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

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#### Topaz

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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.
Thank you for that. I had only gone to their "Subscribe" page, and didn't see any link to other pricing plans.

#### ScaleBirdsScott

##### Well-Known Member
Modeling in 3D for something like an airplane is simple if you learn the fundamentals of the system properly. For an airplane, think of how you would draw all the loft sections of the fuselage or wing, now imagine just making those lofts on paper that is floating in space where those shapes need to be. Each "sketch" is like a 2D drawing you would do by hand and you think of the construction in nominally the same way: set an origin, create points or shapes, give them dimensions or constraints based on geometric relationships you want to maintain.

Then link those sketches via lofts, or extrusions. Suddenly the 10 loft sections become a single body and boom.

The upside is then you could go in and re-define the nominal fuselage tube dia from 30" to 35" and see how that affects the design. If you are not too experienced you would have to go in and maybe fix 5-6 bulkhead sketches by hand. If you setup some kind of geometric constraints early, maybe the diameter of all loft sections are based off a master sketch so changing the one dimension updates all of the sections.

Ultimately I'd argue that if you can look at a pile of cross section drawings and know how that would work in 3D space... Just use that same thinking in 3D CAD.

I don't do any programming and so the closest thing to "programming" in CAD for most people is setting up a complex series of dimensional interrelationships between various elements ts so that you are getting better geometry and easier to update models.

Of course those do sometimes break so yes there is some trick to getting a feel for what the computer is expecting and how it reacts and predicting when your change will compute and when you're breaking those relationships and will need to repair them. I'm not going to say it's always obvious. But it's not required to use that sort of higher level of relationships on parts. You can do a lot just stick-shifting it and tweaking by hand. Sometimes that's all you can do.

#### Jay Kempf

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Fusion 360 is free. It isn't that bad an interface. It has an AutoCAD like interface where you select things in some weird way and then do something to the selection. Comes from the map making world. GIS systems. Other than that I have found it quite useful. I could certainly figure out how to make it work. We recently had to learn Siemens NX12 for a project. STEEP learning curve but CAD is like languages, once you learn one you can suffer through others more easily.

If you all wish to hold your vendetta against 3D I feel sorry for you. Virtual prototyping is not a fluke. It isn't a fad. It exists because it makes the task of visualizing a complex design much easier. We that use it suffered through pencils and paper, mechanical setup of machining, 2D drafting, 3D design at the beginning of computers. Now it is a wonderful world. Very nice for the creative machine designer. Those things you miss in 2D you don't miss in 3D. Complicated things that you cannot even visualize in 2d or without dynamics are easy now.

But to each his own. I'll stay on my side of the fence.

#### Hot Wings

##### Well-Known Member
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Is the copy of Solidworks available through an EAA membership more "standalone"? How does that work, in terms of payment?

I get the lack of time. Been there, still climbing out of the last hole "life" left me.

Yes, SW is stand alone, no cloud needed. For me the cloud is just a place to backup encrypted files and transfer large files, if I don't care that they are looked at. I haven't downloaded the EAA version so I can't say if it's stand alone of of parts of it need to run back to mama.

Even if all you want is 2D the free version of SW is the place to start. You can draw everything is pure 2D (and you have 3 planes for superimposed 3 views) then print the result without ever making a single part in 3D. That part is as simple as any 2D cad program. Layers are as simple as starting another sketch on the same plane.

Examples:
3D parts from a parent with 2 2D sketches. You don't need the 3D part to generate the sketches - I just had this up on the computer now..........

2D print from the top view

You can print this SW native with nice formatting and titles or transfer it to another program via JPG/TIF

Edit:
Those little construction lines in the "V" sections? Great time savers. Put them in set the vertical one to a mid point and then tell SW to make all of the HZ lines "=". Instant even divisions of the "Vs" and you get the exact dimension and spacing with ZERO calculator work.

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#### Topaz

##### Super Moderator
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...If you all wish to hold your vendetta against 3D I feel sorry for you. ...
"Vendetta" is a very strong word to be used here, especially if you're applying it to me. I've acknowledged the benefits and the superiority of modern computer modeling systems. I've questioned whether the learning curve, time investment, and cost are "worth it" for my very limited personal uses for the tools. I said nothing against your use of the tools or anyone else. I'm talking about me, not you. Don't take it personally, or generally, against something that's obviously "worth it" to you, please.

