Deciding what CAD software to use

Currently my team is kind of split on what CAD software to use. Our Mechanical team leads to want to use PTC Creo which would require training majority of the team. While many of our younger members want to use Autodesk Inventor because majority of team knows how to use it already from the engineering class. The main reason our Mechanical team leads want to use PTC Creo is because they claim it’s much better than inventor. Is it worth teaching people a new software that our mechanical team leads prefer or using a software people already know how to use?

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My team uses Onshape and we have a small team of underclassmen dedicated to it. Its only our second year on it but it works rather well for 3136


There are a ton of threads here on which CAD software teams prefer (spoiler alert: there’s no consensus). Every team can tell you which works best for them, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the best option for you.

Some softwares are better than others at certain things, but generally they’re all about equal. IMO the bottom line is, if you’re already get training in one from school I don’t see why you should force everyone to learn another.


Which CAD system can your team use to create a robot in 2-3 weeks?

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You made a huge comment with “most of them know how to use it”. With all the packages being so close together in terms of performance, that is your real answer.


Usually just go with the one more people know. This way when there’s a problem the mech lead doesn’t have to answer 5 questions at once after the initial google solution doesn’t work and eventually have to CAD it themselves.

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They are all so similar in terms of performance for what is needed in FRC, that you should just go with whatever you guys know the best and have the best access too. If most of your team already knows Inventor then there isn’t too much of a reason to switch unless most people have a issue with it and want to change.

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Why? Being much more specific than this might help come to a consensus. What capabilities does Creo offer that Inventor doesn’t? Are you planning on utilizing these features?

How dependent is your manufacturing process on your CAD program for CAM workflow?

Do you have a significant CAD library established in a specific format with all the parameters (mass, material properties, colors, etc) that would be burdensome to switch to a different format?

Do you have licenses for all the students to use PTC Creo?

Who is doing the majority of the interaction with the CAD? If 4 people do the majority of the design and everyone else just opens up the model to look at how it goes together and those 4 people want Creo then why switch?

When you say “mechanical team leads” are these adults or students? Adults using Creo at work may struggle to switch - using 2 CAD packages in a day is hard.

Do you need to pick one? Can Inventor open up Creo files? Can you export parts as STEP files for those that want to use Inventor? I don’t love the idea of using both, but there are ways to do it. We’ve designed large portions of the robot (our arm gearbox / elevator carriage this year) in AutoCAD and it went together with parts designed in Solidworks. I know 33 uses both Inventor and Solidworks - it’s a pain but it can be done.


Definitely do not use Creo. We were forced to learn it in college (PTC donated a lot of money to the university), but it’s so painful to use that the Windows image for the Mech E computer labs had a dubiously-legal “evaluation” copy of Solidworks baked in.


Don’t focus too much on what people already know. If they’re proficient in one CAD software, it should only take a month or two (and good googling skills) to get up to speed in another. Last October my team switched from SolidWorks to OnShape; none of us (mentors included) had ever used OnShape before, but everyone picked it up quickly and build season went about as smoothly as ever - no issues specific to switching. Focus on what features and workflows your team will actually use and need, come to a consensus on which software will best set the team up for success in the long run, and spend the rest of this semester training on it.

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Whatever you choose, make sure that your design folks get a good mouse. At minimum, it should be three-button and have a wheel. Many mice also have a button that allows you to change the resolution of the mouse. CAD is torture if you’re just trying to use a pad.

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When it comes to FRC just about all major CAD programs will do the job.
I learned Creo in college and it was easy to pick up as my first CAD program.
We use Inventor on our team, it has all the same design features as CREO, the buttons are just in different places. I at one point went through a Solidworks tutorial and again, it has all of the same design features. There’s obviously going to be some aspects of each program that are a little bit better than others.

What you are going to want to base your decision on is the ability to get the software into the hands of your students, I stick to PCs but I know there are some limitations for students that have Macs. If you have access to a computer lab this might not be an issue. Do you have any CNC or 3D printing capability that would be limited by one CAD program or another? Is your school’s engineering class committed to teaching Inventor? If so, that should probably be your deciding factor unless using Inventor prevents you from using one of your machines.

Love using a 3D mouse for navigating large assemblies ie robots. They are tough to learn, but you get used to it. When I don’t use it my left hand twitches like it is attempting to use it.

This just isn’t true. It has its quirks, but it is more or less as intuitive as any other CAD package.

I have not used CREO in a few years. Learned it in college, but in all honesty Inventor is worse than CREO, Solidworks, & NX unless you want the CAM functionality of Fustion360. Idk why it just feels lacking to me. The constraint system is clunky, and hiding the origin planes and axis in the model tree is very annoying.

I’ve posted before about Onshape. If you want to talk more about how to get onboard, please direct message me.

Autodesk inventor 2020 is free, it has everything you need for FRC

If you have a class teaching a cad program I would definitely use that software. The less training of cad you have to the happier everyone will be and the more time you can focus on teaching design

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As someone who has learned 3 different CAD systems: Onshape, Inventor, and Solidworks, I can say that the skills are more important than the program. Once learning one you basically need to just figure out where everything else is. Depending on your teams resources is the principle factor in choosing. If only a couple of people are doing CAD I would recommend Solidworks, my personal favorite of the 3 I know, but if you plan on having many people do CAD, than I suggest Onshape since it’s all online and sharing is super easy, and yes I know you can share files on Inventor or Solidworks it’s just easier on Onshape.


At the level of modeling that most FRC teams do, every single CAD package can do what you want it to. I can count on one hand the number of parts we’ve needed to make that required functionality beyond “extrudes and revolves.”

Pick whatever you can model fastest with.

I’ve used Solidworks, Inventor, and Pro/Engineer (the predecessor to Creo), along with tinkering with Onshape and Fusion 360. Here are my rankings (this is all personal opinion):

  1. Solidworks - The best balance between user friendliness and a robust feature set. One of the most commonly used CAD packages in the professional world.
  2. Onshape - The online collaboration and automatic version control is a huge plus. Almost nobody in the professional world uses it now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it picks up in the coming years.
  3. Fusion 360 - Really, tied for 3rd with Inventor. The interface is somewhat dissimilar from other major CAD packages and takes some getting used to.
  4. Inventor - Tied for 3rd with Fusion 360. Inventor felt clunky to me. Moving to Inventor from Solidworks was like throwing away your Legos to play with Mega Bloks instead. Both tools accomplish the same things, but Solidworks just feels better to me.
  5. Creo - What lunatic came up with this interface? Who on earth reviewed this and thought it was acceptable? Maybe they’ve fixed it since Wildfire 4.0, but my god I hated Pro/E.

As someone who used Pro/E 3 and 4, Creo is extremely different from either of those in user interface and clarity. Judging Creo based on your experience with Pro/E is inane. There’s a reason it’s a different product name.

Just going to put this here.
Onshape: Not very intuitive, but I’d extremely easy to work together on same projects. Like Google docs for CAD.

Inventor: Very intuitive, Bad collaboration.

Solidworks: Very powerful. Used by lots of professionls. Probably had the worst collaboration of all.

All in all: Once you can do one, you can do em all. I started with Inventor, and picked it up in a few weeks. I’ve messed around with solidworks, and it was very easy to switch to after Inventor. Onshape was different, but after working with it for a few weeks I am almost completely used to it.