Welcome to our guide to the top 7 alternatives for Fusion 360 software.
If you’re looking for a change from Autodesk’s Fusion 360 or are just starting out in the world of 3D design, there are many options available to you.
In this guide, we’ll introduce you to some of the top alternatives to Fusion 360 and highlight their key features and capabilities. Whether you’re a professional designer or a maker, we’ll help you to find software that meets your needs.
So let’s crack on.
Drawbacks of Working With Fusion 360
Fusion 360 is the flagship CAD product from Autodesk, and it is popular largely due to its usability and friendly, logical UI.
To that end, there aren’t too many bad things one can say about Fusion 360. The only niggles we can find with it are pretty niche and probably won’t appeal to everyone.
But in the spirit of completeness, let’s take a look at some of the software’s downsides anyway.
The learning curve of Fusion 360 varies depending on the user’s previous experience with 3D design software and the complexity of the projects they are working on.
Compared to more engineering focused CAD software such as Solidworks or Catia, Fusion 360 is considered to be pretty easy overall, and this is arguably made so by the friendly and logical UI.
Do not panic, however, as Fusion 360 offers a range of resources to help new users get started, including in-software tutorials, documentation, and various online forums such as YouTube, Facebook groups, and Reddit.
For users with experience in other CAD software (such as myself), the software contains a lot of familiar features. Although personally, the mouse controls feel a little clunky for someone who has been using Solidworks as their weapon of choice for over a decade.
Old habits do indeed die hard.
If your objective is to model and 3D print with Fusion 360, as opposed to creating highly intricate engineering assemblies, it’s not hard to get 3D printing with Fusion 360.
You can read our guide to getting started with 3D printing in Fusion 360.
Fusion 360 is not free (unless you’re a student), and the subscription model can be prohibitively expensive for those using it on a hobbyist basis.
There is a free trial available, so at least you can test it out before committing to making a purchase.
For those who are looking to pay for it, expect to pay $70 a month, $545 a year, or you can pay a one-time payment of only $1,555 for three whole years of usage.
Fusion 360 is compatible with both macOS and Windows operating systems, so you can make use of its features no matter what kind of computer you’re using. Kinda.
It does not support Linux officially, but there are means of getting it to run on Linux using VMs and compatibility layers. Do so at the risk of your own sanity!
Limited Support for Some File Formats
While Fusion 360 works best with native Autodesk files (such as .F3D, .IPT/.IAM) and with CAD-neutral files such as .STEP, it also supports files from other CAD softwares as well…up to a point.
For example, it may have difficulty running files from the most recent Solidworks release.
But this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, because files from later releases of Solidworks aren’t even compatible with earlier versions of the software.
When in doubt, refer to online documentation for more information, or test the file in Fusion 360 to see for yourself.
Fusion 360 is a solid modeling tool mainly, so there may be some issues editing mesh-based files such as those from Blender, and STL file editing capabilities can be limited.
Alternatives to Fusion 360 for 3D Printing
As we have seen in a previous article, Fusion 360 is a user-friendly way for those interested in 3D printing, to get printing.
But what if Fusion 360 isn’t enough? Maybe you prefer your CAD to have more assembly capabilities or better simulation?
Or maybe you are not a fan of parametric modeling and prefer a 100% mesh modeling approach.
Take a look at 7 alternatives and be informed about what else is out there.
Solidworks is a popular 3D design software that offers a range of tools for mechanical engineering, simulation, and manufacturing. It has advanced assembly features and a wide range of simulation tools.
The rendering is great in Visualize Pro also.
The parametric modelling is great for 3D printing, and when used as part of a general manufacturing and design workflow, it is pretty great.
It is a tad on the expensive side, so unless you already own a license, you probably would not purchase a full version of this software as a maker.
Autodesk Inventor is a 3D mechanical design software that is similar to Fusion 360, but with a focus on mechanical engineering and manufacturing.
