Pros and Cons: Fusion 360 and SolidWorks

Hi! I’m a design student and am curious to know how each software, Fusion and SolidWorks, differ in the application of ID. What are the upsides and downsides of each? Will Fusion become more prevalent in ID given that it is relatively new compared to SolidWorks? How does each software differ when taking your model to the rendering process?


How much reading have you done on the subject before posting here?

I’ve read up on their websites and some Youtube videos, but it would be great to have an answer from an industrial designer’s point of view.

Most design studios will be interested in applicant’s SolidWorks skills, over F360 skills, mainly because of the installed user base. Nobody knows the future though. F360 has some very good aspects.

Nike used all kinds of platforms. frog was pretty much designers choice between SolidWorks, Rhino, and some Alias. At Sound United I let the team use whatever they wanted. 2 designers were on Solid Works, One on Rhino, and another on SW, and Alias, and I think all of them had Fusion as well that we were experimenting with (this was 4 years ago).

In my experience it really varies from company to company. Sometimes it isn’t logical. I have a few friends who are in the contract furniture world and they are all using Rhino, I would have thought Solid Works would be a natural for that.

Tools change. I wouldn’t worry so much about learning how to use a hammer, learn about how to build a house (which will include learning about using a hammer :slight_smile: )

I agree with Yo’s comment above.
The basic work flow of designing in 3D is the same in most packages at least with Parametric modeling. The commands might be called different things but that’s about it.
As a student pick one package and learn to use it well. If your brain is using less energy on driving the platform it can focus more on creating. aka Flow state / Getting in the zone. If you’re swapping back and forward between several packages you’ll be spending more time learning where the buttons are, relearning shortcuts etc and less time learning how to model and be creative.
If your school offers more support for one package over the other then I’d pick that. I learnt Solidworks because that’s what our lecturers used, so if I had questions I could rely on their experience to help me.

That makes sense fraser. For me, having someone to ask questions to when I’m learning is so important. Some people learn by reading, some by watching videos, I tend to learn by messing things up and then asking for help :slight_smile: so picking what your professors are most versed in makes sense.

Realistically, any 3D tool you learn to use in high school, even if it is SketchUp, is going to give you a leg up on your class mates, so dive in and have fun with it.

For years I used a product called CoCreate, then Creo bought it and rebranded it as Creo Elements Direct Modeling (not ProE). It is a direct modeling program so not history based and no constraints or references to other files or geometry. What is cool about it is how easy you could make changes and make multiple iterations without being bogged down by the history. Great for ID initial concepts. I bought Fusion because it was cheaper than Solidworks, however only got to play around with it for a while. Now I’m using SW and it’s a very powerful tool but a bit cumbersome for quick iterations and changes. However, great for Engineering. If you end up working with an Engineering department they will probably use SW and even if you use another software somebody down the road will remodel you stuff in SW to make it easily editable.
If I was a student I would learn SW. Pretty much the industry standard. Plenty of youtube videos and other resources. If you have a lot of time, learn both. Try doing the same project on both and see which flow you like better.

The more I dive deeper into Fusion, the more I realize how other CAD packages are being left in the dust. The elephant in the room however, is the cloud based platform that Fusion utilizes so well to tinker with and push the tools beyond the secure and profit driven, single and floating license model that SW uses. No matter what the marketing department says, there is no security for your files on a cloud based platform, and this is why SW is the industry standard for now.

I began my CAD career trained on Alias and ProE. I had success developing several products utilizing Alias and working closely with an ME driving Pro-E. I basically sat next to them as they recreated my organic Alias surfaces inside of ProE. The sheer amount of resources Autodesk has to put into innovation and pushing the envelope on blending tool sets and workflows between packages is unparalleled in the industry. From surfacing to parametric solids they cover the whole spectrum and are poised to dominate in the coming near future. The command of both surfacing and parametric solids modeling by Fusion allows them to exploit the workflow gaps in realtime. I’m currently involved with an experimental project where I’m taking a concept all the way through to generative, CAM and SIM. It is astounding how much the elves at Autodesk have put into the entire design/development and manufacturing process. As a ID with many years of experience, I don’t need an ME to design parts for me anymore when I use Fusion. I still needed an ME when the project called for SW and ProE. This is primarily due to the suplementation of education through tutorial and youtube videos that did not exist even 5 years ago.

As an educator, I’m now running into the more digital, less physical conundrum with the students I work with. They don’t use the tools with the manufacturing process and physical world constraints in mind when they are designing. This is where Fusion really shines for students to exploit if you understand the whole DES/DEV process. I love the artistic imaging capabilities of Keyshot, Blender, Lumion which is where many students put too much energy into learning I think. To Yo’s point, if you want to become a designer, you need to learn how to build the whole house. Designers design the relationships that the components of a design have with one another vis a vis appearance, function and emotion. The image render is just a representation of your very abstract ideas, if it does not follow the narrative that you desire for production in the physical world, then you are just a pretty picture maker.

