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

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Topaz

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...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....
Seems like you're in a good position to learn some CAD system, then. You've got the time, there are seemingly at least two very good currently-"free" options out there. Which brings us to...

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...
The two major choices are interesting. Practical matters aside, I'm interested in re-learning a CAD system, which explains my earlier interest in OnShape. Even if I really don't have the time for it. Hope springs eternal. LOL. For my benefit, and hopefully also for yours, Vigilant1, I wonder if those of you familiar with these systems might expand on their pros and cons a bit.

From the discussion so far, it sounds like Fusion 360's "edge" is focused around the fact that it's a full CAD/CAM package, so if you're running CNC tools in your own shop, you don't need anything else. It also includes some structural analysis tools, built-in. Is that a fair assessment?

Solidworks seems to have the larger community, and the more-extensive self-training "network," on YouTube, for example. It might lack built-in CAM support, to drive home CNC equipment. But if I'm understanding correctly, the EAA-available version of Solidworks is also a stand-alone program, not cloud-based, and the version you get now might still work down the road, even if you don't buy upgrades (it's not a subscription business model)? Is that a fair assessment?

What are some points upon which someone like Vigilant1, myself, or anyone else might base a decision between these two options?
 
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Hot Wings

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the EAA-available version of Solidworks is also a stand-alone program, not cloud-based, and the version you get now might still work down the road, even if you don't buy upgrades (it's not a subscription business model)? Is that a fair assessment?
I've not downloaded the EAA version. SW may may have changed it's policies over the years............
When I took the one college class I bought the student version. It was the FULL available version, just had a watermark on the files. It was stand alone and would have run until MS changed the OS enough that it wouldn't. I didn't use it much because it was a version ahead of the class version and I couldn't use files generated at home in class due to backward compatibility. I also had some problems with it corrupting non student files with student watermarks. It was deleted long ago!

I'm still using SW 2012 and it does more than I'll be able to learn. I won't ever go to a cloud based program unless I'm forced to because there is no other option....or I need the computing power for a paying project.
 

flyboy2160

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...What are some points upon which someone like Vigilant1, myself, or anyone else might base a decision between these two options?
You dudes can do whatever you want, but I would stay away from something that runs or stores in the Cloud. If you end up with a large, complicated model, you'll see the lag in response unless you have a really fast connection. It would like the Gamers whining about the lag in TV response time. I got game killed because my TV is too slow!!!

If possible, I'd also stay away from subscriptions. You never know when they'll jack up the price.

I'm also leery of the free EAA Solidworks going away. SOLIDWORKS was started by ex-ProE guys who undercut ProE pricing by a lot. They touted their business model of big-time CAD for Mom and Pop shops for a very reasonable perpetual license price for $3995. Now they have changed to a subscription only deal of over $1000/year. Thus, I'm keeping my perpetual seat . (You can legally install it on 2 computers.)

Integrated CAM is overrated. Most programs will export what's needed or there are add ins to link CAM.

Integrated FEA is also overrated. I have it at home and have tried it at work, but almost never use it. I make a copy of the 3D model for use with FEA so that I can tweak it without being linked to the rest of the assembly. Once it's good, I can save that model back into the assembly.

If you use the free step-by-step book that comes with SW, it's very easy to learn.
 

flyboy2160

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I haven't really used it (I tried it for the free trial), but a friend of mine is doing a plane with 3D Alibre and loves it. I believe you can buy a perpetual seat. If I couldn't get a perpetual seat of SW, I'd use this. Note all the big-time users they tout on the web page.

https://www.alibre.com
 
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PiperCruisin

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You can get some higher-end product for startups.

I've also been looking into this. If I was going to seriously pursue something, one of my top choices would be Siemens Solid Edge because they have a lot of options (startup, monthly, yearly, or perpetual). They also have Femap and NX Nastran and plays well with JT files.

If your project is a one-off, you could probably get by just fine with 2D and/or some engineering paper and pencil. Maybe start off with OpenVSP and/or XFLR5 to conceptualize it and for some initial calculations.
 

Jay Kempf

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Alibre is always worth following. Haven't looked in a while but it was targeted at being a full version of SW for $1000 instead of $5k plus mandatory maintenance packages. It was founded by and ex SW guy and an ex PROe guy. They were trying to get those two feature sets blended so they could attract away all the mid level dabblers that only needed basic parametrics without all the bells and whistles. In truth most of use only about 5% of the base package functionality. Lots of the features are marketing features that don't really pan out.

If Alibre has stepped up their advanced surfacing game might be a great solution. Same with OnShape. One being stand alone and the other being cloud based yearly subscription. I'll always take the stand alone if I can.

FreeCAD is also worth following. For aircraft it all boils down to booleans and surfacing then stability, then usability.

Oh and PS, Rhino for $99 on Ebay is not legit. Our beloved ex mod Bill Husa loved Rhino because it was easy to use and made aero surfaces quickly with little learning curve. He was able to use that to communicate 3D and unwrapped 2D to CNC subcontrators and the shop to make anything.
 

FritzW

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Solidworks has, I know, a lot of far-reaching functions that perhaps Fusion 360 might lack, such as structural analysis and so on, but some of those features may not be included in the "free" package that belonging to the EAA entitles you to use?
The free package (don't quote me) probably has the "Xpress" version of all the bells and whistles, or will let you download them. The Xpress version is the "light" version but it's more power than most of us will ever use.

It (SW) might also lack built-in CAM support, to drive home CNC equipment.
There are several CNC and additive manufacturing packages for SW. I've got HSM Xpress, the Xpress version of HSM Works. HSM Express is free and does great job. I use standalone CAM software because, for me, it's easier to setup cookie sheets to cut a bunch of parts from a sheet of ply.

