What 3D CAD software solutions do early stage hardware startups use to design their first prototypes? [Quora]

by · March 25, 2021 ·2 min read

I’ll interpret ‘early stage hardware startups’ as barebones startup with no seed capital.

A startups objective is to discover a profitable business model. Your overheads cost should be kept as low as possible whilst you’re in the ‘startup’ process of discovering your hardware products minimum viable product.

What is a Minimum Viable Product?

“A minimum viable product (MVP) is a development technique in which a new product or website is developed with sufficient features to satisfy early adopters. The final, complete set of features is only designed and developed after considering feedback from the product’s initial users.”

For further information read:

  • The Lean Startup by Eric Riess
  • The Startup Owner’s Manual by Steve Blank

Once you’ve nailed down the ‘business’ side and defined the actual problem you’re solving you can then answer:

What type of formats will our suppliers, manufacturers require? What software do they use? What is the best fit for the type of product we are making?

I use Autodesk Fusion 360 in tangent with Solidworks 2018. The process I use and has become common is using concept product design and development through Autodesk Fusion 360 sending this data to Solidworks 2018 to prepare product for manufacturing.(D.F.M)

Autodesk Fusion 360.


  • Cloud based computer aided design that connects your entire product development process on a single platform on Mac and PC.
  • Free Use For: Startup/home-based business/individual that generates less than $100,000 or equivalent in other currency per year from the total sale of goods or services.

$40 per month for standard version

$190 per month ultimate version (Extra simulation and manufacturing features)

  • A wealth of online resources to educate yourself from novice to professional online.
  • T-splines: To put it simply, Fusion 360 gives you the ability to model solids and freefrom shapes in the same environment.


  • Lack of features
  • The assembly usability isn’t on par with other C.A.D programs
  • Sketching isn’t the best



  • Vast array of features
  • Drawing to 3D – Fast
  • Industry standard across multiple industries and disciplines


  • High cost
  • Requires a high end Computer
  • No Native Mac Application


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