# Easy CAD software for modest requirements: Fusion 360? Other?

Discussion in 'Aircraft Design / Aerodynamics / New Technology' started by Vigilant1, Sep 14, 2019.

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1. Sep 15, 2019

### Hot Wings

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No, you probably don't. If you can draw a line and a circle using MS Paint you can learn Solidworks from books*, online and by just doing.

I took one college class in SW after using the program for about 3 months on my own with the hope/intent of steepening the learning curve. It didn't. BUT.....

It did show me just how much potential there is in the program that I had no idea existed. That was worth the time and money. From there all you need to do is have a goal or desire to draw something and if you can't figure it out - there is a YouTube to show you how.

I'll also note here that the same thing has happened to SW YouTube videos that has happened to YouTube in general - Finding good video is getting harder and harder due to the increasing volume of junk postings.

* Books. Old school but still one of the best sources of information in existence. Even old texts, like for SW versions a decade or more older, have the same basic information. Much like physics and math the basics haven't changed much over the years.

2. Sep 15, 2019

### lakeracer69

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That is what my post was driving at. Any links to worthwhile online tutorials? I find you tube to be a great resource, and a timewaster all in the same breath. Sifting through ALL the dirt to find some gold.

Tons of videos of everything yet only a few folks that both know their subject, and can teach and articulate it correctly in a video medium.

I would be more inclined to learn a certain CAD program if there was more/better learning resources for that program.

3. Sep 15, 2019

### Jay Kempf

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Type "I want to learn basic modeling in Solidworks" into YouTube and you will get zillions of videos. Once you start to learn the basics you can look for a particular command or task video. This applies to all CAD packages not just SW.

Top down is what blows up models whether you know what you are doing or not. So it is to a certain extent used very sparingly. Building an OML and cutting it up for basic structural planning is a classic top down technique. What I can tell you is that it takes a lot of experience to manage a complex assy with some top down basics at its start. Watching the computer churn through 2G of assembly and references for 10 minutes only to return a bunch of broken geometry is daunting and only the truly experienced are not freaked out and just go about the task of swimming up stream to the broken feature in the broken part. I get paid quite well to manage these things for customers.

Just to get started and feel the power of the 3D virtual prototyping requires getting you hands on any 3D modeler and watching YouTube. You don't need a course or a book. There are hardly any books anymore that are worth anything.

4. Sep 15, 2019

### C Michael Hoover

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I'm the curmudgeon in the corner swearing at the arrogant design team that has now made it impossible for me to figure out how to change the margins on a letter or do the thousands of things I could easily do in the past.

Here, Here! Just upgraded my home office computer to Win 10 and Microsoft Office 2016 and I can't agree with you more. Particularly as my Hanger computer is an old laptop with Office 2003 and my office was Office 2010. Why those arrogant jerks think that change for changes sake is good I do not know. But I do know that it is certainly not good for the competitiveness of the country. Before I retired I was happy to update AutoCAD whenever the new version came out as new features generally helped do things. But when I went to version 2016 and the whole user interface changed my productivity plummeted. I hope that I can just use what I have now until I die and never have to learn another obtuse interface again. But, alas, as I am only 72 and if I succeed in my plan to fly on my 100th birthday, I guess that I am doomed to have to learn yet a few more.

Last edited: Sep 15, 2019
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5. Sep 15, 2019

### AIRCAB

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ViaCad 10 for me has been good value. I like to own my programs and files.

6. Sep 15, 2019

### gtae07

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That's me, too.

When I was churning out cut files for a waterjet, I didn't need any fancy CAM functionality. I simply dropped flat patterns or 2D views of the part in the "drafting" workbench and manually deleted any lines that wouldn't get cut. Then save as .dxf and send to the waterjet company or put it on a flashdrive and carry back to our machine--the waterjet can import that directly and generate the cut paths.

I started in 3D modeling with Rhino (a surface-only program at the time). When I started working as a co-op, we were using clunky old Catia V4. Both were tedious, with big learning curves.

The first real modern 3D program I used was SolidEdge in "engineering graphics" class in college; then I started working and using Catia V5. And that's where I figured out that the fundamentals of any modern 3D solid CAD program are the same. Sure, the interfaces may be different and different functions might have different names, but they all work off the same basic idea. In Catia, SolidEdge, and SolidWorks (I pick those because I've used them) the basics of building parts is the same--you define curves (usually in 2D), build a shape off that curve, and then modify the shape and graft things onto it. So it doesn't really matter too much which program you use. Pick the one that's most affordable for your situation, and use it. Remember that just because a particular program has a given feature, doesn't mean you have to use it.

The hard part is really learning how to look at an object (or envision one in your head) and figure out how to break that shape down into a series of doable operations. Once you get that, then you learn through experience how to structure your model (in terms of dimensions and order of features) so that you can tweak, modify, reuse, etc. and link that model to your overall assembly.

