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Choices, choices: Inventor, Solidworks, AutoCAD, or MasterCAM?

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  • Choices, choices: Inventor, Solidworks, AutoCAD, or MasterCAM?

    Long story short, I work in a college and have access to a lot of licensed software. I just have to decide what to learn.

    What I want is to:

    A) draw 3D parts that I can move about, looking for interference. Ideally, once all the mates were set up, it would prevent (bump against and stop) a part from moving in an assembly. But, OnShape does it minimally by showing interfering areas in red (using the section view) and that's good enough. From there, I just want 2D dimensioned drawings to work from when in the shop.

    B) allow me to draw parts for 3D printing, which I think will be my next thing.

    Nearing retirement, I've avoided learning tools that I won't have access to 5 years from now, because I'm not paying hundreds of dollars per month. Free is my budget. Yes, I'm cheap.

    However, as I've watched OnShape improve, I've come to realise that in 5 years, the free stuff will do what the paid stuff does now, so why not?

    I'm somewhat proficient in SketchUp now and I'm getting a handle on OnShape. I know I could use them to build up a toolchain that lets me get to A and B above. But, why not use the high-end stuff? Besides that, now that I'm supporting the Trades and Tech faculty, learning the stuff they're teaching will let me buddy-buddy with them, and then maybe get access to their (multiple) 3D printers, and waterjet, and... win-win.

    So, the question is... for requirements A and B, which of the above products makes the most sense to learn? I mean, the whole AutoDesk suite is so packed full of stuff, it's hard to figure out where to start looking. What does what? I could spend the next 2 weeks just figuring that out.

    David...
    http://fixerdave.blogspot.com/

  • #2
    I recommend a hard look at AutoDesk Fusion 360. The cost is nil or minimal for hobbyists, and it is quite powerful. I have tried the interference checking, but I think it can do it. It does 3D printing, CAM, and 2D drawings.

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    • #3
      Forget MasterCAM, it is not meant for drawing the very least nor is it any good in actually making toolpaths from solids.

      SolidWorks would be the one to do what you want. SolidWorks is pretty standard software, costs around 4k of whatever currency you use and has a very large customer portal to get help, additional programs that run on top of SolidWorks etc.
      Amount of experience is in direct proportion to the value of broken equipment.

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      • #4
        I agree. I've used MasterCAM, SolidWorks and SolidCAM. I like the latter two. MasterCAM is okay, but it is not for drawing. It can be done, but it's much easier with SolidWorks. If all you're looking for is a CAD system, and you can afford it, I'd go for SolidWorks. If you need CAM, I'd also recommend SolidCAM!

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        • #5
          Autodesk Fusion 360 would like to be your Solidworks friend. Close but cheap.
          Retired - Journeyman Refrigeration Pipefitter - Master Electrician - Fine Line Automation CNC 4x4 Router

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          • #6
            "Solid-Edge" is free to Students and Powerful.
            "Onshape" is reasonably powerful and easy to learn and Free to everyone.
            It requires good internet connection/speed and best of all... no software to download. Just get online and use it.
            Tom M.

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            • #7
              Hello,

              Given your 'low' budget, I would say that you should try Autodesk's Fusion 360. It quite powerful and is being updated and expanded constantly and these updates are made instantly available. It's free for someone in your position as a hobbyist and they say that it is their intention to maintain this current pricing policy. You have nothing to loose in trying this except perhaps a few hours in evaluation time if you find you don't like it. Autodesk have tutorials on Utube to get you started and help you expand your skills.

              Ian.

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              • #8
                Hi,

                I will second Onshape. Pretty easy to use, runs in a browser and doesn't care about operating systems. And the price is very right for home hobbyists, as in free to use.
                If you think you understand what is going on, you haven't been paying attention.

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                • #9
                  Just to be clear... yes, I am cheap, but I do have access to Solidworks and (nearly) the entire Autodesk suite from work. Autodesk is now free for educational institutions (that qualify) and their students. I could install Autodesk Inventor Pro on my home system... it would totally barf because I haven't upgraded it in far too long (think of the wrecks that mechanics drive and you'll understand the garbage that IT people often run at home). My 5yr old has a significantly better computer than I have; my current computer is older than he is (just realised that). On the other hand, I can remote-desktop in via VPN and run whatever I want on really nice gear that the college pays for. I do have a lot of options, too many to make a quick decision, and that's why I asked.

                  So, MasterCAM is out. SolidWorks has a couple of votes. I already use OnShape and have a decent idea of what it can currently do.

                  Has anyone used Inventor? Any idea what the difference is between Inventor and AutoCAD proper? If I invest my time learning one of these, will the skills directly translate into Fusion 360? (for when I retire).

