There are hundreds of CAD software offerings available, with a wide range of performance and expense. In this webinar, we'll take you through how to choose a suitable CAD software for your application and discuss some of the common programs, free and paid, and how they differ from one another.

00:00 - Hey team, Connor here from High Performance Academy and welcome to this week's webinar.
00:05 This week we're going to be discussing how to choose a CAD software package for your application.
00:10 So we're going to start off and discuss some of the main CAD specific ideas around choosing a CAD software package for motorsport and automotive applications and what's important to us in those applications as well.
00:25 And then we're going to look at some common CAD software that's used in motorsport, free and paid versions and, free and paid CAD software so we'll compare them a bit and discuss how they differ and then have a bit of a summary and conclusion at the end where we discuss how to choose one for your application.
00:46 So just to start off as a preface I guess, we need to just discuss what CAD is for those who aren't really familiar with it.
00:55 A lot of people have heard of it, a lot of people have used it, some people don't really understand what it is so CAD obviously, computer aided design and it's just as simple as that.
01:05 It's using a computer to aid us in the design process.
01:08 But it can cover quite a range of areas and different programs and specifically what we're talking about here is CAD software that allows us to do modelling of 3D models basically.
01:23 Solid bodies, sheet metal, modelling parts for our application.
01:28 So the way I see it, there's really some key advantages of using CAD.
01:34 So it's about getting the idea out of our head into the virtual world and being able to plan using that as well and develop the model before bringing it into the real world and that saves us a lot of time and money being able to make quick modifications to the model and kind of optimise it, get it as good as we can before we spend the money and then realise that we've done something wrong.
01:59 So from there the other key advantage of modelling the part in CAD is we can use it to aid us in the manufacturing process so CAM is another three letter acronym, computer aided manufacturing and we can use our model to do CAM work and use CNC machines and such to make the parts for us, automated from our designs.
02:26 So that's really important to us in motorsport applications being able to develop these parts for our vehicles when they're not available or it's something custom or we just think we can do a better job than maybe what's out there.
02:40 Can get into CAD and make the parts ourself, saves us a lot of time in the fabrication manufacturing process and also making mistakes or making revisions to the design to optimise it.
02:54 So there's a few important terms that I want to discuss related to CAD software that will help us choose a CAD software package for our application.
03:05 One of the first ones and something that if you're getting into CAD you'll hear often is parametric modelling and basically what that means is the model that we create is controlled by parameters.
03:17 So that's our values for dimensions and things like that.
03:21 And basically the CAD software, we'll capture the history as we model our design and we can go back at any point and change the parameters, change the dimensions that we use to model the parts in the design and then if everything is referenced correctly from there on, the rest of the model will automatically update to reflect that change that we've made.
03:46 So this is really important for making revisions and modifications to the design.
03:52 It also captures the original design intent.
03:58 So when you are modelling, one of the best ways to go about it is to keep in mind the important things about the model, important dimensions, important references and then you can basically use those as you design to make sure the model comes out correctly and it's easy to go and change them as you move forward, without getting errors after you change a dimension and the rest of the model falls over basically.
04:25 So the alternative to parametric modelling is direct modelling or direct editing.
04:32 This is what we call geometry based rather than feature based and it's not so much controlled by parameters and it's where we can push and pull the surfaces of the model really quickly, kind of like modelling clay, moving it around or playdough or something with our hands.
04:50 There's a lot of flexibility here and you can make a model really fast but it doesn't capture the history so you can't go back and change something and kind of update the rest of the model to suit that but it is a very helpful tool for kind of conceptual design and just fleshing out an idea really quickly, seeing if it will work but for us in a motorsport or engineering kind of application, we will pretty much always be using parametric modelling for the design of the, the actual final design.
05:25 We might use direct modelling at the start to flesh something out, get the idea, kind of see if it will work and then we'll model it in a parametric modelling software to make sure it's alright, allow us to make revisions and so on.
05:39 There's something called form modelling which exists now in something like Fusion 360 which is a parametric modelling software and form modelling is a kind of type of direct modelling where you can push and pull things, uses something called t spline modelling and so you can actually use direct modelling inside some parametric software but we'll come back to that in just a moment.
06:06 One of the other key things, I'll just jump over to this on my laptop screen, this image that Sam has nicely created for us and this is the difference between top down and bottom up modelling.