I've used Catia to generate models of parts for my RV, dropped those parts to flatpatterns, printed them, cut them out, and bent them. And they fit together perfectly. Same with cutting the studs and sheathing for my shop--I modeled the whole thing, cut all the parts to the print, and nailed it up nice and square.

The advantages of parametric 3D programs that can generate 2D prints, as opposed to simple 2D CAD programs, become apparent when you need to make a tweak that shows up in multiple views, or make more views. A few years ago I was tasked with updating a drawing created in an ancient CAD program. I chose to model the part in 3D in Catia and regenerate the drawing. The guy who assigned me the task dropped by a couple hours later and proceeded to lay into me for wasting time "messing with that 3D ****" for a while before looking at my drawing. He then asked me to "draw a section cut right over here, and I'll be back after lunch. Don't let me catch you ****ing around again with 3D--just draw the--" "Ok, here's your section view. What do you need on it?"
*brook trout*
"What do you mean, here it is? How did you do that so fast?"
"I messed around with all that 3D **** earlier. Want another view? Here. And another. Oh, and I can generate dimensions here and here and here. Need an isometric? Here you go."

7. Sep 15, 2019

### flyboy2160

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I've got well over 30,000 hours with SOLIDWORKS. The best, easiest way to learn it is just by working through the free book that comes with it, called 'Getting Started.' It begins with basic concepts such as setting up the toolbars you want and building up a 3D model from 2D control sketches. It includes making drawings, assemblies, patterns, sheet metal, molds, importing and controlling via a spreadsheet, texturing, bill of materials, etc.

Don't let its multiple optional user interfaces and extra commands deter you. After using and being trained on AutoCAD, IDEAS, Pro Engineer, UG, CATIA IV and V, I found SW by far the easiest to learn and to use.

8. Sep 15, 2019

### Vigilant1

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I am a big fan of YouTube videos--the folks who volunteer their time to make 'em (or companies that post them) are doing schlubs like me a big service. For example, I saved hours a few years ago in replacing a speed sensor on my old Honda Odyssey thanks to tips in a private YouTube video.
I've already run across some apparently good video tutorial series for use with Fusion 360.
This basic series looks like a good one--slow enough and in bite-size chunks: "Learn Fusion 360 or Die Trying"
This basic Fusion 360 tutorial series by Lars Christienson is sponsored by the company that makes the program, so at least the info should be accurate:

After I've got the basic down, I'd like to find a tutorial I can use as a structure for modeling an airplane. I'm looking for videos by someone who knows about airplane design: I don't want to end up with a model of something that >looks< like an airplane, but which can't be of real use throughout the design/modification/build process. My plan is to first review the very helpful posts made over the years by FritzW, Jay Kempf, gtae07,and many others. These can give me a feel for the proper workflow. An example of some of these starts here with a post by Fritz, and input from many others.
As far as airplane-specific Fusion 360 tutorials, I've run across this Fusion 360 Newbies Plus series on building a model of the Piper Cherokee. It is done by a commercial pilot, but I don't know if he'll get into the structural bits. He starts with drawings of the plane and works from there (tracing the outline), so it's not a perfect approach for someone who isn't starting with a set of drawings. Still, it's a start. This is the overview video where he describes the >planning< for doing the model, and his approach looks good (to my CAD-ignorant eye):
This is the first true tutorial in the series:
I've not spent much time looking at the videos, but it seems to be a step-by-step way to build a model that looks like a plane, but not the internal structure. He's got 12 videos in the series so far. Going this route may save me a lot of time IF I can later incorporate the structure.

Observation: YouTube videos seem like a good way to transfer knowledge about how to use these CAD tools, but still leave something to be desired. Watch video>pause video>toggle to live CAD program>remember what was done in video>try to replicate in live program what was done in video> toggle back to YouTube video and watch a little more, repeat.
It would be a lot faster, more continuous, and less error-prone if the tutorial ran right on top of the live CAD program. For example, an orange "tutorial cursor" I'd follow with my "live" cursor, ongoing audio and text callouts to describe what is being done/reasons for the choices, etc. I'm sure this is not a new idea.

Last edited: Sep 15, 2019
9. Sep 15, 2019

### ScaleBirdsScott

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If you're able to use YouTube type tutorials then there's a lot of resources for both SW and Fusion. I'd say overall there is probably more for Solidworks, but, practically speaking its a wash. Watch a few, see if you follow something better than the others.

I'm still a fan of Autodesk Inventor, and like its workflow for most things better than SolidWorks' (also something about the ambient occlusion and other graphical aspects of modern SW is a bit off-putting despite being 'better' than Inventor's) but there aren't any freebie/cheap options to use that unlike with the EAA deal so it's a bit moot for most people.

