting and multi-res sculpting.

When it comes to animation, Blender allows you to add movements to your character. You can even edit poses, or give your characters independent movements with non-linear animation. The software will also allow you to synchronize sound. With its rigging features, you can transform your model into a posable character in no time.

The use of constraints can also help you limit an object’s animation. You can use shape keys, which act as morph targets. These shape keys allow you to change your character’s facial expressions, as well as tweaking a skeletal rig. Blender also has video editing and game creation features. If you want to customize specialized tools or customize your Blender, you can do that as well. It works on a variety of platforms including macOS, Linux, and Windows

What Can Be Better About Blender

Blender is not one of those software that are easy to master. There is a steep learning curve and it can take a long time before you can comfortably work with the software. This is true even if you have worked with other animation and modeling software before.

Blender: The Bottom Line

With the sheer number of features, you will find that Blender is a great tool for 3D printing enthusiasts. It’s difficult to believe that it’s free software. It does take time to learn, however, and you can expect to spend a lot of time watching tutorials or checking out the documentation. Trust us, however, when we say that it’s worth it.

The Main Differences Between Blender and Fusion 360: An In-Depth Look

If you are choosing between Autodesk Fusion 360 and Blender, it helps to go beyond just the features that they offer.

Community

Blender has been around since 1998 and it has a lot of users that translate to a vibrant and helpful community. It helps that it is an open-source program, which allows you to customize everything. Blender Foundation, the people behind the program, has also been hard at work incorporating features for exporting STLs, animation, image manipulation, 3D modeling, simulation, game development, and video editing.

Fusion 360 has not been around as long as Blender, having been launched only in 2013. Autodesk has maintained and run the software since then, and most of the support materials that you can find for this software comes from the company.

What It Can Do

Blender has tools for 3D modeling, animation, video and image editing, simulation, and game development.

Autodesk Fusion 360 is great for machining, engineering, and design. It cannot be used for video editing and game development.

Price

Blender has been free to use from the start. Autodesk Fusion 360 works on a cloud-based model and costs around $500 a year. However, it’s free to use for startups that earn less than $100,000 annually or for hobbyists.

Ease of Use

While a common complaint about Blender is how difficult it is to master, the 3D modeling environment is intuitive. You can rely on hotkeys and shortcuts to execute commands quickly, plus you have access to modifiers and add-ons that can help make your job easier and faster.

Natural shapes are quite easy to model in Blender, allowing you to deform, distort, and modify them fast.

While Blender is intuitive and can feel natural, Fusion 360 feels more professional and precise. The workspace is streamlined, but you can easily call up the tools that you need from a menu.

Autodesk Fusion 360 is easier to use with its streamlined interface and the use of large drop-down menus. Blender users rely on hotkeys and the user interface can be a bit daunting for most. Even the revamped UI introduced in Blender 2.8 can’t hold a candle to the user-friendly workspace you see on Fusion 360.

What It Is Best for

Because of its focus on precision, Fusion 360 is for the serious designer who wants to create a fast and functional prototype of his or her product. However, Blender is for those who want to work with 3D objects without putting much thought into it.

FAQs About Blender vs. Fusion 360

Do you really need to have CAD software?

Hobbyists looking for STL files on several websites such as Pinshape, MyMiniFactory, or Thingiverse to find models to 3D print. You have a lot of choices and you will probably run out of filament many times before exhausting all the STL files available on these sites.

But if you have a particular 3D object in mind, then you will need a CAD software such as Blender or Autodesk Fusion 360 to come up with an STL file for your printer to work with.

Are there alternatives to both Blender and Fusion 360?

If you’re not convinced with either Blender or Fusion 360, there are other CAD software that you can use.

  • Rocket 3F is a polygonal modeler that is fun, friendly, and fast. It has all the tools you need to create your 3D models.
  • Daz Studio is an excellent 3D model customization, animation, and posing tool that even beginners can use.
  • Houdini Apprentice allows you to create 3D animation and visual effects
  • Hexagon is a surface modeler that is easy to use.
  • Sculptris is an excellent sculpting tool.
  • Modo is a paid software but has powerful 3d modeling and rendering features.

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How do you choose a 3D modeling software?

The thing with 3D modeling software is that it’s not a one-size-fits-all thing. What may be the best software for you is not the best for everyone. There are some considerations that you should take:

  • Do you have enough RAM and disk space? Most 3D modeling software needs at least 16 gigabytes of RAM and around 5 gigabytes of storage space.
  • Will you need a powerful graphics card? Check to see if your graphics card, processor, and memory are up to par with the minimum requirements that the software recommends you to have. This will allow you to avoid any lags when you’re creating 3D images.
  • Free or paid? There are some notable 3D modeling software that are free but have features that you can find on paid programs. On the other hand, paid software should deliver great support, ease of use, and intuitive interfaces.

Blender vs. Fusion 360: Which One Should You Choose?

Blender has its draws. It’s free and it has all the features that you will need to do excellent animation, 3D art, sculpting, and video effects. Plus, it’s easy to make organic shapes and structures and it was a helpful community of users you can rely on. However, Blender does neglect 3D printing and you will need to rely on add-ons.

Fusion 360, on the other hand, allows you to create 2D drawings, transform it into a three-dimensional format, and then print your design as you have envisioned it. You can also rely on this software for easy export for laser cutting, plasma cutting, water jet, or CNC machines. Perhaps, for 3D printing enthusiasts, the best feature of Fusion 360 is the enhanced tools for 3D printing it offers, such as slice preview.

But if you’re a hobbyist, both the Blender and Fusion is free to use, so why not use both software if you have the time and patience to learn.

Solidworks vs CATIA [2021]: Which 3D Modeling Software is Best?

If you want to execute sophisticated 3D printing projects, finding a good modeling software is essential. Today we’re going to compare Solidworks vs CATIA – two popular 3D modeling programs from Dassault Systèmes.

These products have many features and qualities in common, but one of them is more advanced and comprehensive, while the other is more simple and has limited features. This article will guide through their most significant differences and help you choose the one that’s going to work for you.

First, here’s a brief summary of the main differences between Solidworks and CATIA.

Main Differences Between Solidworks vs CATIA

The main differences between Solidworks vs Catia are:

  • Solidworks is easier to learn and more suitable for beginners, whereas CATIA is better for experienced users
  • Solidworks is designed particularly for 3D solid objects modeling, whereas CATIA is an all-arounder
  • Solidworks is compatible with Windows only, whereas CATIA works on Windows and Unix
  • Solidworks is a mid-range product, whereas CATIA is high-end
  • Solidworks doesn’t provide differentiation based on roles, whereas CATIA offers intuitive role-based functionality

Exploring Solidworks and Catia features

Solidworks and Catia are both well-known 3D CAD programs used mainly in fields such as product design, electrical and mechanical engineering, automotive industry and aviation, and architecture.

Although they might look very similar to an untrained eye, when you take a detailed look at some of their functions such as 3D rendering, sketching, role-based differentiation, or integration with some of the libraries, you will discover many notable differences. Let’s compare some of their features and qualities in detail.

Drawing and modeling

Computer-aided design programs are mainly used for precise technical drawings and designs. So whether you’re just designing new requisites for your cosplay costume, or you’re creating a vital component for innovative machinery, this is the feature you need to consider the most.

Both compared programs have sketching, 2D, and 3D drawing capabilities. And both of them, of course, can create printable models for your 3D printer. But which one works better?

Solidworks is mainly designed for 3D modeling, so that’s where the program is really strong and capable. Solidworks is a parametric modeling software, which means that it works with the dimension values provided by the user.

When you modify dimensions, your model is reshaped accordingly by the program. This makes the software great for product design and various projects related to machinery. On the other hand, Solidworks completely lacks some of the tools and skills needed for architecture projects.

CATIA has more sophisticated and versatile tools for drawing, modeling, and sketching. Though their use requires more skills and experience, you will be rewarded for your efforts with the results that are stunningly accurate and imaginative.

This particularly applies to CATIA’s extra smooth 3D rendering and Photo-to-Shape app, which creates immersive 3D models from 2D photographs. Although SolidWorks is also capable of photorealistic rendering, the results are slightly less impressive.

Workflow and collaboration

If you own a 3D printer, you might be working on your private project and depend only on your own capabilities and workflow.

But most of the projects that include sophisticated CAD programs are executed by teams of numerous designers. Software’s ability to manage such collaboration is therefore one of the important factors most of the designers need to consider.

Solidworks provides a cloud environment that facilitates collaboration between multiple team members. It is easy to use and quite intuitive, helping you capture, share, and store all your new ideas easily and quickly. However, collaborative features of this program are quite limited and focused mainly on reviewing and sharing. Solidworks also lacks any form of role-based differentiation.

CATIA offers pretty much everything that comes with Solidworks, but it adds one very important feature, and that’s role-based differentiation of functionality.

