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When it comes to CAD programs, you certainly have a choice from a variety of software that can do an excellent job with fair pricing and helpful support. Two of the most affordable CAD and 3D modeling programs out there are Autodesk Fusion 360 and Rhino 3D. What are the differences between these two?
Main Differences Between Fusion 360 vs Rhino
The main differences between Fusion 360 vs Rhino are:
- Fusion 360 is cloud-based, whereas Rhino 3D needs to be installed on your computer.
- Fusion 360 excels when you need to collaborate, whereas Rhino 3D is easier to learn.
- Fusion 360 is better suited for 2D drawings and 3D models, whereas Rhino 3D does a better job at 3D modeling.
- Fusion 360 makes it easy to do simple animations on your models, whereas Rhino 3D only lets you manipulate the angle of the camera and the lighting.
- Fusion 360 has a free trial available, whereas Rhino 3D doesn’t offer a free trial.
- Fusion 360 is more affordable for short-term projects with its $500 subscription fee, whereas you can save with Rhino 3D in the long run because you pay $1,000 to use the program outright.
While these two programs differ on these points, both are excellent options for those who are looking for an easy way to flesh out their design ideas. Learn what each of these programs can do and figure out which one is perfect for you. Go ahead, grab a comfortable chair and continue reading!
What Is Fusion 360?
Fusion 360 is a different type of CAD software in that it lives in the cloud instead of needing to be installed on your machine. As such, it delivers its features and functionalities where you need them.
With Fusion 360, you can design products to make sure that they fit to form. You can also revise your designs faster and easier.
Fusion 360 also allows you to know if it is feasible to manufacture your design.
Fusion 360 gives you a comprehensive range of tools for 3D modeling. These tools allow you to easily create a 3D model and see if it will fit the overall design. Some of the 3D modeling tools you can use are:
- Sketching: These tools allow you to create and revise your sketches with specific dimensions and constraints. You also get a variety of tools that can help you create sketches easily.
- Direct modeling: You can repair or edit objects created with other programs and save them in other file formats.
- Surface modeling: You can now create complex surfaces that can help patch, repair, or design various shapes and geometry
- Parametric modeling: This allows you to change the shape and geometry of a model just by changing the dimension values.
- Mesh modeling: Create, edit, and repair mesh models.
- Freeform modeling: Gives you the freedom to design complex models and then edit them just by using pushing or pulling gestures.
- Rendering: You can create realistic-looking models.
- PCB design: This gives you an easy way to see how your electronics designs work.
- Sheet metal: You can now create sheet metal parts
People might know Fusion 360 as a precise modeling software for both 2D and 3D designs. But it can do so much more, such as:
- Prepare your models for CNC machining
- Simulate how loads affect your design
- Render your models
Fusion 360 supports computer-aided manufacturing, so if CNC machining is your thing, you’d appreciate the features that it has. You can use Fusion 360 and then add the attributes of your tools to the ones provided by the program. You can even see how the CNC machine would create the object you’re designing so you’d be able to avoid costly problems in production.
If you like to see how your models would look like, you can render it too. You can assign a particular material to your design, including wood, metal, marble, or glass. You can make your models look photorealistic.
Another feature of Fusion 360 is the animation. This program allows you to do some keyframe animation, so you can see how your designs move.
You can also try load simulation, where you can see how different weights would affect your design, where the stress points are, and get a better understanding of how your design will perform.
Other than 3D modeling, Fusion 360 allows you to program your computer numerical control machines. You can now create with difference axis milling, mill turning, probing, and other tools.
Electronics is also a breeze with Fusion 360. It allows you t to work with different tools that can simplify PCB layouts and schematic designs, among other things.
Other industries and tasks that Fusion 360 will be helpful in are additive manufacturing, generative design, simulation, and documentation.
Fusion 360 also makes data management and collaboration a whole lot easier. So you can work in teams without the hassle of sending files from one person to another and waiting on the others to finish their work.
You have a way to securely view the designs your team is working on. All changes are centralized, and you can leave comments on each design for everyone to see.
What’s more, all projects and their comments are viewable with only a browser, a smartphone, or tablet.
Autodesk offers different extensions for:
- Generative Design
- Nesting and Fabrication
- Additive Builds
These extensions allow you to get the latest tools you need for the job. Because these are essentially add-ons, you will not be paying too much for the main Fusion 360 program.