10. Sep 15, 2019

### Topaz

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See, that's the thing. I want no part of that. I just want to be able to create information (in the form of a drawing, model, whatever) that allows myself or someone else to build the part(s) I've designed. I don't want to have to become a data-integrity specialist just to get that job done.

In my world, it's rather like web versus print. I can do both, but I hate web work because you've got to become a flippin' page-display code expert just to be able to execute a competent piece of work; and the code always seems to find a way to blow up and make the piece unusable. In print, the computer tools (and I'm talking here about Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop) handle all the "code" part and let me handle the "design and production" part. Doing web work is like having to actually read and write raw Postscript page-description code, something I could do once upon a time, but thankfully have been able to blot out from my memory over the years.

I read you guys talking about modeling in today's world and, far from encouraging me to want to try it (again), you're just reinforcing the notion that I ought to just stick to manual drawings and "pretty 'em up in Illustrator" if I want something worthy of publication somewhere. OnShape was the first package I'd tried in a long while that felt like I could possibly be productive in it without having to become a data-integrity specialist on top of simply wanting to "draw a part." But then OnShape seems to be desperately trying to push up-market like all the others, and has priced themselves out of my hands.

And this from a guy that taught himself old-style programming (BASIC, MS QuickBASIC, and FORTRAN 77) from books (no YouTube back then), and spent a fair amount of time on AutoCAD and several early 3D modeler packages, including AutoCAD's early 3D capabilities, GenericCAD, and RayDream. I type this on my left-hand screen as I'm doing a multi-megabyte data-merge in InDesign from a client-supplied dataset to intermediate layouts on my right-hand screen. I'm comfortable working with complexity, provided that is productively part of doing the work.

Rant over. Sorry.

TL;DR: I want to do the work, not debug computer code.

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11. Sep 15, 2019

### stanislavz

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Which one of mentioned software allow composite parts static dynamic load modeling ? I am using free and online skyciv for simple beams. But it is no go for thinng -out section or smilar..

12. Sep 15, 2019

### gtae07

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I wouldn't argue that proper modeling for an integrated assembly is anything like debugging code. I've done some Matlab and Basic coding, and you don't really have to do anything like that. It actually has a lot more in common with properly dimensioning a part--if anything, a lot of it is properly dimensioning your parts, because drawing a sketch and dimensioning it is how you create a lot of your features. It also has a lot in common with producing a physical part; someone with a grasp of proper dimensioning and an ability to think in terms of "how am I going to build this" tends to naturally do a lot better at proper model construction than someone who can just make pretty pictures. If you lay out your model the same way you'd lay it out when building it for real, it tends to work better.

Even properly modeling simple parts is like that (because you don't have to make everything an integrated and interconnected assembly--in fact, my employer doesn't allow that, because we don't want one change somewhere unknowingly affecting everything else). The big power of parametric 3D modeling is that you don't have to erase and redraw everything if you want to change something.

For example, take a simple bracket like this:

If you drew this bracket in a traditional 2D-style or "dumb" 3D program like Catia V4, and then decided you needed to make a leg longer, you'd have to mostly erase the leg and outboard hole, and redraw it all. Want to make the bracket wider, and you'd have to erase the edges and redraw them.

In a parametric model, you'd simply change the dimension for the length of the leg and it would redraw itself. Same for the width dimension.

The difference between properly and improperly drawing a model would mainly be in how you dimensioned the holes--did you dimension one from the corner and the other from the end of the leg, or did you chain dimension the second hole off the first? Did you dimension them off one edge or did you lock them to the middle of the leg? Both approaches can work, depending on your design intent, but one approach keeps the end hole near the end and both holes centered on the leg, and the other keeps the holes the same distance apart and offset to one side. What's really neat, and what can really help you understand proper dimensioning, is you can sketch up a profile and dimension some features, then drag the other features around and watch it adjust on the fly.

They're poor analogies, but think vector graphics vs. MSPaint. Or like working with Word and setting up "styles" vs. manually formatting each block of text. It's a bit more work up front... but as soon as you have to change something, the extra work is worth it.

Again, the time and effort savings of actually using even just a part of the functionality is incredible. The RV part I referred to above was actually a four-part assembly consisting of a folded sheetmetal box (3 parts) with mounting flanges, and a shallow "scoop" for the inside of a NACA-esque duct. Trying to just knock one out with no drawing may be easy to some but I can't do it. Laying it out by hand would be a lot of tedium and hand figuring. Drawing it in Catia took 10 minutes, dropping and printing flat patterns took 2 more. They assembled fit perfectly, no tedious hand redrawing or bend allowance and setback calculating required. I probably spent more time looking for the tools to bend them than I did on the drawing part.

13. Sep 15, 2019

### SVSUSteve

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Fusion 360 also is one of the least user friendly interfaces I have ever encountered.

14. Sep 15, 2019

### Vigilant1

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Did you find a CAD program that you liked?

