What CAD Program Should I Use?

Hey peoples of the forums. I was looking to start doing some CAD designs for the upcoming season, and I was hoping to get recommendations on what program i should use, as a beginner in virtual design and that kind of thing.

Dear Poseyhead,

The “industry standard” if you will for VRC is Autodesk inventor, for multiple reasons. Inventor is free to students, there are hundreds if not thousands of tutorials on it, and all vex parts have already been modeled in inventor for your usage. Finally, Autodesk Inventor is “real” CAD software that is used by actual engineers. If you have never ever used CAD software I recommend playing around with SketchUp, which is free, simplified, and easy to learn. SketchUp will likely be of little use to you for advanced design, but it may help as a way to “dip your toe” into CAD software.


Nick H. (8000)

Thank you! I’ll look into Autodesk and try to figure it out.

AutoDesk has been sponsoring competitive robotics (all platforms) for years, and thus has an early start in the field, and it is certainly easy to get their software. But SolidWorks has jumped on board recently, and will also provide free software licenses to teams who apply on their site: https://www.solidworks.com/sw/education/robotic-design-resources-students.htm This is more of a team-thing than an individual thing, so get your CAD mentor to do the application.

If you are looking to your future, you might be well-served to learn both software packages. Where I work in southeastern Michigan (automotive land), few people use Inventor: most of use here use SolidWorks or Catia (a software which is optimized for designing automotive sheet-metal). I would recommend checking with the CAD instructor at your local community college to see what is most popular in your area (and that instructor might be a great team resource)!

Both Autodesk and Solidworks are sponsors of Team Virus, and our students use both packages, so I’m not speaking from any particular bias. We also use SnapCAD for our IQ students, to get them ready for VRC.