These extensions cost $200 per month, except for generative design extensions that cost $1,000 a month.
This lengthy video will show you what you can do with Autodesk Fusion 360.
Autodesk Fusion 360 has two pricing packages that you can get. There’s the monthly package where you only pay around $60 per month to use Fusion 360.
There’s also the yearly subscription that costs $495, which cuts the monthly fee to only $42. Autodesk offers a free trial that lasts 30 days. Students, teachers, startups, and other professionals may qualify to use the free version of this program.
What You’d Like About Fusion 360
For design, engineering, and other technical design needs, you really can’t go wrong with Fusion 360. You have all the tools that you’d want and need to create your models. What’s more, you can collaborate with a team when you’re working on a project.
One of the things that are often praised about this software is the amazing support that comes with it. People are raving about the responsive and helpful customer service. What’s more, it has a thriving online community, available documentation, video tutorials, and others.
What Might Be Better
Some users, even expert CAD developers, find this difficult to learn. The difficulty means that you’d need a lot of time to learn this software. If you’re serious about 3D modeling and would see yourself using Fusion 360, it is worth investing the time to learn it.
Fusion 360: The Bottom Line
Autodesk Fusion 360 is an excellent 3D computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing tool that can easily help your design people collaborate on a project.
It offers you all of the tools you need to do your work and is backed by a lively and helpful online community that creates content and tutorials that can help you learn this somewhat challenging program.
The company provides a lot of help, as well. Outstanding customer service is one of its strongest selling points. The helpful customer service and resources are good, as some users report that Fusion 360 is not easy to learn, but others say that it’s easy to use.
Pricing starts at $60 per month for every user, or you can save with an annual subscription at $500. There are free versions for students and a free trial for those who want to see if Fusion 360 is perfect for them.
- Easy to learn and helpful customer support
- You can easily create a prototype without taking too long
- You get the tools to create the designs you want
- Might not have all the functions or features that you can get from competitors
- You’re somewhat limited by the speed of your Internet connection because it’s cloud-based
- Mac users might have a hard time using this program
- Compared to AutoCAD and Inventor, this is not an easy product to use
See how Fusion 360 compares to other software alternatives:
What Is Rhino 3D?
Rhino 3D is one of the better computer-aided design software that can help you create industrial, architectural, and jewelry designs with ease. You can quickly create prototypes and help you visualize your ideas in no time.
Rhino 3D is ideal for those professional designers who like to design using the NURBS mathematical model. You can use it for additive manufacturing, reverse engineering, rapid prototyping, CAD, and CAM. What you get from Rhino is a mathematically accurate design, allowing you to get smoother and more precise freeform drawings and curves.
What Can You Get from Rhino 3D?
Rhino 3D has a user interface that allows you to see all the tools you need and work most easily. You get a dockable or floating command area and a list of recent commands you used, among other things. You also have construction aids that can help make your design time a whole lot faster.
Rhino’s set of model creation tools allow you to work with points, curves, surfaces, solids, and meshes. Plus, the program gives you the refinements and enhancements you need to do your best work.
You also get editing tools that allow you to delete, join, trim, merge, split, extend, chamfer, fillet, and other ways to directly manipulate an object. You can also transform your objects, along with other ways to manipulate your models.
Highlights of Rhino’s Many Features
Rhino boasts of many features that it’s going to take a long time to list down. But what follows here is a short rundown of the most important ones you should know:
- Free-form tools: Rhino gives you a range of free-from tools to make 3D modeling easier. Before Rhino, these tools were only available in programs that were so much more expensive. You now have access to tools that lets you create everything you can think of.
- Accurate rendering: Rhino’s formidable set of tools helps you create accurate models so you can come to create prototypes and designs for manufacturing, cost analysis, and engineering.
- Cross-platform compatibility: This allows you to use Rhino to work on designs and models from other CAM, illustration, and animation software. You can also work with meshes.
- Easy to learn: There are no steep learning curves with Rhino, which allows you to start working on your designs even if it’s your first time using a CAD program.
Rhino costs $995 for a single-user license. However, if you are using an older version of the software, you only need to spend $595 to upgrade to the latest one.
For the academe, pricing is deeply discounted to only $195. You can also pay only $95 to upgrade for a single-user license.