06:19 So these are two different approaches to modelling within kind of a parametric modelling solid body modelling method and there's two different ways you can go about it and up here we have Autodesk Inventor, just a CAD software, and Solidworks as well and they're focused more around a bottom up modelling approach and basically what that means is that you model each of the parts separately in its own design file and then you bring them all together in an assembly.
06:52 The alternative to that is what Fusion 360 is tailored around and that is called top down modelling and that's where you have a central kind of assembly or design file and inside that file you can make all the separate parts and model them in place in the assembly.
07:15 So the benefit of the bottom up modelling approach is really, it's really great for large companies, professional environments where they have a lot of revision control and a team of different engineers working on all these subsystems within a greater assembly.
07:35 So they can work on them all separately and then bring them together and update each of them with revisions and keep track of that.
07:46 Fusion 360 on the other hand is, the top down modelling approach can be a lot faster, in some cases it can be harder to keep track of changes if you have like multiple people working on something and you have an assembly with a lot of little parts in it.
08:03 So it can be a lot quicker though, that's kind of the key benefit there and there's a lot of flexibility and it really helps for using references and being able to model things in place and see exactly how it fits with something else rather than having to go out of the assembly, make the change to the part then bring it back in and see what changes and kind of go out and in and it slows you down quite a bit in that aspect..
08:29 But that's not to say that with top down or bottom up methodologies, you can't use either in any program, it's just that the programs are kind of tailored or designed around which one that they kind of want you to use I guess or which one is more effective in that program.
08:52 So for example, Fusion 360, you can definitely use a bottom up approach rather than a top down approach and in something like Solidworks as well, you could use a top down approach, it's just that the software itself isn't really tailored to it so it becomes a bit less user friendly in that respect.
09:15 And the same idea goes for the parametric modelling and direct modelling that we were discussing before.
09:22 Generally something that uses a direct modelling CAD software, something like Google Sketch Up for example, you can do some parametric stuff in there but it's really not that good at it.
09:38 But something like Fusion 360 or Solidworks you can definitely do some direct modelling stuff in there but it is a lot more focused on the parametric modelling side of things.
09:48 So it's not to say that just because this program is focused on top down modelling and parametric that you can't kind of, there's a lot of flexibility inside each program is what I'm trying to say.
10:00 Moving on, I'll just jump back to my notes.
10:07 So in terms of the software itself, there is a few key terms that we need to discuss.
10:14 This is not my area, software engineering or anything like that so I'll just get through this pretty quickly and if you might know more about this than me or you can obviously search for a bit more information on this.
10:29 But the first term I want to discuss is cloud based.
10:33 This is getting more and more common in software now, especially with CAD software and this basically is where the CAD files are stored online in a cloud storage system, file management platform and that means that you can access your files from any device really.
10:58 So for example, I have this laptop which I use if I'm every working from home but I also have a desktop at work so I can access my CAD files on Fusion 360 which is cloud based, from either home or my laptop or work on the desktop.
11:16 But of course you need a connection to be able to access those files.
11:21 You can save them in most cases to a local place on your computer but the program is tailored around a cloud based file mangement.
11:33 The alternative to that is what's called on premise and that's where your files are saved locally on your computer.
11:41 This is regarded as a more reliable and secure way of storing your files and obviously you don't need an internet connection but that takes up storage on your computer and it's not so easy to access your files from another device that has an internet connection.
11:58 Moving on, so browser based, also getting more popular with software, CAD software now.
12:05 This is when you don't need to install the program as an application on your computer, basically you can access it through your browser, so Google Chrome or something like that, you can go on and you can use Onshape for example is a CAD program that's browser based, you just open the browser window and you can use CAD like that.
12:25 Naturally you're going to need an internet connection for that and definitely if you're working with bigger CAD models, a faster internet connection is going to be required and you're going to have a lot of trouble if you don't have a good internet connection.
12:39 The alternative of course is having an application on your computer and in this case, you download and install it to your computer as is usually the way with computer programs or in the past anyway and it allows you to work offline in most cases but of course you have to download it and save the file, the program onto your computer which may or may not be an issue depending on how much file space you have.
13:08 The other point I want to discuss on the CAD software, the other term is free vs proprietary or paid.
