Top AutoDesk Software in 2020: AutoCAD, Fusion 360, Inventor and Revit

  • Four of the main programs developed by Autodesk are AutoCAD, Fusion 360, Inventor and Revit
  • AutoCad is known mainly for its prowess in 2D drafting
  • Fusion 360 is a cloud-based freeform modelling cost effective program for hobbyists
  • Inventor is a complex 3D modelling program used by engineering and mechanical companies
  • Revit is a 4D modelling program and is specifically for the design of buildings

AutoCAD

The CAD in AutoCAD stands for Computer Aided Design, and this program is exactly that, a computer aided design and drafting application. AutoCAD was created by Autodesk, a company that “builds software that helps people imagine, design, and make a better world.”

AutoCAD is known as the one of the most widely used tools in the world across a variety of industries by engineers, architects, and many other professionals for a whole host of applications. The software enables the design and communication of designs with others, nowadays all structures that are built are constructed virtually on some form of CAD software. AutoCAD is the trusted program for many in this case.

AutoCAD was built and released by Autodesk in December 1982, and can run on the Windows and Macintosh (Mac) platforms. It can draw in 2D and 3D and has many features and capabilities:

  • Collaboration with other AutoCAD users is possible over the internet
  • Geometry can be viewed at different scales
  • Modify and draw structures with accuracy
  • Precise dimensions and text can be drawn with ease
  • Projects can be set up with different colours, styles and layers
  • Various layouts can be printed (or plotted as it referred to in AutoCAD)

Fusion 360

AutoDesk Fusion 360 is a CAD/CAM tool that is cloud-based and allows collaborative product development. This program combines mechanical engineering, some industrial design and the programming of machine tools into one application.

It is aimed at “hobbyists”, allows the precise design of models in 2D and 3D and gives the user the ability to:

  • Animate objects
  • Prepare CAD models for CNC machining
  • Render designs
  • Simulate loads on a design

Free Fusion 360 licenses

Free licenses can be acquired if you qualify, as a hobbyist, student or entrepreneur! So, if you are doing  home-based, non-commercial design, manufacturing, and fabrication projects, create YouTube videos, you can get a free Fusion 360 license. Autodesk also offers free Educational licences. Businesses from small to large also use the software, for the initial design phase and then on to prototyping, using the array of features Fusion 360 offers that include CAD, Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) and Computer Aided Engineering (CAE).

The interface has a learning curve somewhat and will take some time to become accustomed to, but once one is familiar with the commands the design is limited only by the user’s imagination itself. It also allows effortless transfer from one device to another as all project files are saved online, and this in turn makes the sharing of project files very easy.

Inventor

Autodesk Inventor is another CAD program that includes 3D solid modelling application that features simulation, mechanical design, visualization, tool creation and documentation. It only runs on the Windows operating system and was initially released in September 1999.

Similar to Fusion 360, it is used to create digital prototypes of a product before any manufacturing is started. It can create accurate 3D models which aid in the design, visualization and simulation process before any physical object is created.

Inventor has a vast array of complex functions that the user can avail of, some of which (but not all) are mentioned below:

  • Assembly stress analysis
  • Differentiated file formats for parts, assemblies and drawings
  • Finite element analysis
  • Freeform modelling
  • Integrated motion simulation
  • Optimization technology
  • Parametric studies

Inventor uses an 3D geometric modeling kernel called Autodesk Shapemanager, that is developed by the company themselves, and is one of many modelling kernels that exist in the market today.

Revit

Autodesk Revit is an application created for and used by architects, construction professionals, designers, MEP and structural engineers. It is used by these professionals to manage building design, architectural design and Business Information Modelling (BIM) services.

Unlike its predecessors on the list, Revit is a 4D program. It allows its users to design a building’s structure and components in 3D, and then insert 2D annotation elements into the model. It is capable of tracking and planning the various different stages in the building’s creation, from idea to design, to construction and maintenance and finally on to demolition.

Revit has many features that its users can take advantage of, which include but are not limited to:

  • Add-ins
  • Annotation
  • Dynamo for Revit
  • Generative Design
  • Global parameters
  • Interoperability and IFC
  • Parametric components
  • Schedules
  • Worksharing


With these features, the aforementioned construction professionals can; see their projects in virtual reality/3D, simulate buildings in real life using a huge library of parametric building elements, encourage better teamwork, create their designs and models with a smaller margin for error and greater accuracy.

A particularly useful feature of Revit that is loved by industry professionals is its uncanny ability to catch incorrect modelling. It is inherently easier for users to see their errors within Revit and for companies this can save precious time and more importantly, money. Read about Revit pricing here.

AutoCAD vs Fusion 360

Both of these Autodesk software packages are extremely popular and are used all over the world for the design of products that are going to be 3D printed. There are many competitors in the 3D modelling space, but AutoCAD and Fusion 360 both consistently show up in the top 3 of all modeling programs.

These applications are meant for those who have some experience with modeling on computers, not total novices. However, they have been designed in such a way that the learning is not too steep and you do not need to spend valuable years of your life trying to master them.

