CAD / CAM Software advise please


I have designs in Fusion 360. I also have a Shapeoko XXL Pro.

I do not know if I should stick to the free Fusion 360 or to buy Alibre Workshop. (Alibre Workshop | 3D CAD & CAM Software Program)

Terms have changed for Fusion 360, right? Would that limit me?

Is Alibre capable of doing all what the free Fusion 360 does?

Which is harder to learn, Fusion 360 or Alibre?

Can someone please provide me advise on how to proceed?

Thank you and regards,

I don’t know anything about Alibre, but concerning Fusion360 I don’t think it is objectively very well interfaced, but for the price of being “free”, it’s not bad.

As far as if whether the Fusion restrictions limit you, that depends on your use case. I don’t have any of BitSetter/BitZero accessories, so I zero and do tool change manually, so any Fusion limitations there doesn’t affect me. The rapid motions have been disallowed, but there are user-developed post-processing G-code tools that can change those for you.

I don’t have 4-th axis hardware, so that doesn’t affect me. An slightly annoying bug right now is that I can’t use the 2-D pocket toolpath because the pop-up window is too narrow, but that is not a huge loss.


Thank you very much Kelaa for your response.

I have Alibre, SolidWorks, F360 among others. Alibre seems very capable, but never fell in love with it. SolidWorks is wonderful. I tend to use F360 daily, for my basic assemblies, it’s quite convenient, and the CAM suit is a great value. The free hobby version is perfectly capable for the intended user. The subscription version, at roughly $1 day, is affordable. Maintenance fees on software you license typically far exceeds that.

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I mainly design functional parts, so I’m interested in software that best accomplishes that. If you’re interested in something else (like carving artwork or engraving), my preferences may not be very relevant to you.

That in mind, I’ve tried a ton of things, including the high-end stuff like Solidworks, Siemens NX, MasterCAM etc., and I’ve found Fusion 360 suits me best.

In SolidWorks, NX, MasterCAM, I often found basic design tasks to be frustrating, while in Fusion things are usually more intuitive and just work. I feel like the software is mainly getting out of my way and helping me do things. The higher-end software likes, in particular, to assume your machine is a big rigid beast when you’re doing CAM. It’s somewhat difficult to configure it to work well for smaller machines. In Fusion, you just set up your tools with the right feeds and speeds once and you can mostly forget about them.

I did find Solidworks much nicer for assemblies though. Each part is a different file and you can add a bunch of them into an assembly file to bring them all together. Fusion, in theory, has linking but it’s a bit janky in my opinion.

Solidworks also has simulation capabilities locally, while Fusion 360 demands you use the cloud.

As for whether Fusion works with the free tier, it does. The main thing you miss out on is rapids but there’s a post-processor that can mitigate that. I pay for it though. I figure if I’m happy to spend $XXXX on a nicer spindle to make my work faster, I should be happy to spend $XXXX on software to make my work faster.


One more for Fusion 360, definitely steep curve but well worth it. just start with the free tier and get a feel for it before you spend the $$$. I too ended up paying for it just for speed.

Solidworks came out with a $99 non commercial version too. not sure on the limitations for that one.

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