Autocad vs Revit [2021]: Which Is The Right Choice?

Autodesk’s two powerhouse design programs, AutoCAD and Revit, are on their way to conquering the design world.

AutoCAD is the broadly applicable geometry-driven traditional drafting program that’s grown a lot since its 1982 beginnings; Revit is the powerhouse 3D modeler that gives you real-world information about your design before you build a stick of it. 

Bottom Line Up Front Summary: Overall, AutoCAD is the better program as it combines both the 2D and 3D functionality as well as the compatibility across various platforms that Revit doesn’t have. You can sign up for a free AutoCAD trial here.

But how do they compare to each other? 

Main Differences Between AutoCAD vs Revit

The Main Differences Between AutoCAD and Revit are:

  • AutoCAD has a geometric CAD approach, whereas Revit has a 3D modeling CAD approach.
  • AutoCAD covers a lot of industry functions, whereas Revit focuses on building design industries.
  • AutoCAD gives you data based on your design objects, whereas Revit gives you data on the construction of your models.
  • AutoCAD is considered best for 2D drawing, whereas Revit is better for modeling and getting cost estimates
  • AutoCAD is more flexible to use, whereas the Revit platform is more rigid.
  • Autocad is available on both Windows and Mac computers as well as mobile devices, whereas Revit is only available on Windows operating systems
  • AutoCAD is more difficult and time-consuming for modification of projects, whereas Rivet makes it easy.

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AutoCAD: The Basics

If you’ve done any education or professional industrial design work, chances are you’ve used AutoCAD. It was released in 1982 as the first computer-aided drafting tool available for home computers, which created a surge in accessibility for design software.

With a concentration on 2D drafting, its functionalities have grown with technology advances and user needs to add 3D components such as 3D capabilities, industry-specific modules, and ways to enhance teamwork. 

 

Type of CAD Geometry driven models
Type of Design 2D driven but also capable of 3D 
Computer Operating System Compatibility Windows, Mac
Price Subscription-based: $210 per month, $1,690 per year, or $4,565 per three years
File Extension .dwg, .dxf 
Industry Usage Architectural design, electrical engineering, civil planning, mechanical design, graphic design
Supports mobile? Yes

AutoCAD: The Advantages

  • Precise line work for 2D geometries. If you want a computer-aided drafting tool that gives you complete control over 2D drawing, Autodesk AutoCAD remains the first and best choice. Its extensive number of ways to manipulate geometries means you can use it to design anything you want, which makes it great for anyone that’s an architect (or anyone else) who is starting from the beginnings of an idea. This amount of detail users have is often pointed out as the feature that makes AutoCAD so intimidating to learn, but once you’ve got a solid grasp of it, you’ll be rewarded with all the tools you need and more. 
  • Flexibility for 3D objects. Although it started as a 2D program, AutoCAD has added a solid (pun intended) 3D component to its design features as well. And just like with its original use, AutoCAD puts a large amount of control into your hands when you’re designing in 3D. Its surface, mesh, and solid tools let you customize your 3D CAD models beyond strict confines of the parameters with which you started. That’s the beauty of AutoCAD’s reliance on geometries – because you use them as pure shapes, there are no preconceived usage limits, which means you can let your imagination go as wild as it wants while you design.   
  • Workspace customization. Users always complain that AutoCAD’s steep learning curve comes from its huge array of tools and features, and although they’re not wrong, much of that can be cleared up as soon as you figure out what you need for a job. To keep your workspace manageable without compromising its comprehensiveness, AutoCAD lets you create customized tool ribbons and work areas. You do need to have a working knowledge of what’s available as well as what your specific job entails, but once you’ve figured that out it’s super easy to jump right in.  
  • Integration of PDF files and cloud viewing for sharing. Taking a design all the way to the finish line often requires a team – sometimes of people working halfway across the world from each other, with different time zones and computer accessibilities. Fortunately, AutoCAD has a number of options to keep coworkers in sync. One of their big steps forward is AutoCAD’s ability to change PDF files into their proprietary .dwg file type, so that if original designs need to be tweaked or referenced, their PDF versions can be read and edited by AutoCAD users. This is great for accessing archives and keeping versions locked until they get to the right person to edit. AutoCAD also offers a cloud-based viewing feature, which lets more than one user view a CAD file at the same time. Although group same-time editing isn’t possible, being able to study and discuss a draft at the same time is a vital preparation step in making your design the same kind of flawless that everyone agrees on.  

 

AutoCAD: The Disadvantages 

Some of Autodesk AutoCAD’s advantages can be flipped around to become inconveniences depending on what you’re using the software for; however, there are a few flaws in the system that affect most of the design jobs you’ll be doing.

  • Steep learning curve. Yes, you can customize the tools and feature ribbons you see when you open AutoCAD; yes, that makes it less intimidating than the full scope of its offerings. But before you know which ones you need to curate, you’ll need to climb AutoCAD’s notoriously steep learning curve to find out how everything works to see what will suit you best. It’s not easy, and if you don’t have the right teacher or guiding material, it can get enormously frustrating. However, since this is a universal issue for AutoCAD users, there are a lot of self-pacing courses and training packages you can find around the internet, whether from Autodesk’s own training site, its AutoCAD user community, or an outside CAD educator. Connecting with someone who can show you around will make all the difference as you learn.
  • Unsynced layering. AutoCAD’s layer system is great for tending to every detail needed while designing new parts. Unfortunately, that layering feature does not automatically sync edits or changes to all of the design, requiring users to manually make sure it’s replicated everywhere it should be for the full effect. Teams especially have to be super vigilant and 100% updated across the board so one individual’s work on the wrong draft doesn’t cost the rest of the group time or money needed for painstaking corrections.
  • Manual entry of component information. The empty geometries you work within AutoCAD are blank slates, which means they could be anything you want them to be. Great for the imagination, terrible for consistent component information across your designs. You have to manually type in specifics for each part even if they represent aspects or measurements you work with on a regular basis. You can mitigate this somewhat by buying one of AutoCAD’s industry-specific modules, but even then, you won’t be completely covered, and if you’re not designing in one of their represented industries, you’re still out of luck. 

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Revit: The Basics

Revit is a different type of CAD software. It’s called a Building Information Modeling program, and that means it creates a 3D model of a building complete with details about the physical properties and how each component interacts with each other.

Because of the wealth of information it automatically generates, this type of CAD software is very popular in architecture, construction, and city planning industries – making it a fairly direct competitor to AutoCAD, even though Revit is also issued by Autodesk. 

 

Type of CAD Building information modeling (BIM)
Type of Design 3D modeling
Computer Operating System Compatibility Windows only
Price Subscription-based: $305 per month, $2,425 per year, or $6,550 per three years
File Extension RVT, RFA, RTE, RFT (Revit native); DGN, DWF, DWG, DXF, IFC, SAT, and SKP (CAD); BMP, PNG, JPG, JPEG, and TIF (image); ODBC, HTML, TXT, and gbXML (other)
Industry Usage Architecture, civil planning, construction
Supports mobile? No

Revit: The Advantages

Revit software represents a powerful new stage in CAD programs. It’s got a number of BIM features that make it a favorite of users who are involved in structure management. 

  • All model information integrated. Unlike AutoCAD, Revit does not require a user to work in separate layers for each component of a design. Revit lets you work on a 3D model while automatically generating multiple viewpoints, translating changes across all aspects, and allowing multiple users to work on the same design at once. These behind-the-scene tools let you concentrate on creating without worrying whether the rest of your design will catch up. It’s also a great teamwork feature since all the changes and information are contained in the live Revit model file rather than separate layers. 
  • Extensive automatic building information. Speaking of important information, Revit automatically generates information about your design as you’re making it that you can easily leverage into price estimates, material amounts you’ll need in the real world, and how those materials will hold up with each other. And if any of these get changed at any point in the design process, so will this information. It’s like you’re building a Revit model with real materials, which takes away a lot of the guesswork and the compensations for that guesswork when you move into the next phase. 
  • Simplifies maintenance and upgrades. Because of the dynamic way changes are automatically integrated across a design, plus its wealth of building info, Revit makes keeping up building and structures easy as well. As a user, you have access to its design archives feature, which means you can store plans in the cloud and grab them whenever they’re needed to update or reference. All that information will be right there waiting for you whenever you need it.
  • Performance analysis. Revit also gives users access to performance analyses of their designs in real-world conditions. In addition to testing how a model works as a general building – how it holds together under stress, how its materials age together, etc – you can use this information for testing the environmental friendliness of your design. Power efficiencies and other measurements can directly lead to construction that is better for both the builders and the earth, which lets everybody win. 
  • Easier to learn. According to users, Revit is easier to learn than AutoCAD because of its cleaner interface. Revit’s automated integration of processes that are separate in AutoCAD also makes it simpler to jump right into its processes.

 

Revit: The Disadvantages

Although Revit has been advertised as more powerful than AutoCAD, it does have its drawbacks. Here are the details on a few that you should know about before investing in Revit.

  • Operates on Windows only. Revit’s OS limitation makes it harder to share designs that are inherently going to need a lot of teamwork. If your coworkers, investors, or anyone working from your Revit designs use a Mac, they’re going to have to find a computer with Windows to view your plans. While that may not be a breaking point for you, it’s definitely worth knowing before you buy to make sure it won’t interfere with your workflow.
  • Higher price. Compared to AutoCAD, subscriptions to Revit are uniformly more expensive. Its three-year plan is still the best option, but it’s going to run you about $1,000 more than AutoCAD’s. Do the calculations to see if you can handle that kind of up-front cost before you make your final decision. 
  • Narrower industry focus. Revit’s biggest drawback is its narrow industry focus. Although it displays an amazing array of functions for architecture, city planning, and other construction-based design areas, it gives subpar if any coverage for industries that aren’t connected to those. It’s a very specialized software compared to AutoCAD, and as such it doesn’t have nearly the occupational reach. If you’re not sure what area of design you want to go in, it might suit you better to learn a more general program first. 

Exploring Autocad and Revit Features

 

Both Autocad and Revit have many similar features. If you are using either of these pieces of software to create models, designs, and concepts, these are the key functions that you will find.

Drawing and design

Creating drawings and models is the main purpose of using software such as Autocad and Revit. These models are then ultimately used as plans for real-life engineering and construction drawings and can also be used for things such as 3D printing as well.

Autocad is very similar to drawing on a piece of paper in that it is mainly used for 2D lines and you have a lot of freedom over the designs you draw. It allows for a number of methods in which you can manipulate geometrics and create accurate drawings.

So if you need a tool that allows for free form drawing Autocad is perfect. It also has 3D functionality. Even though this is not what it was originally intended for, Autocad has evolved over the years to incorporate the design of 3D models.

Revit is a bit different in that it doesn’t have the same freeform creativity as Autocad. Revit is more focused on what is known as building information modeling or BIM. This is where you use tools to create 3D models of buildings and other concepts which are mainly used in construction.