                  Thanks for the info so far,

                  David...
                  Last edited by fixerdave; 04-30-2016, 04:42 AM.
                  http://fixerdave.blogspot.com/

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                  • #10
                    My experience is from way back and it is with AutoCAD, which I would certainly NOT recommend for what you want to do. But for me it led to getting into Autodesk Inventor, which does a beautiful job on what you are looking for. It does interference checks and even stress analysis too, and it is very easy to create 3-view and isometric (from any desired perspective) drawings from 3D models you create. However, from what I understand, Inventor is essentially Autodesk's answer to Solidworks, so if that's true then both would do what you're looking for. I have zero experience with Solidworks so I can't testify to the truth of this, but I've read several times that this is the case, for what that's worth.

                    I would recommend you go to YouTube and view a few tutorials for these softwares so you can get a walkthrough real feel for how they work. This really does give you a good idea of how good, or not, they are to use.
                    Last edited by tyrone shewlaces; 04-30-2016, 04:46 AM.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by tyrone shewlaces View Post
                      ...Inventor is essentially Autodesk's answer to Solidworks
                      That helps a lot. Thank you.

                      So, it's a choice between the those 2. I just have to spend a day or so with each, seeing which one works more like how I think, and then weighing the other factors, like which faculty spend more time on the 3D printers and what they prefer to use

                      One last question... how similar are Inventor and Fusion 360? Can a standard Inventor output file just open up in Fusion 360 for viewing, or are they totally separate entities that happen to have been bought by the same company?

                      David...
                      http://fixerdave.blogspot.com/

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                      • #12
                        Hello,

                        The short answer is 'YES', on Inventor files, and not just for viewing,

                        Take a look at the list of files that Fusion 360 can import:

                        https://knowledge.autodesk.com/suppo...usion-360.html

                        As it's free for hobbyists, the only question mark that I would have is " is this free for hobbyists" going to last? I don't have the answer, and corporate policies and markets can change.

                        Ian.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by IanPendle View Post
                          Hello,

                          The short answer is 'YES', on Inventor files, and not just for viewing,

                          Take a look at the list of files that Fusion 360 can import:

                          https://knowledge.autodesk.com/suppo...usion-360.html

                          As it's free for hobbyists, the only question mark that I would have is " is this free for hobbyists" going to last? I don't have the answer, and corporate policies and markets can change.
                          Ian.
                          I am pretty familiar with AutoCAD, not a whiz kid pro by any means but I learned Fusion 360. Use for making things to print with my 3D printer. Its slow unless you have a good DSL or cable connection, but can be ran offline and works just fine. Free for hobby use and startups. Someday when they get it perfected maybe they will charge for it?
                          Retired - Journeyman Refrigeration Pipefitter - Master Electrician - Fine Line Automation CNC 4x4 Router

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                          • #14
                            If you know Onshape then you already mostly know Solidworks, as they're built by the same people. I found Fusion weird, and when I got an invite to the Onshape beta, never looked back.

                            At this point I would not invest, financially or mentally, in anything other than those two cloud offerings. Both are extremely capable and over time will offer a lot more functionality for less money than anything else. For a business the choice to convert now or not is trickier, but for a hobbyist it's a no-brained in my book.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by sansbury View Post
                              If you know Onshape then you already mostly know Solidworks, as they're built by the same people. I found Fusion weird, and when I got an invite to the Onshape beta, never looked back.

                              At this point I would not invest, financially or mentally, in anything other than those two cloud offerings. Both are extremely capable and over time will offer a lot more functionality for less money than anything else. For a business the choice to convert now or not is trickier, but for a hobbyist it's a no-brained in my book.
                              I'm actually counting on the cloud stuff getting better, and remaining free for hobby use. I particularly like the OnShape licensing system... public is free, private costs. Pretty hard to run a business with public designs, but hobbyists don't care. All the available public stuff is also good for hobbyists.

                              But... it's not as good as Solidworks/Inventor yet. And, I have access to those so... why not?

                              I hadn't considered the Solidworks-OnShape connection. It would be nice if there was a conversion between the 2, especially something out of OnShape... but I suspect that's asking too much. OnShape's business model requires capturing content. Can't blame them, cloud-based services do require a revenue stream, but it does make me squirm a bit. I expect I'll get over that.

                              Seems there's better integration with Inventor and Fusion 360, and the possibility of working offline.

                              So, no clear answer...

                              But, as you mention, in the end it will come down to what flows with how a person works. I guess it's time to try both out and see what flows for me.

                              Thanks for all the answers,

                              David...
                              http://fixerdave.blogspot.com/

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