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Fusion 360 vs Solidworks – Know the Differences

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Fusion 360 vs Solidworks: How are they the similar? How are they different? And which one is best for me? Let's dive straight into the arena

Fusion 360 vs Solidworks Introduction

A reciprocating saw in Fusion 360
A reciprocating saw in Fusion 360 Source: Autodesk

Solidworks has long been the industry leader for CAD modeling. Then, five years ago, Fusion 360 launched, a new, cloud-based CAD modeling software to challenge the industry leader.

In their simplest forms, Solidworks and Fusion 360 are both software used for the same thing: 3D modeling. However, depending on if you’re an engineer, designer, architect, or maker, you’ll find yourself prefering one over the other. That said, it’s time to make the comparison: Fusion 360 vs Solidworks.

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Fusion 360 vs Solidworks Part Modeling

A model made in Fusion 360
A model made in Fusion 360 Source: SolidSmack.com

Part modeling is where these two programs are the most fundamentally different.

Solidworks is an assembly-driven software. That means it builds parts individually before assembling them in a separate file. This is advantageous when parts are used in many assemblies as well as for documentation purposes. Although Solidworks does have the option to create multibody parts, this feature does not provide the same amount of flexibility as Fusion 360’s process.

Fusion 360’s solution is to use a multi-component part system, where components of an assembly are built and assembled in the same file. This makes it easier for engineers and designers to reference other components and build off of them within an assembly. Unlike Solidworks, Fusion 360 does not need to reference multiple files when building an assembly, although larger assemblies in Fusion can cause issues. Fusion 360 excels with smaller assemblies with many cross-referenced parts.

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Fusion 360 vs Solidworks Mechanical Design

A Solidworks flow simulation
A Solidworks flow simulation Source: Addonix.com

Many people can 3D model and design, but let’s make the distinction between that and mechanical design. Mechanical design is focused on the application and manufacturability of a product rather than its look and feel.

For non-technical designers, Fusion 360 offers many easy-to-use analysis packages to understand how a part will respond to external forces. These simulation packages include: static stress analysis, thermal analysis, buckling, and shape optimization. Thus, Fusion 360 is great for basic and easy-to-use simulations but lacks some of the more advanced features.

Similarly to Fusion 360, Solidworks offers a simulation package with varying sets of features, depending on the purchased licence. Solidworks’ best simulation package lets you evaluate linear and nonlinear responses, dynamic loading, composite materials, linear and nonlinear dynamics, and much more. Solidworks is therefore a great tool for very advanced simulations and analysis.

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Fusion 360 vs Solidworks Advanced Mesh Modeling

Solidworks rendering
Solidworks rendering Source: Autodesk

Another feature important to designers is mesh modeling. This is where points along a surface can be “pushed” or “pulled” to create organic geometry and surfaces. Unlike Solidworks, Fusion 360 excels in this area.

Fusion can directly import a project into its “Sculpt” feature, where a user can instantly start mesh modeling with a very user-friendly interface. Solidworks offers a similar feature using its surfacing features, but it’s very challenging to set up and unintuitive to execute.

We find that designers in general tend to prefer Fusion 360 based on its ability to easily create smooth geometry for consumer products. However, many technical engineers struggle with Fusion 360’s restricted ability in its advanced mechanical design features.

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Fusion 360 vs Solidworks Conclusion

A stress simulation in Solidworks
A stress simulation in Solidworks Source:

While both programs are used to accomplish the same thing, they do so in a very different way. In the competition Fusion 360 vs Solidworks, both come out on top, for different reasons.

Fusion 360 offers a very intuitive assembly interface, allowing the user to access one file to make any change. And as a cloud-based platform, users can access their files just about anywhere. Meanwhile, Solidworks offers robust simulation packages, manufacting tools, and 2D drawings. Choosing which program is for you is no simple task, and we recommend using both before deciding which is best for you.

License: The text of "Fusion 360 vs Solidworks – Know the Differences" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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