I'm in a somewhat similar position, just starting out, wanting to design some custom electronics enclosures. So there are various knobs and hardware that have to be assembled together, but also I'd like to be able to create a nice curved surface, say like a vintage 50's radio. I've done a first project in Rhino, but actually I've found it somewhat frustrating, and I'm thinking maybe I need something more like Solidworks, Inventor, or most likely, Fusion 360.
My experience so far has been a bit different, and the main cause of frustration - not being able to easily experiment with alternatives and make changes during the design process in Rhino. Lately I've been trying out Fusion 360. There are a lot of things I don't like about it - the whole "cloud app" thing for one, and also it's buggy and sort of half-finished, and well, Autodesk. But anyway, to illustrate the point - I wanted to make this particular shape:
I made a box, drafted the faces, split it, scaled up the top part, raised it, lofted between the top and bottom, put fillets on the edges, and shelled it. Nine operations. Then I thought, actually, I want a bigger angle. So I double-clicked the draft operation in the timeline to edit it, and changed the angle from 9 to 12 degrees:
I hit return, and boom, done:
So here's the same guy in Rhino. Made with similar operations, except shell, because "polysurface is not closed". Whatever that means.
Then I went about trying to change the angle. Ok, so there are some cool things you can do in Rhino:
But in the end, the solution I found after an hour or so was:
I mean, it just can't be done, as far as I can tell.
The other thing is about assemblies. In Solidworks, Inventor, Fusion 360, etc., you can put objects into their own containers, and then connect them to other objects, specifying that certain points or surfaces should always stick together, holes should be concentric, and so on. Then you can kind of slide things around, and have them stay attached in the way you expect. In my first Rhino project, I had a frame made of aluminum profile, some curved sheets that attached to it in a certain way, and a bunch of hardware for the control panel. I know you can use layers to keep groups of objects separate, but it drove me crazy that things wouldn't "stick together" the way I wanted when I moved them. I guess that RhinoWorks could help with that. I haven't been able to try it, but it looks kind of "klunky", and is half the price again of Rhino. There doesn't seem to be any plugin that adds the kind of history-based rebuilding like above though. And anyway I'm on a Mac, so no plugins for me...
So I look at that guitar and I think, Rhino would do a great job of making a nice complex curved surface for the body, which you could tweak endlessly with the control points. But after that, model and assemble the pickups, knobs and other hardware, build the depressions into the surface for them, and then "oh, let's move those knobs around a bit, reposition the bridge..." It seems to me you'd really want to be in a history-based CAD software at that point, for experimenting with alternatives.
I imagine someday I'll be able to buy Rhino for Mac, with T-Splines and RhinoWorks. And I'll look at the $2500 price tag and think, hmm... well now I'm paying $300 a year for Fusion 360. Its surfacing is "good enough for rock n' roll" - and Rhino still doesn't have a history timeline. Oh, UnrollSrf, I'm going to miss you!