13:14 That's obviously just how much the software costs to have or use.
13:20 In some cases for the paid, proprietary software, you can have a one time cost that you pay outright and then you own that software for life or you can have a subscription based setup so you might pay X amount of dollars per month for the software and that might be on a year plan or a few years or just monthly or something like that.
13:48 It seems to be going more the way that most programs now, not just CAD programs are becoming a subscription based, if you're familiar with something like Adobe Creative Suite, you pay a subscription to it.
14:06 It is kind of beneficial in some ways that as you get the automatic updates, as they update the software, you will get that in your subscription and you're always paying for the up to date software whereas if you just pay for a one time thing, for example like Microsoft Office used to be, you'd buy a CD, install it on your computer and then you just have Microsoft 2005 or something like that on your computer and you don't get the updates.
14:35 There is some software as well that is kind of like in between those, Solidworks for example has a big initial lump sum that you pay for the software and then you pay smaller yearly maintenance costs.
14:50 So it's just something to keep in mind as we move through the rest of the webinar.
14:57 So from here we'll get into discussing a few different CAD software packages which are really commonly used in engineering and motorsport automotive applications.
15:11 There's a really long list of them so I've just got a list here of ones that I though were the most commonly used and applicable to our application.
15:24 So starting with Fusion 360.
15:27 This is CAD software made by Autodesk which also offer Inventor and AutoCAD, two other larger more professional offerings and Fusion 360 is really their offering that they brought out for smaller professional setups and hobbyist kind of people and it's a 3D modelling software focused on creating designs for mechanical parts.
15:54 That's not to say that it's not used in some bigger professional environments, it definitely is, but it is their more affordable option compared to Inventor or AutoCAD.
16:05 Inventor is a similar program focused around design for mechanical parts.
16:11 AutoCAD is really a little bit different and more useful in plant design or architecture or something like that but also has its uses in automotive as well.
16:20 And back to Fusion 360, it is as we discussed before, a top down, it's focused on the top down modelling methodology where you create all the, you have a central design file and you create the separate parts of an assembly say from that one position.
16:39 So it also have some CAM, computer aided manufacturing and simulations and generative design functionality as well built into it which, I don't want to say it's not common in software packages of this kind of calibre but it is a really good thing to have and there's definitely some cheaper software offerings that don't have CAM and simulation and things like generative design built in.
17:10 Fusion 360 is cloud based and it is an application so your files are stored online but you download the application to your computer.
17:19 You can work offline but it's obviously best if you're working online being able to access, save your files, share files with your team and whatever you need to do from there.
17:32 And there is a free and a paid version.
17:35 So the free version has some limitations compared to the paid version and then the paid version itself doesn't include every single, there's extensions to the paid version that you need to pay extra for as well so simulation for example, finite element analysis is an extension to the paid version, it's not fully included in that paid version so if you want to focus on doing simulations or generative design, that's something you've got to pay for on top of the standard paid package.
18:16 Back to the free version of Fusion 360, so that's called Fusion 360 for personal use and compared to the paid version there are some limitations.
18:27 I would say 90% of the main modelling tools that you use for kind of your everyday jobs for automotive or motorsport part design is all included in the free version but there are some things like file export, different types of files that you can't export from the free version and files that you can't import as well into the free version so if you design something with Solidworks and then you're trying to open it in Fusion 360, the free version is a lot more limited in that respect that you probably can't open it in the free version but you could open it in the paid version.
19:13 And then around things like computer aided manufacturing, the manufacturing workspace in Fusion 360 in the free version is limited but in the paid version it's quite comprehensive.
19:27 So the free version, the paid version is currently around $500 USD a year and that has been increasing from the start of when Fusion 360 was first offered, it'll probably increase a bit more, as we move forward we'll talk about how that compares to other software packages.
19:51 But yeah like I said, on top of that, if you want to be doing generative design for example, it can be a significant amount more investment to be doing that in Fusion 360 but in the grand scheme of things, $500 USD a year for a CAD software package of the power of Fusion 360 is relatively cheap.
20:13 So moving on, I'll just discuss some pros and cons and I'll discuss them around Fusion 360 but a lot of the same thinking you can apply to the other programs we discuss as well.
20:27 So for example, from a pro you could say cloud based, a cloud based program is a positive because you can access your files from any device.
