GEAR - Geauga Engineering and Robotics
header graphic

Computer-aided Design (CAD)

GEAR member projects may include the fabrication of custom parts. An early step in the engineering process should be the creation of a mechanical drawing. These drawings can be created on paper using traditional drafting tools (T-square, triangle, etc.) or they can be generated using computer software (CAD).

Club advisors initiated a series of lessons for members in the fall of 2016 covering traditional mechanical drawing on paper. We have recently received a donation of a 3-D printer, which requires CAD software for designing the parts. In order to take advantage of the printer, members may now wish to learn CAD, so that their part designs can be realized with the 3-D printer.

GEAR advisors have identified Onshape and Autodesk Fusion 360 as useful CAD programs for member use. These are professional grade CAD software packages, available for free to our members. Both programs are cloud-based but with differences in how the local computer handles the software. For Fusion 360, an application is installed on your local computer, which communicates with a remote server (the cloud). Design files are saved to a remote server. However, backup design files can be exported to the local computer and then can be opened later. There is also the option to work off-line (without internet connection) for certain periods of time (default is 2 weeks). There is no software to install for Onshape because it works with the computer's web browser. This is handy if you need to work on a project using many different computers, some of which you may not have authorization to install software. However, you must have a continuous connection to the internet while using Onshape.

For members that have no experience with CAD software, the learning process will be challenging at first, regardless of the package selected (Onshape or Fusion 360). Fusion 360 is a product of Autodesk, Inc. Autodesk currently has a large share of the CAD software market while Onshape is a relatively new player in the field. While it is difficult to predict future market trends, for members seriously considering a career in engineering, you might want to learn Fusion 360. There are a number of excellent tutorials to help you learn Fusion 360 and club advisors may also create some as well.

If you want to try Fusion 360:

1. Download the free trial software at:

2. After download, install the software. When the software starts, you will have the opportunity to extend the 30 day trial period to one year by selecting the Start Up/Enthusiast option (do not select the Student option because GEAR is not authorized to use this option). At the end of the year term you can renew if you want to continue using it, free of charge. If you have previously installed a trial version, you can convert it to Start Up/Enthusiast following directions here.

3. To start learning Fusion 360, do the Introduction to CAD for Engineers tutorials available at link below or do lessons by Jeffrey La Favre:

Fusion 360 lessons by Jeffrey La Favre (more to come later)

Lesson one - make a cube with a hole

Lesson two - make a round plate with 12 counter-bored holes

Lesson three - make a square plate with 4 holes and save the file for 3-D printing

Lesson four - learn about using constraints

Lesson five - learn how to use the Revolve tool to create a funnel

Lesson six - learn how to use the Sweep tool to create a drawer handle


Onshape is a cloud-based application and does not require the installation of any software on your computer. The software is accessed via a web browser. In order to use the software, you must have an account.

There are two Onshape account types available to our members, depending on their age. For members 13 years old or above, we suggest the student education account. Members under 13 should create an account of the public type. All Onshape accounts require the user to have an email address, which you must provide during the account creation process.

To create an account, go to address listed below:

Click on the "Create Account" button

A page will appear listing account types. Click the "create account" link for the Public account type.

On the next page enter your first name, last name and email address in the slots provided and then click the "Get Started" button

On the next page you will be asked "How do you use CAD?" If you are 13 years old or more, then click on the Student/Educator choice. If you are younger than 13, then click the Open Source/Hobby Projects choice.

You will now be forwarded to another page where you will need to supply additional information. The information required is different for each account type. Fill in the required information to finish the process of creating your account. If you are creating a student education account, you will be asked for your school name. In this case your school name is: Geauga Engineering and Robotics 4-H club. If you are creating a public account (open source/hobby projects), you will be asked for your organization name, which is: Geauga Engineering and Robotics 4-H club.

After you have created your account, you can start learning how to use Onshape. When you log on, you will find various tutorials available to help you learn how to use the software. If you have had experience with CAD type software already, then you will probably learn how to use Onshape quickly. If not, you may find the learning process challenging. GEAR advisors will provide assistance to members in learning the software as needed. At some point in the future we may start formal lessons on using Onshape. But for now we will provide assistance in an informal way.

While the Onshape tutorials provide a way to get started with the learning process, you may find early on that you need to learn more about the software. Onshape has prepared a more detailed set of lessons for learning the software, which is intended for college students. However, some of our members may find these lessons helpful, especially the lessons for weeks 1 to 5. You can access the lessons at this web link:

The above link will load a page listing folders for 12 weeks of lessons. Start with week 01 by opening its folder and then open the document named "1-1-Lesson Plan." After you have completed lessons for weeks 01 to 05, you will have a good start to using Onshape. It is likely you may find these lessons challenging. If you get stuck, just ask an advisor for help.

Onshape Lessons by Jeffrey La Favre

Lesson 1 - make a wheel and a ball

Lesson 2 - make a cube with a hole in it

Lesson 3 - make a cone

Lesson 4 - make a drawer handle

Lesson 5 - make a spring

Lesson 6 - learn to use the Loft tool

Lesson 7 - make a GEAR (this will be challenging but I couldn't resist)

Lesson 8 - make a bracket

Lesson 9 - make a Acme threaded rod

Lesson 9a - make a nut for the threaded rod


Last update: June 11, 2017