15. Sep 15, 2019

### SVSUSteve

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Not yet. I am tempted to just stick with pencil and paper design (thankfully, I took drafting classes in high school). The only drawback is not being able to use some of the features of a CAD program to do structural analysis.

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16. Sep 15, 2019

### Hephaestus

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It's not that bad, it's just very Autodesk... Which if you come from SW or Catia or one of the other suites it feels different. Those of us who have been using Autodesk since the DOS era it feels like home.

I prefer inventor, but fusion's starting to even replace inventor on many tasks.

For an all-in-one package it's pretty unbeatable. Especially with the improvements to FEA lately.

Being able to go straight into a cam environment, is a godsend, and it's a decent one - not the hacked up add-on like the sketchup versions some RC guys still prefer. That can be a multi thousand dollar savings for some.

17. Sep 15, 2019

### SVSUSteve

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Yeah, I am coming from no experience with any other CAD system. My only experience is with Sketchup if you want to give it way more credit that it deserves; it's a CAD system only in the sense of "Can't Actually Design **** on it".

I just found Fusion 360 to be temperamental and not user friendly. Literally the only thing I miss is that I can't analyze a design but with the difficulty of getting even a basic layout on the thing, I doubt it would have rendered anything useful without my spending that next three years futzing around with the "tutorials" and practicing making bolts and flanges. I just cannot see how I could make any progress on my design using it since I would have to more or less learn system specific computer programming in addition to the actual engineering of an aircraft.

18. Sep 15, 2019

### Hot Wings

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If we have given the impression that you have to be a data-integrity specialist to use SW ;then we haven't done a very good job of promoting that platform.

If you want to use SW the old school way:
*basic bolt pattern for say an axle flange that is the same on the gear stub, the brake backing plate and the wheel pant*

You can still sketch the the bolt pattern on some scratch paper and redraw it every time for the next part. I did that in the beginning but it takes time so I only did that for a couple of weeks.
The next step is to copy and paste the basic drawing into the new part. That still takes time, but it works and is simple.
The next step is to build the gear leg, make a second, simple solid body that has the axle flange bolt pattern and then "insert into a new part" as the base. This way if you need to change the bolt pattern, you just change it on one sketch and all the rest of the child parts get updated. This is were things start to get complex and "blow up". But you don't need to use this functionality to get a significant advantage over paper and pencil.

I spent about a half an hour the other night trying to figure out why SW wouldn't let me modify any dimensions and kept thinking I wanted to input a formula for the dimension. Turns out the num lock was on and I didn't notice. That kind of frustration we didn't get from a T-square, unless it wasn't square. If the new guy figured that out by noon they were probably a keeper.

This was my best friend back in the 4H days:

I still have one but don't use it much......

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19. Sep 15, 2019

### Topaz

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I understand the advantages, I think. I've followed along (in industry rags) and played with OnShape enough that I "get" the advantages of parametrics and "instance" modelling - very similar to "symbols" in Illustrator, in that you make at thing once and then put "instances" of it wherever you need that piece. Changing the "source" piece also changes all the instances, at least in Illustrator. Am I getting that right? And parametrics seems like magic for someone used to pencil and paper.

But I fully understand and agree with Steve's point as well: I don't want to have to learn an entirely new discipline just to draw the parts for my airplane, when I already have "manual" drafting skills. If I were someone who had time to join in on the "Maker" movement, well, yeah, the advantages of modeling, coupled with the realities of modern CAM, are very attractive. But I don't have time for that, and I don't see that changing for the next few years.

And Jay's comment still stands, and I've seen something of that myself in my flailing efforts to learn OnShape. All of a sudden the part or some of the tools don't work like you want or expect, and you've got to backtrack to some unknowing error you made fifty operations ago.

Add to all of this is the fact that something like Fusion 360 is yet another "subscription model" payment plan, and about $40/month even with a three-year subscription. That's almost as much as Adobe Creative Cloud, which I can at least write off on my taxes as a professional expense. I can't afford to throw$500 a year on something I'll use on one big project, but twice or three times a year in general. Is the copy of Solidworks available through an EAA membership more "standalone"? How does that work, in terms of payment?

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20. Sep 15, 2019

### Vigilant1

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As I understand it, Fusion 360 is free of any fees for a "Start-up/hobbyist license."
From the web site:
According to an earlier post, the annual renewal appears to consist of a re-affirmation that the user still meets the requirements.

I'm not sure which is more likely to endure long term: EAA's arrangement with Dassault for the free Solidworks for EAA members or the offer by Autodesk for free Fusion 360 for tinkerers. I suppose either could go away with little notice.

This doesn't address your main point: Is the work/time needed to learn this software worth it for those designing one airplane? Or is it like building an atomic bomb to kill an ant?

Last edited: Sep 15, 2019