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

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

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

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

Main Differences Between Solidworks vs Inventor

The main differences between Solidworks vs Inventor are:

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

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

What is SolidWorks?

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


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 Dassault Systemes originally made it to be a complete 3D modeling program that works on Windows, but it has since added features that allow it to compete with the best computer-aided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

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

SolidWorks Features You Should Know

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

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


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

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

How Much does SolidWorks Cost?

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

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

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

What Might Need Improving About SolidWorks

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

See how SolidWorks compares to others:

What is the Autodesk Inventor?

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


How Much Does the Autodesk Inventor Cost?

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

Autodesk Inventor Features Worth Noting

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

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

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


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

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

What You Won’t Like About Autodesk Inventor

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

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

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

See how Inventor compares to others:

Autodesk Inventor vs SolidWorks: The Comparison

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

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

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

What’s the Same?

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

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

The Differences Between Autodesk Inventor and SolidWorks

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

3D Modeling Features

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

Simulation Features

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

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

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


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

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

Ease of Use

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


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

SolidWorks More than 6,000 jobs in the United States


LinkedIn: More than 25,000 jobs worldwide.


Autodesk Inventor Around 400 jobs in the United States.


LinkedIn: More than 1,000 jobs worldwide.


Side-by-Side Comparison: Autodesk Inventor vs SolidWorks

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

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

Frequently Asked Questions

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

What is CAD software?

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

Do you need CAD software for your 3D printing?

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

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

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

Are there any alternatives to SolidWorks and Autodesk Inventor?
  • Yes, there are worthy alternatives to both Autodesk Inventor and SolidWorks. some of these are free, while others offer something more than what Inventor and SolidWorks can give you.
  • Fusion 360, a cloud-based CAD program that allows you to create complex designs and collaborate with a team of designers. What’s more, you can use the resources of the cloud to render your designs. You can store all the steps you made with the design, including the corrections and changes made along the way. Fusion 360 gives you a wide range of features and design capabilities. You pay $297 per year or it comes free for personal use.
  • FreeCAD is a free program that also gives you parametric 3D modeling. If you’re still starting with CAD designs, this is a good place to start.
  • AutoCAD is another Autodesk product and is one of the best and most established CAD programs out there. It comes with a steep learning curve and is better suited for 2D drafting, but it does have some 3D capabilities that you shouldn’t snub. You pay $210 per month or $1,690 per year if you choose this program.
  • CATIA brings together tools and features for CAD, CAM, and CAE. As such, designers, engineers, and product designers can use this for their work. This program also allows for easy collaborations. Made for professionals, this software can be quite expensive with rates starting at $10,000.
  • OpenSCAD is free CAD software that allows you to create solid 3D models. It allows you to extrude 2D drawings and create a 3D object. Programmers and coders will like using OpenSCAD but the general public will probably find it difficult to use.


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Autodesk Inventor vs SolidWorks: Which Should You Choose

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

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


Saturday 27th of November 2021

Yeah, this article is complete garbage, solid works doesn't have a bigger community of users than autodesk. Also, autodesk provides waaaay more programs to do way many more things than solid works, and so far, after using autodesk for over 4 years and solid works for the past year, solid works is definitely a downgrade.


Wednesday 30th of June 2021

As a mechanical design engineer, I've had extensive exposure to both the modelling and FEA packages (Cosmos in solidworks, nastran in inventor), with around 5-6 years in inventor and 7+years in solidworks. I did 4 years inventor, then 7 in solidworks and now another 1-2 years in inventor. My main area of design has relates to cast, forged, fabricated and machined components and *small* assemblies (eg equipment consisting of hundreds of components, not so much eg plant design). If you are in this space and can't decide which package to go with, trust me when I say solidworks without a doubt. Why? 1. Solidworks has a vastly superior modelling environment. E.g. it only took me a matter of months to pick up solidworks. I've been fighting for a year and a half to re-learn inventor and I hate it. 2. Solidworks modelling environment is much more stable. You have to be so careful in inventor. Draftees in my company tell me they only work off origin planes because of this. Thats not the case in solidworks. E.g. sketching on faces and projecting edges from other faces, creating 3 point planes based on nodes etc are all fine in solidworks, but very risky in inventor. 3. Some MAJOR features are missing in inventor, e.g.: a) configurations at the part level. This is so fundamental to a machined / cast component (e.g. you have an "as cast" configuration, and a "Premachined", and then "post heat treatment" configuration, each with additional features (material removal). Can't be done in inventor. b) Inventor mirror feature at the assembly level is unusable. Basically it just tries to copy constraints, but very poorly. Updates to the source component position won't necessarily pull through. Conceptually, mirror component is a very simple, and solidworks does it flawlessly c) frame generator (i.e. using standard sections to build a weldment from sketch lines) can only be done in the assembly level in inventor. That means lots of parts. Then when you change your section size, inventor creates all new parts (that need to be saved, renamed etc). Relationships / sketches / features that are related to geometry from those components are lost. In solidworks, you can use an equivalent frame generator in the part level as a multibody part. One part, change sizes all you want and you don't loose relationships. Much better esp for small(ish) frames up to say 100 components. D) 3d sketch environment is poor in inventor e) orbit tool seems to use centre of mass except when you actually select orbit and click on a face. Cumbersome compared to solidworks which seems to orbit by “centre of screen”, i.e around whatever detail you are looking at. 4. Nastran is rubbish. Poor mesher, less consistent run reliability, forces in connectors can’t be extracted, different bodies of a part can’t be assigned different material, can’t make a body rigid, spring connectors don’t work reliably, auto contacts are rubbish, selection tools / display selection are very poor, limited to quadratic mesh (2nd order polynomial) (btw NEVER use triangular mesh, only quadratic), no curvature based mesh like in cosmos, no “virtual wall”, contour / display options seem to reset all the time. Cosmos has its issues too (neither are up to Ansys, esp for large shell FEA’s), but Nastran is a half finished, poorly integrated add on compared to cosmos. I could go on and on…. I may not be a CAD guru, but given the level of frustration I have with inventor vs solidworks, having gone back and forth between, I am 100% confident which is the better software. But if you don’t believe me, look around on forums and you will see that the frustration levels are much higher for users going from solidworks to inventor than the other way around. Hope this helps someone! Cheers, alex