What You Will Like About Rhino 3D
Rhino is very easy to learn and use. It’s not a subscription product, so you pay to use a particular version of the product forever. It has a command-line where you have another way to interact with the models you are creating.
Rhino is simple too. You can start with a simple and straightforward sketch and then manipulate it to your liking. But what makes Rhino more appealing is the fact that you can create add-ons to get more out of the program.
You will also love the clean user interface that you can personalize according to your liking. Rhino is primarily a surface modeling program, but it’s flexible enough for use in other designs. It’s compatible with STL, STEP, Solidworks, AutoCAD, IGES, DXF, SketchUp, and OBJ files, among others.
What You Should Know About Rhino 3D
Don’t get us wrong. Rhino 3D is very easy to use, and learning how to use it is a very straightforward process. However, it offers a lot of tools. The range and variety of the tools being offered will mean that it will take you some time to master this program.
What’s more, you buy the license to a particular version of Rhino 3D. You might need to pay for the next version.
The Bottom Line: Rhino 3D
It’s easy to recommend Rhino 3D to people who are looking for an easy-to-use, accurate, and fast 3D design program. Interior designers, jewelry makers, and other industries that need image renderings, prototypes, and packaging can rely on Rhino 3D to help them deliver their ideas into something visual.
- Extensible with add-ons
- Affordable one-time fee
- Easy to use and learn
- Excellent customer service and online community
- It’s easy to be overwhelmed because of the sheer number of tools
- Some extensions might not integrate properly with the main program
Which One Should You Use: Rhino 3D or Autodesk Fusion 360?
Both Rhino and Fusion 360 are capable and powerful programs that can help you create 3D models. But which one is perfect for you?
Fusion 360 lives on the cloud, allowing you to access the program and your designs from anywhere if you have a browser and an Internet connection. Rhino 3D is installed on your machine, which makes it less portable than Fusion 360. You’d be limited to working on your computer to create your designs.
Fusion 360 is excellent when you create both 2D and 3D models. Rhino 3D can be used for 2D models, but most of its features are for accurate and precise 3D modeling.
What Kind of Tools Do They Offer?
Fusion 360 gives you tools that allow you to do parametric, polygonal, and surface modeling. You will need to combine these tools to get the results you need. Rhino 3D is based on non-uniform rational B-splines or NURBS modeling.
If you do a lot of animation, you might be better off using Fusion 360 with its keyframe animation features. Rhino 3D has very limited animation tools, where you can only move the lighting or the view of your models. Rendering an animation on Rhino 3D can take a lot longer than on Fusion 360.
Image rendering on Fusion 360, you just drag and drop the patch icon over your model to change its properties. You can set the material, quality, and environment from a flyout toolbar.
With Rhino 3D, you will get color images with bumps, textures, transparency, and light. You can add the light, choose a material for your objects, and then repeat the process to get the look you want.
Fusion 360 is preferred by those who work with electronics, mechanical design, furniture making, and aerospace design. Rhino is more for those who like industrial and architectural designs. You can also use it to create jewelry and accessories.
You can use Fusion 360 for free if you’re a teacher or student, a hobbyist, or a small non-profit business with yearly revenues of less than $100,000. If not, you can use it by subscribing to the product for around $500 a year.
Rhino 3D doesn’t have a free version or a free trial. You’d need to pay $995 to use the program for life.
So, Which One Should You Choose?
When it comes to tools and features, it seems that Rhino 3D is on an equal footing with Fusion 360. So your decision on which one to choose will largely depend on what you prefer.
You should go with Fusion 360 if you’re part of a design team and you need to collaborate on a project. The online environment will help facilitate teamwork while reading and keeping track of all the notes and comments on the design.
Go with Rhino 3D if you want a more accurate model and you like software that you don’t have to pay for year after year. What’s more, Rhino 3D is for those who work on architectural and industrial design.
Meanwhile, Fusion 360 is great for working with furniture, electronics, mechanical, and aerospace models.
What is the NURBS mathematical model?
Non-uniform rational B-splines or NURBS are a way to present 3D geometry using numbers. This mathematical representation can easily describe shapes such as curves, arcs, lines, and circles.
Why should you use NURBS for computer-aided modeling?
- You can create your models using NURBS, and rest assured they can be opened and accessed by a variety of rendering, animation, engineering, and modeling programs.
- The mathematical representation is very precise, so you can work with both standard shapes and free-form objects.
- NURBS is taught at many colleges and universities, so finding talent is easy.
