It moves in the world of 3D. Even if 10 years ago, “3D industrial design” software was only reserved for big companies, with the advent of 3D printing, individuals and small businesses also get involved.
If this is your case, here is my (subjective) ranking of the most suitable software.
There is no partnership for this ranking and it comes from 5 years of experience in the world of CAD.
1) Fusion360 Students: Free, Pro: 480 € / years
Before you hear “scream, you’re on the side of Autodesk” … I want to say that I used Dassault’s software for several years.
But in terms of functionality / price Fusion360 crushes all of its competitors flat out.
This is the software to use if you are an individual or a small business.
To quote everything would be too long, but its ease of handling, while allowing to realize the most complex forms, makes it a software of reference. Its features are advanced with machining simulation, constraints, photo rendering or generative design (subject of an upcoming article). And the Cloud, oh my God the CLOUD !!! It allows you to work together with your clients or colleagues on a project even miles away.
In short for beginners as for experienced engineers, I am convinced that everyone will find his happiness.
Plus the software is ergonomic enough to handle 3D printing as a leader.
Only weak point, the technical plan design is a little limited and the difficulty of the software to manage complex sets.
By removing these two points, Fusion360 is VERY far the best value for money you can have.
I stop there but I could write a whole article about this software and the fact that it jostles the world of the CAD by making it accessible to all (if I continue one will treat me of sold).
2) CATIA V6 (3dexperience) Student: “free” but limited, Pro: from 9000 to 28 000 € for life + 2000 € / Years
Okay, we enter the King of the King, the Mastodon of the Mastodon, The Padre CAD software, I present to you: CATIA !!!
If you are the type of person who does not make concessions and is not afraid to invest half of his profits in software, CATIA is for you.
Joking aside, this software is surely the most successful of all industrial design software. Surfacing, volume, machining stress flow simulation … for all your simulations, CATIA has a solution.
It is not for nothing that it is the software used by Airbus. He is able to manage sets beyond the complex.
It is divided into modules, so it can also adapt to all your needs. This is clearly by far the most complete software on this list.
Good if you are not a boat and plane manufacturer, and you want to print in 3D a clothespin, this software would be clearly the “overkill”
Now if you are a self-respecting Industrialist, CATIA is nonetheless a reference software with almost infinite capabilities.
Big problem, its price and its disastrous grip.
3) Solidwoks Student: free pro: 1250 € / years
You want a good 3D software but you prefer to sell your soul to Dassault rather than Autodesk (which is quite a respectable desire)?
SolidWorks offers everything you can expect from industrial design software, but without extravagance. Not too difficult to handle and very complete, it is THE reference of versatile software in the world of industry.
Any self-respecting industrial designer knows how to use SolidWorks.
Even if we can recognize that it is more adapted in certain points to the industrial world, that for example fusion 360, that does not justify (in my eyes) clearly not its price.
The only aspects that would justify this purchase are its ability to make quality engineering plans and the fact that SolidWorks remains a reference in the world of industry.
But in terms of pure functionality you can do exactly the same things as with Fusion360 for 3 times the price.
It is also very difficult to manage STL (printable) files with this software.
4) Freecad Free
Ah Freecad … it may not be the best CAD software or the easiest to handle.
But if your budget tends to 0 it is surely a good option to start.
Well, you will not make a private jet, but if your ambitions are to make a printable ring in 3D, it will be more than enough. Not to mention that it allows a very good interoperability between the STL file and STEP (essential).
It is nonetheless a complete software with all the options you will need, the only problem being to find its options.
And it is a great example of success from some independent developers, so do not hesitate to support them.
5) RHINOCEROS 3D Student: 195 / Life Pro: 995 / Life
The question we all want to answer is, of course … Why a Rhinoceros? (I plan to contact the developers to clarify this mystery).
But in the meantime, if you ever want to create the Ferrari of your dreams, Rhino is surely the software you need.
This software excels in body design and curved and complex shapes without sacrificing all the other functions that can be found in classic CAD software.
If you have the “artistic fiber” but want to keep a foothold in the industry, this software will please you.
Attention it is very complicated to take in hand for a uninitiated and is very different in its use of other CAD software.
On the other hand, if you come from 3ds Max or Blender, the functions will surely be very familiar to you.
It is the software of the designers.
Autodesk has created its own merge 360 competition. Unless you have to simulate a mechanism, I do not see any point in using Inventor instead of Merging 360.
It is nonetheless a very popular CAD software.
For creo, I plead guilty.
This is not a software I know a lot and I mainly used a version dating back to 2005, so I’m in a bad position to judge
It is nonetheless a very suitable software, but I have not found anything unique that differentiates it from other software.
At the last company working on augmented reality applied to the world of industry, track to dig if you are interested.
Blender is certainly the best free 3D modeling software. However it is not suitable for CAD. There is however a plug in, to my knowledge, which allows to adapt it: « Mechanical Blender ».
“It’s all well and good, but what is the real best 3D software? “
I think I can safely say that Fusion360 is the must have CAD software and will cover 90% of your needs. For me, Autodesk really “broke” the CAD market with this software and it would be silly not to take advantage of it.
For the remaining 10% is that your needs are very specific and, in this case, I advise you to go to the side of CATIA, which has a solution for everything.
And in the end, if you’re more of a fan of curve and design, take a look at Rhino 3D, which is still a very good software at an affordable price.
Finally, I want to say that this article is only my humble opinion and that, if there are any errors or remarks, I invite you to do them in the commentary space.
Wikipeda Article on CAD : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer-aided_design
Fusion360 : https://www.autodesk.com/products/fusion-360/subscribe?plc=F360&term=1-YEAR&support=ADVANCED&quantity=1
CATIA : https://3dsman.com/catia-pricing/
SolidWorks : https://www.alignex.com/guide-to-buying-solidworks#what_is_the_price_of_solidworks
Rhinoceros 3D : https://www.rhino3d.com/sales/europe/
Industrial designer and co-founder of Shapend