Solidworks and Fusion 360 are two incredibly popular CAD programs. They are both used by professionals and amateurs alike. However, there are some pretty big differences between the two of them.
This may leave you wondering whether Solidworks or Fusion 360 is the best choice for you. Well, let’s help you decide in this Solidworks vs Fusion 360 comparison.
We are not going to be talking about the absolute basic features of CAD here. These are both pro-level packages, and they can do all the tasks that a CAD requires (and which you likely know already). Instead, we are going to be focusing on the major differences between the two.
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Solidworks vs Fusion 360: At a Glance
Let’s start with a quick comparison table between Solidworks vs Fusion 360. This way, you can see some of the differences at a glance.
However, do bear in mind that the differences between Solidworks and Fusion 360 are much more complicated than what can be displayed in a table, so we do recommend that you read the rest of this page. We go into a lot more depth.
|Price||$5490 lifetime license.||$70 per month, with cheaper options when paying a year upfront.|
|Hardware Requirements||Windows only. Requires a beefy computer with hefty 16GB RAM and graphics card requirements||Windows and Mac. Minimum 8GB RAM and 4GB dedicated graphics card.|
|UI||Pro-level UI that can be tough to navigate.||Similar to Solidworks, but feels less cluttered.|
|Ease of Use||For people with a solid understanding of CAD. Can be tough to get to grips with.||Still difficult, but a far smaller learning curve.|
|Part System||Object-orientated. All components are saved in separate files.||All components in a project are saved to the same file.|
|Simulation||Provides complicated analytical data during a simulation.||Basic simulation costs money to simulate in the Cloud.|
|Modeling||Can create fantastic designs, but tough to get to grips with the drawing features.||Comes complete with several geometric drawing tools that can allow you to draw designs quickly, but there is less flexibility.|
|Rendering||Photorealistic rendering.||Close to photorealistic, but not as good as Solidworks.|
|Electronics||Can make electrical connections||Cannot make electrical connections|
Solidworks vs Fusion 360: The Price
Let’s start with the price because this is likely to be the deciding factor for many of you.
Solidworks is a rather bulky $5,490, with some more feature-complete versions priced at more than that. It is a rather hefty blow to a learner’s wallet. Granted, there are student versions of Solidworks available, and they are considerably cheaper. However, the student options are purely for learning. You can’t commercialize what you make.
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On the other hand, Fusion 360 is paid monthly. $70 per month, although you can make savings if you buy a year or two at a time. Not massive savings, but savings. You could use Fusion 360 for years before it even comes close to the price that you would be paying for Solidworks.
However, here is the issue. Not everything related to Fusion 360 is covered in the subscription price. If you want to access all features, you have to pay per use. This can be anywhere from $1 to $25. The following requires you to pay for it:
- Static stress simulations
- Structural bucking simulation
This means that if you are spending a lot of your time working on projects, then it may (in the long run) be considerably cheaper to pick up Solidworks, where none of that stuff has an extra cost to it.
Solidworks vs Fusion 360: The Hardware Requirements
System specs can change, so don’t take this as gospel. You could be reading this year down the line when both programs will likely need beefier computers. However, for now:
- 3.3 GHz processor
- 16GB RAM
- GPU compatible with Solidworks
- Windows or Mac
- 3.0 GHz processor
- 8GB RAM
- Any GPU, as long as it has a minimum of 4GB RAM
This means that Fusion 360 can run on a far cheaper computer, and you could probably build something for it to run on pretty cheaply.
The reason why Fusion 360 requires less power is that a good chunk of the more resource-demanding features e.g. rendering happen in the Cloud. This is where some of your monthly fees is going.
You don’t need a beefy computer when something out there on the internet is handling all that processing for you. Although, you do need to have an internet connection, which may be a downside for some.
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Solidworks vs Fusion 360: User Interface
Both Solidworks and Fusion 360 are professional-level CAD programs. This means that they are going to have complicated UIs because there are a lot of features that need to be packed into that tiny package. It is going to take you a while to get to grips with both of them.
We would say that Fusion 360 is likely a little bit easier to get to grips with. It probably isn’t easy enough for you to want to choose this over Solidworks if you do have your heart set on Solidworks, we just found that navigating the features was a bit easier due to the placement of the buttons and the menus.
