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Fusion360 vs AutoCAD – Which is Best for 3D Printing?
There’s no doubt that 3D printers can do lots of excellent things. But for you to get the most of them, you will need a good CAD program to make your own 3D models. The two most popular choices are Fusion360 and AutoCAD.
Now that you’ve narrowed down your choices to these two CAD packages, how do you know which is the right one for you? There’s so much information to think about, this can be a difficult decision to make, but in this guide I’ll take you through an in-depth guide closely examining their specifications, features, and differences to help make the decision easy for you.
Which is Best for Beginners?
Fusion360 and AutoCAD are both meant for people with at least some experience of designing 3D models, but this doesn’t mean beginners should be put off. Fortunately, their user-friendly design won’t require years of studying to use them. Instead, you only need to understand a few basic terms and concepts to get going.
Comparison Between Fusion360 and AutoCAD
Both programs are similar in feature sets and user interface. With that said, they do have some distinct differences. Here’s an overview showing the differences between AutoCAD and Fusion360.
|Focuses on freeform models||Places emphasis on geometry-driven models|
|Mainly works with cloud technology||Primarily functions with local and network-based files but comes with a cloud saving option|
|It incorporates lots of robust functionality and features but a lot harder to learn||Less features, making it easier to learn|
|Capable of designing incredibly detailed 3D models that are very good for 3D printing||Can create both 2D and 3D drawings that will mainly be used in construction and engineering environments|
|Ideal for simulation and product prototyping||Suitable for designing detailed drawings and plans for production parts|
|Primarily used by mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, as well as machining and manufacturing experts||It’s mainly used by construction professionals, engineers, and architects|
|It doesn’t feature command lines||You can operate it using a command line|
Which is the Best CAD Program and Why?
Now we know what the differences are in terms of specs and features, we can begin to judge which CAD program is best for our needs as a 3D printer user and 3D model creator. In the next section, I’ve compared the two pieces of software in five different categories and decided on a winner in each.
Both AutoCAD and Fusion360 are owned by Autodesk. Therefore, the customer support for both these applications is pretty similar. Fusion360 is used by more home users, so the online support is perhaps easier to follow than AutoCAD, which is more of an industry software.
Fusion360 incorporates many complicated features that make it quite a steep learning curve, to begin with, but most commands are intuitive. AutoCAD is much more limited in scope and, therefore, easier to pick up and easier to master. Therefore, despite the AutoCAD requiring considerable energy and effort to learn, it’s still overall an easier option than Fusion360. AutoCAD has been around a long time, so there is more learning material available online. However, Fusion360 has a very passionate following and is probably the more popular option for amateur users, so online training and help is more tailored to the average person.
The Fusion360 and AutoCAD can create 3D models of almost limitless shapes and sizes. However, the Fusion360 has the edge over AutoCAD in that it can achieve more complicated designs, including;
- The application of materials to desired shapes
- Incorporating in the UI product development specific projecting tools
- Stress testing materials in real-world conditions
- Uniform bolt hole tool
- Carrying out AI-based part design
AutoCAD and Fusion360 are both user-friendly since they both come with intuitive option menus, well-designed icons, and an identical workspace with three axes (x,y,z). The difference is that the Fusion360 features a contextual “right-click” menu that improves your workflow and saves you time, whereas the AutoCAD comes with a classic “command line.” Which is best is more a personal preference. The average home user will find Fusion360 more familiar.
The clear winner here is the Fusion360 since FEA stress simulation can’t be achieved with AutoCAD. When running this simulation type, you’ll need to apply it to your 3D model material qualities. These material qualities include pliability, tensile strength, thermal resistance, and fracture strength.
With simulation models, you can gauge the force needed for failure allowing you to perfect your design in the virtual world before committing to printing it.
You can also do stress analysis on products of more than one component. This allows you to assemble multiple parts together and find the stresses on the product’s weakest link.
Rendering is great for seeing how your 3D print will appear in real life. And this is something that both the Fusion360 and AutoCAD can capably achieve and create remarkable photorealistic renderings.
And with showmanship an essential factor when developing a product, you need to choose a 3D modeling software that allows you to achieve your desired goal. This is something you can achieve with the AutoCAD and Fusion360 making both of them ideal picks.
Assemblies allow you to join multiple component parts together and attach them with common engineering links and mechanisms so you can see how your assembly will move in real life.
When it comes to assembly, the clear winner here is the Fusion360. And this shouldn’t come as a surprise with most of the current CAD programs blurring the line between real-world product and a virtual model. This example is well-illustrated when assigning constraints and relationships in 3D models.
For instance, using Fusion360, you can model an internal combustion engine and join all the component parts together, such as pistons, con-rod, and crankshaft as they would be in a real engine. Consequently, you get to see the engine start functioning and spinning as it would in the real world. This feature is handy for checking that your own assemblies will fit together and move as you expect before committing to printing them.
Winner: Fusion 360
Overall Winner: Fusion360
Although AutoCAD is a popular and high-quality 3D modeling software, Fusion360 is overall a better pick for those of us using it to design parts for 3D printing.
With Fusion360, you’ll be able to create any 3D model, be it a phone case, gaming miniatures, or drone, efficiently and effectively. Therefore, it’s no doubt the better pick if you’re stuck, deciding which of these two pieces of 3D modeling software is the perfect choice.
