Are there any good 3d modeling programs

I was just wondering so I could make a model of my bot before I waste time building

Autodesk Fusion 360 and Inventor are good options with community-provided part libraries. They can both be downloaded for free as a student


Here’s a thread from a few weeks ago: RobotMesh Studio with New Chrome Versions - #9 by kmmohn

You’ll find general information about all the available CAD systems with free educational licenses (you don’t need to limit yourself to Fusion and Inventor) in this document: CAD for VEX Robotics.pdf - Google Drive


I would highly suggest OnShape. It is very intuitive to use and it can run on almost any device as it is run in a browser. Also, education accounts are free. The one downside, is that you will not be able to render your CAD in the program. But, I think OnShape may be developing that.


Here is a link to a video training series about using Onshape for VEX Robotics:


Inventor, Fusion 360, and Solidworks are incredibly good software as what I heard. I highly suggest one of these if you want to learn CAD, and you should check out the CAD discord server for github repositories and CAD assistance for these. As for me, I am working on learning Fusion 360. But if you have no experience and you don’t want to get into CAD, but want to do it just for prototyping, a RobotMesh Studio Mimic project is very simple to understand and build robots (although extremely dated and limited types of VRC parts are present on the website, including the aspect of not being able to insert game elements as what I am aware of).


Another option is Protobot. It’s very basic but imo much easier to use than robot mesh.


However, it’s not finished- the next beta should be coming out in the next few weeks.

It still can’t save anything, and you can’t download it.
Also, happy birthday @Connor


I will vouch for Fusion 360 as being pretty amazing. Great features, easy to work with, and excellent for collaboration across users. It may be a bit much for a beginner though.

I have used Inventor for Vex modeling. It was fine. Similar to Fusion, but without the cloud-based storage that really takes Fusion to another level.

I have not used Onshape for Vex, but consider it a good platform when I use it for other modeling. Cloud storage and browser based, which can be pretty nice when you want to work without downloading or opening up Fusion.


Ok, I am going to put my head out here - good 3D modeling programs should NOT be limited to computer/digital medium. Learning about drafting and technical drawing by hand may seem bizarre to do now, but really it is a good practice to engage in and will allow you evaluate the digital tools better. So for many VEX teams, I think this would be good approach to have - what do I need to know to communicate my ideas precisely so others can interpret them correctly.

We had one student so precise at it, we dubbed his hand drawn renders of robot “NickCad”.


this is very useful but where do you get the part diagrams

VEX provides descriptions of most of its parts - not a good start?

fair this is my first time messing with this kinda stuff

Great to be asking this now - just today I reminded my students that engineers master their craft by understanding tools, materials, and techniques. So when asked what are good 3D modeling programs, it leads me to wonder if the problem space is well understood before sourcing a particular technology. Long winded way to say work the problem space more and you will know what tools, techniques, and materials you will need to solve your problem (VEX or others…)

Great to have these questions on VEXforum …

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What do you mean? All I am is the lead designer and programmer for my team, and with the complexity of the new season I wanted to get into cad to be more effecent with our time and materials. That and our old coach retired and our new one doesn’t know much so I thought I would ask people that do.

No shade intended. If you want to be more efficient with time and materials - the first step is being able understand how to layout and draw to communicate ideas - if you have mastered this by hand, then you are ready to evaluate computational tools to meet your teams needs.

So if your local mentor/coach has retired, it is a question how comfortable are you with drawing your ideas by hand? Sketching? Drawing to scale?

Computational tools to render - do you need to have full animation? or just to scale drawings? These questions will answer what is good enough now and if you have other ambitions - what the tools is required to do.

You need to state what the criteria and constraints for your team in terms of tools acquisition - cost? animation? budget?..

If this is a lot, I would suggest you investigate hand drawn to develop critical skills. For VRC judging seeing this as part of your process is great vs adopting a tool due to some person on vex forum recommending it…

at middle school level - NickCad is the way to go in terms authentic communication.

Seriously, until now, we have no idea of your goals, skill level, support from advisor, … Not even if MS or HS.

I guess the best question - are you wanting this so you look good in front of judges at competition, or are you asking what are best tools and skills to use them?

Today I head the word “meta” more often that expected from MS student … and in context - was not useful, nor well applied…

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Well I’m in MS I mostly need the cad skills and abillatys with cad because my team is losing a month of build time so we need to know exactly what we are doing for when we start. I have shakey hands and am bad at drawing accurate models or models to scale which is another thing that is important to me, so we can pull up the parts list and set to work immiediatly.

Anyone who has met me knows I have shaky hands with fine motor challenge - it is ok - straight edges your friend :slight_smile:

Back to drafting/sketching - I think this will help your team the most (even if you have shaky hands, your teammates may not, that is the power of team. )

I also challenge your assertion about losing one month of build time - how did you and your team determine this loss of time? Design process usually helps frame effort (not formulaic!!!) Teams should spend time defining parameters of challenge, then develop a strategy that will yield best results ( as determined by the team…) At that point possible approaches will be presented and those most promising prototyped and test…

North America schools have just started school!!! Most clubs are just are in sign up stage! OP “Losing a month of build time” - not an issue … no valid reference specified …

My advice is to do a game analysis, then game strategy and prioritize subsystems you need to develop, then prototype them to confirm best approach…

None of these steps depend on a particular technology. All of these subsystems can be sketched up on the back of a menu at iHop - I was there when QCC2 did this at Worlds when problem solving at Worlds during SkyRise - they figured it out and succeeded (they probably used many other artifacts to their final solution.

None of my middle school teams needed a specific digital CAD technology to advance to Worlds, nor to build any of their robots. Long view they got better year over year.

I will not argue that you do not need CAD to be competitive - I know too many successful teams who have not used digital CAD to succeed on the field nor engineering design process.

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The reason we are gonna loose the time is because the 6th graders can no longer travel with us and are getting their own time in the club. That and our schools program manniger said we couldn’t bring parts home early when our new coach asked.

This is a universal challenge - not a challenge about CAD tools preventing build opportunities for middle school team.

Bringing parts home is an organization decision. Not a what to build decision.

My recommendation at this point:

  • Follow advice about design approach here and other threads
  • Get your club advisor to look at this and other threads on VEX forum
  • Get your club advisor to join Facebook VEX Coaches group (debatable)
  • Have your club volunteer at events to get ideas to grow and best practices
  • Mark this topic as solved
  • Thank your school for getting a good start to this season (our schools have not met yet!)

Tip of the hat to being engaged in the VRC community to be the best you can be!