It doesn’t offer the same free form drawing and freedom as Autocad but it offers real-time information. For example, if modeling a building on Revit software you will get data on materials needed, how they interact with each other, and price estimates too.

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Use Revit® BIM (Building Information Modeling) software to drive efficiency and accuracy across the project lifecycle, from conceptual design, visualization, and analysis to fabrication and construction.

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Workflow

The workflow and the way in which each design phase is linked is different with Autocad and Revit too. When working with a small or large team on a project, keeping the workflow open and collaboration easy is important.

Autocad’s setup means that you will need to draw each part of your design separate so the workflow is a bit more disjointed. It is a form of free drawing because each section isn’t linked to one another. Essentially you need to work in separate layers for your design with Autocad.

Revit has a different workflow. With Revit, each stage of the design that you make is automatically linked to the previous one to create a more consistent and joined-up approach to modeling and drawing. It relies less on ‘stages’ of the workflow process and more on creating a joined-up and connected design.

 

Modifications

Modifying designs, models and certain parts within a drawing is pretty common with these types of tools and both allow for modifications.

Modifications with Autocad can be pretty difficult or rather it is massively time-consuming. This is because each part has to be modified individually. There is also the issue that modifications to designs don’t update automatically across all views on Autocad. If one part of the model is changed then it generally has to be manually updated across different teams that are working on it.

Revit provides a much easier and straightforward way to make modifications. If something is changed on Revit it will update automatically across all existing views so there isn’t the need for manual updating. This is related to the workflow. As Revit considers the design as a ‘whole’ whereas Autocad has a more disjointed approach, anything that is modified in Revit will be reflected across the board.

Platforms

Companies and individuals that use this type of software are not just operating it on the one platform all the time. You may need to use modeling software on different operating systems or access it on the move.

The great thing about Autocad is that it can be used on several different platforms such as Windows and Mac devices. It also has a mobile app as well. This is one area where Autocad really excels and it is a lot more accessible across various platforms. You can get cloud storage available as well.

Revit platform is only available on Windows operating systems. It makes it a bit more restrictive in this sense as you don’t have as many options for using this on different OS or on a mobile device. However, you can also get cloud storage with Revit if you need to access designs at another location.

Comparing Autocad vs Revit Pricing

Both of these pieces of software offer 30-day free trial options which can help you get to grips with the software and they also offer monthly, yearly, or 3 yearly subscription options.

Autocad costs around $1690 for a yearly subscription per user license. You can also choose to buy a monthly license for $210 per month or get a license to use Autocad for 3 years which costs $4565 in total. When you purchase Autocad, you also get a range of other tools such as AutoCAD Architecture, AutoCAD Electrical, AutoCAD Map 3D, AutoCAD Mechanical, AutoCAD MEP, AutoCAD Plant 3D, and AutoCAD Raster Design. You can also use Autocad via their mobile app.

Revit is more expensive than Autocad and the cost of a yearly subscription is around $2425 for a standalone license. You can also take out a monthly subscription for Revit that costs $305 while there is the option of a 3 yearly license as well which costs $6550. Revit is only available on Windows operating systems so there isn’t a mobile app or Mac version.

If you are a student it is possible to get free access to both Autocad and Revit, however, commercial and professional organizations have to pay the license fee.

Autocad vs Revit ease of use

 

Neither Autocad or Revit is really ‘straight out the box’ pieces of software that someone with no experience in design, modeling, or drawing is going to pick up and be able to use straight away. However, for people who do have some experience with this field, there are differences in the usability between the two products.

Autocad can be a bit harder to use as the interface isn’t as straightforward and the fact that it is designed with separate processes means it is more difficult to get to grips with initially. You don’t necessarily need to have years of experience to grasp its functionality but it can appear very confusing at the start.

The one big advantage Autocad has is its Custom User Interface Editor. This means you can customize the workspace within Autocad so you have it the way you want which can make using the program much easier once you get to grips with the basics.

Revit is a much more data-intensive program which can make it harder for some people. That being said, the interface looks cleaner and because processes and the workflow aren’t separate like it is in Autocad, it is generally accepted that it is easier to use tools overall. You probably won’t have a steep learning curve with Revit as you will with Autocad.

 

Are there any alternatives?

Fusion 360

 

Fusion 360 is a well-known CAD product that is actually free for individuals and startups who make less than $100k per year. It also works solely off the cloud which means files aren’t locally stored.

This can have benefits in that you can access your files everywhere and drawbacks because you need constant internet access. It does let you dabble in modeling and drawing although highly complex objects do test its processing power.

Fusion 360 is a decent alternative if you are looking for a cost-effective solution to Autocad and Revit, but just in case, check the full comparison between Fusion 360 vs AutoCAD before reaching out a verdict.

Solidworks

 

Solidworks is another product that we have compared to Autocad in the past. It is a computer-aided drafting software that deals with 3D modeling and it also has 2D functionality as well. Solidworks is also more expensive than both Autocad and Revit however it is a one-off payment so it may work out cheaper in the long run.

Like Revit, you can only use it on Windows operating systems. However, it is another option to consider for computer-aided design software and it has a loyal following since it was released back in 1995.

AutoCAD vs Revit: Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use AuotCAD and Revit interchangeably? 

In some design situations, such as architecture, you can use either program for design. However, AutoCAD and Revit have different functions for the type of tasks for which you can use either, so depending on the type of documentation or workflow you need, you may not be able to use them interchangeably for the tasks that overlap.

Do AutoCAD and Revit have free trials I can use to test each one?

AutoCAD and Revit both have Autodesk’s option for a thirty-day free trial. We recommend taking advantage of these so you can test features out for yourself in your specific design situations.

Do AutoCAD and Revit have mobile apps?

AutoCAD has introduced a smartphone app you can use to carry your designs with you even where you don’t have access to a computer. Unfortunately, Revit does not have an app, which makes it a slightly less portable option. 

Are AutoCAD and Revit directly competing for software?

Since AutoCAD and Revit are both from Autodesk, they are not directly competing for products. Autodesk likes to refer to them as complementary to each other since they cover a lot of the same ground but enhance each other’s usefulness. 

Can I customize either of these programs?

Autocad is the most customizable out of the two. It features a Custom User Interface Editor which means you can have the interface the way you want it by displaying/hiding tools as you wish.

Can I use these programs for 3D printing?

Yes, both Autocad and Revit can export STL files which are used in 3D printing technology so they are ideal as 3D printing software.

What support is available?

Both Autocad and Rivet are Autodesk Software tools so you get the same level of support for both. There is a Learning Section that features guides, videos, and tutorials while you can visit the online forum. You can also contact Autodesk through their website if you need help.

Conclusion: Revit or AutoCAD?

Both Autocad and Revit are very powerful design tools that if used properly are highly effective in what they do.

They do have overlapping features that are often used with a different focus. For example, Revit is generally used within the construction industry. Autocad tends to be the software to use for more prices 2D drawings however it also brings in 3D functionality as well which is a bonus.

The big difference in how these programs work is through their modifications and workflow. Revit has a more joined-up approach to both with better workflow and modifications can be updated right away. Many users also comment that Revit is a bit easier to get the hang of over Autocad although Autocad has a lot more customizable options so you can make the interface the way you want it to be.

Which one should you use?

Autocad is better as a drawing and drafting program whereas Revit is more geared towards parametric object-based design.

Bottom Line Summary: Overall, AutoCAD is the better program as it combines both the 2D and 3D functionality as well as the compatibility across various platforms that Revit doesn’t have. You can sign up for a free AutoCAD trial here.

Not only that but even though both are available through Autodesk, Autocad has been an industry standard for decades and is one of the best design programs available.

Why Go With AutoCAD LT? | Autodesk

The Gold Standard for industrial CAD, AutoCAD LT can flexibly adapt to 2D or 3D projects, while using local network drives if connection speeds are limited. Most additive manufacturing speaks AutoCAD.

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Further Reading on Autodesk Product Software Packages:

Fusion 360 vs AutoCAD [2021]: Which CAD Software Is Best?

fusion 360 vs autocad

While 3D printers are capable of doing many great things, you need the right modeling software. And today we’ll be taking a look at Fusion 360 v AutoCAD and comparing them to find out which software is better for creating models for 3D printing.

We should preface by saying that they are both very popular products, used across the world for 3D modeling. While there are alternative pieces of software out there, Fusion 360 and AutoCAD (both Autodesk products) are consistently amongst the top two or three.

Both of these programs have been developed for people who do have some experience in drafting models on computers. They haven’t been designed in a way that you need to spend years studying to understand them, but you will have to put some work into researching terms and concepts if you have little experience working in this field.

Before we get into the specifications and features for each product, let’s take a look at what are the main differences between the two.

Bottom Line Up Front: Here’s my TL;DR for how to decide…

Main Differences Between the Fusion 360 vs AutoCAD

The main differences between Fusion 360 and AutoCAD are:

  • Fusion 360 has an emphasis on freeform models, whereas AutoCAD focuses on geometry-driven models
  • AutoCAD works with local and network-based files, whereas Fusion 360 is based on cloud technology
  • The AutoCAD interface is able to command with a command line, whereas the Fusion 360 does not
  • Fusion 360 is a pure 3D tool, whereas AutoCAD has 2D drafting functionality alongside the 3D model capability

System requirements for Fusion 360

Operating System

Apple® macOS™ Mojave v10.14; Apple® macOS™ High Sierra v10.13; Apple® macOS™ Sierra v10.12

 

Microsoft® Windows® 7 SP1, Windows 8.1, or Windows 10 (64-bit only)

CPU Type

64-bit processor (32-bit not supported)

Memory

3GB RAM (4GB or more recommended)

Graphics Card

512MB GDDR RAM or more, except Intel GMA X3100 cards

Disk Space

2.5 GB

Pointing Device

Microsoft-compliant mouse, Apple Mouse, Magic Mouse, MacBook Pro trackpad

Core Features of the Fusion 360

Fusion 360 is the first pure 3D CAD, CAM, and CAE tool that is available to a wide audience.

It features a wide range of drawing, modeling and rendering tools that will allow you to create 3D models. You will also be able to create surfaces and sheet metal parts with this software. Fusion 360 differs from some other computer-aided design software in that it utilizes cloud technology.

Many CAD programs use a huge amount of processing power and resources and actions such as thermal analysis or rendering can make a computer useless for anything else for a long time. Fusion 360 uses cloud as a ‘resource multiplier’ so this means that the actions involved in rendering and creating 3D models are sent there rather than slowing down your computer.

You will be able to do other tasks and the cloud will handle the calculations and other actions. It results in a short iteration cycle. There are also many courses you can go on to learn more about Fusion 306 but how does it rate as CAD software?

Usability

Fusion 360 is a fairly easy to use program and if you have some experience of CAD software then you shouldn’t have too many problems here.

