Thinking of switching CAD software

Hey y’all!

My team is still setting up our CAD team and we’re trying to plan for next year. One of our mentors seems to like the idea of switching to Fusion 360 or Inventor because it doesn’t require WIFI. Last year we used Onshape but I’ve been the only person using CAD and our school doesn’t have any CAD classes, so unless we’re using Onshape we’ll be going in blind.

What CAD software do y’alls teams use and why? If you use Onshape, why don’t you switch to another software? If you use Fusion or Inventor, why don’t you use Onshape? If you use something else, what makes it worth not using one of the more popular softwares?

tl;dr Should we use Onshape and why?

Also – to help future teams begin CADing, enter in the CAD software you would recommend:

  • Onshape
  • Fusion 360
  • Inventor
  • Solidworks
  • Creo
  • Siemens NX
  • AutoCAD
  • Other
  • Don’t use CAD

0 voters

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Honestly, Fusion is what i grew up using so it just came naturally for me for this to be my choice for CAD. Although, this doesn’t mean that others can’t provide other benefits! Such as using Onshape for sharing and collaboration among team (which it is great at doing) with the added plus that it has a whole library of COTS items available for free. Saying this, I really haven’t used it for designing as it is very different than what I am used but I do plan to acclimate to it during this summer as it has been recommended to me by other very great teams; even over the big budget programs you are used to hearing (Fusion, Inventor, Solidworks).

As far as Inventor and Fusion they are basically the same use case when it comes to FRC and I would only recommend Fusion due to its reduced cost (although still pricey) and its more user friendly users interface.

I don’t know anything about Solidworks so yeah…


Curious where this concern comes from. Was wifi posing an issue to your CAD workflow last year? Did (lack of) wifi cause any incidents any issue last year?

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I personally use Onshape (despite the mentors and other members using Fusion360), I learned cadding on Onshape in the beginning so I feel more comfortable using it than other CAD software. Here are the following reasons why I am sticking with Onshape (I am not sure if other software has these features) :

  1. There are different kinds of FeatureScript (Addon tools) that help speed up your design process. (Putting hole patterns on tubes, making gusset plates, pocketing, belt and gear generator etc…) As well as a library of COTS stuff that you can easily import to your parts assembly.

  2. Onshape is a browser software in which you don’t need to install the software on your computer in order to run it. This means you can use Onshape pretty much on any computer without worrying if the computer has the software installed or not.

  3. You don’t need a “powerful” computer to run Onshape, for example, the Dell laptops provided by our school aren’t able to run Fusion360 smoothly, and sometimes it doesn’t even load lol. But they have no problem running Onshape.

  4. It is easy to share and it allows multiple people to work on the same document at the same time. You can turn on “link sharing” when you want to share your CAD file with someone, and others just have to click the link to view your file without downloading anything at first. Moreover, there are a few options of how much the person can access your file, view only/ can edit, allow to export or not, allow to copy or not, allow to share or not, etc… Overall very flexible in giving access to someone.



One of our mentors taught Inventor to PLTW classes, so it just seemed logical.


Assuming you’re looking to get more people involved in CAD, OnShape is going to be the easiest way to facilitate that. This thread talks about a bunch of potential options for sharing work with multiple people and you definitely can do it, but it’s most baked in to OnShape. My team used to use Inventor, and as far as I’m aware our main reason for switching was so that multiple people could be involved in CAD.

I’ll also note that OnShape/Inventor/Fusion are pretty similar to go between. I started with Inventro and transitioned to OnShape pretty easily. I also recently looked at Fusion a bit and didn’t have a hard time picking that up. On the other hand, learning Solidworks has been much harder and I still have some difficulty with figuring out how to do what I want, especially in assemblies. It also has the issue of being much more resource heavy. My computer can run Inventor and Fusion well, but it struggles with Solidworks. OnShape is more dependent on internet quality.

First, I’ll point out that Fusion 360 still uses cloud based storage and requires connection at least every two weeks.

You will find a lot of CAD discussion threads here on Chief Delphi. It’s worth doing some browsing as you’ll find a lot of good information already captured. As one example, here is a recent thread in which I shared my comments, which largely match those of @MatthewL_333. TL;DR: We use Onshape because it has first-class collaboration/sharing/cloud features, runs on ‘regular’ student class PCs, and has no installation/licensing hassle.

Onshape are also actively working to integrate native CAM, based around a company they purchased which previously offered a CAM plugin. That will be a huge plus; right now we export to Fusion for CAM.

Many teams have moved to Onshape at this point so the FRC community knowledge is quite good.


Onshape is by and far the most accessible, as it’s barrier to entry is extremely low given it’s entirely cloud-based. It even runs just as well on mobile. Needing Wifi 24/7 may present a problem to some, however, not to mention large assemblies tend to be really slow no matter what you do as a result of being cloud-based.

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I’ve found that large assemblies may take a minute to load, but generally once I’m in a document they do pretty well handling working in them.

We use Solidworks and I like it. While Onshape might be more accessible Solidworks has the benefit of being the industry standard tool so it is much more applicable to be going into industry.