I get the lack of time. Been there, still climbing out of the last hole "life" left me.
Yeah, give me 3-5 years. I may have settled enough complications in my own life to have more time, and time "enough" for more "hobby" efforts.

#### Jay Kempf

##### Well-Known Member
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Well, I get a bit miffed by the pencil and paper people that haven't even tried a new system. It ain't as hard as you all surmise it is.

DesignCAD is $99 and runs on anything you currently have. Has virtually no learning curve and you are in the game with a few videos. Others like Sketchup are free and others here are killing with that package as it evolves into something really useful. So can't have too much of a learning curve. It isn't their day job either. You wish to design airplanes but wish not to use an airplane design tool. I understand that you know graphics art packages. But it isn't showing you knee and shoulder clearance and how your parts fit in. That is the bane of 2D. You miss stuff. Hard for me to understand it isn't a priority. Granted I do it for a living now but I built my first computer when no one was paying me to do it. My current monster 19" rack computer was a$649 purchase and everything else came off of ebay. I taught myself everything and you have resources like me just sitting here. I don't offer that to clients

I don't think that you nay sayers understand that others are following you and you are talking them out of trying.

#### Vigilant1

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I appreciate all the perspectives. I am expecting some frustration and failures as I press ahead, and knowing others have struggled (as I have before) and thrown in the towel (as I have before) will likely be useful. It's sure better than thinking I'm the only person that doesn't enjoy plowing through the learning process of this software or finds it a challenge.

#### Topaz

##### Super Moderator
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Well, I get a bit miffed by the pencil and paper people that haven't even tried a new system. It ain't as hard as you all surmise it is.
Apparently you missed the part in my earlier post where I said that I used to use AutoCAD, GenericCAD, and an artistic/video oriented modeler called RayDream, as well as the fact that I was, until a few months ago, trying to learn OnShape. I'm not entirely ignorant of CAD, both 2D and 3D. Nowhere even in the same universe as your level, by any means, but hardly one who "hasn't even tried."

You wish to design airplanes but wish not to use an airplane design tool. I understand that you know graphics art packages. But it isn't showing you knee and shoulder clearance and how your parts fit in. That is the bane of 2D. You miss stuff.
I'll remind you that the Osprey II, original Glasair, the whole Stolp line, Thorp T-18, Piper Cub, DC-3, P-51, Mosquito, Spitfire, SR-71, the entire Schweizer sailplane line, and any other airplane designed before, say, 1970-73 or so, was also done with paper and pencil. My late father was one of the best mechanical engineers that I've ever had the pleasure to know (and that's not in the least merely offspring rose-lensing) and he worked exclusively with paper and pencil. I would challenge the notion that a CAD system is necessary to do a good job designing an airplane. More efficient, certainly. Faster, debatably, if you include the learning curve of the tool itself. Necessary? No, I don't accept that.

Granted I do it for a living now but I built my first computer when no one was paying me to do it. My current monster 19" rack computer was a $649 purchase and everything else came off of ebay. I taught myself everything and you have resources like me just sitting here. I don't offer that to clients My first computer was a Sinclair ZX81 (in 1981) upon which I taught myself SinclairBASIC programming - to the point that I was writing games and database tools for it that fit (and ran) within its mighty 16k (yes, "k") of RAM, which was an expansion from its "stock" 1k. I built my own machines from roughly the Windows 3.0 days (after a couple of DOS machines) on up until about 15 years ago, when I decided I could get as much "bang for the buck" with a commercial machine without the time and research hassle of doing it myself. I've been doing graphic arts exclusively on a computer since I started this career in 1990, from PageMaker to QuarkXPress to InDesign, and all the associated tools including Photoshop (since v2.08), Illustrator (since version "88", prior to sequential numbering), Freehand (all versions, start to last), and so on. Started doing graphics work on an Apple Mac Plus 128k, and at home on a 386SX-16. I've run everything in-between on up to my current twin-24" screen 64-bit quad-core Windows 10 machine. My "niche" in the graphic arts world is writing custom data-processing tools to translate customer product database outputs into the correct units, presentation, and format so that I can then data-merge that data with custom InDesign layouts that build multi-hundred-page B2B print catalogs in a semi-automated fashion. I'm hardly a confirmed Luddite. I don't think that you nay sayers understand that others are following you and you are talking them out of trying. Again - and I'm restating myself - I'm approaching this from the standpoint of my needs and my projects. I'm not talking anyone out of anything. I've acknowledged that CAD systems can do things that seem "magical" compared to pencil and paper. If someone thinks they're going to get enough use out of CAD software to make it a worthwhile investment, I absolutely encourage them to go forth and do it! But no, you don't need to have a thousand-dollar-a-year CAD package to successfully design and build a homebuilt airplane, nor even a$99 or even free one, nor do you need to spend the time and effort learning to use one for the sole purpose of designing one, especially if you already have manual drafting skills.