With CATIA, you have more than 50 roles at your disposal, so you can manage your projects even more effectively. CATIA’s collaborative designer center is called ENOVIA, and it offers great management solutions even for extended enterprises.

Modules and libraries

Good three-dimensional modeling software is like an open organism – the more flexibility, compatibility, and support it has, the better it usually is.

Solidworks is a relatively thin 3D modeling software, which is great if you want the process to be simple, but it also limits your overall possibilities and options. For example, although Solidworks is compatible with Modelica libraries, they are not integrated into the program itself, which limits their usability.

The program contains several dozens of integrated partner products either for CAD design or Product Data Management, which nicely extends your options, but in comparison with its competition, Solidworks still remains the less flexible software.

CATIA is a robust software that comes with impressive support – since 2006, a new updated version of this software is produced every single year. The software comes with about 129 unique products that provide users with almost unlimited options. CATIA software also integrates Modelica libraries directly, allowing their full utilization.

Thanks to this versatility, CATIA is perceived as one of the most universal and flexible CAD programs on the market. While Solidworks is great when you focus on one particular component or task, CATIA is the program you choose for executing a whole project, whether it concerns aviation, automotive industry, architecture, or educative projects.

Compatibility with different platforms

If you’re not ready to adjust your whole technical setup to the 3D modeling software of your choice, consider the program’s compatibility with your devices carefully. This is especially important if you’re working with multiple collaborators, who can have all the different technical equipment. Unfortunately, both programs we compare today are rather limited in this regard.

Solidworks, for example, is currently working only on Windows computers. If you want to use it on your Mac, you can theoretically run Solidworks with virtual Windows parallels, since the program recently started supporting this, but you should prepare for various drawbacks and limitations that make this solution quite unfavorable.

However, Solidworks has developed several other products for macOS: they include eDrawings Viewer, eDrawings, and eDrawings Professional.

CATIA is also compatible mainly with Windows, but in addition to that, it also works with Unix operating system, which is renowned for its great multitasking and multi-user functionality.

Both Solidworks and CATIA can also be accessed via smartphone applications thanks to the Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE cloud platform. Solidworks also offers an educational application for kids and young thinkers.

Price

As you probably already know by now, Solidworks represent more simple and less complex 3D modeling software that is more suitable for beginners, smaller enterprises, and those on a budget. CATIA is more robust, capable, versatile – and also more expensive. Here’s an overview of prices for both products:

Solidworks licenses come in three alternative versions – commercial, academic, and research. There are also 3 available packages to choose from: Basic, Professional, and Premium. If you’re a student, you can get a Solidworks license for one year for $150, but note that this will not be the program’s full version.

Basic license for Solidworks software will cost you $3,995, and be prepared to pay another $1,295 annually as a maintenance fee. An alternative plan allows you to get a term license at $810 per 3 months. The basic license includes the following features:

  • 3D Modelling
  • Mold Design
  • Assembly
  • Static Stress Simulation
  • CAM Standard
  • Weldments
  • Plastic Parts
  • Sheet Metal

The Professional Solidworks costs $5490 + an annual fee of $1495 (or $1080 per 3 months). On top of the standard features, you’ll also get:

  • PDM Standard
  • Photorealistic Rendering
  • Cost Estimation
  • Part Libraries
  • Circuit Works
  • Advanced simulation features

A premium license is available at $7995 with a $1995 annual fee (or $1450 per 3 months). It comes with these exclusive features:

  • Structural part and assembly analysis
  • Wire, pipe and duct routing
  • Analysis of the environmental impact
  • Advanced surface flattening
  • Premium simulation features

You can also request a free Solidworks demo or test-drive the program online to understand its basics and determine, whether it really is the best solution for you. To request a personalized quote, you have to fill a simple form on the official Solidworks webpage or ask your authorized reseller.

CATIA is designed mainly for larger enterprises, and its prices accurately reflect the software’s bold functionality. But it also comes with more affordable basic plans for small entrepreneurs or even truly a budget-friendly option for students, who can enjoy some of the program’s distinct qualities for just $99 per year.

The final price quote for your CATIA license will be affected by several different factors, so the only way to know how much will it actually cost you is to ask for a quote through the official website or your authorized reseller.

In any case, be prepared to pay approximately $11,200 for CATIA’s Basic license (one-time payment) plus an annual maintenance fee of $2,000. If you’re not ready to invest so much at once, you can also lease the program, which will cost you $1,700 per three months or $4,500 annually.

CATIA’s standard modules include:

  • Mechanical design
  • Generative shape design
  • Analysis & Simulation features
  • Architecture, Engineering, and Construction layout designing
  • Machining
  • Digital Mockup (DMU)
  • Machining Simulation
  • Equipment & Systems
  • Ergonomics Design & Analysis

If you want to invest in additional role-based modules, you will pay $2,700 – $19,000 on top of the basic price plus an 18% annual maintenance fee. Unlike Solidworks, CATIA is not available in a free trial CATIA version, but you can request a demo.

Solidworks vs CATIA Ease of use

If you’re a 3D printing rookie who needs to learn how to use 3D modeling programs from scratch, Solidworks will most likely be your best choice. This program is very intuitive and it’s easy to orientate in its interface and somehow limited modules. That allows you to master your designing and modeling skills relatively fast and easy.

CATIA computer-aided designing program is much more complex, so it might be a bit overwhelming for a total beginner. On the other hand, it’s obvious that CATIA’s creators invested a lot of time and effort into the program’s excellent user experience.

Once you orientate in all of its features and modules, you will find them very logical and intuitive too. If you have previous experience with Solidworks before trying out CATIA, it will be your advantage, because these programs are navigated and controlled quite similarly.

What support is available for Solidworks and CATIA

Dassault Systèmes, a French company that produces both Solidworks and CATIA programs, is renowned for providing a thorough and complex support system. You can download all the necessary documentation directly from their web site, or you can access their vast Knowledge Base, where most of your questions can be answered and issues resolved.

Both Solidworks and Catia also come with large user communities – some of them are managed directly by the brands, others are independent. Dassault Systèmes also runs a hotline for all specific questions and inquiries.

If you need professional technical support (whether cloud-based or on-site), your products must be certified and eligible for the desired type of support. During the “Full Support Phase”, there are two available levels of Support Services:

  • SECURE: Basic support which enables a customer to report defects and malfunctions
  • ADVANTAGE: Advanced support available only for certain products and plans

On top of that, you can also buy various optional Support Services.

Of course, CATIA as a more sophisticated and expensive software comes with more support options than its mid-range counterpart.

Pros and Cons

Solidworks

Pros

  • It’s easy to navigate and suitable for beginners
  • It allows collaboration to multiple users (mostly reviewing and viewing)
  • Mid-range product with affordable prices
  • Great for solid modeling projects related to mechanics and machinery
  • Good rendering skills
  • You can request a demo or trial version

Cons

  • It’s good for 3D modeling but lacks many other features
  • It has limited support
  • It works only with Windows
  • No role-based differentiation

CATIA

Pros

  • Robust program with complex features and tons of modules
  • Compatible with Windows and Unix
  • Comes with extensive support
  • Can be used for complex projects in many different fields
  • Integrated Modelica libraries
  • New updates and upgrades are published frequently

Cons

  • Expensive high-end program
  • No trial version available (only demo on request)
  • Probably too complex for a beginner

Are there any alternatives?

Inventor

Inventor is a computer-aided design application by Autodesk that was created specifically for 3D modeling. However, it also allows 2D and 3D integration in a common environment, which enables you to create complex models and very accurate simulations in many different situations and projects.

Inventor includes direct edit, freeform and parametric modeling tools and uses Autodesk’s proprietary modeling kernel ShapeManager. Although Inventor could hardly compete with CATIA’s complexity and sophistication, it’s a very competitive alternative to Solidworks. You can learn more about Inventor software in our Autocad vs Inventor comparison here.

Our Pick
Why go with Autodesk Inventor?

Easier to use, easier to collobarate with others (and teams), better built-in documentation, and better design testing framework makes Autodesk Inventor my pick here.

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Creo Parametric

Creo Parametric is a powerful and flexible 3D modeling software that blends popular features from many other programs, aiming to provide its users with complex experience. Creo is capable of parametric, direct, and assembly modeling, catering to many different fields and tasks.

PTC, Creo’s creator, claims that this is the only modeling software you will ever need – a bold statement, which is supported mainly by Creo’s great compatibility with many other tools and its numerous built-in integrations. This enables seamless collaboration among team members who use various different programs and tools. Creo’s license for 1 year starts at $2,390.

FAQs About Solidworks and CATIA

Can I run any of these programs on Mac?

Solidworks and CATIA are both designed mainly for Windows computers (CATIA also runs with Unix). If you want to use CATIA and Solidworks on a Mac computer, you have to install a parallel Windows OS on your Mac first. As a result, you might be able to use these programs on your Mac with some possible limitations.