You also have the possibility of doing customizations with Fusion 360. This is very handy because it means you can suit it to your own specifications and what you are using it for. It isn’t difficult to make any customizations either to the program. 

Reliability

As Fusion 360 is based on cloud technology, I have come across several people who have concerns over its reliability. While AutoCAD (which we’ll look in-depth below) works off local and network-based files and issues with connectivity can be resolved in an hour, Fusion 360 is different.

They have put a lot of work and effort into ensuring that using cloud technology doesn’t impact on the reliability of the program. I haven’t come across many issues with Fusion 360 and its use of the cloud. They do tend to do updates during the night at the weekend which may impact you if you work these hours.

Installation

It is very easy to get set up with Fusion 360.

You simply log into your Autodesk account, select Fusion 360 for your device and download the files to your computer. All the storage for files is done via cloud technology and you do require a connection to the internet for updates and security fixes.

Compatibility with 3D printing software

Fusion 360 exports objects as either an OBJ or STL file. These two types of files are compatible with most of the software that 3D printers use to print from. With Fusion 360 you should be able to export these files and print them onto a 3D printer without any problems. Pretty much every 3D printer will be able to print off an object created with this software.

Support

This is a crucial factor in deciding which software to go with. If something goes wrong and it doesn’t work correctly then you want the problem to be rectified as soon as possible. This is especially true with Fusion 360 as it uses cloud technology.

Luckily the support on offer with Fusion 360 is great.

They have a section of their website dedicated to supporting with many frequent issues that you can search through. If you do need to speak to someone then they can be contacted either by email or by phone and have quick response times. The support team at Fusion 360 is among the best I have come across.

Fusion 360 Pros and Cons

Pros

  • A powerful software that doesn’t require you to carry out any intense drawings to ensure that you have quality 3D models
  • Easy to use so even if you don’t have a lot of experience working with this kind of software you can learn your way around it fairly quick
  • Plenty of online materials and courses to ensure that you expand your skills with using this software
  • Uses cloud technology so you can move from one computer to another and pick straight up where you left off. It means you don’t need to worry about moving files around with you
  • Has parametric modeling as well as organic modelling and offers a historic timeline of changes

Cons

  • While using cloud technology has its benefits it can hamper your work if it goes down or there are any issues with it
  • Can get a bit sluggish when you start drawing complex models
  • Needs a fast internet connection due to using the cloud

AutoCAD System Specifications

Operating System

Microsoft® Windows® 7 SP1, Windows 8.1, or Windows 10 (64-bit only)

 

There is a Mac version but it doesn’t have the full functionality of the Windows program

CPU Type

2.5 GHz (3+ GHz recommended)

Memory

8 GB (16GB recommended)

Graphics Card

1 GB GPU with 29 GB/s Bandwidth and DirectX 11 compliant

 

Recommended: 4 GB GPU with 106 GB/s Bandwidth and DirectX 11 compliant

Disk Space

6.0 GB

Pointing Device

MS-Mouse compliant

Core Features of the AutoCAD

You might have heard of AutoCAD before even if you have no or very little prior experience of drawing objects on a computer.

AutoCAD first appeared way back in 1982 and it changed the way we do things. Being able to work on multiple drawings at the one time and many other features over the past four decades have propelled it to the most used design software.

We’ve compared AutoCAD to other design software previously. While AutoCAD is mostly used for 2D drawings and modeling, it has the functionality to design 3D models. It is a very powerful software that allows you to import data from PDF files, attach notations in addition to extracting data to tables and other formats.

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How does AutoCAD perform with its usability, reliability, installation and its system of support?

Usability

How easy AutoCAD is to use really depends on how much experience you have with design software.

For those who have some experience with design software and who have perhaps seen AutoCAD before, it is fairly user-friendly. I have used AutoCAD many times in the past and haven’t had any significant issues. The UI is very good and the really cool thing about this is that it is so versatile.

You can customize AutoCAD to your specifications and it can be used for a wide range of disciplines such as structural, industrial and architecture. It might take a bit of practice to get comfortable with the layout and what it can do but once you get there it is easy to crack on with some great drawings.

Reliability

Unlike Fusion 360 which uses cloud technology, AutoCAD works off local and network-based files. This is perhaps the major difference between the two different programs.

It can mean that AutoCAD is actually more reliable in that it doesn’t necessarily depend on an internet connection to work which can be a real bonus. Whereas Fusion 360 needs internet connectivity, AutoCAD can work off files directly on your computer or on the network at your work so even if the internet is down you can still use AutoCAD.

One drawback here is that you won’t be able to move files around with you as easily as using the cloud but it does mean that reliability is better with AutoCAD. That being said, there are cloud services available with AutoCAD if you want to add these onto your subscription.

I have never really had any problems with the software in the past and any issues tend to be a local problem with the computer rather than with the AutoCAD software itself.

Installation

It is straightforward to get AutoCAD on your computer and if you have installed a program before then you can do this without any issues.

You simply log into the Autodesk website, select AutoCAD to download and then install it onto your machine. I haven’t come across anyone who has had any major issues with the installation process before but as we’ll see they have a very good support team on hand if anything goes wrong.

Compatibility with 3D printing software

With AutoCAD, you can export your files into an STL file which will work with 3D printing software.

Even though AutoCAD isn’t a pure 3D modeling software it does work for creating 3D objects which can then be printed using most if not all of the 3D printer devices that are available.

Support

I’ve also found the support with AutoCAD really quick and any problems have always been resolved. Not that I’ve had many issues with this software but any time I have encountered a problem the solution was sent over right away.

As AutoCAD is one of the most popular (if not the most popular) design system out there at the minute, there is a ton of different guides, help, and support that you can find online. You can even find a whole bunch of great tutorials by carrying out a simple search.

If you do run into problems you can contact support via email, phone and they have an online help center too.

AutoCAD Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Professional design software that can be customized to suit your needs
  • Has been the industry-standard software for decades
  • Plenty of online guides and a good system of support if you run into any problems
  • Created for 2D design but has the capability for 3D modeling too
  • Uses local and network files so don’t need the internet and cloud technology to work properly
  • Can add on cloud storage to your subscription if you need it

Cons

  • Mainly a 2D design program and the main focus is on this instead of 3D
  • Can take a while to learn and use properly especially if you are new to drafting and modeling
  • Predominantly a Windows program. Has a Mac version but does not come with the same functionality
  • Requires more computer power than Fusion 360
Why Go With AutoCAD LT? | Autodesk

The Gold Standard for industrial CAD, AutoCAD LT can flexibly adapt to 2D or 3D projects, while using local network drives if connection speeds are limited. Most additive manufacturing speaks AutoCAD.

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FAQ’s About Fusion 360 vs AutoCAD

Is Fusion 360 free?

Fusion 360 is free for individuals and for startups who generate less than $100K per year, whereas there are paid plans is for companies who generate more income and it costs $310 per year, and it can be paid on monthly basis.

How can I switch from 2D to 3D on AutoCad?

If you are accustomed to working with 2D only, there are a few steps in order to switch to 3D modeling, and this includes clicking the Workspace Switch Button and opting for Drafting and Annotation.

What is the difference between 2D and 3D modeling?

2D models are made for projects that include working on a flat surface (screens and walls included), whereas 3D modeling is for more complex projects which include a real look and three-dimensional modeling.

Our Verdict: Fusion 360 or AutoCAD?

Both Fusion 360 and AutoCAD are a popular design and drafting software that is used by many people. However, if you’re still unsure as to which option to get then you should consider the following when deciding which 3D printing software to buy:

Hopefully, you have found this Fusion 360 v AutoCAD comparison guide worthwhile and it has helped you to make an informed choice about these two pieces of software.

Additionally, you can check out our comparison of Fusion 360 vs Solidworks and AutoCAD vs Autodesk Inventor, if you are still not quite settled on a solution.

Recommended Reads:

Autocad vs Inventor [2021] Which Software is The Best?

In the world of computer-aided drafting, Autodesk looms large. And for a good reason; its AutoCAD program was the first commercially available CAD software for home computers that were just starting to take off in the 1980s. This combination made CAD accessible for more price and skill points, paving the way for its current range of uses. 

AutoCAD originally offered only 2D drafting (2D drawing) capabilities – basically, it started as a computerized version of an engineer’s desk, pencil, and measuring tools. While AutoCAD still uses 2D as its basis, recent versions in the last five years have added 3D capabilities meant to give its users a full spectrum of design possibilities.

AutoCAD has also started offering modules that pertain to specific industries that depend on drafting as their base process, such as engineers who build electrical systems. The program has continued to branch out as design needs to evolve in the real world. 

But Autodesk has not sat on its original laurels since AutoCAD’s release. As a software company, it’s expanded beyond AutoCAD with other programs that tackle other aspects of the different industries that depend on design. That’s where Inventor comes in.

Autodesk released Inventor in 1999 to integrate 2D and 3D design data into a single environment. The program is an application made for 3D mechanical design, simulation, visualization, and documentation.

It focuses on 3D modeling and the user’s ability to test those models before creating prototypes – a valuable addition to manufacturing processes that don’t have the time or money to waste on bringing to life models that don’t actually work. 

While Inventor does not seem like it would directly compete with AutoCAD, both are computer-aided drafting programs that are advertised as making the user’s design process easier in overlapping ways.

While Inventor targets a somewhat smaller, more niche market, AutoCAD has started to specialize as well, and although they each take a different approach, both programs can be utilized for complete drafting processes. 

Read on for the details about each CAD program, including their basic technology specifications, what they each do best and what users have trouble with, and which one comes out on top as the overall better software. 

Main Differences Between AutoCAD vs Inventor

The main differences between AutoCAD vs Inventor are:

  • AutoCAD uses Geometric modelling which is good if you depend on manipulating geometries with algorithms to get the designs you need, whereas Inventor uses parametric modelling which will help you if you need a way to change overall design aspects easily and instantly integrated.
  • AutoCAD has a wide coverage of industry standards, whereas Inventor has deep coverage of industry standards.
  • AutoCAD has more industry-specific tools to help your designs, whereas Inventor has a smaller selection but it goes deeper.
  • AutoCAD helps you design within the specific parameters of architecture or electrical engineering and a dozen others, whereas Inventor takes you all the way through the manufacturing part of mechanical design.
  • AutoCAD emphasizes design, whereas Inventor emphasizes manufacturing.
  • AutoCAD is geared towards getting your design exactly as you want it before moving on to the next step, whereas Inventor helps you get to your end goal with more ease but less precision.

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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AutoCAD: The Basics

AutoCAD is the founding computer-aided drafting software program of Autodesk. It was first released in 1982, and its latest release, version 2021, came out March 25 of this year. Many of its technical details have become standard starting points for CAD programs that came after it. 

