CAD Software – is Autodesk Fusion 360 the Way Forward for IB DT Schools?

Hi there,

Please note this is not a product plug or placement – but just a flag up that this may be useful for schools.

As another year draws to a close – I was speaking with my Head of Design Technology about CAD software and what would be the best way forward. I have come from an era when ProDesktop was the go-to software at one stage, as it was free and with some work reasonably easy to utilise and teach to students. Then came SketchUP which I still think has its place especially for rough modelling and ideas – although its links to produce .stl files for 3D printing can be troublesome. Many schools have invested in Solidworks which is an excellent piece of software has many tutorials and resources, although some teachers and students find it is a little tricky. Solidworks is also not the cheapest option – especially when you are looking for something for free on limited International School budgets.

So suddenly and maybe this has only just come to my attention – Autodesk who I have known for many years as the AutoCAD people (I was once an Architect) have now a wonderful package/suite of software that is free for Educational use and this means it is free to install in schools and for students at home! Wow – this includes Maya, Revit, AutoCAD etc. Just go to their educational website to check it out. Downsides the download and install is mighty large, and the learning curve to their products is quite steep. However it may be useful for students who wish to push themselves further in DT IB and if the school has the software installed could be utilised at both home and school.

  • Dave Ardley
    July 18, 2016

    A good article. Pro desktop (and related CPD) was only available to UK based schools initially and did not (does not?) exist in business beyond school. That, for me, is an important point.

    I was weaned on Autodesk back on late 80’s but struggled with its complexity (bear of little CAD brain at the time). Solid works and rhino are supposed to be good news but I discovered Sketchup, then Google Sketchup and now back to Sketchup again, and use it as my staple diet.

    I thought it was a bit ‘Mickey Mouse’ at first until I saw it used at the Starck offices in Paris, then Ove Arup and SeymourPowell in London which convinced me to have a more focused go. So far, so good and the STL conversion file from the extension warehouse works fine for 3D printing, better than I thought. We also use 2D design, robocut or Corel for the laser and vinyl cutter.

    Bottom line is that I try to give students the confidence to use what they want (so many free apps and cloud based CAD packages now) so that they can produce drawings and files to meet their, mine and the syllabus, needs. I don’t really care what they use as long as it does the job.

    That said, Sketchup is the main school platform for us now, due to ease of use, accessibility and relative low cost, but I accept its ‘horses for courses’ and costs and availability affect schools worldwide.


  • Elvis von Weasel
    October 25, 2016

    Hello Dr T,

    Sketchup( no need to buy pro version) models can be saved ( saved as sketchup verision 7/8) can be directly imported into Revit where by decent textures, lighting can be applied.
    further fiddling can import height map data from google earth and also linked.
    But this is a big program and who has time to learn this!….option for students to fiddle in their own time as the stuff needed to know in the Diploma course won’t give allow time to learn this. Its a question of utlizing the best/simplest software to learn in a short time!

    Fusion 360 may be a way forward but requires a constant internet connection. It can run on mac or pc. Registering is a bit fiddly if using multiple school login accounts so keep it simple. Students can download it for free and use at home at home.

    most other autodesk software is windows only, except there is an auto cad version i believe.

    Also Inventor is the bigger Daddy of fusion 360 but does not need the internet to run, is only windows available. I’m planning on ditching solid works next year because it costs money, has to use a license server to run on multiple pc’s and has become problematic when a student downloads the updated version for home use while the school uses the not so latest version,creating incompatible files….!…..I’m heading for fusion 360

    But Mr Perkins there is still nothing wrong with Prodesktop!… , it can still produce the results and is very stable even on windows 10.

    best wishes from Blighty


    • Alan Perkins
      December 26, 2016

      Hi Elvis,

      Nice to see you reading my DT blog – you should really take over!

      Pro-Desktop – surely time to move on. Don’t you think students have more time now with the new syllabus for learning CAD software?

      Dr T

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