Is there a trial version for CATIA or Solidworks?

Solidworks can be tried for free thanks to its demo and trial versions. You can experience the program for free even without the necessity to download and install anything. CATIA comes only with a limited demo version, which is available on request.

Which notable companies use CATIA software?

CATIA is a preferred CAD software in many automotive companies including Škoda, Renault, Volvo, BMW, Fiat, Scania, Tesla Motors, and Porsche. Additionally, CATIA is also used at SpaceX and Boeing.

Where can I get some training if I am a total beginner?

Dassault Systèmes, the producer of all CATIA and Solidworks products, offers various onsite and e-learning training programs that can help you master your 3D modeling skills. You can also become a member of dedicated user communities, where users share their knowledge and help each other overcome various obstacles.

How expensive are these 3D modeling programs?

If you’re a student and need just some of the basic modeling features, you can have the CATIA tool for just $99 per year or Solidworks for $150. Premium version of CATIA that includes all advanced modules can cost you tens of thousands per year for the license plus additional maintenance fees. Solidworks is cheaper, starting at $3995 + $1295 fees annually and offering its Premium version for $7995 + $1995 per year.

Conclusion: CATIA vs Solidworks Tool

Solidworks is a great 3D modeling software that works neatly in many different kinds of assignments. Its strength lies mainly in the 3D modeling itself, and it’s also a good starting point for those, who are new to the computer-aided design software.

But if you can afford to invest in CATIA, we believe you really should. The complexity of this software will allow you to experiment, grow, and broaden your horizons with each new project. Whether its construction, product design, and styling, or systems engineering, the CATIA 3D design CAD program is an all-arounder, that will give you unlimited possibilities.

Thanks to the massive support and various training programs that come with this product, you don’t really need to worry about learning how to work with this comprehensive software. With advanced features for collaboration, CATIA is also great for larger teams.

Of course, we understand that CATIA’s price might be quite discouraging, especially if your project lacks the commercial potential that would outweigh the initial investment. In its class, Solidworks still remains a great option with thousands of satisfied professional users around the world.

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Further Reading on CAD Software, 3D Model Tools, and 3D Design:

Simplify3d vs Slic3r [2021] Which Suits Your Needs?

There are three main components that you need for 3D printing: the filaments, the 3D printer, and the slicing software.

There are several slicing programs available right now, but two of the most popular are Slic3r and Simplify3D.

Main Differences Between Simplify3D vs Slic3r

The Main Differences Between Simplify3D vs Slic3r are:

  • Simplify3D is ideal for beginners, whereas Slic3r is geared towards professional and advanced users
  • Simplify3D’s upgrades are few and far between, whereas Slic3r is constantly being upgraded
  • Simplify3D costs $150, whereas Slic3r is free
  • Simplify3D is not compatible with Linux machines, whereas Slic3r is

Now let’s delve deeper into the differences between Slic3r and Simplify3D.

Slic3r Overview

Slic3r is an open-source slicing software that is very popular with 3D printing enthusiasts. It may be free, but it has some of the most useful and powerful features available today.

Like all slicing programs, Slic3r whittles down your models to different layers and then translates these layers to a set of instructions called G-code. Your 3D printer will then receive these instructions and accurate print what you want.

Slic3r Software

Interfaces

Slic3r has three different user interfaces. There’s the desktop app, the command-line tool, and the libslic3r. Each one of these interfaces has its own functions and features.

Slic3r Desktop App

The desktop app allows you to turn your models into g-code and gives you a preview of the toolpaths. It also allows you to easily configure everything, plus get personalized g-codes with conditional logic.

The app also allows you to print on several machines at the same time, or send commands to OctoPrint. With the use of modifiers, you can get customized regions with their own set of settings.

What you’d like about Slic3r’s interfaces is that it’s very minimalist with no unnecessary frills. You see the most important settings, configurations, and features all on one screen.

  • Command Line Tool

The command-line tool is one of Slic3r’s strongest plus points. The entire program is fully usable through the command line and it gives the ability to do almost all the things that Slic3r can do, so it’s easier to do batch and custom operations.

For instance, you can generate g-code in batches, export SVG slices. You can also use the command-line tool to convert between several file formats, and manipulate your 3D models.

  • Libslic3r

If you want to create customized applications that work with Slic3r, you will appreciate the libslic3r. This C++ library helps you handle 3D models from opening them, to repairing, transforming, and then converting to another format. You can even create G-code in different formats and generate infill patterns.

Libslic3r

Slic3r Features That You Should Know

Slic3r is compatible with a wide range of 3D printers, including Reprap, Lulzbot, Ultimaker, Makergear, Makerbot, and some DLP printers.

With Slic3r, you can easily customize settings from your objects. The print settings help you customize the layers and parameters, set adaptive slicing, and even use a skirt and brims with your project.

Meanwhile, it can also control the filament settings, including the cooling and temperatures necessary for each type of printing you’re going to do. It also allows you to control the retraction speed and length, as well as several other parameters.

The printer settings will allow you to control the extruders and even setup connectivity options.

What You’d Like About Slic3r

Slic3r has a wide range of features and functionalities that you will find necessary when 3D printing. It has a no-frills user interface that helps you focus on the more important features and settings. What’s more, they have tooltips or quick help that gives you tips on what each parameter or value does, and how you can configure it.

Compared to others, Slic3r creates G-codes at a much faster rate. You don’t have to wait for hours for even the most detailed models you have. What’s more, this program can read a wide variety of formats, including STL, OBJ, or AMF. It can then output it in SVG or G-code files.

There is also no need to install this program. You just download and run it, and that’s it. You can use it on any computer running on Linux, Windows, or macOS X.

Lastly, the biggest draw for Slic3r is that it’s open-source, plus there is a very committed community behind it. This means that it quickly and continuously improves.

Slic3r Manual

Other advantages

What other features are there?

  • You can generate a base flange for your 3D printing projects, which makes it adhere to the build plate more securely. You can also easily remove the base flange after you’re done printing.
  • The program allows you to work with several objects with its plating features. But you can opt to print one object at a time.
  • Slic3r can also control fan and print speeds that will guarantee that every layer cools down before the next layer is printed on it.
  • If you’re using multiple filaments and machines, you can manage all of these using Slic3r.

What Can Be better

Slic3r doesn’t have presets for even the most popular filaments or printers. Having these presets should make it easier for you to tweak the settings for these devices or materials.

Simplify3D Overview

Simplify3D is another slicing program that translates your model into instructions for your 3D printer. The company promises that you will get better prints using their software because your 3D printers get better instructions.

This program works with a wide range of 3D printers, so there is a good chance you can benefit. If you’re not sure, you can check your 3D printer’s compatibility here.

This wide range of compatibility will also help you if you have two or more 3D printers. You no longer have to learn different slicing software or switch from one program to another. You can just use Simplify3D for all your machines.

simplify3d

Simplify3D Features

With Simplify3D, you can:

  • Simulate your prints in advance so that you can see what your 3D printer will be doing without wasting filaments. You can see how each layer is printed, so you’d have an idea if there is going to be something wrong with your print. The pre-printing simulation will include settings, sequences, and exact speeds. You don’t only avoid failed prints, but you also save time.
  • Create better support structures that help to get the surface quality your print needs for complex designs. You don’t have to worry because these support structures are easy to remove once you’re done. The best thing about this is that you don’t have to worry about where to put these support structures: Simplify3D will these support structures should be located. You can also customize the positioning, add more supports, and remove those that you think will be useless.

What You’d Like About Simplify3D

Simplify3D has several resources that you can use to improve your 3D printing or get ideas. For instance, it has a blog that includes learning resources, design ideas, and others. Thye also has a community-led forum and official tech support.

You will also love how easy it is to install, to use, and set everything up. Not only do they have customer support, but they also have visual guides that can help you. This is a fast and reliable software that has powerful features. It also has an excellent visualization that can help you see how your printer will print out your design so that you can adjust and correct any issues before printing.

What’s more, you can download profiles for more than 100 3D printers. If you’re using a printer without a readily available profile, you can just add your own easily.

Overall, this slicer software helps you get top-quality and accurate 3D prints. And even with all the features and tweaks that you can do, the program is intuitive and easy to figure out. They also have excellent support and documentation and customizable supports.

slic3r vs simplify3d

What Can Be Better

While this software does a lot of things and does it exceptionally well, it is not free. You can buy it for $149. Similar programs are distributed free. Other programs are paid, but not as expensive as Slic3r. For instance, SelfCAD is available for around $10 per month while KISSicer can be used for free or with a $35 payment.

Comparing the Simplify3D and Splic3r

Simplify3D is an excellent slicing program that can be used by total beginners right through advanced and professional users. Slic3r is pretty much a tool for advanced and professional users.