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#### Jay Kempf

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OK, I don't feel wounded anymore Not trying to pick apart those that like pencils. I scribble a lot, always have.

I know a bunch of people that work at Onshape who used to work for SW and AutoDesk is all in the same Boston world. I also know that all things before computers were designed without computer. I've been around since the drafting board. Ink on vellum with little caliper things that held a drop of ink to rule out a line. Don't miss them.

As someone who has BT and DT with all the possible tools I would like to advocate that all people run not walk toward something like SketchUp, DesignCAD, Free EAA Solidworks, Free Fusion360, etc... and get in the maker revolution. Don't think an old dawg can't learn new tricks. I am now machining, 3d printing, laser cutting, yadda... Didn't know how to do any of that a couple years back. Just pure tenacity and curiosity run amuck.

Just get one of the free tools and get in the game.

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del

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Taco?

#### poormansairforce

##### Well-Known Member
Just get one of the free tools and get in the game.
I learned Sketchup to design/build a bunch of RC models. Worked great and now I am using it to design my own plane. As Jay mentioned its great to check clearances for knees, head, pedals, pushrods, etc. I would love to do a V tail but might break down and do an Ercoupe tail instead. The beauty is I can draw all the tail groups I want and move them in and out to see a how it looks in 3D. Its rough but for wood or tube and fabric it works and will give me bulk head layouts, etc.

Lana
Rey?

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#### SVSUSteve

##### Well-Known Member
I am now machining, 3d printing, laser cutting, yadda...

Just get one of the free tools and get in the game.
Let’s see....freeing up several months to learn how to make the software do what it is supposed to do or...spending a few weeks with a big *** roll of paper and some pencils and getting on with the build.

I have wasted more than enough time and effort trying to come up with a pretty 3D model to show off before I actually start building. I probably could have built the actual aircraft in the time I have wasted having to try out different software, redo designs because of corruption of files, etc.

If you’re designing something that would rival the performance of a late WWII fighter, yeah, grab some free software and get to it (plus all the fancy equipment to do the stuff mentioned). If you’re designing a point A to point B airplane that isn’t intended to be a world beater, you are probably going to get stuff done faster with pencil and paper.

BJC

#### rotax618

##### Well-Known Member
If you want to draw pretty pictures, use a pencil or graphics design software like blender, if you want to design real world parts that you weld, drill, mill, turn etc. it is worth learning parametric 3D.
I learnt the basics of Fusion over 2 weeks of evenings, I no longer use Fusion because I don’t trust the generosity of Autodesk to continue, I have been using Freecad to design all of my 3D printed parts and have designed a CNC which I am in the process of building.
Freecad doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of Fusion but it is a very capable parametric 3D modelling program. I tried it some time back, and at that time it was buggy and lacking some function, but the latest iterations are stable and capable, it includes a large number of “workbenches” for 2D - 3D design and CAM covering a large number of disciplines, mechanical, sheetmetal, architectural, ship design and many others.
It costs nothing and is well worth learning.

#### Vigilant1

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It is surprising that there's no useful intermediate position between pencils and full-up, megappwerful take-a-few-months-to-learn-the-basics 3D CAD. I would have expected someone would have a very intuitive, stripped down package, maybe with some starter templates/libraries of structures that could be modified without learning an entire new vocabulary. Not something for engineering a lunar module, but much simpler things.
I'm not saying SW or Fusion 360 is just too steep a climb (I haven't given them an honest try yet). But the package I did try that was billed as "simple" (SketchUp) was not simple for me. Maybe it's not possible to make a 3D CAD equivalent of "MS Paint."

