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Fusion 360 vs Inventor Compared: Which is Best?

Fusion 360 vs Inventor Compared: Which is Best?

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

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

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

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

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

Main Differences Between Fusion 360 vs Inventor

These are the main differences between Fusion 360 vsInventor are:

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

Fusion 360

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

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

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

Fusion 360 Features

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


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

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

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

Fusion 360 Prototyping

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

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

Integrated Simulation

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

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

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

Document Management

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

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

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

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


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

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

Signing Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summing Up Fusion 360

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

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

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


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

Inventor Features

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

Autodesk Inventor Upgrades

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

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

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

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

Autodesk Inventor User Experience

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

Signing Up

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

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

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

Summing Up Autodesk Inventor

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

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

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

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

Autodesk Inventor vs Fusion 360 Comparison Chart

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


Fusion 360



Windows, macOS, Android, iOS






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




Import from other CAD platforms



Collaborate with other users


Yes, but other tool integrations required


Monthly, quarterly, yearly

Monthly, yearly, every three years


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

Starts at $250 monthly

Free trial

30 days

30 days

Designing from scratch



Designing from form libraries



Product simulation




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

Will Fusion 360 replace Inventor?

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

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

Is Inventor better than AutoCAD?

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

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

Is Fusion 360 still free for hobbyists?

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

What is Autodesk Inventor used for?

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

The Verdict: Fusion 360 or Inventor?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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