Slic3r has a steep learning curve and it may be a bit confusing to figure out, but ultimately it’s a free program with a vibrant community. Simplify3D requires you to pay $150 to use the software.

There is also about the issue of upgrades. While Splic3r gets fast, continuous, and free upgrades, Simplify3D doesn’t. For a time, the upgrades for Simplify3D were too slow in coming, or too insignificant.

Version 5.0 was also planned for 2019. It didn’t come to pass, plus the planned upgrade was supposedly a paid one. Slic3r, on the other hand, started off with faster upgrade releases and tapered off. Nevertheless, the people behind this program has been updating almost daily.

Lastly, if you are using a Linux machine, Simplify3D won’t work for you as it’s only for use with Mac or Windows PCs. Slic3r, on the other hand, works with Linux, Windows, and Mac.

Frequently Asked Questions

Some of the questions we get about Slicer programs are here.

1. What Is G-Code?

According to this page, G-code is a programming language that everyone involved in computer numerical control machining. In short, g-code is the language you use in computer-aided manufacturing, including 3D printing. It’s how you tell a 3D printer how to do what you want.

There are many variants of g-code, which would explain why it has several file extensions such as:

  • .gcode
  • .mpt
  • .mpf
  • .nc

G-code is written uniquely depending on the machine it’s used for. For instance, Ultimaker Original uses RepRap, while Ultimaker 2 uses UltiGCode and Ultimaker 3 uses Griffin.

This video will introduce you to the basics of G-code.

what is g-code

2. What is a slicing program?

A slicing program is one that cuts your 3D models into slices or layers. When each layer is done, the program will then interpret it in G-code.

As you know, G-code is a set of instructions that tells your 3D printer what to do, where to position the tool head and make sure that your prints follow the settings.

3. What should you look for in a 3D slicer software?

There are several variables that you should consider when looking for a slicer program:

  • Standard Triangle Language import speed: Helps you save time when doing complicated models on a slow computer
  • Viewer: Your chosen program should display your printable file and you should be able to zoom or turn the image in any which way you want.
  • STL repair: The slicer program should be able to tell you that there are errors in your model
  • Easy to use: Make sure that your slicer program is very intuitive and easy to use.
  • Preview: Make sure that your 3D slicer software will be able to tell you how long it would take to print your 3D models, as well as the materials used.
  • Support: You should be able to get onscreen help, as well as rely on the community for some assistance and answers to your questions.

Splic3r vs Simplify3D: Which One Should You Use?

There are advantages to both the Splic3r and Simplify3D. They are both capable and very powerful slicing programs. However, that’s just the problem: it would seem that as far as features and functionalities are concerned, they both deliver. Simplify3D, however, does offer slightly more features and functionalities that other programs do not, including Splic3r.

But you pay $150 for Simplify3D while you get Splic3r for free. Plus, Splic3r is continuously updated with new features and bug fixes. That is something that you don’t get with Simplify3D.

Also, the truth with slicer programs is that they’re only as good as the amount of time you put into fine-tuning it. For instance, if you have been using Splic3r for a year and you switch to Simplify3D, then your prints will probably go back to a lot of failures and look pretty bad. That being said, it’s better to go for a free program and improve on it, than buy one and do the same.

The only downsides to Splic3r are that it doesn’t have custom supports, and it doesn’t give you a preview on the duration and materials used in your print.

The bottom line is that Simplify3D is a good program that has an outstanding set of features and equally helpful documentation. It would have been a whole lot better if it were free, or at least cheaper than the current $150 price tag it has. On the other hand, Slic3r might be free but it also has leading-edge features that you cannot find elsewhere.

Other CAD Options for 3D Printing

Cura vs Slic3r [2021] Which Slicing Program Is The Best For You?

Slicing programs are very important when you are into 3D printing. You should choose two things very carefully: your 3D printer and the slicing program that you use. There are several options when it comes to slicers, and each one has its charms and pitfalls.

Two of the most talked-about slicers out there are the Ultimaker Cura and Slic3r for 3D printer use. These open-source programs both have a solid community behind them. They also offer an excellent set of features that you wouldn’t expect a free program to offer.

Which one is better for you?

OctoPrint is more than just a 3D slicer, it allows you to monitor your 3D printer from your smartphone or desktop computer. you can even use plugins and webcams to make the job better. The 3D slicer program it offers uses CuraEngine.

  • MatterControl is a one-stop-shop where you can do everything to print a model without using any other program.
  • Simplify 3D is an excellent slicer for professionals. It is compatible with just about any 3D printer and has ready profiles for each one. There are a lot of things that you can do with the program, including importing, scaling, and repairing your 3D models. Simplify 3D is very intuitive to use and you won’t get overwhelmed by the number of features and functionalities it offers.
  • Ultimaker Cura vs. Slic3r: Which One Should You Choose?

    It is not an exaggeration to say that you can choose either Ultimaker Cura or Slic3r and still get the best slicing program available right now. These two represent the best out there and both are free. There is literally no reason why you shouldn’t pick either one. However, if you look at the nitty-gritty, you will find that Cura does some things better than Slic3r.

    The biggest draw with Cura, however, is for beginners. Having ready-made settings profiles, a more intuitive user interface, and fast regular updates put it above Slic3r. In these areas, it’s easy to recommend Cura over Slic3r or every other slicing programs out there.

    Turbocad vs Autocad Compared [2021]: Which one is better?

    If you want to start creating designs for 3D models or drawings for various items, my Turbocad vs Autocad comparison will help you to choose which one is best.

    These are two popular computer-aided design pieces of software but if you are stuck trying to figure out which one to use, I can help. I’m going to go over the different features of each product, how easy they are to use, and what support is available and show you which one is better.

    First, let’s look at the main differences between Autocad and Turbocad.

    Bottom Line Up Front Summary: While these are both capable software tools, I much prefer more capable and versatile Autocad solution here, particularly if you are past the hobby level. Turbocad is fine as a short term budget pick, but most of the world is moving towards Autocad (and for good reason). 

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    Main Differences Between Autocad vs Turbocad

    The main differences between Autocad vs Turbocad are:

    • Autocad has a dedicated app for Android and iOS, whereas Turbocad does not.
    • Autocad has a steeper learning curve, whereas Turbocad is said to be easier to use.
    • Autocad offers a 30-day free trial, whereas Turbocad only offers a 15-day free trial.
    • Autocad requires you to renew your subscription every year, whereas Turbocad allows you to buy the product for a one-off fee.
    • Autocad offers a free subscription to students, whereas Turbocad does not.

    Exploring Autocad and Turbocad features

     

    Autocad and Turbocad are both computer-aided design software so they have many overlapping features when it comes to drawing, workflow, flexibility, modifications, and also what platforms and computer systems you can use them on.

    Drawing and design

    Really the primary function of both of these programs to make more accurate and better drawings and designs. The days of doing all this manually with a pen and paper are long gone – you can even get 3D printing pens now! – so people use computer-aided design software.

    Autocad provides an experience that is very much like drawing on a bit of paper except you are doing this on a computer. It allows for free form drawing and you have many methods to create accurate shapes, geometrics, and ultimately designs. For anyone that wants a great deal of freedom over what they produce with this type of software, Autocad is to the go-to program. It was mainly built for 2D drawings however it has evolved so that it now incorporates 3D shapes that can be used for printing and more.

    Turbocad is very similar. It also allows the user to draw free form in 2D and has command lines as well as a dynamic input cursor. Turbocad also has 3D functionality and if you want photorealistic renders then Turbocad has the edge over Autocad on how they turn out. In terms of the main functionality of drawing and creating designs, it is similar to Autocad in what it can produce although the means to do it is a bit different.

    Workflow

    You may be working on these programs and a project by yourself especially if you own a 3d printer however in most cases, computer-aided design software is utilized by teams. This means the workflow through the process needs to be as seamless as possible.

    One of the issues with Autocad is that each part of the design is separate. It isn’t all linked together and joined up as some other software. You create free form drawings with Autocad so the workflow can feel a bit disjointed and often doesn’t feel as if everything is linked together as you are working on separate layers.

    Turbocad does offer good workflow options between drawing designs and fieldwork. Designs can be uploaded to TurboSite which is an iOS app and the designs can be used to put in the site and other fieldwork information. This is then sent back to the Turbocad program with the new data which is a pretty good feature.

    Flexibility

     

    Both of these programs have a good degree of flexibility in their usage.

    Autocad achieves this with its solid commands and use of surface mesh for 3D modeling that provides a good degree of freedom. The fact that you can customize the look of Autocad is great too because it means you can display the tools you use a lot and hide the ones you don’t. You can create a layout that is unique to you and what you use the program for.

    Turbocad has a large amount of flexibility too and its mechanical design tools add to this. The program is used a lot for things like theatrical design as well as with furniture and woodworkers. Turbocad is ideal for a variety of sectors and like Autocad, it offers customizable options such as hiding tools and editing the layout of toolbars.