FH13 makes the most relevant point about pricing. SW is the capitalist profiteer. Autodesk is the socialist educator for now. Few can afford the hefty burden SW imposes on its users to work outside of their employer or university. Fusion is building an army one by one in the cloud while Autodesk’s other platforms pay the bills. In a matter of speaking, Fusion360 is a loss leader for AutoDesk, and they are seducing all those SW devotees with their ability to play in a sandbox with no rules about economics or ROI.

Additionally, the project management and collaboration capabilities that Fusion has is mind numbing. They have created ways to work with others that I had never imagined. I don’t like all of their tools in this area, but clearly they have the resources to apply to a wide swath of designer’s workflows when they imagine the future of project collaboration. I’ve invited the software developers that I now work with to be included in my team on the Fusion teams platform. So far they like to be included digitally, but have no clue what is going on. It’s too much! but it is fun to watch the future unfold.

The surfacing tools in Fusion 360 are pretty bad currently. It is 12 years in development and they only just fixed the loft tool after I reported it broken when trying to do a basic surface loft. They will fix these probably within the nest year though, and SW is getting dangerously dated. Not buying T-Splines and letting Autodesk buy it is the worst mistake Dassault ever made. They NEED to buy nPower which makes PowerSurfacing and fully implement it into SW and they would be laughing, yet Dassault are VERY ARROGANT.

The web based version of SW (built on CATIA kernel and not the PARASOLID which SolidWorks desktop is built on) will be released soon and they are already pushing hard on it over desktop, adding features which they could add to desktop version but will refuse to do in order to push everyone over to the web based suscription service.

That has been my experience as well as that of friends working in business development that have Dassault as customers. Just intractable.

Regarding ID-specific form/surface modeling, this paragraph sums up the deficiency of using SolidWorks, bold face added:

In 1982, the HCI researcher Ben Shneiderman defined the concept of direct manipulation. User interfaces based on direct manipulation “depend on visual representation of the objects and actions of interest, physical actions or pointing instead of complex syntax, and > rapid incremental reversible operations whose effect on the object of interest is immediately visible> . This strategy can lead to user interfaces that are comprehensible, predictable and controllable.” Ever since, this has been the prevailing trend in consumer UX design. > Direct manipulation is successful because interface actions are aligned with the user’s understanding of the task> . They receive immediate feedback on the consequences of their actions, which can be undone.

Does ‘rapid incremental reversible operations whose effect on the object of interest is immediately visible’ sound like surface modeling in SolidWorks to you? No it doesn’t! You go into a sketch, change a dimensional variable, hit the green check button, wait 5 seconds for the command to complete rebuilding, discover it isn’t what you like and it broke things further down the feature tree, try to undo, features are still broken. The mental load of using this tool for surface modeling is high because the software does not allow meaningful direct manipulation. CDRS > Pro/D > Wildfire > Creo did a much better job at this, Fusion360 does a better job at this; the tools are more limited but will get better over time.

Thanks for all the insight!

Few things… it’s not F360 vs Solidworks as much as it would be Inventor vs Solidworks. You wouldn’t compare Microsoft paint to Photoshop they’re just not in the same league.

That said leaning Creo, Inventor, Solidworks, SolidEdge, F360, Catia…etc aka parametric modeling software, for the most part is the same side of the coin. In comparison to Modo, zBrush, Blender, C4D, Maya etc which are more DCC softwares that are from the other side of the coin when it comes to overall modeling approaches.

While in some respects I do agree that it’s important to learn one software really well it also makes sense to learn something from the DCC world. Now much of this depends on what industry you’re going into but what real SubD/Polygonal modeling brings to the table is very refreshing and helps you to not look at everything like a nail when using a hammer. There are times when DCC just does the job so much better when it comes to be iterative vs any CAD package. Again this is partly subjective but you wouldn’t go into the wood shop and only use a table saw…you’d want to know about the lathe, drill press, …etc.

But to the OP…learn both F360 is free for students and the students version of Solidworks is $80 but gives you much more than F360. Do a job search on monster, career builder…etc and see the amount of companies asking for people to know what software. F360 for example can never be used in any institution that requires things to be private. Not with it being online. Though Solidworks can be a bear to install and upgrade when it comes to a team of engineers…

Totally agree on this. Cranking out multiple design concepts is superquick compared to parametric modeling. Also I feel it is easier focusing on the design instead of having to deal with different modeling strategies in order to get what you want.

Mind that if you use subdivision modeling in a team of engineers you’ll need to do some translation. In my case I rebuild the model in Solidworks in order for the rest of the team to work with it. For me this is worth it, because I work on consumer products and I need to make sure they look attractive.

I only recently learned about SubD modeling through fusion 360. Worked great but for me there are some limitations in terms of speed when working on multiple designs. After this experience I tried the Rhino WIP (7) which also has subd modelling. This lacked a lot of features yet, although very promising.

Now I am using blender which also has awesome animation and rendering tools. For example the Eevee real-time render engine I use a lot now in both static and moving images to present concepts at work. Blender takes some time to learn using tutorials, as it’s using a shortcut-based workflow, and things are just different than Solidworks or Fusion :slight_smile:

@cadjunkie, what software are you currently using in your workflow?