The main differences between these two programs are:

  • AutoCAD, which is without a doubt the industry-standard modelling program, is mainly focused on models driven by geometry. Fusion 360 is based around freeform models
  • AutoCAD works from a local network using local files, while Fusion 360 works from cloud-based files
  • AutoCAD used a command line, Fusion 360 does not
  • AutoCAD can be used for its 2D drafting functionality and is used by millions in 2D, Fusion 360 does not offer any features in 2D, only 3D
  • Fusion 360 is more affordable than AutoCAD

AutoCAD vs Inventor

AutoCAD and Inventor are two powerful modeling programs at a professional level, provided by Autodesk. While they are similar in many respects, and will provide you with a vast array of highly-customizable tools, they are generally used for significantly different types of projects.

AutoCAD is widely used for architectural-type projects, construction design and mapping. AutoCAD can be run on mobile devices and on your web browser of choice. Specific toolsets can also be found for the various industries that it may be used in, such as AutoCAD MEP, as well as 2D design tools.

Inventor focuses more towards the creation and building of highly complex assemblies, while also prep\ring the documentation needed for the different projects. Mechanical systems can be created and analysed by running simulations and stress testing them to evaluate and hopefully prove that the design is successful, if not then modifications can be made within Inventor to improve the system.

The differences and applications of both of these powerful programs depend on the users specific needs for each of their projects. They will need a clear vision for the project at hand, as while both software tools are powerful, they have significantly different modelling features.

3D CAD software: SolidWorks, Autodesk Autocad, Fusion 360

Fusion 360 vs Inventor

At first glance both of these products might seem very similar, but they have quite a few differences once a closer look is taken. These differences could be crucial for a potential user to know and could either make or break the timeline on a project depending on if the right tool is used for the job.

Fusion 360 is a much newer program than Inventor, as Inventor has been on the market for over 20 years and Fusion 360 was released in 2013. This difference in age is amplified by the look and feel of both of the programs, Fusion 360 feels like the newer, sleeker application with its modern design interface and easier learning curve. Whereas Inventor has a more classic look, referred to as being reliable and consistent, and being a staple in the toolbox of engineering and mechanical companies for years on end.

The key differences between Fusion 360 and Inventor include but are not limited to:

  • Inventor can be run only on the Windows operating system, Fusion 360 is available on both the Windows and Mac platforms. (Inventor can be run on a Mac, but using a Windows partition)
  • Inventor requires significantly more memory space, recommending 20GB and stating a minimum of 8GB, Fusion 360 on the other hand recommends a meagre 4GB in comparison. Inventor is intended for complex projects with hundred or thousands d individual parts, which demands significant memory space
  • Both applications can be bought on a monthly or yearly basis, with Inventor coming in at £2,406 per year and Fusion 360 costing £438. It is important to mention here that most can qualify for a years free Fusion 360 subscription, requirements can be see on the Autodesk website
  • Inventor’s files are stored locally, on a hard disk, and sharing between devices is manually done by the user, Fusion 360 is cloud-based, with files, projects and models all stored online which makes transitioning from one device to another seamless, and also makes the transfer of files ridiculously easy. It also saves each iteration of the project which makes rolling back designs to their earlier states extremely easy
  • Fusion 360 has an easier learning process for beginners, while Inventor is more complex and is intended to work with more complex models.

AutoCAD vs Revit

AutoCAD and Revit are two of the most popular software programs in the world for architecture and engineering companies. Each program can be used in order to create project plans, but how each program goes about this process is very different. They are very often compared to one another as direct competitors in the modeling space, but in reality they are complementary to one another.

autodesk-revitThe main differences between AutoCAD and Revit are as follows:

  • AutoCAD is focused on a geometry based CAD approach, Revit is based on a 3D CAD modelling
  • AutoCAD has many different applications, and serves an array of different industries, whereas Revit is specifically for the design of buildings
  • Based on this, AutoCAD is the more flexible program and Revit is the more rigid platform
  • AutoCAD provides data created from design objects, Revit generates its data from the construction of the 3D models
  • AutoCAD is generally known for its proficiency in 2D drafting, Revit is better for modeling and evaluating cost estimates
  • AutoCAD software is available on both the Windows and MAC operating systems, whereas Revit can only be used on Windows
  • AutoCAD is the more difficult program to use, and requires more time to create and modify designs, Revit is by far the easier program to use and its workflow gives the user the opportunity to create their designs more efficiently

But, Which Program is the Best?

On the surface, all of these programs might seem like different iterations of the same tool, where one might pick an option based on their personal preference. However, as can be seen above there are significant differences between each program that affect its application, its effectiveness in that application and its user experience.

The choice between each software tool comes down to specifics, and each projects unique requirements. This will determine which program will work best for the user and what will generate the highest quality end product and of course, the best customer satisfaction possible!

All of these products are currently available on the Autodesk website to be purchased on a subscription basis unless otherwise stated.

What do you think is the best Autodesk product on the market at the moment? Let us know with a comment down below!

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