    Modifications

     

    A drawing or design isn’t going to be right the first time so modifications and changes are the norms when using computer-aided design software.

    The process of modifying designs in Autocad can be time-consuming and it isn’t the easiest. Each part of a design has to be modified individually rather than as a whole. They also don’t update automatically unlike other programs such as Solidworks across all the views so this has to be done manually.

    Turbocad will automatically update views which can make the modifications process a bit easier. The use of the TurboSite iOS app is another great addition where field data can be entered which will be fed back to the main Turbocad system and updated with relevant information so that modifications can be made if necessary.

    Platforms

    Whether you predominantly use Windows computers or Macbooks, computer-aided design software should be available in both. This is especially important if you are working across different locations or on the move if you need to update models when you are out of the office.

    Autocad is well known to work on both Windows and Mac computers. There is also a mobile app available for Autocad which can be used on iOS, Android, and Windows devices. If you need additional storage for using Autocad, you have the option of adding cloud storage onto your subscription as well.

    The good news for anyone who is leaning towards Turbocad is that it is also available on both Windows and Mac devices so you have cross-platform support too. Turbocad has a variety of mobile apps including TuroSite for feeding back fieldwork, Turboreview for reviewing 2D and 3D CAD documents, DroneScout which is for collecting aerial data via DJI Phantom Series drones, amongst others. So, you can use a variety of different apps to complement the main Turbocad program. There isn’t an app as such for the Turbocad program but rather a series of apps to complement it.

    Here you can check more information before making the final decision on whether to stick with AutoCAD or Solidworks for 3D printing and even compare Autocad with Revit as well.

    Comparing Autocad and Turbocad pricing

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    You will find free trial options with both these products as well as regular subscriptions.

    Autocad costs around $1690 to get access to the program for one year per user. You can also opt to take out a monthly license which is $210 per month or if you envisage using this in the longer term, there is a 3-year license available for $4565. You’ll get a variety of different tools which you subscription too which includes:

    • AutoCAD Architecture
    • AutoCAD Electrical
    • AutoCAD Map 3D
    • AutoCAD Mechanical
    • AutoCAD MEP
    • AutoCAD Plant 3D
    • AutoCAD Raster Design

    There is a 30-day free trial option for Autocad and if you are a student, you can get a one-year free license.

    Turbocad has a couple of pricing options to suit your needs. You can pay for it once and get a permanent license for $1499.99 which is cheaper than Autocad at first glance however you will need to pay for an upgrade when new versions are released (currently this costs $399).

    The one-off price is for one user. They also offer a subscription cost of $499 per year per user and this includes upgrades to new software as well. There is a 15 day free trial with Turbocad as opposed to the 30-day free trial that Autocad offers.

    Autocad v Turbocad ease of use

    If you are interested in either Autocad or Turbocad then it is likely that you are working in modeling and ensign already or contemplating buying a 3D printer and experimenting. They aren’t a product that someone with just a passing interest is going to buy and start using as they have a bit of a learning curve. So, how easy are they to use?

    Autocad can take a while to get the hang of and this is largely down to the separate processes that it uses. The whole program can appear very complex in the beginning however the fact that you are able to customize it as you go along with the Custom User Interface Editor means that when you get used to the software you can really make it your own. It doesn’t require years and years to get the main functionality nailed down but you won’t learn it in a few hours.

    Turbocad is an easier program to learn and if you’re new to modeling and creating 2D or 3D designs, you’ll more than likely get to grips with this program before you’ll learn how to use Autocad to its full potential. The issue is that many people report hitting a ‘productivity ceiling’ with Turbocad.

    This means that you’ll come to a point where you can’t carry out processes any quicker. Autocad has the advantage here because people who use it become much more familiar with the layout and become faster in doing tasks on the software.

    What support is available for Autocad and Turbocad

     

    The good thing about both these programs is that there is support on hand to help if you encounter any problems.

    Autocad is run by Autodesk so you get access to their Learning Section which has tutorials, video guides and other information to commonly asked questions. If you can’t find an answer to your issue here, you can go to the forums that are frequented by experienced users. There is also the option of submitting a support ticket to Autodesk if you require more assistance.

    Turbocad has its own Knowledge Base with guides and tutorials that can help you with the software. They also offer a Community Forum where you can ask other users about any issues you are having or you can submit a support ticket through their website Turbocad also have the option of phone support too which is a nice feature if you need to get an answer quickly.

    Pros and Cons

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    Autocad

    Pros

    • Has both 2D and 3D modeling functionality
    • Standard software used in the industry so plenty of knowledge from other professionals
    • You can customize its layout to increase productivity
    • Can work without internet access as it uses local and network files
    • Compatible with both Windows and Mac and has a mobile app
    • Cloud storage is available if you need additional space

    Cons

    • Isn’t the easiest software to learn and will take a while to get the hang of
    • Doesn’t have a joined-up to the connected approach to its workflow
    • Manual update of modifications to designs

    Turbocad

    Pros

    • Easier to learn from out outset especially for new users
    • Can buy the product outright although you’ll need to pay for upgrades
    • Has 2D and 3D functionality with freeform drawing
    • Able to customize its layout to enhance productivity
    • Use of TurboSite app for fieldwork is a great addition
    • Get access to the suite of TurboApps for various functions
    • Is available on Windows and Mac

    Cons

    • Can experience glitches with color rendering
    • Only has a 15-day free trial
    • Lacks dedicated Turbocad app

    Are there any alternatives?

    Solidworks

     

    This is a very good alternative to both Autocad and Turbocad. Solidworks has both 3D modeling and 2D drawing functionality so it matches Autocad and Turbocad in that regard. It is also similar to Turbocad in that it has a one-off payment option as well as a subscription model too.

    Solidworks is only available on Windows operating systems which does hold it back a bit especially if you use Mac OS however it is popular computer-aided design software that has been around for a few decades now. Another popular option is Fusion 360, so here check the comparison in detail between Solidworks vs Fusion 360.

    Inventor

     

    inventor autocad

    Inventor often doesn’t have the same recognized name as Autocad however it is closer to Turbocad in its makeup as it is a 3D modeling software as default whereas Autocad started out as 2D and incorporated 3D functionality.

    Inventor is a bit more user friendly as well with its interface although it does come with a higher price tag for a year’s subscription. It has been around since 1999 and is also only available for Windows like Solidworks so it does lack cross-platform compatibility.

    If you are interested in how Invertor compares with similar software, check the detailed comparison between Fusion 360 vs Invertor.

    FAQs About Autocad and Turbocad

    Can I use Autocad for free?

    There is a free trial available for Autocad that lets you try out the product for 30 days. Students can get a one-year free license as well which is a pretty cool feature and Autocad offers monthly, yearly, or 3-yearly subscription models.

    Can I use Turbocad for free?

    Turbocad has a 15-day free trial available where you can try to product out. It offers a one-off payment to be able to use the software for life but that doesn’t include upgrades which will cost extra. There is also a subscription model available.

    What operating systems can I use Autocad on?

    Autocad is available on both Windows and Mac computers and there is also a mobile app that you can use as well.

    What operating systems can I use Turbocad on?

    Turbocad also has both Windows and Mac OS versions so it matches Autocad in that way. You’ll also get access to the Turbocads app suite which offers handy apps to complement the work that Turbocad does.

    Are these programs customizable?

    Yes. Autocad especially is very customizable with its Custom User Interface Editor where you can hide tools, change the layout, and more to make things easier for you. Turbocad also offers a custom experience to increase productivity.

    Is it easy to use these programs?

    Turbocad is considered to be an easier program out of the two. Both will take time and effort to get used to as they are complicated programs performing complex processes.

    Can I use these programs for 3D printing?

    Both Autocad and Turbocad can be used to create models for 3D printing and can be used with open-source printers too.

    What support do Autocad and Turbocad offer?

    Autocad has a Learning Section which offers a range of guides and tutorials while there is an online forum where you can ask questions to other users. There is also a support ticket system on their website. Turbocad has its own Knowledge Base, forum and you can contact them via phone.

    Conclusion: Autocad or Turbocad?

    Autocad is perhaps the most well-known computer-aided design software on the market. Even people who aren’t involved in drawing, modeling, and 3D printing know the brand name.

    Both of these pieces of software are powerful and very good at what they do. Turbocad perhaps has the edge when it comes to 3D because that is its primary purpose whereas with Autocad it feels like a bit of an added extra given its main focus was 2D.

    Neither of these products is going to be learned right away by someone who is completely new and they do have a learning curve and will take time and a lot of practice to get the hang of. The good news is that there is a wealth of information out there for both in the form guides, tutorials, and forums that can help.

    It is quite hard to choose a winner between these two because they have many overlapping features.

    I would go with Autocad if I really had to choose for a few reasons.

