Robot Design Through Cad

My team is looking to use cad software for designing our robot next season. Does anyone have any tips or tricks for this? I’m relatively new to cad overall, and I know people use programs like Fusion or Solidworks, but I want to do it right. What is the best way to go about designing robots in cad?

Join this discord.

Use Autodesk Inventor, and read the instructions on this discord on how to get started.

Also look here. The best robotics wiki


Our team uses Autodesk Fusion 360, but I’d say that it is a matter of preference.

I like to put an 18x18x18 box around the design, occasionally disabling it so that I can work with the design better.

Leave off the unimportant screws and nuts. If you will obviously have space, no need to put them in.

You don’t have to design every single aspect of your robot in CAD. Sometimes it may just be a good idea to leave space for improvements. For both of our team’s previous two robots, we’ve left parts for physical designing/building after being sure we had enough space for them in CAD.


Our team didn’t design our robot in cad. Although I completely regret the decision and recommend you use cad.

Her are some reasons why.

  1. It allows you to work out issues before building, such as tolerances and sizing.
  2. You don’t need to work around your sketch solutions that could’ve been solved if you planned your robot more before you built it.
  3. It makes upgrades much easier because you don’t need to physically change the robot. You can see if it fits in cad then spend less time building and less time trying to figure out trying to fit the darn thing in the size limit.

We started learning Fusion 360 but might switch to Inventor because of more support and more available libraries and plugins.

I realize this isn’t an answer to the question but it’s for others who look at the post.

For your question I would suggest designing from the bottom up so you can mount your lift etc without spacing issues. You also don’t need to add every screw and nut, as it makes rendering harder and takes much longer.

If you don’t want the massive learning curve of a full fledged cad program you could use protobot but beware it doesn’t have some specialty parts like pneumatics.

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Thanks for the advice. How long do you think it would take for someone who has minimal experience with cad software to beat the learning curve of more advanced programs like Fusion and Inventor?

I’m not sure depends on how well you can pick stuff up and memorize it. It’s not necessarily hard just takes time to make joints and figure out the odd kinks with different programs.

If you get the vex parts library and a fusion 360 student license it is a very solid cad software and there are youtube videos that teach you the tools necessary to use it for vex

The new protobot software also looks very promising and easy to learn but I have yet to try it

A good starting point especially for me was using onshape. Onshape is cad but in a browser and it’s easy to learn, atleast for me.