CAD to learn for aerospace or mechanical


OK so I am trying to decide which cad system to persue most seriously. Currently I have access to solidworks, Creo, and fusion 360. I am a student so any company that gives out free student software I can get. Currently I am using mostly fusion 360 and some solidworks as well. I just got Creo a little while ago and haven’t had much time to mess around with it. I am planning to go into either mechanical or aerospace engineering. I am trying to move away from fusion because I know that it is not used much in the industry, but it’s hard because It’s really easy and intuitive. I can create the same things in fusion much faster than I can in solidworks and it makes solidworks feel sort of slow and clunky even though I know it is very powerful. Any input is appreciated.


Hey Simon. Great question. I was in the aerospace industry for quite a while. They software used there was primarily CATIA, SolidWorks, Inventor and AutoCAD. The most prevalent for the space I was in (VIP interior completions) was SolidWorks.

One way to gauge it is to look at the job postings of the companies you are interested in working with. Look for what software is listed in the position that most closely matches.

I think most importantly is that you remain flexible and willing to learn. Many companies will hire if you have the industry experience and ability to pick up the software and their process quickly (good to note on your resume, btw).

If you don’t have the experience yet, I would suggest finding some wherever you can. Instead of getting a part-time job at a restaurant, get on as an intern for a company or consultant in the industry. The are always looking for dependable people who can manage themselves.


There are really two questions here:

1. What CAD system should I use now?
Fusion360 is awesome. Use it. If it’s doing the job you need it to do, there’s no reason to use anything else for your day-to-day projects. As you get more advanced, you may find that Fusion360 can’t do what you need anymore. That’s when you switch, and not before. Unless…

2. What CAD system(s) do I need for job qualifications?
If you’re concerned mainly about job placement, you’ll want to learn one of the big MCAD systems, but it doesn’t much matter which. SolidWorks, Creo, and Inventor are all good options for typical ME work, and bonus: they’re all pretty much the same thing (duck and cover!). Seriously tho, when you know any one of these three, learning the other two is a cinch.

If you’re wanting to design Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, you’ll need one of the Big Boys: CATIA or NX, but be prepared: the documentation sucks, and there are very few (good) tutorials out there. Learning will be tough.

Since you’re already enjoying F360, I’d probably recommend giving Inventor a spin. It’s functionally very similar to all of the other parametric MCAD systems, but does have some limited tie-ins with F360 (being Autodesk and all).

As Josh said, going with job board postings is a good way to go as well. Just keep in mind: CAD is only a tool. Engineers often drive CAD packages, but an Engineer is not a CAD guy!

Let us know what you go with.


OK thanks for the responses. I am still in high school so I don’t need to worry about working really. Since I need to use solidworks for my robotics team anyways, I think I will transition to it. I figure even if fusion is fine for a couple of years, it will be a valuable asset for me to be proficient in solidworks. (I’ve been using it for about 4 months) hopefully as I use it more I will be able to do stuff with the ease fusion 360 has built in.


Have you tried Onshape? It’s basically SolidWorks in the cloud… for free. It’s not complete by any stretch, but for robotics work it would be perfect.


No I haven’t. Don’t really want something that does not run on my desktop. Also if I have solidworks why would I need onshape😀


Onshape has some pretty cool features for collaborating and iterating on design ideas, and it lets you write your own custom features–something I’ve wanted in SW for years. It’s a powerful system, but definitely not as mature as SW.

If you have SW and your comfy with it, that’s a great choice, too.


Yeah I think I’ll stick with SW and if I can’t access it in college I’ll try out onshape or inventor maybe.


Hey slightly off topic, but is there a way to get a grid in solidworks when you are sketching and editing features of a part or assembly?


Onshape has some pretty cool features for collaborating and iterating on design ideas, and it lets you write your own custom features–something I’ve wanted in SW for years. It’s a powerful system, but definitely not as mature as SW.

If you have SW and your comfy with it, that’s a great choice, too.


Also how similar is solidworks to NX? if anyone knows


In some ways it’s very similar. In other ways they’re worlds apart.

I’d say that overall the concepts transfer very easily (parts, assemblies, features, etc), but that NX is simply a vastly more powerful product. I realize that’s not much to go on, but suffice it to say that NX is older, uglier, harder to learn, harder to use, more expensive to buy and support, and also far, far more powerful and reliable than SolidWorks.

Anyway, learn SolidWorks. You’ll be fine :slight_smile:


Grid setting are in the SolidWorks options or you can access it from the Sketch Toolbar


Sounds like you made your decision to stick with what you know for now. But in case you want to play with Autodesk software later, pretty much everything Autodesk is free to students.
Create an account here:


@joshmings yeah I see that option but It does not seem as dynamic as the one in solidworks and it feels like its in the way and on top of things whereas the one in fusion just doesnt. also It only appears when you are skething. Idk, maybe sw will update it in the next version.


Yeah, I know what you mean. You could try changing the grid color. You can do that in system options, colors.


Adam I thought you said a few months ago that you didn’t like 360 that it was weird and didn’t make since.


Not sure what you’re referring to, but it seems like a misunderstanding. I definitely found that for me, as a long-time traditional MCAD user, it was difficult to grok the concept of working without conventional “parts” and “assemblies”. I don’t think that makes it weird, it’s just a barrier to entry for an old-school user like me.

What little time I’ve spent in Fusion360 has not been productive. I found that my knowledge and skills did not transfer as quickly as they normally do, so I gave up quickly.

That’s my own loss, because I do think F360 is a kick-ass product. You can’t have results like they do unless the product works, and I’ve spoken with lots of users who love it.


Even though fusion does not have the traditional parts and assemblies model, that is how I used it sometimes.


It looks like a kick ass product when I jump ship that will probably be the one. Built in SubD and HMS cam which I used a bunch in SW and really like seems hard to beat. Some people might not understand that you can save locally also which I didn’t know at first and turned me off.