    One is that it offers an industry-standard product that has been used for decades while it provides good cross-platform functionality in terms of its Windows, Mac, and mobile versions. That isn’t to say that Turbocad doesn’t offer Windows and Mac versions but that Autocad’s mobile app is very useful.

    While certain things in Turbocad might be easier to learn it does have a ceiling in what you can do and in the long run you would probably be better taking more time to get equipped with Autocad.

    Bottom Line Summary: While these are both capable software tools, I much prefer more capable and versatile Autocad solution here, particularly if you are past the hobby level. Turbocad is fine as a short term budget pick, but most of the world is moving towards Autocad (and for good reason). 

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    Further Reading on CAD Software for 3D Printing:

    AutoCAD vs Solidworks [2021]: Which is The Best?

    When you take the plunge into 3D printing, it’s easy to get caught up in the machinery. It’s the most obvious aspect of the whole process, and there are almost as many choices as there are possible projects – but, choosing your hardware is not the ultimate destination of your 3D printing journey.

    That distinction goes to finding the perfect software for your needs. Your hardware is only as useful as your software lets it be, so make sure, first of all, to be honest about your own starting skill levels, time and patience to learn something new.

    We’ve given you a comprehensive guide on how to navigate the hundreds of different options out there, so now we’re going to focus on the merits of the two most popular: AutoCAD and Solidworks.

    These are both programs with legacies of excellence in drafting and 3D modeling with plenty of support, both official and amateur, so at first, it may seem like you can pick whichever one is on sale, or whichever one your favorite YouTube 3D printer uses, and it won’t matter in the end.

    However, there are plenty of distinctions between AutoCAD software and Solidworks for 3D modelling that you need to consider before choosing.  It’s like the options of an Apple or Windows computer – they’ll both get you to the same place, but the ways they get you there are different, and you should know the individual steps of each so you can use your smoothest path.

    One thing to keep in mind – both of these programs are designed for users who already have some computer-aided drafting and computer-aided design experience.

    That isn’t to say you need an engineering degree to get what you want from them, but just keep in mind that a basic familiarity with drafting concepts (or the willingness to spend extra time Googling them) will help you orient yourself within these systems no matter which one you pick.

    Bottom Line Up Front Summary: Solidworks is fine for JUST 3D drafting, however I would recommend upgrading to AutoCAD here if you planning to operate a serious business with both 2D and 3D crossover needs, or may need reliable support. Autodesk IS the market leader for CAD and as such updates their products more frequently (free upgrades) and generally pioneers new features. AutoCAD also “plays better” with the other Autodesk software suites. 

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    Main Difference Between Solidworks vs AutoCAD

    These are the main differences between Solidworks vs AutoCAD:

    • AutoCAD is better for 2D drawings and non-parametric design, wh2ereas Solidworks is best for 3D Design and parametric design
    • AutoCAD is generally less expensive compared to Solidworks
    • AutoCAD is more flexible for both 2D and 3D CAD, whereas Solidworks is better for dedicated 3D rendering

    Let’s get into the tool details:

    AutoCAD Tool

    AutoCAD Software Functionality Overview

    AutoCAD is a computer-aided drafting software developed by AutoDesk in 1982. It came from a 1970s software called Interact CAD (computer aided design) and was the first drafting program developed for personal computers rather than the minicomputers that were common at the time.

    It was an instant hit and revolutionized the drafting game with innovations such as the ability to work on multiple drawings at a time and object transparency. Since its introduction, it’s become the most-used software in the design world.

    AutoCAD started as a way to model 2D geometry and evolved to include various 3D modeling options like solids, surfaces, and meshes. Many drafters still use it primarily for 2D drawings and 2D drafting (2D CAD), but its capabilities make it great for modeling your 3D printing projects.

    You can turn your object in 3D space to look at it from any viewpoint, which makes it very useful for a full-object visualization functionality. AutoCAD also lets you attach notations to your drawings, attach and import data from PDFs, and extract object data to tables, so you can present your data and real-time analytics as separate from the shapes.

    Most recent from AutoCAD

    The latest version, AutoCAD 2020, was released in March of last year and supports 4k monitors, or ultra-high definition monitors that have four times the amount of pixels than traditional high-definition monitors. Translation – it looks great on computers that have the power you need for heavy-duty 3D modeling design work and CAD software applications.

    The new edition also introduces an improved version of its DWG file format, a standardized binary file format used for drafting files across a host of different software, so if you’ve been using another program and are worried about losing your work, don’t be – it’ll translate perfectly over to AutoCAD. There are also plenty of ways to view DWG files without AutoCAD, and the software also supports Drawing Exchange File Formats, or DXF, which is the non-proprietary version of drafting files.

    AutoCAD has grown into a group of programs customized by industry with different user interface tweaks. The AutoCAD Architecture, for example, has pre-loaded details  common to building product design like doors and windows; AutoCAD Electrical gives access to a library of commonly used electrical engineering symbols.

    All AutoCAD variations have applications for 3D modeling, but if you’re specifically using it for 3D printing, you probably want to use AutoCAD Mechanical, which lets you create and modify mechanical designs, or AutoCAD MEP, which is the variation that lets you solid 3D model mechanical, electrical, and plumbing designs for construction in the CAD program.

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    AutoCAD Pricing and Accessibility

    A full license for AutoCAD will run you $195 per month, or $1,575 per year. The longer you subscribe, the less per month it will be, but your starting costs will go up exponentially, so unless you’re positive you’re going to use it on the regular for four years, don’t shell out the $4,252.50 that commitment will cost you.

    If you’re a student or educator, you may be eligible for a free license. That doesn’t include access to all AutoCAD variations, but if you already know which one you’ll need to use, it’s definitely worth it, especially if you’re looking to start a multi-station 3D printing class.

    Plus you’ll get access to AutoCAD’s cloud storage services, so you can share projects across whatever geographic differences you might have. Just remember it won’t be quite as robust per person as a full version, and you’re bound to using it only for educational purposes that aren’t for profit.

    Your subscription gives you access to all the variants of AutoCAD we talked about above, so you can experiment across the different variations and figure out which one works best for your projects. This also gives you access to AutoCAD’s web and mobile apps so you can access your designs wherever you end up working.

    AutoCAD is compatible with both Windows and Mac computers, and since your designs become standardized file types within the software, you’ll be able to share across all the operating systems you and/or your team prefer.

    Pros for 3D Printing

    • Full-grade professional software with massive amounts of options and features
    • Pioneering innovator in computer-aided drafting that’s been the industry standard since its beginning
    • Specific 3D printing command (3DPRINT) since 2015
    • Wide translation across file storing and sharing across other software
    • No subscription fee if you qualify for the education license
    • Mobile app and cloud storage and sharing for a wide variety of accessibility

    Cons for 3D Printing

    • Originally developed for 2D design, which some say is still its strong point
    • Annual subscription fee of more than $1,000 if you want to use it for profit-making ventures
    • Requires a steep learning curve; best for those who are already familiar with drafting principles and want to add a 3D printing component or 3D part

    SolidWorks Tool

    Functionality Overview

    SolidWorks is a computer aided drafting software that was developed in 1995 by Jon Hischtick, founder of the SolidWorks Corporation. Dassault Systems acquired SolidWorks in 1997, and merged with its previous CAD system experience and user base. Its most recent iteration, SolidWorks 2018, was released in October 2017.

    The name is a giveaway: it’s a software that models solid objects, and it does that based on engineering terms like bosses and holes rather than through geometric shapes like AutoCAD does. It also starting including simulation tools almost twenty years ago, so that users from 2001 forward have been able to test their designs in real-world situations before they actually commit to building anything.

    CAD tools to simulate computational fluid dynamics, the ability to simulate fluid flow, heat transfer, and fluid forces, and life cycle assessment features let SolidWorks users see how their designs will preform under environmental pressures that they may find themselves under when they’re used for their intended purposes.

    As a Solidworks user your subscription also includes a rendering process that lets its users see their objects in photorealistic finishes, project data management resources so you can make sure your drafts are as organized as you want them to be, and a SolidWorks electrical package so you can use it to add accurate schemas and circuit data while reducing the need for physical prototyping.

    All of these features make it a favorite of engineers who depend on 3D modeling for their work. It’s used across a variety of industries like auto and aerospace engineering, construction, oil and gas, alternative energy, and robotics. Amtrak, BAE systems, and Daka are all both major users.

    SolidWorks was developed in the opposite direction of AutoCAD; first created as a 3D modeling software (CAD software), it’s brought in 2D drawing components as well; your SolidWorks model will start as a 2D drawing as your first step. But its initial focus on 3D makes it a favorite of many 3D printers.

    AutoCAD vs Solidworks: Price and Accessibility

    One permanent license of SolidWorks Standard costs $3995, and you’ll pay an annual maintenance fee of $1,295. If you want to get the Professional version, it’s $7995 with a $1450 maintenance fee.