20:39 Also Fusion 360 has a lot of features built into it, once you're familiar with it, it gets very very fast to use and that top down modelling methodology is a really fast approach, especially if you're working on a design by yourself.
20:56 Looking at it from the negative side of things, you could also say that a cloud based software is a negative because you need internet connection and ideally quite a good one as well but in Fusion 360 you can work offline but it's obviously better if you're working online and if you don't have a good connection that's going to be a problem.
21:18 It's an application so you have to download the software as opposed to something like OnShape which we'll discuss soon, which is a browser based CAD software, just means you have to download the software and that takes up room on your computer but the internet connection is not so critical to its performance.
21:40 Like I said, the free version is limited, one of the key limitations of it actually is that you can have 10 active and editable documents at one time.
21:51 You can't just have unlimited amounts of documents active and editable so basically it's a little bit of a juggling act sometimes and you have to toggle on and off designs to be able to work with them.
22:05 10 designs is quite a lot, you'd usually not be working on 10 different designs all at one time so it's not really an issue but for some people in certain circumstances it could be.
22:14 And then like I said, the extentions cost extra but this is all relative to other programs as of course other programs like Solidworks which cost significantly more and then there's something maybe like FreeCAD for example which is obviously free so it's less so it just really depends what you compare it to.
22:37 And it is subscription based so you can't just buy it and have the software for life, you have to continue paying for it but with that you get continuous support and updates as you go.
22:52 Usually if you, well not usually but often the case with programs where you just pay a once off thing, you're not guaranteed to kind of have that forever anyway or get updates and support from the company you buy it from.
23:10 So moving on, we'll discuss Solidworks next.
23:16 And a lot of these same ideas apply to Inventor, made by Autodesk and PTC Creo or Pro/ENGINEER.
23:24 I kind of put those three in the same category although they are quite different and the user experience is quite different but I put them in the same category as they're large professional CAD software packages for, that are quite expensive and they're really powerful for like those big professional environments.
23:48 But also very useful of course for hobbyists.
23:53 Anyway Solidworks is made by a company called Dassault Systems.
23:57 It is a non cloud based system and it is an application that you install on your computer.
24:02 The price, compared to Fusion 360, it's a lot more expensive, it's about $5000 USD or it's over $5000 USD for the initial setup cost and then from there it is I think $1500 for an annual maintenance fee so every year you pay $1500 to basically keep it.
24:25 And it is a very powerful package, it's kind of like, it is the standard, best or most powerful software package for motorsport or professional engineering design product development stuff like that but there's, with the capability of the program, you obviously, like a lot of software, have to understand how to use that to make the most out of it.
25:03 So if you're really skilled with CAD, that could be a big benefit to you.
25:08 If you're just getting started with CAD, the difference in the power between Solidworks or Inventor or PTC Creo is probably not going to be as much of a game changer for you if you're just getting started, compared to something cheaper that is a little bit more basic.
25:28 So related to Solidworks is another, a newer kind of software offering from Dassault Systems called Solidworks for Makers and this is a browser and cloud based software and it is on the 3D, the Dassault Systems 3DExperience platform and this is kind of a setup they have like Adobe's Creative Cloud and it's really suited towards teams that are sharing files and working on designs so they can work collaboratively on the designs so that's 3DExperience platform.
26:16 So Solidworks Makers, it's a cheap version and it's kind of focused at the hobbyist and small professional environments.
26:29 it's like a lite version of Solidworks but it probably has again 90% of the tools that we'd commonly use in motorsport applications so it's definitely not really, the limitations of it is not really a problem and it's only about $100 USD a year.
26:51 And it's based on the Solidworks platform so if you learn how to use the Solidworks for makers 'cause that's the affordable option, it'll give you probably the skills you need to know if you ever need to move into a professional environment where you have the access to a full Solidworks program so it's a good way to learn those skills.
27:14 The key limitation with Solidworks for Makers is that it's only available in some countries.
27:22 If I just jump onto my screen here, this is on the 3DExperience Solidworks for Makers webpage and down the bottom here you have in the FAQs, is 3DExperience Solidworks for Makers available for users worldwide? And currently they have a list of the countries in here.
27:46 I think maybe there's about 15 or something there and they're obviously going to be adding more countries in soon but that's a key limitation because if you're like us at HIgh Performance Academy, we're based in New Zealand, and we're not on this list.