Geometry-driven models

AutoCAD bases its design system on geometry-driven models, which means it uses basic shapes that you mathematically manipulate to create your own designs. This type of computer-aided drafting helps you harness the power of algorithms to adjust measurements to your specifications, and it’s become the mathematical base coding for the vast majority of 2D drafting software programs.

Standardized file extensions

Another feature that AutoCAD made standard in the computer-aided design industry is its patented .dwg file extension. This type of file extension keeps all the design information in one place while letting AutoCAD separate each aspect on the graphical interface.

.DWG has become the industry standard for 2D and 3D metadata, and although it’s technically proprietary to Autodesk, it’s widely compatible with other programs (including, of course, Inventor). 

Vertical integration

Although AutoCAD is not the first program to take advantage of integrating other modules onto its basic program and certainly won’t be the last, its expansive use of such keeps it relevant both as more industries explore their use of CAD and as traditional design industries take on greater shares of the process. 

Type of CAD Geometry driven models
Type of Design 2D driven but also capable of 3D 
Computer Operating System Compatibility Windows, Mac
Price Subscription-based: $210 per month, $1,690 per year, or $4,565 per three years
File Extension .dwg, .dxf 
Industry Usage Architecture, electrical engineering, civil planning, mechanical design, graphic design
Supports mobile? Yes

Why Go With AutoCAD LT? | Autodesk

The Gold Standard for industrial CAD, AutoCAD LT can flexibly adapt to 2D or 3D projects, while using local network drives if connection speeds are limited. Most additive manufacturing speaks AutoCAD.

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AutoCAD: The Advantages

As the industry-defining computer-aided drafting program for designers, AutoCAD has a lot to recommend it, especially as it’s kept pace with developments in CAD-based fields. Here are our favorite aspects of AutoCAD and how they make your life as a CAD user easier. 

  • Comprehensiveness. AutoCAD has made its reputation by catering to designers who want an all-in-one software. Its vast array of tools, including regular major upgrades like the addition of 3D modeling, makes its standard package appealing to those who want to learn the full extent of computer-aided drafting without having to choose specialized areas before they know the basics. This generalized thoroughness is ideal for those who are starting their CAD journeys.
  • Industry specialization. In addition to covering all and then some of your general design processes, AutoCAD has also developed a number of industry options that help you create within standardized parameters. For example, if you use AutoCAD to design houses, the architecture module gives you preformed, universal geometries and standards such as doorframes, so you don’t have to create them from scratch – you can save all your creativity for the unique parts of your designs while making sure they stay up to code. 
  • Extensive control of the design. The result of AutoCAD’s extensive tools and options is complete control over your designs. Whether you’re creating a new form of something that already exists, or coming up with something completely new, you’ll be able to make sure each detail is exactly to your liking. That’s not only important creatively, but practically as well, especially if you’re designing for a real-world space that needs considerations you’ve never had to work with before. 
  • 2D and 3D capabilities. When AutoCAD added 3D modeling capabilities to its program, they were left separate from their 2D sources. This doesn’t mean that AutoCAD’s 2D and 3D processes don’t work together when you need them to, but it does mean that you can work on either on their own. This is another feature that makes AutoCAD good for generalist users; you have both 2D and 3D as you need them without having to go to another software for either.
  • Works on multiple operating systems. If you need to shell out thousands of dollars per year for a software program, you don’t want it to be incompatible with the OS system you already have. Fortunately, AutoCAD realizes this, and part of its ubiquitousness can be attributed to its availability on both Windows and Mac OSes. This also fosters better teamwork, since you don’t have to worry about system compatibility with a partner, coworkers, or others in the workflow who may not even be in the same country as you are.  
  • Student and light industrial versions available. Autodesk has several ways you can avoid paying full price for AutoCAD if you know you won’t need its full suite of tools and features. If you’re a student, you can get a scaled-down version of AutoCAD free for three years, and if you’re a professional who can get by on a similarly lighter program, Autodesk offers AutoCAD LT for a reduced price. These are great ways to introduce yourself to AutoCAD without committing more than you want for a tryout. 

AutoCAD: The Disadvantages

Just because AutoCAD is so well-known doesn’t mean it’s perfect. We’ve found some legitimate issues with the software that may make it more trouble than it’s worth for certain users. 

  • Difficult learning curve. AutoCAD’s most notorious feature is how hard it is to learn as a software program. A lot of that comes from the perks we mentioned above – because it covers so much design ground, it’s got an intimidating amount of features, tools, and commands to learn for beginners. Autodesk does have an array of official training material for all of its programs, but AutoCAD’s best teaching is done through hands-on experience, which may be painful until you reach a certain level of comfort with it. 
  • Unsynced layering. When you design in AutoCAD, you do it layer by layer, with each layer in your design as its own, separate document. That’s great for attention to detail and complete control over the nuance of your design, but when you zoom out for the big picture, it can be cumbersome to piece together. This also makes collaboration more difficult since everyone working on the design has to make sure they are exactly in sync with the current working layers. 
  • No motion testing abilities. Although it added a 3D design dimension, AutoCAD does not have the ability to test your AutoCAD drawings in motion. That takes away a critical aspect of designing manufacturing parts, especially on a large scale. Testing a design within your CAD software gives you an idea of what you need to tweak before you move on to physical prototyping; the more you have settled by then, the cheaper and easier your manufacturing process is going to be. Unfortunately, AutoCAD doesn’t give you the support for that on its own. 

Inventor: The Basics

Inventor was created as Autodesk’s go-to 3D modeling CAD program (great for 3D printing). It’s meant to take users through the manufacturing stage with a smooth transition between design and production – this and its younger age gives it a lower profile than AutoCAD, but it’s also becoming an industry stalwart, just in a smaller, more focused user group.

Dimension based

Autodesk advertises Inventor as “object-oriented.” In the case of CAD, that means you draw your basic form, then fine-tune it as a 3D model (as opposed to AutoCAD, which requires you to perfect your design via the initial 2D geometries before it transitions into 3D). This helps you build your 3D model like a sculpture, which is incredibly time-saving if your final goal is a mass-produced real-world object. 

Range of file extensions

Inventor works with several different types of CAD files, and that means you can have flexibility when it comes to sharing your files across programs.

This expansion beyond the standard .dwg or .dxf file types is meant to take your designs directly to the manufacturing machines needed for production after your designs are completed. 

Narrow user focus

When compared to AutoCAD, Inventor theoretically has a smaller group of CAD users it targets. Inventor’s processes and tools focus on getting your design into production, so the software is geared towards manufacturers. However, if you’re looking for a 3D modeling system for any reason, Inventor is worth a look.

Type of CAD Parametric and design-driven
Type of Design 3D modeling
Computer Operating System Compatibility Windows only
Price Subscription-based: $260 per month, $2,085 per year, or $5,630 per three years
File Extension .dwg, .ipt, .iam, .idw, .ipj I
Industry Usage Manufacturing, mechanical design, some electrical design
Supports mobile? Yes

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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Inventor: The Advantages

Autodesk created Inventor as part of its expansive Inventor LT suite of design programs. It’s got a lot of user fans for a few specific reasons.

  • Easy to use GUI. Inventor has a reputation for being easy to use, and it’s earned with the program’s simple GUI layout. Unlike AutoCAD, many users feel comfortable jumping right into Inventor and working without extensive practice first. And as always, with Autodesk, there are some great formal learning tools on the company’s website. 
  • Collaboration tools. Manufacturing is definitely a team process, and Inventor keeps that front and center. Its lack of layers lets everybody edit on the same project-level while keeping the changes in harmony with each other. Plus, you can store your designs in a virtual vault, which is great for shared storage that stays organized for the next time you need a specific project or file. 
  • Design data and analytics. The more details you know about your design, the easier it will be to take it from drawing to production, and Inventor gives you plenty of information to create, replicate, and communicate changes without having to dig to make sure you’re looking at the right specs. Of course, this is great for shared work, but it gives you a solo advantage as well, especially if you’re responsible for your entire production line. 
  • Simulation abilities. Inventor’s biggest gain over AutoCAD is its ability to simulate your designs in a number of conditions that it will encounter once you build it and put it to its intended purpose. Using Inventor’s simulation tools, you can put parts or all of your designs through tests of stress, motion, pressure, and acceleration, guaranteeing you’ll have the physics exactly right by the time your design gets used in the real world. 

Inventor: The Disadvantages

Inventor doesn’t have everything that AutoCAD – or other geometric-based CAD programs – does, and sometimes that means it comes up short for users. Here are a few flaws that Inventor users want to fix.

  • It only works on Windows. Despite all of its functionalities that make Inventor great for collaborative manufacturing design work, there’s one thing that stands in the way – Inventor doesn’t run on Mac operating systems. That’s not the end of the world, but it is an unfortunate oversight that should be noted before you invest in the software. 
  • Higher price than AutoCAD. Inventor also comes at a higher price point than its sibling program, at about an extra $50 – $1,000 to your payment, depending on which type of subscription you choose. But both Inventor and AutoCAD have 30 day free trials, so there’s still a way to see if you like either before you buy.
  • It doesn’t give you precise control. Because of its design-focused utility, Inventor doesn’t let you change every single parameter of your design. Most users appreciate this big-picture modeling, but if you need such precise control, Inventor will not be your best bet.

AutoCAD vs Inventor: Frequently Asked Questions

Do AutoCAD and Inventor come from the same company?

Yes, both AutoCAD and Inventor are software offered from Autodesk.

Is there any way to try AutoCAD and/or Inventor before you commit to buying it?

Yes, both AutoCAD and Inventor offer a thirty-day free trial you can utilize to see if you like the programs before you pay for a subscription.

Do AutoCAD and Inventor cover the same kind of work?

No. Although there is some overlap, AutoCAD’s functions are much more focused on drafting, while Inventor is primarily for modeling mechanical systems.

What are the user experiences with AutoCAD and Inventor?

Users have expressed that AutoCAD has a much steeper learning curve than Inventor. Inventor’s graphical user interface is praised as being less confusing and easier to navigate than AutoCAD’s.

AutoCAD vs Inventor: The Final Verdict

Our final decision between Autodesk’s AutoCAD and Inventor CAD software programs goes to (drumroll, please!) Inventor here. It’s easier to learn, easier to collaborate, easier to document your work, and easier to test before you take your designs into production between the two Autodesk product offerings.

We like it better for all those reasons giving it a solid edge, and also because they’re simple to apply to other design processes beyond manufacturing even if that’s Inventor’s most famous use.

However, if you need the exacting design control of geometric modeling, a more general but thorough introduction to CAD, or pre-packaged industry-specific modules for your design work to be its best, AutoCAD may work better for you. 

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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Happy designing!

Further Reading on 3D Software, Design Automation, and Autodesk Software:

Onshape vs Fusion 360 [2020]: Which Software is Best?

As technology continues to become more and more prevalent in our lives, we discover that we have more and more options for the things that we use on a regular basis. For example, we can now choose between several smart assistants: Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and Apple HomePod.

