Product design/presentation what's best Rhino, Solidworks, Fusion 360, ...?


I’m a musician and designer and I’ve mostly used Cinema 4D in the past and a small cheap program called ViaCad for most of my presentations + photoshop but it’s not the easiest way to work. But some companies I work for (making guitar and plugin/VST user interface designs) seem to use Solidworks, which is quite expensive and hard to learn so I wonder if there are alternatives that can do the job at a smaller price tag ? Some people seem to suggest that Rhino is easier and very good for this kind of tasks. I know I’m on a Rhino forums but are there some people who have used Solidworks before and now use Rhino or other software and can give some insight on what are the pro’s and con’s ? I’d like to do for example a guitar design in 3D with photo realistic presentation and then being able to export it so the in house 3D cad guy can use my model for production too.

thanks so much,

best regards,

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If you are a designer, Rhino is the best way to go. The software allows you to create beautiful flowing surfaces and then EASILY change or experiment.

SolidWORKS is better for manufacturing and engineering. If the design is already done, then its linear (some call it ‘anal’) workflow is great for getting to a finished model. Using parametrics (‘history-based’) every dimension is input at every step of the way. This definitely helps when a change is needed after the model is completed, but many designers like to experiment with alternatives and build ‘test geometry’ to see how it looks … which is not easy or what SolidWORKS was designed to do.

The best answer to this hot-button question was given to me by a friend who did the following:

  • Use Rhino to design, experiment, and make it beautiful with world-class rendering engines like V-Ray.
  • Then, bring the geometry into Solid WORKS for any shelling, bosses, or structural stuff.

Here’s a cute little penguin I did with Rhino. As far as I can tell, this shape is close to impossible with SolidWORKS.

It’s the glasses - lends a kind of a Rick Perry style gravitas, is how I see it.


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Hi schultzeworks,

thanks for your answer. Really nice penguins :smile:

So if I take for example this type of guitar body (I made this one in Photoshop, so it’s just 2D with some 3D elements like pickups and switches and knobs in Cinema 4D but most is just 2D) this would be easier to do in Rhino then Solidworks ? I’d like to be able to build the guitar in 3D and then make nice product presentations of it in different angles without the need of making the guitar to do this. In most cases the changes I’m asked to do is just change the shape a little bit of the guitar and colors or finishes, but I guess this is also doable in Rhino ?

thanks again,

Even if we pretend for a moment that Solidworks was as good as Rhino for this type of work, the advantage still goes to Rhino because of the cost difference, and the fact that you don’t pay annual maintenance for support. Even without paying a dime for support there will always be someone there to answer your questions and help you problem solve. And as far as I can tell so far (15 years with Rhino) that support is for as long as you want it to be.

As for producing beautiful renderings of your designs, there are a number of renders for Rhino that work well. I use Flamingo nXt because I’m as dumb as a stump when it comes to rendering, but the results are pretty nice IMHO.



That’s a pretty cool fixture!

You are welcome and glad you like the penguins.

Of course. Its very simple and quite straightforward in Rhino.

However … if you are interested in learning Rhino so that you can THEN build a project is really the long way around. I always recommend to people who have never touched Rhino that you treat the project like a visit to the doctor or lawyer. Just go straight to a pro and have them do it. Yes, they do cost more than zero, but it will be fast and right. In fact, they might even be done in a few days, while you would take weeks or months. How much is your time worth?

That being said, if you have an open time frame AND are interested in learning the software, then by all means go for it.

Here’s a damn good Rhino 5 course online at If you’re not a member, here’s a link for 10-days free.

Thanks Dan, that’s a pretty impressive model and render!

Also thanks Schultzeworks for the additional info and indeed I think that maybe learning it first through good lessons is important to understand such a program. I’m going to check out the the lessons, doesn’t seem very expensive.

Thanks again for the input,


Hi David is that you who makes the videos at pretty cool stuff!!! Just watched a few minutes of the examples in there, very good stuff,



Just downloaded the trial version and must say i’m already impressed with the learning stuff provided in pdf etc, that’s really a LOT info and help, I hope i’ll manage to go through most of these, but probably best first to go through the videos which seems a little less expensive then the standard video trainings from Rhino itself. Anyway, I must say I’m really impressed with what I see here, thanks again, Hans

Hi David,

I started the Lynda essentials training, lot’s of things to learn , but it’s very fun :smile:

One last question, and this is more on compatibility with other software, if I manage for example to finish a model in Rhino and then want to export it to let’s say Solidworks, is that possible and would the CNC guys at the guitar company be able to use my basic model and work from there ?



Hi Hans,
Yes, SolidWorks supports opening Rhino .3dm files.

Thanks for that feedback. I tried to create the kind of training that I wish I HAD when I first learned Rhino.


Yes. SolidWORKS can open Rhino files, but I typically export to .STEP format.

Only up to Rhino V4 however - you need to save back to V4 format for SW to be able to read the files.


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I use STEP when sending Rhino data to customers with Solidworks. Never have a problem.

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Thanks for your answers everyone, that’s really cool about the possibility to import to Solidworks later one.

I’m having total fun going through the tutorials and lessons, hope that i’ll be able to get into some serious work soon,



Solidworks has a plugin called PowerSurface that is a subD modeler that works directly inside of solidworks. So the penquin would be no problem. It gives you the organic modeling capibility’s of subD and the power a solid modeler all in one. It’s a game changer. Fusion 360 has the same but uses Tsplines for subD. SolidWorks would be a better choice for the guitar assembly plus you could even generate the machine code inside solidworks with HSMworks which is a free cam package. Don’t get me wrong I really like Rhino but for geometry as simple as the guitar body Solidworks with it’s assembly functionality would be the way to go. You guy’s are right about the support for Rhino it’s the best in the industry and Rhino is a bargan.

Thanks for the clarification and I’ll look into it. I have a friend who is way better than me at SolidWORKS, so I’ll see if he is aware of this feature.

The cost has just gone up $1495 by adding that plug-in!

How much is seat of SolidWorks with these added tools anyway?
I think there’s annual maintenance too or have they changed that?