Are there alternatives to both Fusion 360 vs Rhino 3D?
You might have a variety of reasons for not wanting to use either Rhino 3D or Fusion 360. Lucky for you, you have an option to choose from quite a few programs that you can use as an alternative to Fusion 360 and Rhino 3D. Here are some of them and why you should consider using them.
Just like its name, this program has been a solid contender in the CAD/CAM space. Its forte is 3D modeling and engineering design. SolidWorks allows you to document all individual parts and create new ones that you can use for your object. If you need to animate or render your designs, there are extensions and add-ons that you can use.
Simulations are excellent, and you can create really detailed models with SolidWorks.
This program offers a lot of features, more than Fusion 360. These features might add more complexities, especially when you’re learning. It doesn’t have a sculpt mode.
However, SolidWorks can be expensive with tiered pricing starting at around $4,000 and can reach around $18,000 for businesses to use.
- More information and download it here.
- Price: $3,995, with discounts for educators and students
Read our full Fusion 360 vs Solidworks Comparison
If you’re trying to find another cloud-based solution, then you should look at Onshape. This program is also 100-percent accessible online but allows for stress-free collaboration. Onshape is perfect for beginners too. The features it offers focus on CAD. That is to say that if you need to do some CAE or CAM work, then you should look elsewhere.
Beginners will also love it that there’s a ton of content available for learning Onshape. Combine those resources with the innate simplicity of Onshape, and you’d be learning CAd in no time.
Onshape costs $1,500 annually, but students and teachers can use it for free.
- More information and download it here.
SketchUp holds the distinction of having been once owned and developed by the search giant Google. Sketchup is free to use. You only pay when you want to use plugins. There’s also a professional application that supports STL export.
You will like SketchUp if your work is focused on CAD, but you might want to use another program to do 3D printing or CNC machining.
Read our full Sketchup vs Fusion 360 Comparison.
- More information and download it here.
- Price: $299 annually, but there is a free version
Creo gives you all the necessary features of an excellent CAD program and continues to update the range of functionalities that you can get with it.
Creo offers parametric modeling, animations, rendering, augmented reality, and ergonomic simulations. After you have designed your model, you can get a list of materials you’re going to need to create the product.
Creo also gives you the chance to do some advanced analyses and simulations on your models.
Like SolidWorks, Creo might be a pricier alternative, especially for Rhino 3D. You can get a basic license for $2,200, but more expensive packages include more tools for simulations and machining.
What’s more, the user interface can be very confusing. This program might be more ideal for industry professionals than the at-home hobbyist.
- More information and download it here.
- Price: $2,200
If you’re a Linux user, then you’re probably out of luck with both Fusion 360 and Rhino 3D. However, give SolveSpace a try.
This program is for Linux users and offers a wide range of tools for you to do some serious CAM and 3D modeling. But it’s also available for Mac and Windows. What’s more, it’s open-source and free to use.
It’s also very straightforward, and learning how to use SolveSpace should be as easy, if not easier, than learning Rhino 3D.
Features-wise, you won’t miss anything by using SolveSpace, even if you’ve been using Rhino or Fusion 360. You get parametric 3D modeling, 2D sketching, STL repair, and Boolean operations. You can prepare G-code and export it into a variety of file types.
However, you might want to consider another program if you need to do some simulations or stress tests. This free program can also have performance drawbacks when doing boolean operations and complicated drawings.
- More information and download it here.
- Price: Free
Frequently Asked Questions
In this section, we answer our readers’ most-asked questions.
Answer: Computer-aided design is when you use a computer to make 2D drawings and 3D models. It’s when you showcase your part’s geometry.
On the other hand, computer-aided manufacturing is when you use computers to control machine tools when making the parts you designed. CAM is more closely associated with turning your design and ideas into real-world products.
To make this easier to understand, you will create models with your CAD software and then use that model to instruct machines on how to create the CAD-generated model you have.
Fusion 360 vs Rhino 3D: Final Thoughts
Sometimes, two programs are both excellent, that it’s difficult to make a clear recommendation and tell people to use one over the other. Fusion 360 and Rhino 3D are two of these programs.
But now that you know what each one offers, what they’re good at, and which users can benefit more from what they’re offering, you can decide for yourself which one is perfect for your needs.
You can’t go wrong with either Rhino 3D or Fusion 360.