Jun 13, 2018

Fusion 360 vs Inventor – CAD Software Compared

Fusion 360 vs Inventor: What are they, how do they compare, and which one should you use? Find out what makes these CAD platforms from Autodesk unique.

Fusion 360 vs Inventor Overview

Where would we be without Autodesk? Source: POBonline.com

Computer-aided design (or CAD) software is crucial in the creation of many modern products. It’s used to create digital 3D models that can, with the help of 3D printers, be turned into the real thing. CAD software comes in all shapes and sizes, but Fusion 360 and Inventor are among the most popular, especially among engineers and 3D printing hobbyists. Though both packages come from the same company, Autodesk, there’s a clear difference between the two and the purposes they serve.

Autodesk Inventor has been on the market for nearly 20 years since it was first released in 1999. A competitor to also-popular SolidWorks, Inventor features powerful parametric, freeform, and direct modeling tools. From first draft to simulations and stress tests, it’s got you covered. Reliable and consistent, it’s used by professional companies worldwide for engineering and mechanical purposes.

Autodesk Fusion 360 is a much newer player to the game, first released in 2013. Fusion stores all files exclusively in the cloud, connected to your user account, one of its main selling points. Like Inventor, it also features parametric, freeform, and direct modeling, covering most of the same operations. However, Fusion 360 has a sleeker, modernistic look and an easier learning curve.

Read on to find out the key differences and similarities between Fusion 360 vs Inventor.

Fusion 360 vs Inventor System Requirements

Switching between computers is easy with Fusion 360 Source: freestocks.org

If you’re an exclusive Mac user, Fusion 360 is probably your best choice.

Autodesk Inventor runs only on Windows operating systems, while Fusion 360 runs on both Windows and Mac OS. With Fusion, it’s also easy to switch between different computers, since all you have to do is log into your Autodesk account.

You can still run Inventor on a Mac computer — it just hast to be on a Windows partition, which you can read more about here.

Memory-wise, Inventor soaks up more RAM, recommending 20GB and requiring a minimum of 8GB. Fusion, on the other hand, recommends 4GB. This is mostly because Inventor is built for projects with hundreds or even thousands of parts (for example, a car), which definitely needs a beefier computer.

Fusion 360 vs Inventor Pricing

With Inventor, you get what you pay for Source: Olga DeLawrence

Fusion 360 vs Inventor: Fusion 360 costs less.

  • Annual Inventor subscription – $1,935
  • Annual Fusion 360 Ultimate subscription – $1,535
  • Annual Fusion 360 subscription – $310

Both software packages are bought on a subscription basis, with monthly and yearly prices. As you can see, either is a hefty investment, which is why Autodesk offers a free 30-day trial for both (Fusion and Inventor).

What’s the difference between Fusion 360 Ultimate and plain old Fusion 360? The Ultimate version unlocks some very cool features for advanced simulation, manufacturing, and generative design (fuller comparison here). Unless you’re working in the industry, however, you probably won’t ever need these. 

For students and educators, we’ve got you covered. Autodesk offers a free 3-year educational license for both Fusion and Inventor (along with other software packages).

Most readers should also qualify for Fusion 360’s ‘startup’ license, which lets you use the platform for a year for non-commercial purposes or for startups earning less than $100,000 annually.

Fusion 360 vs Inventor Storage and Sharing

Something cool modeled in Inventor Source: CAD Setter Out

Fusion is based on the cloud. Connected with your Autodesk account, all files, models, and projects are stored and saved online. That means you can easily share a model or folder with others, much like with Google Drive. This also means you can work on files on your desktop at home as well as with your laptop on the go.

With Inventor, there are definitely some options to export projects, but in a less automatic way. Files are stored on your hard disk, but the advantage here is that you don’t have to rely on an internet connection.

Not to worry, Fusion 360 still works great offline. You’ll just have to wait to sync models to your cloud account.

Fusion 360 vs Inventor Ease of Use

Something cool modeled in Fusion 360 Source: Wistia

While Fusion 360 has a gentler learning curve for beginners, Inventor has a few crucial aspects that make it much easier to work with more complex models. In the following we compare Fusion 360 vs Inventor based on four aspects of usability.

  • Scalability. Inventor organizes all your measurements and parts into neat lists, making it easy to make specific changes even when you have hundreds of parts. In Fusion, large models can be a nightmare to work with, especially when one simple change creates chaos among other parts.
  • Manufacturing-focused features. Many parts of Inventor are geared to the industrial world, while Fusion targets more casual hobbyists. For example, creating a screw in Fusion has just a few standard types to choose from. Perfect for newbies, who might feel lost using Inventor, where there’s a whole host of customization options. For professionals, though, it’s just the thing they need.
  • Simulation. Though both offer environments to test out your model against stressors, Inventor has more detailed ones to cover a larger range of tests. 
  • Workflow. Users consistently agree that for those who know how to use it, Inventor is better at getting things built fast. Autodesk does their best to automate as many actions as possible so you don’t have to click around to specify what you want, saving time along the way.

Fusion 360 vs Inventor Conclusion

Splash screens, side by side Source: SmackTalk

Fusion 360 and Inventor are siblings in many respects. Most any model made in Fusion 360 can technically also be created in Inventor, and vice versa. However, they’re clearly made for different audiences. 

Fusion works well for casual users and hobbyists. It’s cheaper, lighter, sleeker, and easier to pick up (not to mention looks better too). There’s definitely enough complexity and detail to get a model on the table, but not so much that users are overwhelmed by jargon and features they’ll never use.

Inventor is the best option for serious professionals. It’s well-backed by years of experience and use, familiar to the manufacturing world, and a beast by many standards. You really get what you pay for – it can handle complicated and specific details as well as any number of parts you throw at it.

Autodesk has done a great job with these software packages, delivering to a wide variety of users. So, what are you waiting for? Download a program and get modelling!

License: The text of "Fusion 360 vs Inventor – CAD Software Compared" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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