Best CAD program

What is the best free CAD program.

Autodesk Inventor 2018

SketchUp

Is autodesk MAYA good?

I guess you could make it work, but isn’t that for video games?

oh
I didnt know that

Can you do simulation in sketchup?

Uh no you can’t, its just a sorta blueprint/design software. If you want to do simulation, i think you can do that with some VEX software, though I can’t recall what software exactly.

But sketchup is the best for designing and building your robot.

oh ok

I use the student version(free) of Autodesk Inventor. It is really good and easy to learn. There are also several parts libraries for vex.

can you do simulation in that

I am not really sure. I have never done that.

What exactly do you mean by “simulation”? You can do stress analysis & animation in Inventor if you’re looking for either of those.

You can make videos with moving parts if that’s what you want.

Yeah that’s what I mean. Thanks

This is probably way too much info and a lot of it isn’t necessarily info you need, but for anyone else interested in CAD I wanted to be thorough since I never see enough CAD used in VRC.

As someone who has made vex robot CADs extensively in Inventor, SOLIDWORKS, and Fusion 360, I think most likely you are best off using Inventor to start, or if you have a lot of members who want to contribute Fusion 360. Let me just lay out those three options here:

1. Inventor
I would recommend Autodesk Inventor for someone getting started in VRC. There are some good parts libraries you can modify for easier assembly. I started with the library here and modified it from there. There is a lot of support for it, it looks great in assembly mode, and is fairly easy to pick up. Additionally it is completely free for students and very easy to get a students license. Also some advice- if you go with Inventor make sure you do not have the fall creators update for windows 10, and roll it back if you do. That is why lately constraints in assembly have been taking absurdly long.

2. Fusion
Autodesk Fusion 360 is something good to get into if you have several members interested in CAD since it is cloud based and very easy to manage a single assembly that is worked on by several users. It is similar to Inventor but simpler and with less cool features.

3. SOLIDWORKS
If you really want to get into serious CAD work and are interested in continuing past high school it would be great to try to get a free SOLIDWORKS student edition license, though I don’t know the procedure for this as I only got my license as part of my university software package. It is the predominantly used CAD software in the industry, but be warned, it is a long road in vex specifically due to less published part libraries and support. Additionally due to large assembly mode and diminished appearance it is easier to run when making large assemblies. Also the final renders look nicer than either Autodesk product above.

Just for the sake of if you want to make pretty renders all day, here are some examples of renders I made in the past week or so(don’t judge the SOLIDWORKS one by the lack of finished assembly!) Note also that the posted Inventor pictures are not renders but just screenshots during assembly, since the renders don’t look much more impressive for VEX imo.

I have been making large scale assemblies in VRC, FRC, and high school engineering classes for years, and am now doing more in university level CAD courses and design teams such as BAJA. I would be happy to help you out if you have any questions or want advice on efficiently CADing vex robots specifically, as that can be tricky starting out.
Inventor 1.JPG
Inventor 2.JPG
SW Render 1.JPG
SW Render 2.JPG

thanks
I got inventor yesterday, and just used the autodesk part library. I dont need something super complex.

I have been using the recent Autodesk Fusion 360 for about two weeks, and having come from Autodesk Inventor Pro 2016, I prefer Fusion.

@Matthew Levis, I agree. The Fusion collaboration system is excellent.

Fusion’s project management is much cleaner in my experience. I crashed Inventor, misplaced parts in my filesystem, and had a terrible time trying to share my project with a teammate (Incidentally, Google drive is not an optimal way to share Autodesk component files). In comparison, Fusion makes projects simple and well-organized, with version control built-in, and with plenty of warning if you accidentally or otherwise try to move parts that are being depended on.

I haven’t had to resolve any dependencies parts in Fusion! (yet) (knock on wood).

There are some nuances of Fusion 360 that I have found to be noticeably more intuitive than Inventor. For instance, a Fusion joint can do the job of both Inventor joints and Inventor constraints. Also,
Points on a sketch can be used to make joints rather quickly, in comparison to the Inventor iMates solution that many users opt for (myself included).

I think I found this link in another forum post, but I forgot where. Either way, this is a good demonstration of 50% of the functionality you really need in VEX CAD designs (making joints on C channels).

Also, the part libararies from Autodesk Education Community:
https://www.autodesk.com/education/competitions-and-events/vex/recommended-software

My main gripe about Fusion is that importing parts can be tedious and slow. Rotating them is easier though. Also, turning on / off sketches can get tedious (it is part of the above video’s joint process).

A bit off-topic, but if anyone knows how to do this in Fusion, please share. How does one mirror lots of components while preserving the joints they have between them?

I am interested to hear if anyone has had similar or different experiences with Inventor / Fusion 360.

I believe there’s a workaround that allows you to mirror bodies (not components), but you can convert them to components once it’s done.

Unfortunately, Fusion 360 does not preserve joints when casting a mirror… yet. It had been planned for years, and I have no idea when it’s coming out.

IMO, Fusion 360 is great for designing new models, simulations (with cloud computing),rendering, and team collaboration all in one package, but it has it cons such as the mirror preserving joints. Fusion 360 still have room for improvement but it’s getting there steadily. I’m leaning toward Solidworks when it comes to assembling big models.

Also, Fusion 360 has a lot of good plugins such as Keyshot that helps rendering your parts to be more realistic. Check out some renders below:
Official shot 2 with text.jpg
Official shot 3 with text.jpg

DON’T USE SKETCHUP! It is the worst modeling software I have ever used. Literally, anything is better than Sketchup. I personally recommend Fusion 360 (or Inventor) because it is a really good and easy to use modeling software that students can get for free. Solidworks is also great if your school has it.