For our team, we use inventor, mostly because our lead mentor is most proficient in it. I know some of our students prefer AutoCAD or OnShape over it, since they teach with AutoCAD in classes, and OnShape is browser based so they can use it on pretty much any computer.

Personally, I use OnShape, since I am primarily a MacBook user, and it runs well in Safari. Its UI is fairly intuitive, and I love the ability to use MKCad parts when designing robot parts.

It’s biggest drawback is the required internet connection, and if your team is in a position where you don’t have constant access to internet, then I definitely recommend any of AutoCAD, Fusion, or Inventor. (I think fusion still may require internet connection, though.)

I personally think the Inventor UI is a bit clunky compared to AutoCAD, but that’s just me. I’m personally a fan of the command line in older versions AutoCAD, I haven’t used it recently though to know if it’s still as useful as I remember.

Until a few years ago, an Alum/Mentor would come back and teach Solidworks, but nobody on the team has touched it since he left. I haven’t had a chance to explore it, so I can’t speak to how it compares to other CAD software.


We use Creo due to the Robonaut’s relationship with NASA.

I can’t really recommend Creo to any other team…not that anyone else was recommending it in the first place.

We have discussed switching to OnShape but our students who have experience with OnShape are hesitant to switch to it due to performance issues they have experienced with the large, polygon heavy assemblies that our robots end up being.

One major benefit to us using Creo is our students come into internships in our robotics group at JSC already knowing it and are able to design real parts for our rovers right out of high school without having to learn a new software during their hectic summer between graduating high school and going off to college.


Last year our shop didn’t have Wifi and had iffy cellular, so I had to use my hotspot. We’re moving shops this year and most of us have hotspots, so hopefully it’ll work itself out. If it doesn’t, are there any softwares that design team can work together on without Wifi? I’ve seen that GrabCAD is shutting down, so what are the alternatives?

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Fusion is free for student/teacher.

We do our own milling on a Haas CNC. Fusion’s ability to setup the manufacturing toolpaths and updating same when the underlying part is modified is great.

Started on Rhino 3D in 1999.
Inventor in 2018
Switched to Fusion in 2019.
Dabbled with Onshape 2021-23.

Personal preference is Fusion 360.

  • Cloud based.

  • Team projects

  • Shallow learning curve

  • Design and Manufacturing in one program

  • Easily insert any McMaster part. Not difficult to import other models (any of the major formats).

It’s been a while since I’ve used Solidworks, but at least from a part design perspective OnShape and Solidworks are very similar. Assemblies are another thing, but working with coordinate based assemblies could be beneficial as both jobs I’ve had so far have relied on coordinate based assemblies, albiet in Creo

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Every student on my campus has a Chromebook. I can have every student on the team go through CAD training fundamentals without any tech issues. Students may bring in their own larger-screen devices if they like. Can’t tell you how many times a non-CAD student has pulled up Onshape on their Chromebook to get dimensions of something quickly without needing to find “the CAD kid” who has all the files on their computer.


There is no one “industry standard” in CAD. This varies wildly from company to company, and within different sub-industries. Solidworks is used in many companies, but so is Creo, UGNX, CATIA, even Inventor sometimes.

The best solution for teams is the platform that your mentors and / or students know best. Anything that’s easiest to teach and get up and going. Everything else is kind of secondary to that. That said, if one is starting from scratch, I don’t see why one wouldn’t choose OnShape just given the “google docs” style collaboration and the wide support / libraries for it. I personally prefer Solidworks, but that’s just because I’m used to it, and I know the benefits of OnShape really outweigh the drawbacks.

Other than CAM support, everything you said applies just as strongly or more strongly to OnShape than it does to Fusion. I do know a lot of teams who use OnShape but then CAM in Fusion - arguably there is some benefit to your CAM software being different than your modeling software, and Fusion CAM is pretty great.


Personally I use Autodesk Inventor; I like it for the large feature set, flexibility, CAM integration (with free InventorCAM download), and ability to handle large assemblies. Now, that said, I’m a bit biased because I learned CAD on Inventor first.

I will say that for a team trying to move from OnShape, Fusion360 might be more approachable than Inventor. For starters, it does make collaboration much easier, since files can be shared on the cloud with others on the team, and it does have most of the same features as Inventor (though personally coming from Inventor, I find it more clumsy to use, but your mileage may vary). The main downside to Fusion compared to Inventor is the way it handles assemblies, particularly large ones (though it’s a bit hard to explain, but those who have seen Fusion compared to Inventor know what I’m talking about).

Fusion360 also has the ability to run in-browser on Chromebooks. Though it doesn’t have the best performance, it’s decent for teaching new students without buying a bunch of higher-end PCs.

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I don’t think you’re going to find a solution for sharing things without wifi other than lots of flash drives. The other thing that may be an option would be if there are ethernet ports in your shop that you could connect your own wifi router to. I’m pretty sure we’ve used robot radios for this in the past. However, your IT dept. may not appreciate you doing that.

Ease of licensing is a factor to consider. My interpretation of the comments on that topic within CD results in some concern with Autodesk products. I don’t see nearly as many concerns about Onshape, even after they were acquired by PTC. If a mentor’s license expires in the middle of a season, the last thing you want is days or longer of downtime fighting with the system to renew the license.

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