But if I'm understanding correctly, the EAA-available version of Solidworks is also a stand-alone program, not cloud-based, and the version you get now might still work down the road, even if you don't buy upgrades
The EAA version of SW "dies" when your EAA membership expires. ...until you verify that your EAA membership is current. Even if the EAA program goes away you can still get the student version pretty easily.

What are some points upon which someone like Vigilant1, myself, or anyone else might base a decision between these two options?
IMO the sun may be setting on SW. They're suffering from "too big to fail" syndrome.
(more opinion) 360's cloud based, subscription system is a deal breaker for a lot of serious users. You have to put all your eggs in someone else's basket.

Play with both of them if you can, at least check them both out on youtube. But when you start a serious project, even a humble sized project like the Ranger, your pretty much committed.
 

flyboy2160

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Alibre is always worth following. Haven't looked in a while but it was targeted at being a full version of SW for $1000 instead of $5k plus mandatory maintenance packages...
Yes! They did to SOLIDWORKS what SOLIDWORKS did to ProE. (The SW maintenance packages were not mandatory. I was told by a SW rep that they changed to the current deal because some users would go several years without maintenance, then upgrade to the latest version by just paying a single year of maintenance.)
 

Hot Wings

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Our beloved ex mod Bill Husa loved Rhino because it was easy to use and made aero surfaces quickly with little learning curve.
Back when I started down this path I bought Rhino due to this recommendation. I tried. I made the little rubber ducky intro and really gave it a fair chance. I still have the software (the student version back then automatically would convert to commercial - perpetual) but I don't use it. It's just not compatible with the way I think and I never was comfortable or productive with it.

SW on the other hand just fits. I build parts in SW pretty much the same way I would build the part in the shop.

Point of all this? Not every CAD program fits every person. Try some free Demos and see what fits your thinking pattern.
 

flyboy2160

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The free package (don't quote me) probably has the "Xpress" version of all the bells and whistles, or will let you download them. The Xpress version is the "light" version but it's more power than most of us will ever use.....
The last time I checked, the light versions of FEA and CFD sucked. The restraints and maybe the number of elements are limited. They don't run assemblies.
 

flyboy2160

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...SW on the other hand just fits. I build parts in SW pretty much the same way I would build the part in the shop.....Point of all this? Not every CAD program fits every person. Try some free Demos and see what fits your thinking pattern.
I totally agree. Sometimes the logic of the CAD program writer just seems bizarre - CATIA IV being the worst I've seen. It was enough to make me hate all of France.
 

Jay Kempf

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Me three. SW just works and plays well on a Windows machine, works the way your designer brain works. Surfacing has gotten really good.

Express Fluid Flow in SW is limited to not much and only internal flows. So the only way to get a virtual wind tunnel is to make a HUGE pipe and put your tiny airplane in the middle of it. Express FEA is a little better but very limited but more than good enough to do simple parts and to learn.

Fusion 360 CAM is HSM Works which is owned by Autodesk now.
 

BJC

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Also FWIW: You don’t need any special drafting skills to capture your design for your build. Free-hand drawings are more than adequate. If you don’t want to use a drafting table, get some cross-ruled drawing paper, either in 1/10” or 1/8”, whichever you think in. See https://www.officesupply.com/office-supplies/paper-pads/notebooks-pads-filler-paper/quadrille-pads/tops-cross-section-pads-quadrille-rule-white-sheets/p54209.html?ref=pla&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&adpos=1o3&scid=scplp54209&sc_intid=54209&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI6drp8ebV5AIVDYTICh3vkAvFEAQYAyABEgJglfD_BwE

The airfoil deserved a reasonably accurate rendition, assuming that you are not planning to have advanced sailplane-like performance. That is easily accomplished with patience and persistence, and a French curve.

This is not intended to discourage you, or anyone else, from learning and or using CAD. It is intended to convey the idea that, for a one-off with design of moderate airspeeds and performance, most of us would be better off spending the time that it would take to learn CAD on engineering education and design calculations.

As always, YMMV.


BJC
 

FritzW

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How many people are going to start their design work in the next few weeks or months anyway? ...probably zero

If you want to learn CAD, learn it. You've got time before you actually start designing an airplane. If your a pencil kind of guy, keep making your sketches while you look into weather or not you want to go the CAD route. If you decided to go with CAD you'll already have the hard part done (the idea).

While your learning you can make lots of quick "eye candy" models (it's really fast, look at the 21 century VP thread or the Piojo and Ranger threads). You learn a lot AND you get the basic configuration nailed down. When your happy with it, just start fleshing out the details (top down design).
 

ScaleBirdsScott

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Learning 3D CAD now is also a skill with many knock on benefits. Need to 3D print some widget for a project, or maybe one of the kids? Draw it up and send it to Shapeways. Or buy a cheap 3D printer and have some fun with it. I've had a lot of fun making little tanks and rockets and so-on and printing them out. Made a lot of custom paintball gear.

And that's just one aspect.
 

Topaz

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Learning 3D CAD now is also a skill with many knock on benefits. Need to 3D print some widget for a project, or maybe one of the kids? ...
My stepdaughter is now 22, and since her generation would single-handedly solve the world's problems if we "old people" would just get out of the way, and since nothing from my generation is still relevant, she has little need of any widgets I might produce. Still seems to need cash somehow, now and again, but I don't think I can produce that legally with 3D or even 2D printing. ;)

Ah, to be young again, when everything was so "simple" and the solutions were so "obvious." :rolleyes:
 
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