I agree, and for complex modeling projects, Solidworks is the best choice (under CATIA).
I also agree with fraser that it is important to make a choice for your preferred modeling environment and quickly develop expertise so it becomes routine work, only stepping to other platforms for niche tasks.

I do not agree that CAD modeling based on direct manipulation UI’s is best, especially for complex assemblies you want everything to be well-constrained and data-driven as much as possible. When you understand parametric modeling workflows you come to appreciate that CAD modeling is not like claying and rightly so.

I also don’t understand companies that do serious development projects and use Rhino - it’s affordable and great for NURBS surfacing, but if I make a rounded box and it’s proportions change (say marketing needs it to be bigger), I always have to create a new box isn’t it? There’s no history tree.

Having said that, if I look through the surface presentation of F360 and Solidworks and see the underlying algorithms, I find them to be almost identical systems concerning form development. The sketches of F360 are treated a bit more flexibly and surfacing in Solidworks will be much better, at least for a while, but besides that F360 is almost exactly Solidworks, with some extra modules. I see a good future for F360 though, it is a serious alternative for upcoming industrial designers, especially when cloud computing becomes fast and reliable enough.

When I was in school, I was taught Form Z, I learned Alias during an internship and I learned Rhino during the school year. After graduating, I had trouble getting a job (and I was going through immigration), so I taught myself SolidWorks. I took some classes in SolidWorks and AutoCAD on the side.

During my career, I’ve used primarily SolidWorks, but I used a little Inventor at my first job and SolidEdge for 5 years at my second job. I’ve now downloaded Fusion 360 and play with it occasionally. I used it last month to run an FEA, which was impressive!

My rule as a job seeker would be to try to get a job where they didn’t care what software I use. If the hiring manager gets hung up on this, it’s a sign that their hiring process is not good. They are either looking for CAD monkeys or the hiring team is not used to hiring designers. Either way, bad sign.

As a student, I would try as many 3D programs as you are comfortable with. Maybe use SW for one project and Fusion for another. Get your feet wet. It’s interesting, but the more 3D I used, the more I discovered capabilities in the other suites. When we are too comfortable, we stop searching for better ways of doing things. Having said that, make sure that you can put “SolidWorks” in your resume, otherwise, your CV will get trashed a lot of places before anyone even looks at your portfolio.

Good luck!

As for Fusion v. SW…I hear about more and more people using F360. I think SolidWorks better respond too, otherwise they are going to lose a lot of small customers. I do get the impression that they only care about the few clients that have 100+ seats. I think they assume that will drive adoption, but as Clayton Christensen explained, market revolution comes from below.

@bostogne: What I would recommend taking a look at is nPower Surfacing for Solidworks. There are two ways to leverage it…build the model in Blender and then import into Solidworks through the plug-in. This will help to convert the model to BREP and not just a mesh. The second way that it can be used is to use the SubD modeling directly inside of Solidworks. Though I will also say that the SubD in Rhino is also coming along very well…it’s not Modo or zBrush but it’s definitely MUCH better than what’s in F360. I’d say also leaning Blender will help to keep things fresh and different that CAD software companies will never really understand how to implement properly.

@ralphzoontjens: Just because Rhino has no “features” or “history” doesn’t mean that you can’t scale or adjust the model accurately. First Rhino does have a record history which allows for parametric like capabilities. But as mentioned previously you don’t have to start over again you can just adjust the model directly. There are companies that make Yatchs, Furniture, and Architectural designs that are just as accurate as anything made in Catia, Pro/E, or Solidworks. F360 is very much being a carbon copy of Solidworks which ain’t a bad thing but there is much left to be desired when it comes to it’s sketching…maybe I’m just picking on the little guy but not being able to offset form an offset just seems like simple basic things that even Rhino can do…

Thanks cadjunkie!

With 4 full-time weeks of Rhino courses noone ever mentioned the Record History feature, I’m not sure if the designer can go back to change the type of surfacing (say a loft to a sweep) and have the entire model update accordingly, but it is very cool. That does make Rhino suitable for a lot of fields indeed…

Also I second that F360 does not get you much further than basic modeling. For advanced surfacing and detailing you will run into problems preventing you from achieving what you want simply because the features aren’t all there. That said it does excel in generative design and simulations. I sure hope there will be a major update.

Hi cadjunkie, could you show us a video of sub-D modelling and importing to SW via PowerSurfacing? It’s just obj export/import and there are never any problems with being watertight/G2?

I think this process has a lot of potential for people with a smaller budget than the cost of SW+PS; CAD Tutorial: Rhino + Blender 3D Sub-division workflow - YouTube

I’ve been using Blender with these scripts in Blender/Rhino to simply copy/paste meshes between the two. GitHub - heimlich1024/OD_CopyPasteExternal: Easily copying and pasting of geometry between 3D Applications

Blender makes building and adjusting the SubD meshes way nicer than F360 or Rhino though it lacks some of the precision and measurements tools. I find building some simple reference geometry in Rhino and pasting it in Blender can solve most of that. Watertight/G2 every-time!

The current SubD tools in the Rhino 7 beta (which you can get with a valid Rhino 6 license) are getting nicely fleshed out. There’s namely a really neat remeshing tool that outputs quad meshes with reasonable topology.