    If you want to go all out, the Premium Package (CAD package) is a one-time fee of $7995 with an annual maintenance fee of $1995. The company does offer a student version for $150, but that is limited to one year’s use and puts an unremovable watermark on any work you create so you aren’t able to use it for commercial ventures.

    Its 3DEXPERIENCE platform lets you share your designs and connects you with others as you want and need to for projects. It offers a marketplace where you can shop for designs from those who submitted them, and it all integrates into its PLM features for optimal project management.

    One thing that may trip you up is SolidWorks’ incompatibility with Mac operating systems. You have to use it on Windows, so if you don’t have that hardware, you’ll need to find another program, and make sure all the people you want to collaborate know that as well before you choose for your whole team. However, it uses the standard drafting file extension of DWG (CAD files), so your designs will be readable across other drafting programs with no issues.

    Pros for 3D Printing

    • Parametric feature-based modeling makes designing (and your design process) in 3D intuitive as you don’t have to be a geometry genius to get the features you want
    • You only have to pay for a licensing fee once
    • Discount for student edition
    • Range of simulation options let you test your design before you print it
    • Built on the premise of 3D modeling
    • Includes sheet metal design tools
    • 3DEXPERIENCE cloud storage and sharing capabilities
    • Used across a wide variety of engineering industries so is a recognized standard
    • Integrated CAM
    • Standardized file formats makes it compatible with other CAD programs
    • Latest version allows for freehand sketching on mobile devices
    • Latest version integrates CAM and topology study tools

    Cons for 3D Printing

    • Only compatible with Windows operating systems
    • Maintenance fee required per year, which is about the same price as one AutoCAD annual subscription, on top of one-time license fee
    • Reduced 2D capabilities

    Final Verdict: Solidworks or AutoCAD?

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    So there you have it – the ins and outs of the two most popular 3D modeling systems on the market. And don’t forget how much support these two programs have. Because their extensive history stretches back beyond 3D printing to the beginning of computer-aided drafting as a concept, there are massive treasure troves of tutorials for both.

    Whether you’re a read the 500-page manual before you touch it kind of person, or more of a YouTube it as you go dilettante, the internet has you covered through both official and unofficial channels.

    Reading user reviews on tech review websites is also a good way to find out how to use the program for specific needs that may not be covered in the getting-started material; you can find out where to go for your own projects if they vary from the examples used for instruction.

    Although we always advocate reading the whole process before you get started to make sure you don’t run into any surprises mid-print, if you’re confident enough in your basic skills, you can find a lot of niche advice and modifications for the base systems for whatever you need it to do.

    AutoCad and Solidworks software are both comprehensive programs that will encompass all of your basic to unusual 3D printing needs.

    Bottom Line Summary: Solidworks is fine for JUST 3D drafting, however I would recommend upgrading to AutoCAD here if you planning to operate a serious business with both 2D and 3D crossover needs, or may need reliable support. Autodesk IS the market leader for CAD and as such updates their products more frequently (free upgrades) and generally pioneers new features. AutoCAD also “plays better” with the other Autodesk software suites. 

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    If you enjoyed this article you can check our guide on how to find the Best 3D Printing Cad Software.

    Additional 3D Software Tools

    Fusion 360 vs Inventor Compared [2021]: Which is Best?

    Fusion 360 vs Inventor Autodesk

    Having a high-quality computer-aided drafting solution is critical for design, manufacturing, learning, and much more. Whether you’re a student or a professional, you need a tool like Fusion 360 vs Inventor that enables you to do the work you need to do.

    As a hobbyist or a small business on a budget, you may also need a solution that is feature-rich without the cost, or you may need something that is compatible with your 3D printer and all of the other tools you use at home.

    Fusion 360 and Inventor are two software programs commonly used for 3D printing (3D modeling software). They’re computer-aided drafting (CAD) software solutions made by Autodesk, but they’re both very different.

    Autodesk Fusion takes an updated approach to CAD with other integrated tools and collaboration abilities that are useful for the modern designer. Inventor is an old system with recent upgrades that make it useful for traditional designers and large corporate manufacturing.

    Bottom Line Up Front: For almost every user the more approachable, flexible and cost effective solution is going to be Fusion 360 here (free trial available). That said, if you are a commercial enterprise with manufacturing applications, Inventor is the ideal choice here (free trial available here)

    Main Differences Between Fusion 360 vs Inventor

    These are the main differences between Fusion 360 vsInventor are:

    • While Fusion 360 is a complete CAD, CAM, and CAE tool, Inventor is a traditional CAD software solution
    • While Fusion 360 comes with integrations allowing for commenting, revision histories, online and offline use, and much more, Inventory does not
    • Inventor does not have revolutionary collaboration capabilities, whereas the Fusion 360 does
    • Inventor only works on Microsoft operating systems, whereas the Fusion 360 is compatible with Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS

    Fusion 360

    Fusion 360 is an innovative CAD product that also incorporates CAM and CAE tools to bring your design software into the future. It was reimagined by the team at Autodesk after asking one simple question. If you could design a revolutionary CAD tool from scratch with everything you want, what would you build?

    The result is Fusion 360. It keeps solid design tools from your existing CAD software, ditches everything you don’t need, and adds to the package everything that seems to be missing thus far. Fusion 360 also aids in the design and engineering process from beginning to end.

    It enables collaborative development and intends to be the next generation Product Innovation Platform everyone will want to use. There are plenty of things that set it apart from other CAD software, so let’s take a look at why it’s so compelling.

    Fusion 360 Features

    Fusion 360 features ensure that the platform is integrated, connected, and accessible.

    Designing

    3D modeling and concept design are made possible by a top-down approach to your workflow. Using a single-model environment, you can create all unique parts and assemblies with existing library file format options. That means you can link your current design and make global changes of standard parts.

    You can also start with an existing design and build it up or create designs from scratch because it incorporates direct and parametric modelling. Using a history-free mode gives you the ability to make simple edits when you don’t know what the final design looks like.

    With history captured direct modelling, you can make direct edits to the design history or import CAD files (CAD file formats) from other vendors and make changes without using the native history of the original model.

    Fusion 360 Prototyping

    You can prepare prototypes or final parts with the 3D print preparation environment integrated into Fusion 360. Once you have a final design, you can program your design for 2-axis, 2.5-axis, or 3-axis CAM, all within the software. You can also create traditional drawings directly inside the platform.

    Directly link all of your 3D print models, drawings, and CAM paths to your 3D model. When you update your model, everything updates at the same time, so last-minute changes aren’t a problem.

    Integrated Simulation

    The Fusion 360 model allows for the simulation of your design as you near completion, so you know the printed model will function properly. You can verify your design and minimize the number of physical mistakes you make, which saves you time and money, especially when you’re on a budget.

    You can use any of the integrated rendering and FEA tools, motion studies, and assembly modeling to analyze your product design (advanced analytics methods and data collection) and make sure it works before you make it.

    Furthermore, you can generate modal frequencies, static stress, thermal stress, structural buckling, and event simulation. Or do shape optimization studies without paying for the extra simulation software.

    Document Management

    If you work alone, you may not need to collaborate with others, but you can still take advantage of the onboard document management that Fusion 360 offers. It’s built into the platform and backed up to the cloud.

    Every time you save your project, it creates a new version, so you have an audit trail and a history of changes. You can control all file permissions and track your project with renaming or restructuring at any time.

    Create a project team and give them access to the files uploaded using the Fusion 360 document management web service. This includes markup, live review, and commenting. You can also give access to non CAD system users, and their access won’t be restricted or limited by the software they use.

    This behavioral data management eliminates the need for database maintenance or checking in and out. You get complete permission control, version tracking, comments, linked documents, and everything else you need in a seamlessly controlled and coordinated environment.

    Compatibility

    Autodesk Fusion 360 runs on Windows, macOS, and your web browser. You can also download apps for both Android and iOS. Just choose the platform that works best for your design needs, or use multiple options for work, home, and on-the-go.

    Because you can use Fusion 360 on your local device ID and on the cloud, you can run it conveniently from wherever you are. It works with or without an internet connection. However, connecting to the internet allows for support from the cloud with processor-intensive tasks, so you get the most performance out of your local hardware.

    Signing Up

    As with any other software program, you have to pay for it. The great thing about Fusion 360 is that there are no barriers to entry for a lot of people. However, it’s geared toward students and companies rather than individuals.

    It’s free for students, startups, and companies that have less than $100,000 in revenue per year. Almost anyone can have access to high-quality tools for nothing if you fall into one of these categories.

    For everyone else, you can have a 30 day trial of Fusion 360 just to see if you like it. After that, rental licenses are available on a monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis. If you have an existing Autodesk account, this process is even easier.

    After you sign up for Autodesk, you can download the software and begin using it right away. Enter the necessary information to get access to your trial or approval for a free subscription.

