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Fusion 360 vs. SolidWorks

by Tutorial45

Is the Autodesk Fusion 360 or SolidWorks software application for you?

In this post, the discussion will be centered on the pros and cons of these options in order to help you make informed decisions. Now, taking a look at both options, the Fusion 360 and SolidWorks are CAD modeling software with some key differences. These differences range from the part modeling technique they employ to the features integrated into each package.

In order to accurately compare these CAD applications, some criteria must be used. These criteria include; ease of use, industrial application, and learning curve. Here, ease of use refers to the modeling features integrated into a CAD application that simplifies its use. An industrial application takes a look at how each CAD application can be applied in designing models relevant to a particular industry while the learning curve focuses on the difficulties first-time users will encounter when starting out.

What’s This Comparison All About?

The popularity of SolidWorks has since made it a household name among CAD users. But in cases where CAD users are interested in using other modeling options, it is good to know great alternatives exist. Therefore, in this post, we will also be looking at the alternative another household name, Autodesk, provides. This article will also serve as a guide for professional CAD users who are interested in having another CAD software option for different applications. At the end of the post, a few tips on which to choose for your modeling projects will also be highlighted.

Introducing Fusion 360

Autodesk bills Fusion 360 as a CAD, Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM), and Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) tool. This means it is equipped with the necessary features needed to execute modeling, manufacturing, and engineering tasks as the need arises. The Fusion 360 is equipped to make use of parametric modeling and works well with constraints and dimensions when provided.

The Fusion360 also employs a multi-component part system when modeling industrial designs. This system makes it possible to build separate components that make up an assembly on the same file. Users can then assemble all the different components without struggling with the distortions that come with importing external files. Another great feature of the Fusion 360 is its ability to handle advanced simulations. The Fusion 360 analysis tool can execute simulation tests by calculating load cases, simplify the design by cloning similar components and remove/replace faces with primitives. Advanced analysis such as predicting failure modes for slender objects, analyzing deformation, and simulating pressure-related events makes it a great concept design tool.

I know, it was stated earlier that the Fusion 360 employs parametric modeling. But it is also one of the most versatile CAD applications in the market. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Fusion 360 also includes freeform modeling modes, and more importantly, a nonparametric modeling option! For those who don’t know the difference between parametric and nonparametric modeling, you can learn about them in this article on modelling techniques.

The Fusion 360 does not stop at simply modeling and simulating your projects. The CAM features of the Fusion 360 are equipped to be compatible with diverse manufacturing processes. Fusion 360 provides build support for 3D printing. It also integrates a slicing feature which can be used to slice 3D models when 3D printing. Other manufacturing processes it supports includes designing for CNC and lathe machines. This makes the Fusion 360 a great all-around tool for manufacturing design.

Lastly, the Fusion 360 software application also has cloud computing backing its design and manufacturing activities. Therefore, you can connect the entire CAD platform to the cloud turning it into a cloud-based CAD platform. And the advantages of this are many; a CAD in the cloud supports multiple users and edits in real time.

Introducing SolidWorks

Introducing SolidWorks to professional CAD users is similar to introducing a fish to water. Through the years, SolidWorks has carved a niche for itself as one of the best modeling tools, for engineers, manufacturers, and creators. And its great reputation in the CAD community is well earned! SolidWorks 2019—it only makes sense to use its latest platform—is also a CAD, CAM, and CAE tool developed for the evolving manufacturing industry.

SolidWorks is predominantly a parametric modeling tool but the clamor for nonparametric options has led to some changes. Today, SolidWorks is a hybrid CAD application in relation to how its models can be edited and created. Therefore, it is worth stating that now offers nonparametric editing tools that can be handy in simplifying some editing tasks. SolidWorks now makes it possible to execute the creation of components of an assembly in one file. You also have the option of saving assemblies as parts thereby making it easier to simplify the editing process even when files are shared across different CAD platforms.

SolidWorks also retains its sheet metal design mode and tools which makes it the tool of choice for automobile manufacturers, aerospace, and other industries that rely on sheet metal. The simulation and analysis done on SolidWorks are a bit more refined as topology constraints can be integrated into the platform and used to carry out pressure analysis. In other not to be left behind, SolidWorks is also making the move to Industry 4.0 by integrating design-to-manufacture features for industrial designers. This means that users can choose the manufacturing process –it could be 3D printing, CNC machining, molding etc.—they intend to use. SolidWorks will then ensure your models follow the rules of application tied with a manufacturing process.

For example, if 3D printing is the manufacturing process selected, SolidWorks will help direct the dimensioning and support needed for the final product. This will help manufacturers eliminate first layer problems 3D printing enthusiast will face. Supporting features will also direct the 3D printer to produce more materials or overhangs to support vertical and hanging objects. Lastly, SolidWorks has taken its collaboration tools to a higher level. These smart tools were designed to help CAD users communicate with other third-parties or stakeholders in real-time. This shows that SolidWorks is taking the CAM side of things more seriously as the years roll by.

Which Should You Use: Fusion 360 or SolidWorks?

The answer to this question is once again, the cryptic reply; ‘it depends’. Choosing between both CAD applications actually depends on what you intend to accomplish. Therefore, we will divide the reply between the different use cases they are mostly considered for. Starting with part modeling, the ability to build and assemble different components in the same file with ease gives Fusion 360 the edge over SolidWorks. Although SolidWorks gives you the option of modeling multiple components and saving assemblies as parts, it does not have the effortless part modeling efficiency Fusion 360 possesses.

In terms of designing mechanical components and assemblies, both applications truly have a lot to offer. Their offerings include simulation solutions, a predictive analysis that covers buckling and response to load among other analytics features. Fusion 360 integrates all these features and more which makes it a great tool for mechanical design. SolidWorks also integrate all these simulation and analytics features into its platform. Furthermore, with SolidWorks, you can also integrate the topography of a specific environment when designing your mechanical components. Therefore, SolidWorks analyses are more specific and a bit more advanced than what Fusion 360 has to offer.

SolidWorks have also been handling simulation and design analysis for a couple of years. This makes SolidWorks a better CAD application for mechanical design than Fusion 360. Now, taking a look at advance mesh modeling, Fusion 360’s nonparametric modeling mode gives it an edge. Fusion 360 is also a great tool for editing due to its direct modeling sculpt feature. Not to be outdone, SolidWorks is also a great tool for advanced mesh modeling. With SolidWorks 2019, faces can be pushed and pulled at will using its surfacing features. One more pro for SolidWorks is that the use of nonparametric modeling to editing does not eliminate your history. Therefore, you get the best of both worlds when editing. In terms of advanced mesh modeling, SolidWorks just edges Fusion 360 as it provides more structure and reference points for CAD users.

The final consideration to make is manufacturing. Today, manufacturing has become domesticated and millions of people now have 3D printing machines in their garages. These manufacturing machines are fed by 3D models and this has led to an unprecedented increase in the demand for 3D models. Understanding this need, most CAS application developers now integrate manufacturing features into their CAD apps. Fusion 360 offers support for the different types of manufacturing processes including 3D printing, CNC machining, and lathe machining.  SolidWorks also offers these manufacturing features to aid industrial designers. But the cloud factor and the slicing support Fusion 360 offers give it the edge over SolidWorks.


SolidWorks and Fusion 360 are both great options for CAD modeling. Although we believe SolidWorks still has the edge and appeals more to engineers, industrial designers, creators, and manufacturers, Fusion 360 is definitely not far behind.

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