Newbie - Learn Fusion 360 or Carbide Create

I am contemplating purchase of a Shapeoko3 as my first ever exploration into the world of CNC. It appears a bit daunting at first but after reading a lot of blogs, manuals and websites I think it may not be as overwhelming as I first thought. I am wondering though if I should just download and use Fusion 360 instead of using Carbon Create since I will be a hobbyist (free) user of 360. I am thinking 360 is much more robust and since I know neither one now learning that one would perhaps allow more complex projects. Thoughts would be appreciated.


I use autocad to design 2.5D stuff and bring those dxf files into carbide create for cam operations. My personal opinion is that it is not worth it to learn carbide create for design. I find the design part of the program frustrating to use. Probably because I am so used to autocad.

I am also a big fan of the Inventables Easel software for borrowing other peoples designs. (Right now, you can take gcode generated by easel and send it to the SO3 using carbide motion without issue)

I have not done any 3D work yet, but I am trying to learn Fusion360 for when I want to. It seems very robust, but that has the side effect of causing a steep learning curve. I think many users report great results using it though.

We have a bit on this here:

That said, unless you have experience with and a real, driving need for full 3D machining, I don’t recommend adding in the complications of a 3rd dimension pervasively at the beginning, it’s a needless complication.

The nice thing about Carbide Create is that it’s as simple as it can be (sometimes frustratingly so) — a bit of experience with vector design helps w/ understanding it (though makes some of its missing features agonizing) — more importantly, by only providing the essentials, it allows one to be exposed to only what is needed to start, greatly simplifying early success. If one has experience with another drawing / design tool, then it’s an excellent strategy to do the design in the familiar (and more capable) tool and then import it into Carbide Create for CAM. That said, the user guide for Carbide Create is quite brief: — I’ve tried to expand a bit upon that on the wiki: and

More importantly, the concepts and terminology which you will learn while using Carbide Create will apply to any CAD/CAM tool which you may work with later.

Learn the terminology, do a couple of basic tutorial projects. As a crash course I would suggest:

Once you’ve got the basics, then you can move on to more interesting (and complex) things.


Initially I played with Carbide Create, but I quickly found it limiting (even for basic CAM operations, the lack of support tabs makes it a bit frustrating in actual use). I did the free hobbyist license for Fusion and watched a few hours of tutorial videos and made the switch to that. It has a learning curve, but honestly its pretty user friendly for drawing and modeling once you understand the methodology, and there are extensive tutorial videos out there for it. I would download it and watch some basic drawing tutorials and see how well they click for you. Drawing the part is 80% of the work. Once you can draw something setting up the CAM part is fairly easy.

Caveat, I’m a longtime AutoCAD user, which may have helped. TBH, Fusion works so differently than autocad that aside from broad concepts I didn’t find my previous knowledge that helpful. If I have something complicated to draw I sometimes whip it up in AutoCAD and pull it into fusion to extrude into a 3d shape and set toolpaths, but after a bit of use I actually find Fusion very well suited to drawing and do that much less frequently. Especially since Fusion can work in a relational way (you can set variables and then use them as dimensions, which makes tweaking the part very easy later on).

FWIW, I was in your exact position a year or so ago. I took the plunge and bought a SO3.

I played around with Carbide Create but then decided if I’m going to have to learn something completely new why not go with a more robust package. So I jumped into Fusion 360. Vast amounts of on-line learning resources plus CAD and CAM in an integrated package, very appealing to person with zero experience.
l doubt I use even 1% of the capabilities in F360 but they are there if I ever need them.

I’m also so impressed with the SO3 I recently upgraded it to XL, it really is a great tool!


I’m new and using both. Carbide Create is fairly easy to learn but is so limited. Basic things like a lack of tabs makes it frustrating. The thing about using a more complex software is you learn things you didn’t know were possible. I’m new to CAD but Fusion has so many learning services. It takes time but there’s a video for everything. I would recommend their online CAM class which is free. I also have a 3d printer and needed to use CAD to add a precise measurement to a STL file. Fusion made it so easy. Carbide Create is close to being useful but needs a little more work. I love my Shapeoko. Have fun.

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I don’t suppose you’d have a link to that particular course (and any other good beginner/intro courses), would you? I’ve had a quick look on Autodesk’s Online Learning site, but it doesn’t seem possible to search “by level of competency” (though if they did, I’d be looking under the heading: “In-”!)

Just start at the first one…


Thanks Mike. I was in ~entirely~ the wrong area of their website (“Autodesk University\Online Learning” is NOT where you’ll find this stuff!)

I like Fusion360, it’s quite a tool…but it’s got a learning curve that can be a bit much to get up sometimes. My expertise lies elsewhere, but I find now that I understand “how it works” is different than how I -thought- it worked, it’s a lot easer to use. Don’t get me wrong, it takes some effort to learn. I like that there are a lot of youtube videos from very knowledgable people willing to show how lots of things work (Check out NYC CNC once you’ve been through the tutorials on the autodesk site)

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I would just start from the beginning. It’s broken down by sections so just scroll down to what you need to learn. The interface and sketch sections are important. The software is broken down into sections. If you get stuck there are plenty of other youtube videos but I would start with theirs. They have a calendar with their up coming classes. The live ones you can ask questions. It’s the difference between learning iPhoto and Photoshop. Plus Autodesk has a whole ecosystem of products. Here is a link to the recording of the one I attended and a link to their calendar. Hope that helps.
Hey, I’ve edited this because I’m not sure if I’m allowed to post the video. If the instructor gets back to me and say’s it’s ok I’ll post it again.


I have always touted Fusion360 as it is at least for me, more intuitive than Carbide Create, Easel etc. However, since Fusion is cloud-based and doesn’t run completely on your computer, you are kind of locked into it in some ways. Autodesk’s last update rendered my normally pretty powerful 2008 MacBookPro obsolete.
Which brings up my next point.
Instead of upgrading my design computer, I thought why not get an iPad Pro. It just so happens that their are some pretty cool CAD/CAM apps out their. My favorite so far is Shapr3D. It uses the Apple Pencil to draw
spline curves and creating geometry is as simple as tapping Pencil on a face and extruding it. It is unbelievable to me that none of the big CAD company’s thought if this. Other cool apps are Concepts (which I own and use) , OnShape (very powerful, but not user-friendly in my opinion) and uMake (pretty nice, just different than what I am used to.
But yeah, Fusion 360 is great. I’ll start using it again eventually.
Hope this helps.

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I found Carbide Create too basic for my needs. I looked at Fusion but felt it was way too much work to learn - I just want to get cutting!

I tried a few trials of different packages and settled on Cut2D. Even though I have only been using my machine for a week I quickly worked out the basic stuff and know that it will be perfect for when I get better at this.

It costs $150, but I figure that a small price to pay for ease of use, its ability to check my design for any issues that might crop up when cutting and its depth of features, which I am not using yet but will in the future.

I then use Universal CNC sender to send the Gcode to the Shapeoko.