CAD programs for Macs - Suggestions, anyone?

Hello everyone!

I’m co-captain of a rookie team, and we are looking for CAD software to use this season to design our robot and parts. Our school is lucky enough to have MacBook Pros for every student, so, ideally, we want whatever CAD software we use to be able to run on Macs.

Right now, our team members can get Autodesk Inventor Pro from their website, but that does not run on Macs. We put Inventor Pro on a few Windows computers the school owns, but they sometimes take a while to load, so it’s not really reliable. In addition, not a lot of our members have their own Windows PC to take to robotics meetings.

Bottom line is CAD software for Macs would be optimal for us. So, if anyone has any suggestions, we would greatly appreciate it! Thank you! :slight_smile:

We use AutoCAD.

Sorry to break it to you, but most, if not all, pieces of mechanical CAD software run only on Windows. You might find some tools which run on a Mac or Linux, but all the good ones (Solidworks, Inventor, Pro/E, …) only run on Windows. I don’t personally know of any big projects designed in AutoCAD. The constraint based systems in Solidworks and crew let you do amazing things that you can’t do in AutoCAD, or are much harder.

My recommendation would be to spend the time to figure out how to either dual-boot or run it in a VM. That way, when you graduate, you will already have some good experience with one of the industry standard tools that is directly applicable.

I dual boot Windows 7 on my 13" Retina MacBook Pro using the built-in utility Bootcamp and have had no problem with SolidWorks. If you can dual boot Windows, I’d strongly recommend it.

Don’t forget NX/UniGraphics. It runs on a Mac just fine. It’s, of course, Apple’s MCAD software of choice (judging from job postings)

Inventor Fusion is probably the best you’ll be able to do Mac. My opinion, school should have bought PCs. Common mistake by schools. Anyhow, since past is past, now they can pay for it again, buy buying Windows to run on the Macs.

I think your team should 100% look into Autodesk Fusion 360 because it runs on both Mac and Windows computers. Additionally, it differs from typical CAD programs in that, while the client resides on your computer, all of the files, designs, drawings, etc. are kept in the cloud in your Autodesk account. What’s more, you can invite team members to your project to collaborate on design. The toolkit is very reminiscent of Autodesk Inventor, with some added tools such as form (which allows you to make more organic-looking objects and is useful for sculpting or modeling) and even MILLING. That’s right, if your team uses any type of CNC manufacturing, including 3D printing, all of the toolpathing can be done naively in Fusion.

The fact that it runs on Mac and PC is great for our team because we have some students with Mac computers at home but they are still able to contribute to the project due to the cloud-management nature of Fusion. 10/10 would recommend!

Thirding Fusion 360. Collaboration is easy, and I really like the built-in CAM tools. I’ve tested out the CAM at home on a Shapeoko, and it’s easy to work with and does a good job.

Hey there! I wanted to point out that you still may be able to use windows only CAD software for free. Right now the windows 10 beta is still free (and will be till next fall). You can boot camp windows ten onto your mac book pro’s and use some software like Solidworks or Autodesk Inventor. It’s going to be extremely hard on the computers, especially with the rather large assemblies that you can end up having with robots, but it should be manageable, especially with tools like large assembly mode on SW. I’m not sure of your schools opinion on using Boot camp, but I think that they will understand the need to do it for the team if you ask.


I would recommend that you don’t use the Windows 10 Technical Preview. In may be free, but it is not even close to being a finished OS; it is more like an alpha than beta. Your CAD software might not work well, you might experience crashes, and general instability.

You could try Google SketchUp.

If you genuinely have no other option-- you don’t have the expertise necessary to learn a real CAD program in time, your computers can only run that, or whatever, then this might be worth considering. But since you’re just coming off a season, now is the perfect time to plan to use CAD for the coming season, including finding the resources to get a proper MCAD program. SketchUp is fine for quickly laying out ideas or space diagrams, but it doesn’t play nice with anything. Start the job the right way with Creo or Solidworks or Inventor or Solid Edge (thought preferably one of the first two). You’ll save yourselves the headache later.

Doesn’t sound like a very “RATCHET” team to me!:stuck_out_tongue:

Your best bet is going to be running windows via bootcamp. No legitimate and easily accessible CAD software for FIRST use runs on a Mac natively yet.

Try Autodesk Inventor

I think you should read the OP.

OnShape should work on Macs just fine. See related post

I will second OnShape. It was made by the person who originally created Solidworks. It’s free and runs on browsers.

I have not used it yet, but since it was made by the same guy who started Solidworks I will assume (No facts to back this up) that it would be easy for students to transition from OnShape to Solidworks. This is a good thing because most people who have/use CAD software use Solidworks.

As noted by a number of other teams Fusion 360 is available on both PC and Mac platforms. For obvious reasons I would recommend you have a look!

Let me know if I can be of any assistance.

I’ll also recommend Fusion. This is the result of about an hour of playing around:

Compared to Inventor: It’s a little limited. The lack of a sheet metal workflow is annoying, but they make up for it by including CAM/toolpathing out of the box.

Compared to Solidworks: See above.