28:00 So at the moment we can't use it unless we used a VPN or something like that.
28:05 So kind of makes it unaccessible in some cases but yeah hopefully we'll be added to that list soon and we can start using it.
28:17 So I'll just jump back to my notes.
28:20 So moving in, next we'll discuss OnShape.
28:23 So OnShape is probably what I would compare as maybe the closest to Fusion 360 but it is cloud based like Fusion 360 but it's also web based or browser based so you can just use it on your browser, you don't need to install the application on your computer and that's obviously really beneficial if you're just using a computer maybe that's not yours somewhere, you can just open the browser, sign in and start modelling.
28:51 Obviously you need an internet connection to do anything on OnShape though so you can't just work on something maybe on an aeroplane while you're on a flight, you couldn't work on your model which may be an issue for some people and not be an issue at all for others.
29:08 I would say there's probably not as many tools and features compared to Fusion 360 especially around the simulation and computer aided manufacturing but it is arguably better for working with assemblies.
29:24 So just depending on what you're working on, again, may or may not be an issue.
29:28 Both are really powerful for their price range and you can definitely achieve basically the same things on each of them and definitely if you're getting started, it'll be more than enough.
29:42 And if you're not getting started, if you're already skilled, it will probably be more than enough as well.
29:48 On the topic of the price, there is a free version of the software and the issue with that free version is it only allows you to create public data so that means that technically anyone could find your designs and they can read them, they can't edit them, but they could copy them for themselves basically.
30:10 But of course, there's ways around this, they need to know it exists and what to search for to be able to find it and this would only be a problem to you if you're developing designs that are sensitive and you don't want anyone to copy them.
30:28 In a lot of cases, it doesn't really matter if someone copies your design or not, especially if it's for your car.
30:35 If you're making something specifically for your car and you're not trying to sell it, you're probably not too worried about someone looking at your design and copying it.
30:44 The paid version starts at about $1500 USD a year I think so it is more expensive than Fusion 360 in that regard.
30:55 Moving onto the last one that we'll discuss is FreeCAD.
30:59 So obviously by its name, FreeCAD is free and it's an application that you download to your computer and it is on premise so that means that you're storing the files locally on your computer.
31:13 It has some good computer aided manufacturing and simulation functionality.
31:19 The key thing with FreeCAD is it's an open source software so this can mean that it is less stable than something like Fusion 360 or Solidworks for example.
31:34 It tends to be a bit buggy and can struggle with some larger assemblies and operations so if you have a very complex CAD model, it can be a bit of an issue with something like FreeCAD.
31:48 That's not to say that it's limited in that respect, just you may experience, your experience may just be not kind of optimal, it might not run smoothly.
32:05 Because it's not commercial there's also not really a big company standing behind it, offering technical support if something was to go wrong.
32:15 And there's no formal technical report and also it's not particularly user friendly from my experience with it and the online community that use it is a lot smaller and when you're trying to find an answer to a question that you may have on how to do something, that does actually have a big impact compared to something like Fusion 360 or Solidworks where there's so many users worldwide that someone's probably done what you're trying to do or had an experience with the problem that you're trying to solve before so you can jump online, work through forums and find an answer to it.
32:57 Can be a bit limited with FreeCAD.
33:00 So at this point, before we move on, just if you have any questions related to what we've talked about today or CAD in general, jot them down into the chat and I'll do my best to answer them soon.
33:15 So just to wrap up, one of the most common questions that we get on our CAD course is why are you using Fusion 360? So just for reference we're using Fusion 360 throughout the CAD course just to work as an example.
33:33 And one of the reasons we do that is it's a very popular and accessible CAD program at a hobbyist level and personally I think it's a very powerful tool and it has a lot of functionality.
33:44 There are some negatives and positives about it which we discussed before but in general it's a pretty good setup.
33:52 That's not to say that our CAD course is based around just using Fusion 360, there's a lot of other information in there that is just talking about CAD in general and then also if you know how to use one CAD software, if you learn how to use Fusion 360 you can definitely go and use something like Solidworks.
34:17 If you've spent six months on Fusion 360 and you've got really familiar with it, to change over to Solidworks I would only say would take you a few hours to be able to do most things you need to do and then maybe obviously another few months of experience to just get really skilled with it and that's going to be the same for 99% of CAD programs.