    Running Fusion 360 requires minimal hardware and processing power, especially when you make use of the cloud support for backing up and storing files. You don’t need to purchase expensive hardware to run it.

    You’ll always get a better user experience if you increase your memory or update your graphics card. Having a dedicated graphics card is always a good thing when you’re dealing with design software.

    Summing Up Fusion 360

    Fusion 360 is a revolutionary CAD tool that gives you the freedom to control every aspect of your design. From creating designs from scratch or manipulating imported files to running simulations and verifying the design before printing, you have everything you need in one place.

    Take advantage of collaboration tools and cloud backups so you can manage all of your data without complicated database or server management. While it’s a program geared toward companies, individuals may find it useful as well, especially if you’re a student.

    With the integrated tools, connectivity, and accessibility that Fusion 360 gives you, you’ll have all of the tools you need in a premium CAD software program that will serve you well into the future.

    Inventor

    Autodesk is known for providing great depth and functionality in their software programs, and Inventor is no different. You’ll get a lot of solutions that feature the ability to control your design and engineering experience all the way through simulation and manufacturing.

    Inventor Features

    With Inventor, you’ll experience frequent updates, so your software is always up-to-date, giving you easier access to all of the tools you need. You’ll get new feature refreshes, feature testing, and updated user interfaces to make it easier.

    Autodesk Inventor Upgrades

    The inventor has the benefit of being around a long time, so it’s perfected its features over time, Autodesk has plenty of experience poured into this software solution, but with frequent redesigns, you still get a modern-looking platform.

    Mobile compatibility is an upgraded feature of today, and the Inventor handles it with ease. You can work on your local hardware or take advantage of the mobile workstation and features. They’ve also introduced a light mode because sometimes the dark mode is too hard to see.

    The sweep functionality allows you to sweep a solid along any path, giving you a major upgrade over sweeping a 2D profile. You can sweep 3D geometric forms as well. This gives you the ability to model complex linear or rotary mechanisms and maintain form.

    A 3D form driving feature allows you to create objects with the functionality you want while a panel approach allows you to switch back and forth between your sketch and a feature without exiting any operations.

    Autodesk Inventor User Experience

    The user interface provides additional support for monitor setups so you can customize your desktop workflow the way you need it. You can drag your Inventor frames onto other monitors or expand the frame to span it across monitors, depending on your preferences.

    By dragging to other monitors, you can have more than one file open at once for simultaneous design work and easy switching back and forth from one project to another.

    Designing

    The inventor provides tools for both solid and surface modelling. They also have an increasing set of tools for surface style, free-form, and sub-divisional modelling. You can also create and edit these forms with ease using Inventor tools.

    What Inventor does better than a lot of other CAD tools is to offer an unwrapping tool so you can estimate blank size and form along with the ability to fold parts. You can select continuous faces, lock edges, and mark edges as rigid. You’re left with a convenient profile design you can use in other downstream applications

    Compatibility

    Performance is always a concern when dealing with large file types. Inventor is releasing improvements in 2021 that will speed up load times. Their focus is on improving operations and actions that make it run leaner and more efficiently.

    That also means that you’ll see an improvement in your workflow because operations and actions will be easier for you, involving fewer clicks to get where you need to be. Every project follows a similar path, from 2D and 3D modeling sketches to a more intricate framework.

    You can establish standard forms or use forms you’ve already created as a base for your project, or you can start your design from scratch.

    To use Inventor, you need the Microsoft machine. It doesn’t work on macOS, so it’s geared more toward traditional designers using older technologies. However, it does integrate with the Autodesk online app for backup storage and collaboration.

    Signing Up

    You need to sign up for Autodesk in order to download Inventor. However, signing up for an Autodesk account if you don’t already have one is easy and free. The inventor comes with a 30 day free trial for anyone who likes to try it before they buy it.

    After your trial, you can subscribe for a monthly or yearly plan, or you can pay for a three-year subscription. You can also bundle your Inventor software with other useful tools like AutoCAD, Inventor CAM, and Inventor Nastran.

    There are no free subscriptions for students, startups, or small businesses, but Inventor isn’t as expensive as a lot of other CAD software solutions, so the subscription cost is a bit more manageable.

    Summing Up Autodesk Inventor

    The inventor doesn’t have a lot of the feature-rich collaboration tools that Fusion 360 does. It’s an older system that’s been continually upgraded over time. The new 2020 release will implement some great usability and workflows with upgraded tools that a lot of designers need.

    The inventor has more traditional engineering and manufacturing tools with deeper, more mature functionality. It’s a system meant for heavy commercial design and manufacturing. What you’ll find in recent upgrades are new efficiencies, workflow consolidation, and evolving tools that make it well worth purchasing.

    More So than expensive brand new technologies, Inventor provides increased efficiencies and redesigned workflows to make your work much faster and easier to do. You also might be able to take advantage of some bundles that give you both systems and several others for an excellent value.

    You can empower your workflows with much more than the feature-rich Inventor and also take advantage of some evolutionary features with Fusion 360 at the same time when bundling your purchase.

    Autodesk Inventor vs Fusion 360 Comparison Chart

    Here are some of the direct comparisons that may help you make a decision when purchasing your next CAD software solution

     

    Fusion 360

    Inventor

    Compatibility

    Windows, macOS, Android, iOS

    Windows

    Mobility

       

    Bundle

    No

    Yes, with Fusion 360, AutoCAD, Inventor Nastram, and Inventor CAM

    Manufacturer

    Autodesk

    Autodesk

    Import from other CAD platforms

    Yes

    Yes

    Collaborate with other users

    Yes

    Yes, but other tool integrations required

    Subscriptions

    Monthly, quarterly, yearly

    Monthly, yearly, every three years

    Price

    Starts at $60 monthly, free for students, startups, and small businesses

    Starts at $250 monthly

    Free trial

    30 days

    30 days

    Designing from scratch

    Yes

    Yes

    Designing from form libraries

    Yes

    Yes

    Product simulation

    Yes

    Yes

    FAQs

    Here are some frequently asked questions about these two software platforms and how they work.

    Will Fusion 360 replace Inventor?

    Fusion 360 is Autodesk’s flagship CAD tool. They pulled out all the stops to create something more versatile and modern. It has the mobility and compatibility features that most need to do their work. Not to mention, it’s perfect for students or small businesses on a limited income.

    The goal is for Fusion 360 to replace the Inventor eventually. However, a lot of traditional designers aren’t ready to move to the cloud-based platform offered by Fusion 360. They prefer the deeper, richer tools that Inventory has to offer.

    Is Inventor better than AutoCAD?

    The inventor has tools that are built for computer-aided design. You can create Inventor drawings as DWG files that you can edit in AutoCAD, so it increases your collaboration potential with users who have AutoCAD software.

    However, the Inventor eliminates the need for AutoCAD, especially with choosing the bundle that includes a subscription to AutoCAD as well. You certainly don’t need both, but if you like to have both, you can bundle them for additional savings.

    Is Fusion 360 still free for hobbyists?

    Fusion 360 offers a free subscription for up to three years for students and up to one year for small businesses. This includes hobbyists. You don’t have to own a business to use Fusion 360 for free, but it’s not free forever.

    What is Autodesk Inventor used for?

    Inventor allows you to create 3D mechanical designs. You can also enable design communication and collaboration as well as product simulation. It’s a 3D mechanical solid modelling design software used to create 3D digital prototypes for CAD user applications. It’s generally used on a commercial or professional scale and isn’t a great solution for hobbyists.

    The Verdict: Fusion 360 or Inventor?

    While Fusion 360 and Inventor are both made by Autodesk (Autodesk product family), they’re used for very different modeling things. Fusion 360 is a feature-rich, modern software solution that’s compatible with several operating systems. It revolutionizes the way you collaborate on files and has the ability to work both offline on your local hardware or online for cloud backup.

    Fusion 360 is great for students, hobbyists (3D printing specifically), and small businesses. The price point makes it more accessible to all, and it is intended to replace the Autdodesk Inventor software someday.

    The inventor has deeper, richer tools that are preferred by traditional designers, but it doesn’t have the same hardware compatibility or mobile design solutions as Fusion 360. Inventor is typically used for commercial manufacturing purposes.

    It’s more expensive, but the depth of the Autodesk software platform is needed for intensive design on a large business scale. However, it offers bundles to give you better value, and you can purchase Inventor with Fusion 360 and other integrations that make it more versatile and increase your usability.

    Bottom Line: For almost every user the more approachable, flexible and cost effective solution is going to be Fusion 360 here (free trial available). That said, if you are a commercial enterprise with manufacturing applications, Inventor is the ideal choice here (free trial available here)

    Fusion 360 and Inventor are both great solutions to your CAD program modeling needs, but make sure you know exactly what you’re looking for and exactly what you need before you make an investment.

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