As some of you might know, I am a regular AutoDesk Inventor user. I do a lot of my projects using AutoDesk Inventor and I really enjoy the user experience crafted by the guys over at AutoDesk. So, we were at Maker Faire Singapore last weekend and I was looking at the AutoDesk booth. They were showing off their new software—Fusion 360. And I was completely blown away. After a really long look at its UI and the features it offers, I was bought over. I decided to switch to Fusion 360 to check it out and I thought I should write a comparison between Fusion 360 and Inventor.
Before we start a full on comparison, let's take a quick look at what Fusion 360 has to offer. Fusion 360 is the all encompassing software. It integrates 3D CAD, CAM and CAE software into one big user-friendly bundle. This means that you can design your product, simulate or render it and provide 2D drawing files all from a single application. In addition, it also has both free form and parametric methods to draw which is just awesome. It also offers cloud storage services to allow you to access your files anywhere and work and collaborate easily. Think of it as the GitHub of 3D design. These all combine together to form an awesome platform to use.
The user interface is what I'm first going to compare between AutoDesk Inventor and Fusion 360. When you open up Fusion 360, in just a few seconds you are greeted with a beautiful and modern UI which just begs to be used. Opening up Inventor looks dull in comparison. Inventor is equipped with a more complicated industrial look while Fusion 360 gets that modern, sleek, minimalist look.
In general, the UI in Fusion 360 definitely gets points for this as it has a much more interesting, modern look that Inventor lacks. It also offers a nicer grid view and just makes me want to drool when I look at it.
Parametric drawings are something that designers heavily use. They are used to make several smaller parts which then combine to form larger complicated assemblies. Parametric drawings are also made up completely of simple shapes. Both Fusion 360 and Inventor have parametric functionality.
In my opinion, the parametric interface in Fusion 360 is a little bit stripped down as compared to Inventor. The workflow of Inventor with seperate part and assembly files makes it very easy to build complicated parametric structures but Fusion 360 just lacks that functionality. I'm going to have to give parametric superiority to Inventor 2016.
Free form functionality
Another way to construct designs is to use free form modelling (or sculpting). This means that you use virtual balls of clay to construct things. This is very useful if you are modelling irregular or complicated structures that cannot easily be made with simple shapes.
In terms of 3D free form modelling, I would say that both of them are roughly equivalent in terms of capabilities. So I believe this would be a draw.
3D rendering is an very important part of design. It allows you to get accurately coloured models of your product for show. For rendering, Fusion 360 has inbuilt render engines while Inventor has Inventor Studio. The inbuilt render engine in Fusion 360 does a really good job though.
I think that the Fusion 360 render engine is better in many ways. It offers nice smooth previews and gets better quality output than Inventor Studio. The UX while using Fusion 360 is also significantly better.
Well, it looks like Fusion 360 won by 1 point in a category. The difference is still very much subjective though. If you value design and UX over actual industrial functionality then Fusion 360 might be for you. If not, Inventor would be your best bet.