We also have multiple options for our thermostats. Do you want to use Nest, Honeywell, or Ecobee? The same goes for streaming content. Which among Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and Amazon Prime do you prefer?

The same is true for CAD software, an industry that previously only offered a few options. Nowadays, as design becomes an increasing need throughout a wide variety of industries, CAD software with ranging features and capabilities is now available.

Now, the problem is no longer finding CAD software, and it’s finding the right one for your needs. An option that is particularly suited for one application may not be compatible with another one, so ensuring you select the right one is important.

As a result, we wanted to provide you with a comparison article discussing two of the more popular options on the market: Onshape and Fusion 360. We’ll explore who they are, their features, and who they would be best suited for.

Bottom Line Up Front Summary: I recommend the more user friendly, widely adopted, and better supported Fusion 360 product here, if I have to pick just one.

But before we get into all that, let’s take a look at the differences between the two.

Main Differences Between Onshape vs Fusion 360

The Main Differences Between Onshape vs Fusion 360 are:

  • Onshape requires 3rd party applications to perform these functions, whereas Fusion 360 offers simulations and visualization features.
  • Onshape is cloud-based and will run on certain browsers, whereas Fusion 360 requires a web app to access the cloud
  • Onshape provides plenty of security for files stored in the cloud, and their files are encrypted while requiring two-step authentication, whereas Fusion 360 only offers moderate security for its files
  • Onshape supports Android, Linux, iOS, Mac, and Windows, whereas Fusion 360 only supports Mac and Windows.
  • Onshape only supports MCAD, whereas Fusion 360 supports MCAD, ECAD, and CAM.

Who are Onshape and Fusion 360?

Let’s take a closer look at the history and development of these two companies.

Onshape

Onshape is a well-known CAD software development company that launched in 2012. Initially called Belmont Technology, the company later changed its name to Onshape as it began to grow and gain market share.

In 2015, Onshape released its first mobile app for Android OS, later launching its own app store that offered simulation and rendering features. A year later, Onshape began to offer a free version of its software to educators and students.

Since that time, the company has also launched its Feature Script product, which is used to create and customize CAD features through an open-source platform. We’ll talk more about that a little later.

Fusion 360

Fusion 360 is a product of Autodesk, which launched in 2009. The intention of Autodesk at the time was to create a cloud-based CAD software option to its already existing lineup of options. It was at this time that Fusion 360 was born, initially called Inventor Fusion.

In 2011, Autodesk announced that its Fusion software would integrate with some of its already existing products like MidFlow, AutoCad, and Inventor. During that same year, Autodesk launched a new product, Product Life Cycle Management, known as PLM 360.

A year later, Autodesk decided to integrate all its software offerings into one complete, cloud-based solution, called Fusion 360. Since that time, Autodesk has many updates to the software, as it now supports CAD, CAM, and CAE.

What Do They Do?

So now that we have an idea of how these two software solutions started, we can dig a little deeper into what they do.

Onshape

Onshape is known for being one of the first CAD solutions to deliver its content through a Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS, model. Its cloud-based modelling software is useful for data management, collaboration, and CAD.

Both Onshape and Fusion 360 offer services that reside in the cloud. However, with Onshape, you don’t have to have a web app to access certain features. Onshape doesn’t require its users to install or download anything to get to the software users need.

The only thing you need to start using Onshape is a stable internet connection and a web browser. This capability is one of the best features available with the Onshape platform, which is compatible with Android, iOS, Linux, Mac, and Windows.

Fusion 360

On the other hand, Fusion 360 offers much more depth when it comes to design that its counterpart. Those who choose Fusion 360 will have access to CAD, CAE, CAM, and 3D programs.

These programs have the ability to amalgamate designs, manufacturing, and engineering all into one package. While Fusion 360 only supports Mac and Windows operating systems, it does offer an amazing simulation and visualization feature that any user is sure to enjoy.

Onshape Features

Onshape classifies its features and capabilities into the following categories: CAD, Analytics and Reporting, Collaboration, Security and Audit, Data Management, and Integration and Partners. With these features, users can create a wide variety of models for both standalone and assembled parts.

With these features, users are able to create high-quality 2D drawings that contain datum, tables, dimensions, parts lists, and dimensions. Users can also import and export certain files based on industry-standard formats for use.

Additionally, Onshape provides sheet metal tools, content libraries, customization features, and options for configuration as part of its CAD features library.

Analytics and Reporting

Onshape’s analytics feature allows you to manage and follow project status as it moves throughout different phases. These phases include Project, Activity Overview, Release, and User.

With these dashboards, users can see detailed reports, provide analysis, view documents, additional projects, and much more. Users can also view a complete design changelog of the project itself within the analytics and reporting feature.

Security and Audit

Onshape is one of a few CAD applications that provide security and audit control capabilities. All project data and files are stored securely in the Onshape cloud. Additionally, the platform uses AES-256 encryption, plus two-factor authentication for extra security.

With these types of security measures in place, your data and designs are protected against unauthorized access. Onshape also provides a feature that allows users to review and reverse changes and modifications to designs as needed.

Collaboration

With Onshape’s collaboration tools, teams can work with one another by communicating in real-time and designating tasks as needed. Users can review their work together while also sharing project information with suppliers, customers, business associates, and other team members.

Additional features in the collaboration tool include live chat and review and editing models.

Data Management

An important aspect of any product development methodology is the way data is managed. Doing this properly aids in diminishing the effort and time required for the product development process.

Onshape makes the data management portion of its solution comprehensive, which means it’s built into its platform and won’t require additional software. With this feature, users can handle advanced workflows, merging and branching, version control, and release management.

Integration and Partners

There are plenty of features to like about Onshape; however, it does have some drawbacks when it comes to creating models. Users can make up for these limitations using the integration and partner features available with the software.

With these features, users can increase functionality through the Onshape CAD, along with other add-ons available through the Onshape app store. One nice feature with this feature is that none of the apps requires downloading, installation, or maintenance on the part of the user.

Fusion 360 Features

Features included with Fusion 360 include Electronics, Visualization and Documentation, 3D Design and Modeling, Data Management, Manufacturing, Simulation, and Collaboration.

Electronics

Fusion 360’s electronics package is so thorough and robust that it requires its own category. Included with the electronics package includes PCB layout, PCB components, and schematic capture. Fusion 360 caters to everything a user may need f3or electronics, including combining ECAD and MCAD.

Visualization

With Fusion 360’s visualization feature, users can share and present their realistic photo images, along with animations created within the model. Additionally, users can develop detailed 2D drawings for sharing.

3D Design and Modeling

Fusion 360 offers a 3D design and modelling feature that provides integrating parametric modelling, mesh modelling, surface modelling, direct modelling, and free form modelling, no matter how complex or intricate the design.

Users have the ability to develop standalone components, plus components that require assembling within the 3D design and modelling package. This option also allows users to import and export certain file types as needed.

Data Management

The data management features provided by Fusion 360 offer the administrative tools needed to control and manage project data. With this feature, users can control how others interact with their projects while exporting files for collaboration with others.

User data is kept in the cloud for security purposes. Additionally, users can mitigate errors while increasing efficiency within the project by keeping tabs on notifications as they occur throughout the project workflow.

Manufacturing

The manufacturing feature with Fusion 360 provides support for both machining and 3D printing. Using the 3D printing functionality, users can view slices, create toolpaths, or send their model right to the 3D printer.

If you prefer machining, Fusion 360 gives users the ability to program your machine while generating toolpaths. This includes support for milling, turning probing, water jet cutting, plasma cutting, and laser cutting.

With these features, users can confirm their design prior to manufacturing. This helps reduce the need for design changes, which in turn creates a reduction in production time.

Simulation

Fusion 360 also includes a substantial portfolio that houses its simulation features. These features allow you to view how the model would behave in a real-world environment. With the simulation feature, you can test modal frequency, nonlinear stress, static stress, and buckling.

Collaboration

With the Collaboration feature, users can create an environment that allows teams, customers, vendors, and stakeholders to work together from anywhere on the globe. Users can discuss project timelines in real-time, which allows for the centralization of all project activities.

This means that no matter what team you’re on if you have a vested interest in the project, you can be aware of what’s going on throughout the product development lifecycle.

Onshape Users

Who would typically use Onshape? Most likely uses include designers or mechanical engineers from markets that use manufacturing. Because of its Software-as-a-Service model and high-quality collaboration tools, Onshape is on a popular choice for designers and design teams.

Fusion 360 Users

Fusion 360 is primarily used by mechanical engineers and designers across several different industries. These could be robotics manufacturers, design and product development firms, micro-precision shops, or drive train producers.

FAQs

Here are a few of the more common questions asked about Onshape vs. Fusion 360.

How hard is it to learn Fusion 360?

It is not too difficult to learn Fusion 360, so long as you can understand the basic differences between CAD software and modelling software. A novice user can learn the ins and outs of Fusion 360 in 6-9 months, depending on the amount of time and effort committed to learning.

How do I import files into Onshape?

To import files into Onshape, click on the icon that looks like a plus sign. Then, open the Create Tab option and choose Import. Browse to the location of the file you want to import.

You can import files from several locations, including cloud-based sources like Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive. At this point, just select the file you want and click on Import.

Do you have to have internet connectivity to use Fusion 360?

Installing Fusion 360 on a device requires an internet connection. With Fusion 360, the installation is streamlined through the internet via the Autodesk servers. Essentially, you’ll want to connect to the Autodesk servers every few weeks to ensure you have the most recent version of Fusion 360.

How is Onshape used?

With the Onshape system, several users can access the same design at the same time. This is done via the cloud and can be done with any type of connected devices, such as a tablet, smartphone, or laptop.

Keep in mind that Onshape is a CAD software platform that is delivered via an online connection through the Software-as-a-Service model.

Onshape vs. Fusion 360: Which One Do You Need?

When it comes to these two software options, you’ll notice a few similarities. For starters, they’re both cloud-based, and they both offer multi-part design as part of their 3D modeling options.

However, you may have noticed that there are several distinct differences, which we covered at the outset. For example, Fusion 360 only supports a couple of platforms, while Onshape is available on several more.

Really, the one you need will boil down to what you plan on doing. If you only need 3D modeling with the ability to collaborate, then Onshape might be the software solution you need.

But if you need ECAD capabilities, visualization, simulation, and many other features, then you should go with Fusion 360.

Bottom Line: I recommend the more user friendly, widely adopted, and better supported Fusion 360 product here, if I have to pick just one.

Both are solid options; however, the one that makes the most sense for you will depend on your expectations and needs.

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Further Reading on CAD Software & 3D Printing Product Design Tools:

Best 3D Modeling Software for 3D Printing: CAD Software Guide

3D printing offers amazing possibilities for producing a wide range of products, designs, and prototypes for a wide range of purposes. While many professionals and businesses utilize 3D printing in various ways to better serve their clients, hobbyists make up a large portion of the overall industry as well. Each day, many beginners that are brand new to 3D printing order their first printer, load their first filament, or design their very first model.