34:35 If you know how to use one, you can definitely use them all.
34:39 For example, if I just jump over to Fusion 360 on my laptop here, this is what Fusion 360 looks like if you're not familiar with it.
34:51 We have our origin planes here, just something real simple, I can sketch on this plane, sketch a circle.
35:05 And finish that sketch and extrude that circle into a solid body.
35:15 And we have things like our extrude, revolve, hole tools etc there.
35:19 If I just jump back over to my other screen and this is in OnShape, hopefully this reconnects.
35:28 We have the same thing here, we have our three origin planes, we sketch on the front plane, choose a circle.
35:39 Make the circle.
35:44 And then we can get our extrude tool here, click the circle.
35:50 And drag it out and it's basically the exact same process there and that is very similar across the whole thing.
35:59 Like I said, here's our revolve tool, that's the hole tool there, it's basically the same set of tools, called the same things with our browser or our, yeah our browser or model tree down the side here just like in Fusion 360, it's the same thing.
36:19 So if you're not familiar with CAD, a lot of the programs are very very similar and if you can use one, you can definitely use the other one.
36:28 So I'll just jump back to my notes for a second.
36:33 So yeah that's one of the key points that people ask us is why use Fusion 360, why not this program, why not this one, this one's free, this one's better because of this.
36:44 It really just depends on your application and your criteria.
36:49 So for some people a cloud based system or browser based CAD software is not going to work because you don't have an internet connection and you're constantly needing to work offline.
37:01 For other people you might need to work on a different computer, different device and you might not have any, much storage space on your computer so working with a cloud based or browser based system is going to be better for you.
37:15 And then obviously the obviously one is the cost so Solidworks is great but it is extremely expensive compared to something like Fusion 360 or OnShape, or compared to something free like FreeCAD so if you don't have that budget, it's just not going to be an option.
37:38 Something like OnShape or Fusion 360 or Solidworks for Makers in that in between spot is a lot more affordable and then obviously there are free options from then as well.
37:51 So these are all just things to consider and the best CAD software is really going to be the one that works best for you.
37:58 If Solidworks is great for some professional engineer with a big budget to work with and you only have a little budget then Solidworks is not going to work for you.
38:09 But if you can afford Solidworks and you have the skills to be able to use it, great it'll be an awesome software.
38:18 So yeah really that wraps it up so I'll move onto some questions now.
38:26 So the first question, I'm going to butcher this, Jesu de Gannes, not sure if that's right sorry, would you recommend learning on FreeCAD? It's definitely worth having a look at.
38:44 I haven't used it personally too much, I've had a little play around with it.
38:49 In my experience compared to other software, it's a lot less user friendly.
38:55 Obviously if I spent some more time with it I'm sure it would be fine and you'd be able to get the tools that you needed and be able to design what you needed.
39:06 Would I recommend learning on it, if you don't have any budget or you don't want to put aside any money to learn with a different CAD software, definitely free CAD is a good one to start with.
39:24 Be it free, there's not really any reason not to.
39:28 But if you have the ability to be able to use one of the, something like Fusion 360 or OnShape, even if you just do one of the free trials, I would definitely recommend using them.
39:42 Personally I just think they're a lot more commonly used in professional environments and by a lot more people and they also have, there are free versions anyway so there's not really any reason not to use one of them.
40:00 I would personally recommend using Fusion 360.
40:03 I am a little bit biased towards it because I use it a lot but OnShape, Solidworks for Makers, something like that, also be a good option.
40:18 And Rick Cupola, do you need the latest version of the software in order to get started? No definitely not.
40:29 I started using CAD software 10 years ago, started with using PTC Creo at university and then my first job also used that and I'm sure I could go back and use that version of the software now and it would be completely fine.
40:45 There'd only be a few things that I might notice have been updated but definitely an old version of the software, even if it was 10 to 15 years old, is going to be fine for getting started and as you move forward and want a bit of a better experience, and more tools and features, it would be worth trying to get something a bit more up to date but an old version would be completely fine.
41:10 If that's what you have access to, perfect, that's good.
41:13 That looks like the only questions so I'll wrap it up there.
41:21 Thanks for listening in to this week's webinar and we'll catch you in the next one, thanks.