The modeling in Inventor is intuitive, but again, it is important to keep in mind that Autodesk Inventor is a professional-grade software and may have a steep learning curve for users who are new to 3D modelling or 3D printing.
The pricing for this capable tool starts at $2,300/year or $290/month respectively. As you see the price only confirms the specification of this software.
Anyway, if you have some ambitious projects in your pipeline, the Inventor will surely assist you with the visualization of your ideas.
Catia is probably the most high-end CAD software on this list, and it is favored by companies in the aerospace industry due to its compatibility, reliability, data management tools and ability to handle large assemblies.
This is another expensive software, and you would not purchase this exclusively for 3D printing, although it is perfectly capable of exposing in print-friendly formats.
If you were planning to 3D print a rover to land on the Moon, this might be a good option for you, but for your average maker, Catia is overkill.
Unfortunately, on the contrary to its competitors, Catia does not offer a free trial. You can register for the free demo on their homepage.
For educators and students, the software creator offers 3DEXPERIENCE CATIA for Students, which is a yearly subscription for $60.
Onshape is a cloud-based 3D design software that offers collaboration, version control, and data management tools.
There is a free version available, and it has a lot in common with Solidworks, largely because the company was founded by former Solidworks engineers and execs.
It has a wide range of modeling tools, and it has an app store, so you can expand the capabilities far beyond the default package as needed.
It is a genuine competitor for the title of “Best Alternative to Fusion360” based on functionality and price.
And yes, it’s great for 3D printing things.
FreeCAD is a free, open-source 3D design software that offers a range of tools for mechanical engineering, architecture, and product design.
It is capable of exporting in print-friendly file types, and the UI is intuitive.
The software as a whole has a nice, gentle learning curve, largely because it was designed with students in mind.
There is a quite big community around this software and their wiki documentation page is full of valuable resources to start learning.
Even if the software was written in C++, a large part of interactive components was built in Phyton. So if you know Phyton, you can create python-scripted parametric models.
This will expand your 3D modeling opportunities with FreeCAD.
SketchUp is a 3D design software that is popular for its simplicity and ease of use, and is often used for architectural and interior design projects.
There are many folks who use SketchUp for designing parts to be 3D printed also. It is easy to use and with a few tutorials you can get quite productive fairly quickly.
It is cheap to buy, and there is a free version available that allows you to start modelling quickly and with no cost.
SketchUp is the de facto most popular 3D CAD software used by architects globally, precisely because it doesn’t cost as much as Revit or AutoCAD.
Blender is a free, open-source 3D design software that is primarily used for creating 3D graphics and animations but also offers a range of design and engineering tools.
It can export in a range of printing file types, and there are even various plugins for topology optimization and other geometric tools.
Blender is not exactly an alternative to Fusion360 overall.
But if you are already using Blender and you want to get 3D printing, then it’s probably going to be easier for you to simply learn to design parts in Blender than it will be to learn Fusion 360 from scratch.
Fusion360 offers a comprehensive range of tools to design and manufacture and is not too shabby when it comes to 3D printing workflows either.
For that reason, it is difficult to find true alternatives to Fusion 360 for 3D printing, simply because in many cases, Fusion 360 IS the alternative.
This is especially true to the high-end CAD packages such as Solidworks, Inventor, Catia, and so on. Fusion 360 is a better alternative to these softwares if you are new to CAD and you are looking for something for a 3D printing workflow.
Conversely, Onshape, FreeCAD and SketchUp are genuine alternatives to Fusion360 because they are easy to learn, they are cheap (or free) and they are great from a usability perspective.
Personally, if I were to nominate a single best alternative to Fusion360 for 3D printing workflows, I would say that Onshape comes out on top.
It gives you everything that you need for 3D printing (and more), it has a free version, you can set the controls, so it feels like whatever other CAD platform you are used to, and because it’s cloud based, you can run it on anything with a browser.
Including your smart fridge!