Fusion 360 is one of the most commonly-known names in CAD... but the CAD software industry is brimming with options.
We're going to give you some insight into 3D modeling options, and featuring some of our top picks for Fusion 360 alternatives on the CAD modeling scene.
The right CAD fit should meet your particular needs. For CAD users, factors including ease of use, support through an online Forum, or available features can make or break the design experience. We collected ins and outs on some of the top CAD tools. Now you get to weigh your options - make sure to check our considerations if you're unsure of what you're looking for.
Our front-runners for the best Fusion 360 alternatives are:
The world’s most adaptive CAD app for iPadOS, macOS, and Windows
Price: Shapr3D offers one comprehensive package: Shapr3D Pro. A subscription via the Shapr3D website costs $38/month or $299/year. Get a free trial for 14 days before subscribing.
Design seamlessly using our adaptive UI and the consistent availability of multidevice support.
With the ease of adoption, you can join in on the CAD process regardless of whether you’re a professional or a beginner. Learn quickly and complete your first model in hours. Minimize back-and-forth with the ability to communicate freely across design and manufacturing teams.
Get full creative freedom and tailor your design with the input device of your choice. Use pen and touch, keyboard and mouse, or Spacemouse. Shapr3D now comes with full Wacom support as well. Choose to opt-in to Shapr3D Sync via Shapr3D Cloud to securely access your designs instantly from any of your devices. Stuck without internet? Shapr3D is available offline as well.
Use Visualization to add color and texture to your models and create real-time previews in augmented reality to show to clients. Send a web link to share your design, viewable in AR, with anyone you choose using Webviewer.
Powerful CAD tool with specialized features
Price: While a Solidworks license goes for $4,195/ year, an annual subscription costs $1,295/ year. This subscription covers technical support and upgrades.
Solidworks is one of the top CAD tools out there. If it doesn’t support your needs natively, the chances are there’s an add-on that does.
A solid tool means a heftier price tag, bringing the cost-to-benefit ratio down a peg.
The comprehensive nature of this CAD tool can make the path to mastery longer and clunkier.
Commonly used by engineers, the sheer complexity may result in low productivity for a CAD entrepreneur.
Overall, if you need a complex CAD tool, then check out SolidWorks.
Superb mechanical and electrical design
Price: Autodesk Inventor comes with three payment plan options depending on the length of commitment you want to make. These options are $290/month, $2300/year, or $6,555/every three years.
Autodesk Inventor is similar to Fusion 360, often compared as it's big brother, and commonly used for mechanical engineering projects. You can think of it as the middle ground between Fusion 360 and SolidWorks.
As with most professional CAD tools, it has a range of features to speed up your product development process. It also boasts a range of industry-specific features such as a dedicated sheet metal environment.
If you’re looking for a software package that upgrades the performance and features of Fusion 360 but are drawn to Autodesk environment and packages, then Inventor will likely meet your requirements.
Specialized tools for beautiful and information-building projects
Price: Revit follows a similar payment plan option to Inventor. Autodesk’s prices for Revit are: $335/month, $2,675/year, or $7,625/every three years.
Revit entered the CAD scene when Autodesk pivoted to cater to builders and architects.
Revit’s differentiating factor comes from its Building Information Modeling (BIM) software. This core enables professional designers to create hyper-visual designs while also including complex information about the workings of the building.
If you’re seeking a design tool for the construction industry as an alternative to Fusion 360, consider Revit for the same powerful tools but with more relevant navigation.
Computer Aided Design with unlimited potential
Price: As a community CAD software, FreeCAD costs all of $0/ year
Many CAD software options are closed-source, making it difficult to develop unique features or customize them to meet your needs. FreeCAD changed this by providing an open-source platform for CAD self-starters.
With a large cult following, open-source FreeCAD creates space for fellow designers to help troubleshoot your problems. As a free option, FreeCAD accomplishes a relatively high level of software development.
This path includes basic design capabilities and may require more self-sufficiency to reach your development goals. If the perks of a free and open-source tool entice you, try FreeCAD.
Price: Fusion 360 is one of the most affordable of Autodesk’s software, following the same payment option structure. Pay $70/month, $545/year, or $1,555/every three years.
Chances are, if you’re an avid CAD user, Solidworks already stands out as a key CAD player. In case you’re browsing the market for your first CAD tool, let us introduce you.
In Autodesk’s own words:
“Fusion 360 is a collaborative cloud-enabled 3D CAD, CAM, CAE, and PCB software developed and sold by Autodesk.”
Fusion 360 is a heavyweight CAD software tool with a wide range of capabilities. However, the bar for learning is set high with a more complex and more protracted mastery process.
When it comes to choosing your CAD software, there are plenty of factors to consider from your use case to pricing to feature set. Like many professional CAD users, you may use multiple tools, and often you'll find that they compliment each other beautifully.
Use case & feature set
The most crucial factor when choosing a Fusion 360 alternative is your design objective. For example, rapid prototyping requires a different tool than creating a versatile CFD simulation platform.
Most desktop CAD tools are industry-specific in their fundamental platform capabilities or optional plug-ins. For example, Rhino3D is used by a lot of jewelry designers while furniture designers often use SolidWorks. However, Shapr3D’s mobility and ease of use make it accessible across professions.
A manufacturing process includes considering the whole pipeline. You may find CATIA is your go-to tool, but a colleague or collaborator struggles with it. If you’re using multiple tools, you’ll need to ensure that they support the importing and exporting of a common format.
Ease of use
The complexity of CAD and CAM software often acts as a deterrent. With some tools, even the creation of a simple box can take hours to learn. Mastering these tools then becomes a lifestyle. Users often put off upgrading to their ideal CAD software to avoid breaking away from their familiar user interface.
Looking for team members to learn the tool? Intuitive CAD now makes that possible.
File type support
When choosing a Fusion 360 alternative, ensure that it will fit into your existing design workflow. Though you may prefer the look and feel of certain software, such as Solidworks, mismatching file types across your team can result in a cumbersome export process.
Luckily, this isn’t as prominent an issue as it was a few years ago. This is primarily due to the internationally recognized STEP file format.
The task of learning 3D modeling software can seem difficult and daunting. Practicing with simple editing tools, customizing a user interface, and conducting linear and nonlinear stress analysis requires investment.
This makes the support system for your tool choice vital. Whether you prefer interactive tutorials, support documentation, forums, or 1-on-1 help depends on your learning style.
When choosing your modeling tool, look for adequate support for your needs.
When it comes to deciding on the right CAD tool, price shouldn't be your main consideration. However, we admit that there's a difference between a few hundred dollars per year and few thousand dollars per year. The best free Fusion 360 is Shapr3D, but we'd fully recommend upgrading to the paid plan.
The recent revamp of traditional CAD created an array of innovative alternatives to ideate and realize your design. Options range from fully computer-aided design software to a tool to help improve your design process. The range of modern CAD tools enhanced customization to fit your tech to your design needs. Ready to dive in? A software switch to modern CAD can result in exponential design and manufacturing wins.