Solidworks does have the advantage of being much more customizable, though. Once you are in the flow of things, you can customize buttons to your liking. This means that you can navigate the software faster than you would with Fusion 360. This means putting your designs together far more quicker.
Solidworks vs Fusion 360: The Overall Features
As these are both CAD tools, the feature set isn’t wildly different. Both of them can help you to create working models. Although, there are a few differences between how they work.
The Part System
Perhaps the biggest difference between the two will come in the way that parts are created. and this may sway which option is right for you.
Solidworks uses a system called assembly-orientated. Each part that you design will be saved in a separate file. It is great for organizing parts and documentation. This way of operating is great for systems that use a ton of different components because it allows the designer to keep track of everything. It also allows the smooth movement of parts from one project to another.
Fusion 360 goes down the opposite route. The same components that you use to make your assembly will all be saved to the same file. This does make putting together your assembly much easier, but documentation becomes harder.
It also makes it more difficult to move parts from one project to another. Although, on the other hand, it does make things easier if you are working on a single project.
In our opinion, Solidworks tends to be a better fit for those that are created complicated projects with a load of different components, particularly those that will be transferring from one project to another. Fusion 360 tends to work better for simpler mechanisms where components will be kept to a minimum.
In our experience, it is this difference that makes Solidworks more popular in the automotive industry where there is a lot of components and documentation required, while Fusion 360 tends to be used more often in product design where parts are kept to the minimum.
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Both Solidworks and Fusion 360 can handle simulation, although in very different ways.
Solidworks is for very technical designers. It is for those that need advanced analysis of how the components work in their models. You get a wealth of information when the simulation is running, allowing you to see the performance, and details for manufacturing, etc.
Fusion 360 can handle simulation, but it is much simpler. You are not going to get a lot of analytical data. You just get an idea of how the components will perform. This is great for early design work but, as you get into more technical designs, then it has less use.
Although, many people find that Fusion 360 is great for the less technical designers, because you are not going to be introduced to a ton of information that may be worthless to you.
Do bear in mind that if you are doing a simulation with Fusion 360, you will have to pay to access the cloud capabilities of the software. Each simulation will cost you a bit of cash, which can really add up on extensive projects. That isn’t the case with Solidworks as it doesn’t require the cloud to do the heavy lifting.
The Modeling Tools
This is where the software makes it incredibly clear who it is designed for.
Fusion 360 modeling is easier. It comes loaded with a lot of geometric shapes that allow a person to quickly put together their designs. You can mock-up designs in Fusion 360 far, far quicker than you would in Solidworks. If you are planning on just drawing or creating great 3D art, then Fusion 360 is easier to get to grips with.
Solidworks is harder to ‘draw’ in and you do need to have a more artistic mind when creating something in Solidworks. However, once you get to grips with the software and how long it takes to do anything, we reckon that you can create much more complicated designs than you would with Fusion 360.
Both Fusion 360 and Solidworks are fantastic for rendering, although Solidworks is a little better. It can create far more realistic renders. Although, for most people, this probably won’t matter too much.
If you need to simulate electronics in your designs, then Solidworks is the best option. It is the only one of the two that simulates electrical connections. Fusion 360 can draw wires, but that’s where that feature ends.
Solidworks vs Fusion 360: Which One Is Right For You?
Both Solidworks and Fusion 360 are solid platforms. They are pro-level CAD systems. However, one option may be better for you than the other.
Fusion 360 is the CAD system for newbies to CAD, or at least those looking to take the leap to pro systems. It is complicated, but not overly complicated. However, those serious about CAD won’t stick around for long.
There are some strict software limitations that will necessitate changing to a different program at some point. This may be something else offered by Autodesk (e.g. Inventor).
Solidworks, on the other hand, is at the top of the pile. It is much more expensive than Fusion 360 (at least upfront), but it is a system that will serve you well in a professional environment.
Almost all of the big companies are using it to run their design departments. It does take longer to learn, but there is plenty of information out there on getting to grips with it.
So, in summary:
- Fusion 360 is for newbies who want to do nothing but draw CAD designs, perhaps not creating something for production use.
- Solidworks for pro-level environments.