Part of what makes 3D printing so interesting is the vast array of different products available and the ever-expanding list of new and exciting advancements in 3D printing technology that seem to happen almost daily.

There is a wide range of available software for professional 3D printers and beginners alike. Each piece of software comes with its own advantages and disadvantages, and some are better for use by more experienced users as opposed to those just starting out.

However, regardless of your experience level and exact 3D printing needs, there are many great choices when it comes to 3D printing software that will offer you a full range of capabilities and quality designs you can be proud of.

Once you have a bit more experience with 3D printing and learn a few of the finer points it is a little easier to select software that will be a good fit for your needs.

When you are a beginner it can be much more difficult as you do not yet have the hands-on experience that can help you know what details or features will be the most important for your purposes. Therefore, we thought it might be helpful to offer a peek at some of the most useful 3D printing software for beginners that will help you get started easily and quickly.

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So without further delay, here they are.

Key Considerations Before You Buy or Try

Before you purchase or download free 3D printing software for your 3D printer, there are a few important considerations to think about. If you are a beginner you may not know the exact answer to all of them but they can give you a little better idea of which piece of software might be a better fit for what you need.

Purpose

3D printing software can sometimes be a bit more geared towards a particular 3D modeling purpose, such as art or engineering. While much of the available software is capable of many different types of 3D printing activities it is best to avoid those that are designed for very specific uses until you have more experience.

Cost

Cost is always a consideration when you buy any type of product. However, with 3D printing software is best to avoid spending a large sum of money of software until you know exactly how you will be using your printer. Additionally, if you are a hobbyist and not utilizing 3D printing for commercial purposes then there are many different types of software available at no cost.

Ease of Use and Support

It can make your first 3D printing experiences much easier if you choose software that is intended for beginners and one that offers support such as tutorials on the web or a website with instructions. Also keep in mind compatibility with your 3D printer. A specific 3D modeling program might have better integrations with specific 3D scanning or printing capabilites.

Best 3D Printing Software for Beginners

123D Design

123D Design software is a great place to start if you are brand new to 3D printing for several reasons. It is intended for beginners so the software is easy to navigate and offers a simple layout that is easy for first-time users to understand and use. Perhaps equally important, it is offered as part of an eight app package designed by Autodesk that is available at no cost.

Each app offers different capabilities and they work together seamlessly when it comes to transferring files and manipulating 3D designs. As a beginner, having eight 3D modeling apps that are compatible out of the box can make your life much easier and help you avoid some of the potential headaches involved with learning to 3D print effectively. The software is compatible with PC, Mac or iPad and available for download on the Autodesk website.

3DTin

3DTin is another free option for quality software but it offers something that most other 3D modeling software does not, there is no software to download. This modeling software is 100% browser-based so you don’t have to worry about compatibility issues, taking up valuable space on your hard drive or a complicated process to get started.

With 3DTin you can begin working on your very first product design within just a few minutes as all that is required is creating a user account. While most of us have enough usernames and passwords to remember already, signing up for 3DTin is well worth it, as a user account automatically gives you access to a very large selection of existing 3D models.

The software is geared towards beginners who are learning to 3D print for the first time so it is intentionally simple to learn but still offers a high degree of flexibility and design customization. If you are looking for the simplest software available and not particularly tech-savvy then 3DTin is an excellent choice.

GLC Player (Free Software)

GLC Player is free 3D printing software that allows you to view and navigate models in multiple file formats such as OBJ, OFF, COFF, 3DXML and STL. It is compatible with Linux, Mac or Windows operating systems and is a good tool for those who are new to 3D printing as well as mid-level users.

It offers a range of capabilities such as storing your different albums of models, multi-capture functionality, exporting in HTML, and a wide range of navigation choices. The software is easy to use and simple to learn, making it well worth considering if you are just beginning to learn about 3D printing.

OpenSCAD 3D Design Software

OpenSCAD offers a bit of a different focus compared to other free 3D modeling software choices and centers its attention on CAD instead of the artistic features of models. The software is available free of charge and is compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux systems. If you are familiar with CAD and interested in designing solid 3D products then this software is a good option to begin your 3D printing career with.

Tinkercad

Tinkercad keeps things simple and easy for newcomers to 3D printing by providing only three simple tools that can create a wide variety of 3D printing models. The program utilizes the STL file format which is by far the most universal format used in the 3D printing universe and it limits the learning curve to a bare minimum.

While the software may sound and look a bit basic, you can create a wide array of detailed 3D designs that are ready for you to print in just a matter of minutes.

User Needs: This works well for anyone who needs a thorough introduction to 3D printing simple shapes. The software is network-based, so no installation or user licenses are necessary, making it a great option for those who need group access but don’t have the money for multiple software copies.

Its website provides real-time support as well as templates for those who want to use them. However, its interface does not stay intuitive when adding complexity to shapes, so if you will be printing complicated stuff on the regular, you should probably find something more robust.

Feeling a bit more adventurous? The following are some options to level up with advanced CAD tools…

Best 3D Printing CAD Software for Intermediate to Advanced Users

First, a mini-crash course in CAD: computer-aided drafting. This is the type of software you’ll need to design what you want to print. It can be either vector-based, which uses traditional drafting shapes, or raster-shape based, which uses pixels on a dot matrix data structure to show a picture. Confused?

Basically, with CAD, you can either draw using shapes or draw using pixels. Which type you use depends on your personal preference and also a little bit on the projects you’re doing.

3D modeling in CAD comes in various levels of design nuance and manipulation. 3D wireframe software means you manually draw individual through lines to create a 3D picture from a 2D shape.

The drawings don’t have any mass properties associated with them, and you can’t directly add any features to it; they have to be constructed as part of the through lines. 3D “dumb” solids start as basic 3D shapes such as cubes and spheres. You can manipulate them by adding or subtracting solid volumes. But you can’t see much (or any) motion between the components.

3D solid modeling has two variations that expand beyond the capabilities of “dumb” solids. Parametric modeling lets you manipulate parts of your design while keeping the geometric and functional relationships of the parts to each other and the whole. But keep in mind you have to change the parameters of the design for this instead of directly manipulating the shapes themselves.

That’s where director explicit modeling comes in. This variation lets you modify your design by directly interacting with the model’s geometry. It’s the closest you can get to molding your design out of clay with your hands. Combine this with freeform surface modeling within your software, and you’ve got the whole package covered.

Getting Started with 3D Printing – Steps for Learning How to 3D Print

At this point, you’re either nodding along or pulling up Wikipedia. We’ve come to the first real step in your 3D software buying journey:

  • Be honest about your drafting skill level. It’s super important for you to know what you know before you choose what you want. The best part of 3D printing is how accessible it’s gotten for everybody who wants to join in. But that also means it’s easy to get in over your head. To keep your printer from becoming your most expensive paperweight, take into account how familiar you already are with CAD and how much you are willing to learn. There is the software all along the spectrum of assistance, from basic models that are already made that let you choose your own finishing details, to completely blank slates that assume you do this for a living. Choose wisely, and you’ll be right in that sweet spot between being able to do what you want and continuously learning something new.

Once you figure out what skill level you need your software to be at, it’s time for another step of self-reflection: price.

  • Be honest about your budget. Another cool result of 3D printing becoming mainstream is the wide variety of 3D modeling CAD software prices out there. The rise in maker space culture has spawned free programs whose quality start at adequate and go to excellent. But as with all software, “free” doesn’t necessarily mean “perfect.” You may find that if you have the money for it, shelling out for a more professional version is worth it. Be careful as well to not equate price with the assistance. If you’ve figured out that your skill level is lower than what you need for what you want to do, pricier programs may be tempting. Pay more, get more, right? While usually true, you can easily overwhelm yourself by getting something that has way too many features and a customer base assumed to have too much previous knowledge for its instructions to be useful to you.

Now it’s time to expand your planning beyond yourself:

  • Consider your whole user base. This is easy if you’re getting 3D software for your own amusement. No other users mean you get to decide everything based on your own parameters. But 3D printing has become ubiquitous as a way for the public to get in touch with their own DYI side. Plus it’s more fun! Collaboration means combining brain strength and producing stuff that you wouldn’t be able to on your own. So embrace it. If you are a part of the maker space movement, you’ll need to go through steps 1 and 2 above for all the potential users you may have. That doesn’t mean you have to figure out everybody’s individual 3D modeling or CAD credentials and income, but it does mean you need to consider the lower ranges of need in both areas and how to compromise those so the higher end folks won’t get bored.
  • This is especially applicable if you’re in charge of a 3D printing operation within a public institution like a school or a public library. Will the CAD software be used as a teaching tool, or for more freeform experimental access? Will it be for general use, as in anybody who is curious can experiment with it? Or will it be for groups that are already selected for interest and knowledge of it, such as a high school robotics club or a library engineering program? This will also determine practical details such as how many users licenses doe you need, how long do you need the software to stay relevant before you can upgrade, what other hardware (if any) you may need for optimum performance, how teachable is the software to multiple people at once, and what is the troubleshooting process for the person in charge (which, if you’re in charge of ordering the software, will more than likely be you). Any other factors you know about the population who will be using the CAD will be extremely helpful in pointing you in the right direction.

Once you’ve figured out what you need, check out the list below of our ten best CAD software packages for 3D printing. They’re labeled by price point, experience level, and user needs so you can hone in on exactly which one works best for you. Click the links and explore!

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Google Sketchup

  • Price: Free for basic/$119 annually for Shop/$695 flat fee (no renewal fee) for Pro
  • Experience Level: Intermediate

User Needs: Another program you can start using for free, Sketchup is great for users who already know a little bit of 3D modeling theory and want a program that will grow with their skills.

It hides some of its best features in plug-ins, and the premium-price updates, natch, but if you have a grasp on the basics you can go straight to the Shop version and upgrade whenever you feel ready. We definitely recommend getting the Warehouse plug-in, which lets you access the designs of other users and is a great place for inspiration.

See how Sketchup compared to other softwares:

AutoCAD

Why Go With AutoCAD LT? | Autodesk

The Gold Standard for industrial CAD, AutoCAD LT can flexibly adapt to 2D or 3D projects, while using local network drives if connection speeds are limited. Most additive manufacturing speaks AutoCAD.

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User Needs: This is the universal design software across professional engineering and architectural projects. You don’t have to be a pro to grasp its intuitive controls, but it might help to justify the cost and computing power necessary for this program. If you want to make 3D printing part of your job – or already do – AutoCAD will have your back.

See Some AutoCad Comparisons here:

Blender

  • Price: free
  • Experience Level: Beginner – Professional

User Needs: Great for those leaning more towards the creative side of 3D design and printing. This is not just a CAD software on its own but a suite of 3D modeling programs that work together to realize bigger projects such as game animation. Of course it 3D prints your models, too, and you have license to use it for profit or not, free and clear.

