Solidworks Alternatives

Solidworks is amazing and widely used in all sorts of industries but it does have drawbacks.  One is that, once you leave Reed, you’ll have to buy your own license and the cost is at least $5,000 per license.  In addition it only runs on Windows so you’ll need to have a Windows PC available or install a virtual machine on your non-Windows machine.

These days alternatives abound and, depending on your application, may do as much or more than you’ll ever need from a solid modeling program.  Here’s a short list of options to consider outside of Solidworks.  Online video tutorials for any of these options are abundant and are a great place to get started.

  • Fusion 360 from Autodesk – free, multi-platform, partly cloud based, good for digital fab projects since it works well with 3D printers, laser cutters, and CNC milling machines (Tutorials)
  • Onshape – free, from the people who originally developed Solidworks.  Runs in a web browser so truly machine independent and fully cloud-based.  Carries over many features from Solidworks. (Tutorials)
  • Rhino – not free, available for Mac and PC, favored by artists and designers (Tutorials)
  • Inventor from Autodesk – may be free for students, much like Solidworks in that it’s very powerful and full featured. (Tutorials)
  • Many others that I’m not too familiar with: Tinkercad, FreeCAD, OpenSCAD, SketchUp Make, …