An Overview of AutoCAD 3D Modelling Software
Specifications of AutoCAD
AutoCAD 3D modeling software is used in creating both 2D and 3D models in the manufacturing and AEC (Automotive, Engineering, Construction) industries. Here are the main features that come with AutoCAD:
- Electrical toolset: Integrated into AutoCAD is a library of standard electrical symbols and streamlined construction of schematic diagrams. This specific feature is ideal for electrical experts and engineers.
- Map 3D: The AutoCAD 3D modeling software can effortlessly read and edit GIS topology to be used in the design, planning, and geo-data management.
- Architectural toolset: This program features specialized automatic tools that allow for the efficient making of architectural schedules, documentation, and drawings. As a result, it’s a perfect program for both architects and other architectural experts.
- Mechanical toolset: While this is almost identical to the electrical toolset, it comes integrated with mechanical components and parts. The professionals who mostly use this feature are mechanical engineers.
- Plant 3D: This essential feature helpsusers create schematics and drawings needed for plant design.
AutoCAD System Requirements
|Operating System||Windows 10 (64-bit only), Windows 8.1 or Microsoft® Windows® 7 SP1|
|Memory||8GB but 16GB is recommended|
|CPU Type||2.5 GHz but 3 plus GHz is recommended)|
|Graphics Card||1 GB GPU with 29 GB/s Bandwidth and DirectX 11 compliant However, 4 GB GPU with 106 GB/s Bandwidth and DirectX 11 compliant|
|Pointing Device||MS-Mouse compliant|
Pros and Cons of AutoCAD
- Cloud storage can be added to your subscription if needed.
- Boasts decades of being the industry-standard software.
- Although it’s designed for 2D design, it can also capably do 3D modeling.
- Excellent customer support and lots of online guides to help you out should you encounter any issue.
- It doesn’t need cloud technology and the internet to function correctly since it uses network and local files.
- This professional design software can be personalized to meet your needs.
- Using it correctly might take some time, especially if you’re a novice in the field of 3D modeling and drafting.
- It’s primarily a 2D design program and focuses on this rather than 3D.
- More processing power is needed by the computer, compared with Fusion360.
- It’s mainly a Windows program, and while there’s a Mac version, it comes with different functionality.
An Overview of Fusion360 3D Modelling Software
Specifications of Fusion360
The Fusion360 cloud-based CAD program is usually used in the manufacturing and AEC industries due to its many functionalities. Some of the main specifications that make it a popular choice include;
- Cloud-based nature: Thanks to this, the Fusion360 makes it possible to work in teams and collaborate in real-time on achieving a similar goal. This allows you to effortlessly and quickly attain the project deadlines.
- Simulation: The Fusion360 modeling software incorporates simulation features such as modal frequency, static stress, buckling, and nonlinear stress.
- 3D modeling and design: With the Fusion360, you can do parametric, mesh, surface modeling, and every other main modeling standards. You can also work with assemblies that vary depending on a project’s complexity or with independent components.
- Data management: With Fusion360, you can capably handle metadata and data relating to projects and their respective files. In addition, every piece of data about your files is stored safely in the cloud.
- Visualization: Fusion360 can carry out photorealistic renders and detail both 2D documents and drafts.
- Electronic versatility: Using this 3D modeling software, you can handle various tools meant to manufacture and design the printed circuit boards.
Fusion360 System Requirements
|Operating System||Windows 10 (64-bit only), Windows 8.1, or Microsoft® Windows® 7 SP1 Apple® macOS™ Sierra v10.12; Apple® macOS™ High Sierra v10.13; Apple® macOS™ Mojave v10.14;|
|Memory||3GB RAM (recommended 4GB or more)|
|Pointing Device||MacBook Pro trackpad, Magic Mouse, Apple Mouse, Microsoft-compliant mouse|
|Graphics Card||512MB GDDR RAM or more, apart from Intel GMA X3100 cards|
Pros and Cons of Fusion360
- It uses cloud technology, meaning you can comfortably move around with your computer from one point to another without disrupting your workflow.
- It’s easy and straightforward to learn and operate, making it a superb choice if you aren’t experienced using this type of software. Therefore, you shouldn’t take much time to learn how to operate it capably.
- Incorporates both organic and parametric modeling plus provides you with a historical timeline of the changes.
- You can get lots of online courses and materials that enable you to sharpen your skills on how to use this 3D modeling software.
- It’s very powerful, and you don’t have to do any meticulous design to make sure the 3D models are of exceptional quality.
- Because it uses cloud-based technology, it can’t run without a fast internet connection.
- It sometimes gets sluggish as you draw complicated 3D models.
- The use of cloud-technology can affect your work if any issue does arise or if it goes down.
Which is best between AutoCAD and Fusion360 is one of the most common questions I’m asked about 3D modeling software. Hopefully, this guide has helped answer any question you have and has made it easier for you to make a decision. In most cases, Fusion360 is the better bet for 3D printer users. Fusion360 was designed as a complete 3D design package and is almost limitless in its ability to create any shape you can imagine. This makes it especially good for more organic forms such as sculptures, vases, and gaming terrain.