That makes it perfect for an area like a public maker space, where anyone who wants can design something and put it to use whether that’s printing a bracelet or designing a movie monster. It does depend on donations, so if you use it and like it throws a few bucks at the creators to keep this software going strong.

Check here how Blender Software compares to others:

SolidWorks

  • Price: $3,995 unlimited license/additional $1295 per year for subscription tech support and upgrades
  • Experience Level: Beginner-Intermediate

User Needs: Anyone who appreciates intuitive design will love SolidWorks’ interface. Its commands are straightforward and out in the open, which is great for those who are learning and gaining confidence in 3D CAD.

Although its renderings are not quite as detailed as other programs with its capability levels and it lacks advanced design testing capabilities that makes it impractical for certain professional purposes, its CAD and 3D printing functions are top-notch.

See some SolidWork comparisons here:

Onshape

  • Price: Free for non-commercial use/$125 per month per user for the professional version
  • Experience Level: Intermediate – Professional

User Needs: Sharing is caring with Onshape, at least with the free version – your designs on that level become public property, so be careful if you are looking for a commercial use package.

But the controls are easy to grasp, and the program is cloud-based and so you can run it on any computer you can get to. Just make sure you have a good internet speed, and, if you’re paranoid, another backup saving method for any network hiccups that may come along.

See Here Some Onshape Comparisons:

Fusion 360

User Needs: Another CAD software with its head in the cloud, Fusion 360 is also specifically designed to work well on both Macs and Windows machines, which definitely justifies its price. (Especially since it’s a bargain in the first place.)

. Although it may still be expensive for those who are small budgets or have to justify any price at all, it’s perfect for private consulting and personal use when you do not have to worry about external regulations on your designs.

See some Fusion 360 comparisons here:

Inventor

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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  • Price: around $55 per month for Inventor LT Suite/$465 per month for Inventor HSM Pro/$7,500 one-time fee for Inventor HSM (Free Trial available here)
  • Experience Level: Advanced – Professional

User Needs: Perfect for users who know every detail of their design and want to tinker with each one. The amount of tinkering Inventor lets you do is exactly what certain levels of 3D modeling and printing need – however, the same amount that is great for experienced designers can overwhelm first-time users, so this software is best for professionals or soon-to-bes, whether on their own time or in an office that lets you control every aspect of your design.

See some Inventor comparisons here:

3DS Max

  • Price: $190 a month/$1,505 annually/$2,859.50 for two years/$4,063.50 for three years
  • Experience Level: Advanced

User Needs: Previous knowledge of 3D modeling is key to getting the most out of this software. It rewards experience designers with a vast array of features that allow you to build your model to exacting specifications and look good doing it. It also has stellar animation capabilities if that’s up to your alley, and it interfaces seamlessly with other design programs to take your drawings into whatever another realm you need them.

Whether you’re setting up a station for beginners or wanting to let your own professional imagination go wild, this list of 3D computer-aided drafting software can get you started on your own 3D printing journey. Enjoy!

Simplify 3D

  • Price: ≈ $150
  • Experience Level: Beginner-Professional

User Needs: This software is capable of printing some of the more complicated prints our testers have tried with functioning joints. But with its high performance comes the price tag, so is it the right piece of software for you? This really depends on your needs. Are you looking for a software that lets you save a little time for each print and create beautiful objects with many printers and extruders all at once? Or are you a hobbyist looking to tinker around with the software and learn the ropes of 3D printing?  

Check here the best Simplify 3D Comparisons and Slicing Software here:

Final Word on the Best Software for 3D Printing

There are many options when it comes to 3D printing software that is good for beginners and new users. It is usually best to try a few of the free options before spending a significant amount of money on a piece of software you aren’t 100% sure will fit your needs.

The possibilities of what you can do with 3D printing are only limited by your imagination and your willingness to learn. Therefore, new users should not limit themselves to only a few aspects or one piece of software.

Once you have some experience, don’t be shy about leveling up your software by checking out the advanced options. It can make a BIG difference.

By trying several of the options listed above it will give you a much better idea of what type of software and ultimately what type of 3D printer will help you best fulfill your 3D printing objectives be it for professional purposes or simply as a hobby.

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Further Reading on 3D Modeling Software:

The Ultimate Simplify 3D Review: What Will You Think?

3D printing is a process of multiple steps. First, you must create, purchase, download, or somehow obtain a design/model. Next, you need to use software that can communicate to your 3D printer and tell it what to build. This will control all aspects of your print.

Finally, the 3D printer will create the object for you. Obviously, the physical 3D printer is the most exciting piece of this process and what people talk about the most. However, I want to review what I believe is the most important part of the process, the slicing software.

More specifically, I will review one of the most popular and talked about software, Simplify 3D. For those of you who don’t already know, Simplify 3D is a slicer software. This means it is the software you need to install on a computer in order to edit, control, and communicate designs to a 3D printer.

The slicer software can control all settings of your print from size, to color, and find any errors in the design that will cause trouble while printing. Once your design is exactly how you want it, the software then takes the design and translates it into specific code and instructions that your 3D printer will understand. And from there, the 3D printer does the rest.

I am a firm believer that all good prints start and end with the design and settings of the object you want to create. Many of our users and others in the 3D industry will tell you that software can make or break your print, depending on which you use and how you use it.

What intrigues me the most about Simplify 3D is the cost of the software. Most slicer software is available for free due to the state of the industry and open source technology trend.

So, throughout this review, I want to help you determine if Simplify 3D is worth the money. And if it is worth the money, is it the right slicer for you. I will highlight some of the core features, best aspects, and the not so good about the software. I hope by the end you will know if you are ready to spend on Simplify 3D or if you should look at some other, possibly free, options.  

Cores Features of Simplify 3D

Simplify-3D

Let’s begin with some of the main features of Simplify 3D.

Advanced options and settings

The software is designed for all types of users. It comes with the tools and ease of use for first-time users, and it has all the advanced tools for the professional 3D printer. The advanced mode helps you tweak every appearance of your print. Simplify 3D can pretty much do anything you want a slicing software to do.

It has variable print settings. These adjust and control the settings for different parts of a single print, and comes ready to handle multiple extruders. The user is given total control with many optimization options for improved quality and given the ability for more precise prints.

Some of the other built-in tools will help identify and repair mesh problems within the model. This ensures your prints will come out flawless.

The easy to use interface will allow anybody to become a professional.

Optimized Three Printing Modes

The Simplify3D supports three modes when you are printing multiple models simultaneously:

  1. Single Process Printing Mode: For printing identical models;
  2. Continuous Printing: For printing models that require different settings;
  3. Sequential Printing: Prints several layers before moving to the next model which results in a cleaner surface finish;

Simulations

Simplify 3D is equipped with the power to accurately simulate your prints before you actually begin the printing process. The simulations will show every move of the extruder(s) and each line of the build to ensure it meets your exact specifications. These simulations allow you to identify any issues your print may encounter beforehand.

You no longer will waste time and resources on failed prints. The simulations let you verify all the settings of the print, including exact speed and sequences. These animations will give you more insight into your prints than ever before.

Extensive Preview

This amazing feature allows you to view the entire print process in preview mode, or even jump to a specific section of it. The software has the option to display only a single layer or build up the print and show it layer by layer.

This preview, allows you to check each and every step of the printing process on your screen, therefore, it’s great for optimizing and troubleshooting your model.

Accessibility and File Support

Something I really like about Simplify 3D is it is accessible to just about anyone and supports a wide range of file formats for import and export. This makes it very easy for all users as it will cater to each person’s specific needs.

Simplify3D supports a wide range of desktop 3D printers. They listed over 125 individual 3D printers on their website. The Slicer Software is compatible with MakerBot, Marlin, Repetier Sprinter, XYZprinting, FlashForge, and Sailfish firmware.

The software will run on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux Systems. In terms of importing files, it supports 3D models in STL, obj, and 3mf.

It will convert images from jpg and png formats. For exporting files, you can get Gcode, x3g, MakerBot, 3w, g3drem, bfb, and hsv. Clearly, this slicer software is designed for the masses.

Dual Extrusion Wizard

The Wizard was introduced in version 3. It interprets configuring dual extrusion prints for two-color prints. If you have a dual extruder printer, the software by default settings will create an ooze shield. This ensures that any leaking and oozing will attach to the shield and not to the model. You can easily adjust the setting by clicking on “Edit Process Settings”.

3D Printer Support

The Simplify 3D software can be used on almost any 3D printer. The company partnered with other 3D printing companies around the world to test and build their software. This ensures the slicer is compatible with all the latest 3D printing technology.

Extensive testing and optimization make it possible for you to use this slicer with many 3D printers as soon as you have them set up and ready to print. This means less time trying to connect your software and printer and more time creating perfect prints.

Pros of Simplify 3DSimplify 3D

Simplify 3D has a lot of really cool feature and I want to highlight some of the best ones.

Handle Multiple Printers

This software is designed to be compatible with hundreds of different printers. And the best part is you don’t need to learn a different software for each printer you own or use if you are using Simplify 3D as your software.

You can connect the software to more than one printer at a time. It can easily switch between machine configurations and settings, which allows you to print even faster with multiple machines. Now, all it takes to print is one central application.  

Support Structures

Simplify 3D has award-winning support structures and designs to help create your print. The specialized structures ensure the highest quality of prints for even the most complex designs. The supports also breakaway easily from the finished product and don’t require any tools to remove them.

On dual extruder printers, the above-mentioned Wizard allows you to print support structures in another material, e.g. a dissolvable filament.

You can also customize where the print supports will be based on areas for more stability or remove structures for quicker prints. However, if you aren’t sure where the supports should go then the software will suggest spots for you.

Resources and Customer Support

The software offers a ton of resources to improve your print quality, and if you can’t figure it out on your own the company has a team of experts that are ready to handle any request you may have.

Users are always raving about the excellent help they receive when they encounter issues with the software or printers themselves. You can be assured you will not encounter an issue that can’t be solved when using Simplify 3D.

Cons of Simplify 3DSimplify_3D

Simplify 3D is great software. You can tell a lot of time and resources went into the development of this product, and it is meant to be user-friendly for all levels of users. With that said, there really are not too many flaws users have found. It is easy to use, it is quick, and it creates beautiful prints. However, there is one “negative” thing that makes this software stand out against its competition, the cost.   

Price

People love free things, and they especially love free, quality goods. Unfortunately, Simplify 3D does not meet both of those criteria. The software runs about $150 (For the latest prices and discounts, check here). While this isn’t a terribly expensive product, there are a ton of other options on the market that don’t cost a thing.

And many people will argue that some of the free software is just as good, if not better than Simplify 3D. So, you will need to do your research and figure out which slicer is best for you to decide if you want to spend money on one or not.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Simplify3D Support Auto-Leveling?