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#### ScaleBirdsScott

##### Well-Known Member
Well, three dimensions does literally add a whole new dimension of complexity to the process. It comes down to, well, needing the tools and 'language' to do the features you want in that extra dimension, and to do so with control and accuracy. You can start with primitives, OK, cool. You have a cube. Now what? start wanting to do stuff to it and suddenly you need a whole mess of different tools and processes for making anything more complex than, well, those primitives. It's a matter of if you just want the 3D equivalent of MS paint you aren't getting anything close to 3D CAD, just like 2D MS paint is leagues removed from 2D CAD.

The real problem with a lot of the "easy" 3D modeling, like say TinkerCAD, is that it's so stripped down and devoid of features and holds your hand so much that it's very hard to actually do anything with it, and will be difficult to unlearn all that when you want to step into more detailed design. I try to do anything with those programs and I find it utterly mind-boggling. Like an experienced pilot getting on the kids pedal plane and trying to figure out how to take off. And that's just it: you can't take off with those simple versions.

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#### rotax618

##### Well-Known Member
3D design rarely starts with primitives but with a 2D constrained sketch which is either padded, extruded or rotated. The workflow becomes very intuitive after a little practice, changes to the basic part are accomplished using sketches on faces or workplanes which are either extruded or pocketed.
You don’t have to be Albert Einstein to learn to use a 3D Cad system, all it takes is patience and a few youtube or web instructions, as I said FreeCad is a good absolutely free open parametric 3D package.

#### Vigilant1

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This has been a very useful thread--thanks to all, your further contributions are sought.
I've decided I'm going to give CAD a try. I've been thinking about it for years and the nagging impulse won't leave, so giving it an honest go will be the best way to determine I hate it or maybe wind up with something I can really use.
Bold added below:
If someone thinks they're going to get enough use out of CAD software to make it a worthwhile investment, I absolutely encourage them to go forth and do it! But no, you don't need to have a thousand-dollar-a-year CAD package to successfully design and build a homebuilt airplane, nor even a $99 or even free one, nor do you need to spend the time and effort learning to use one for the sole purpose of designing one, especially if you already have manual drafting skills. That's one of the factors in my decision: I have no true manual drafting skills, or even digital drawing skills with which I could "make do." So, if I ever want to have something more than what a 4th grader could sketch out on the back of his homework paper, I'll need to learn something. This will make a good wintertime project (hopefully winter of 2019-2020!)--from now until then I can finalize the software decision and then get the right hardware (thanks GeeZee, I'll check out the available used stuff). I'll buckle down for 3-4 weeks of a few hours per day and then decide it it is worth pursuing. From what I've read here, I should know within about 50-60 hours of screen time if it is for me. Maybe it will be like learning to play the piano or speak Russian--something I once wanted to do, but I now accept that I'll never do them (no regrets, either--a conscious decision that I have better ways to spend my hours). Software: There appears to be no clear standout for my particular case/use. SW and Fusion 360 can both be used for free--until something changes. Both have robust online tutorials and forums. SW's association with EAA has resulted in quite a lot of aircraft-design related tutorials, content, and expertise, which could be very useful to me. And it appears a lot of folks here are familiar with SW, and Fusion 360, too. I'll also be examining escape routes I can use if SW or Fusion 360 change their policies. If I get semi-proficient and the tool is useful, I won't mind paying a modest fee, but if it gets crazy I'll look for a way to escape the asylum and buy a license for something stand alone (even if it is more modest--DesignCAD?). That obviously becomes especially attractive if I can migrate the work I've done to the new standalone software. FreeCAD: I'm sure many people are finding it very useful. When I looked at the support forum, most of the discussion is about the tool itself (... the kernal now runs fine inside the Python gymnifratz, but the hypertonation of version .26672 is interefering with the fix implemented in v .26618 . . .). I want to design an airplane. FWIW: DesignCad 3d Max is now$130.

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