Yes, Simplify3D supports many printers using auto-leveling. The software allows you to customize the starting script that is used at the start point of each print. If you want to add auto-leveling to this script, go to the Scripts tab of your process settings and make sure you have a G28 and then a G29 command at the beginning of this script.

What is .factory file?

Factory files include everything you need to re-create your current session in Simplify3D. Such files include the 3D models, orientation details, custom support structures, process settings, and best of all, the final file is compressed to save space on your hard drive.  It is perfect for sharing with others if you want them to be able to re-create your exact print in Simplify3D. To save the factory file, click on “File” and then “Save Factory File As”.

Final Take – Is it worth the price tag?Simplify 3D Final

I hope my review can help you decide the answer to this question on your own. As I am sure the answer to this will change based on the need and preference of each individual. While there are many competitors out there and many of those don’t cost a thing, Simplify 3D is still a great piece of software. It is fast, efficient, and creates quality prints with an amazing package of tools.

This software is capable of printing some of the more complicated prints our testers have tried with functioning joints. But with its high performance comes the price tag, so is it the right piece of software for you? This really depends on your needs.

Are you looking for a software that lets you save a little time for each print and create beautiful objects with many printers and extruders all at once? Or are you a hobbyist looking to tinker around with software and learn the ropes of 3D printing?  

In the end, the decision is yours. I believe Simplify 3D is completely worth the money if you can afford it and you will use it to its full capabilities. However, if you just need a basic slicer to get the job done then find yourself a free software that fits your needs. 

How to Find the Perfect CAD Software for Your 3D Printer

You’ve finally gotten the 3D printer of your dreams. Yay! Now here comes the hard part: figuring out what software makes it do exactly what you want it to.

There are a lot of options out there, but don’t get overwhelmed. After you figure out the answers to a few basic questions, you’ll find what’s right for you and be printing that sweet action figure or prosthetic leg in no time.

First, a mini crash course in CAD: computer-aided drafting. This is the type of software you’ll need to design what you want to print. It can be either vector-based, which uses traditional drafting shapes, or raster-shape based, which uses pixels on a dot matrix data structure to show a picture.

Confused? Basically, with CAD, you can either draw using shapes or draw using pixels. Which type you use depends on your personal preference and also a little bit on the projects you’re doing.

3D modelling in CAD comes in various levels of design nuance and manipulation. 3D wireframe software means you manually draw individual through lines to create a 3D picture from a 2D shape. The drawings don’t have any mass properties associated with them, and you can’t directly add any features to it; they have to be constructed as part of the through lines.

3D “dumb” solids start as basic 3D shapes such as cubes and spheres. You can manipulate them by adding or subtracting solid volumes. But you can’t see much (or any) motion between the components.

3D solid modelling has two variations that expand beyond the capabilities of “dumb” solids. Parametric modelling lets you manipulate parts of your design while keeping the geometric and functional relationships of the parts to each other and the whole. But keep in mind you have to change the parameters of the design for this instead of directly manipulating the shapes themselves.

That’s where direct or explicit modelling comes in. This variation lets you modify your design by directly interacting with the model’s geometry. It’s the closest you can get to moulding your design out of clay with your hands. Combine this with freeform surface modelling within your software, and you’ve got the whole package covered.

Getting Started with 3D Printing – Steps for Learning How to 3D Print

At this point, you’re either nodding along or pulling up Wikipedia. We’ve come to the first real step in your 3D software buying journey:

  • Be honest about your drafting skill level. It’s super important for you to know what you know before you choose what you want. The best part of 3D printing is how accessible it’s gotten for everybody who wants to join in. But that also means it’s easy to get in over your head. To keep your printer from becoming your most expensive paperweight, take into account how familiar you already are with CAD and how much you are willing to learn. There is software all along the spectrum of assistance, from basic models that are already made that let you choose your own finishing details, to completely blank slates that assume you do this for a living. Choose wisely, and you’ll be right in that sweet spot between being able to do what you want and continuously learning something new.

Once you figure out what skill level you need your software to be at, it’s time for another step of self-reflection: price.

  • Be honest about your budget. Another cool result of 3D printing becoming mainstream is the wide variety of 3D modeling CAD software prices out there. The rise in maker space culture has spawned free programs whose quality start at adequate and go to excellent. But as with all software, “free” doesn’t necessarily mean “perfect.” You may find that if you have the money for it, shelling out for a more professional version is worth it. Be careful as well to not equate price with assistance. If you’ve figured out that your skill level is lower than what you need for what you want to do, pricier programs may be tempting. Pay more, get more, right? While usually true, you can easily overwhelm yourself by getting something that has way too many features and a customer base assumed to have too much previous knowledge for its instructions to be useful to you.

Now it’s time to expand your planning beyond yourself:

  • Consider your whole user base. This is easy if you’re getting 3D software for your own amusement. No other users mean you get to decide everything based on your own parameters. But 3D printing has become ubiquitous as a way for the public to get in touch with their own DYI side. Plus it’s more fun! Collaboration means combining brain strength and producing stuff that you wouldn’t be able to on your own. So embrace it. If you are a part of the maker space movement, you’ll need to go through steps 1 and 2 above for all the potential users you may have. That doesn’t mean you have to figure out everybody’s individual 3D modeling or CAD credentials and income, but it does mean you need to consider the lower ranges of need in both areas and how to compromise those so the higher end folks won’t get bored.
  • This is especially applicable if you’re in charge of a 3D printing operation within a public institution like a school or a public library. Will the CAD software be used as a teaching tool, or for more freeform experimental access? Will it be for general use, as in anybody who is curious can experiment with it? Or will it be for groups that are already selected for interest and knowledge of it, such as a high school robotics club or a library engineering program? This will also determine practical details such as how many user licenses doe you need, how long do you need the software to stay relevant before you can upgrade, what other hardware (if any) you may need for optimum performance, how teachable is the software to multiple people at once, and what is the troubleshooting process for the person in charge (which, if you’re in charge of ordering the software, will more than likely be you). Any other factors you know about the population who will be using the CAD will be extremely helpful with pointing you in the right direction.

Once you’ve figured out what you need, check out the list below of our ten best CAD software packages for 3D printing. They’re labeled by price point, experience level, and user needs so you can hone in on exactly which one works best for you. Click the links and explore!

Tinkercad

  • Price: Free
  • Experience Level: Beginner

User Needs: This works well for anyone who needs a thorough introduction to 3D printing simple shapes. The software is network-based, so no installation or user licenses are necessary, making it a great option for those who need group access but don’t have the money for multiple software copies.

Its website provides real-time support as well as templates for those who want to use them. However, its interface does not stay intuitive when adding complexity to shapes, so if you will be printing complicated stuff on the regular, you should probably find something more robust.

Google Sketchup

  • Price: Free for basic/$119 annually for Shop/$695 flat fee (no renewal fee) for Pro
  • Experience Level: Intermediate

User Needs: Another program you can start using for free, Sketchup is great for users who already know a little bit of 3D modeling theory and want a program that will grow with their skills.

It hides some of its best features in plug-ins, and the premium-price updates, natch, but if you have a grasp on the basics you can go straight to the Shop version and upgrade whenever you feel ready. We definitely recommend getting the Warehouse plug-in, which lets you access designs of other users and is a great place for inspiration.

AutoCAD

  • Price: $1,575 annually
  • Experience Level: Beginning – Professional

User Needs: This is the universal design software across professional engineering and architectural projects. You don’t have to be a pro to grasp its intuitive controls, but it might help to justify the cost and computer power necessary for this program. If you want to make 3D printing part of your job – or already do – AutoCAD will have your back.

See some comparisons here:

Blender

  • Price: free
  • Experience Level: Beginner – Professional

User Needs: Great for those leaning more towards the creative side of 3D design and printing. This is not just a CAD software on its own but a suite of 3D modeling programs that work together to realize bigger projects such as game animation.

Of course it 3D prints your models, too, and you have license to use it for profit or not, free and clear. That makes it perfect for an area like a public makerspace, where anyone who wants can design something and put it to use whether that’s printing a bracelet or designing a movie monster. It does depend on donations, so if you use it and like it throw a few bucks at the creators to keep this software going strong.

SolidWorks

  • Price: $3,995 unlimited license/additional $1295 per year for subscription tech support and upgrades
  • Experience Level: Beginner – Intermediate

User Needs: Anyone who appreciates intuitive design will love SolidWorks’ interface. Its commands are straightforward and out in the open, which is great for those who are learning and gaining confidence in 3D CAD.

Although its renderings are not quite as detailed as other programs with its capability levels and it lacks advanced design testing capabilities that makes it impractical for certain professional purposes, its CAD and 3D printing functions are top notch.

See some SolidWorks comparisons:

Onshape

  • Price: free for non-commercial use/$125 per month per user for professional version
  • Experience Level: Intermediate – Professional

User Needs: Sharing is caring with Onshape, at least with the free version – your designs on that level become public property, so be careful if you are looking for a commercial use package.

But the controls are easy to grasp, and the program is cloud-based and so you can run it on any computer you can get to. Just make sure you have a good internet speed, and, if you’re paranoid, another backup saving method for any network hiccups that may come along.

See some Onshape comparisons here:

Fusion 360

  • Price: Intermediate
  • Experience Level: $60 monthly/$495 annually/$990 for two years

User Needs: Another CAD software with its head in the cloud, Fusion 360 is also specifically designed to work well on both Macs and Windows machines, which definitely justifies its price. (Especially since it’s a bargain in the first place.)

Although it may still be expensive for those who are small budgets or have to justify any price at all, it’s perfect for private consulting and personal use when you do not have to worry about external regulations on your designs.

See some comparisons here:

Inventor

  • Price: $55 per month for Inventor LT Suite/$465 per month for Inventor HSM Pro/$7,500 one-time fee for Inventor HSM
  • Experience Level: Advanced – Professional

User Needs: Perfect for users who know every detail of their design and want to tinker with each one. The amount of tinkering Inventor lets you do is exactly what certain levels of 3D modeling and printing need – however, the same amount that is great for experienced designers can overwhelm first-time users, so this software is best for professionals or soon-to-bes, whether on their own time or in an office that lets you control every aspect of your design.

See some comparisons here:

3DS Max

  • Price: $190 a month/$1,505 annually/$2,859.50 for two years/$4,063.50 for three years
  • Experience Level: Advanced

User Needs: Previous knowledge of 3D modeling is key to getting the most out of this software. It rewards experience designers with a vast array of features that allow you to build your model to exacting specifications and look good doing it.

It also has stellar animation capabilities if that’s up your alley, and it interfaces seamlessly with other design programs to take your drawings into whatever other realm you need them.

Whether you’re setting up a station for beginners or wanting to let your own professional imagination go wild, this list of 3D computer-aided drafting software can get you started on your own 3D printing journey. Enjoy!

Further read, The Best 3D Printing Software