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Help choosing CAD package

  1. May 20, 2010 #1
    Hello all,

    I am looking for some advice choosing a CAD software package. I work for a very small company that uses SolidWorks, and we've run into some trouble with their licensing scheme. It's a long, complicated story, but basically we're being forced into upgrading to their new version. Since this involves dropping a good deal of money relative to our bank account, we figure we should take the decision seriously and consider switching to a different program completely. We are such a small company that the "we" basically turns into "I"- the decision has fallen pretty much on me.

    I'm primarily considering SolidWorks, Inventor, proE, and SolidEdge and trying to find as much information about each as possible so I can compare them in terms of price, licensing, features, compatibility, etc. With the exception of proE, I've actually used all of the above, but mostly in academic settings, which means I didn't use them anywhere near the limits of their capabilities where any weaknesses would be apparent, and I didn't have to worry about prices or licensing before.

    I'd love to hear anyone's opinion on the subject, especially if you've used more than one of the above and can offer a relevant comparison. I've tried searching for consumer review websites but there's not much in the area of software, unfortunately. (That's somewhat paradoxical....hmmm.)

    We do consumer product design, so good 3D modeling and assembly is our basic need; things like FEA are less important. Our biggest concern is probably price, but we also worry about compatibility (i.e. sending out a Solid Edge file to a manufacturer will probably induce more headaches than the equivalent proE file).

  2. jcsd
  3. May 20, 2010 #2
    From what you posted, I would rank your options like this:

    #1 Solidworks: Its very popular, handles most things well, and you and your staff are already familiar with it. Large assemblies can be problematic.

    #2 Inventor: I don't use it; however, I drink beers weekly with other engineers that do. The best thing they've had to say about Inventor was that it is similar to solidworks. Its also going to be more common than solid edge... at least in Silicon Valley. I believe their company went with inventor because they thought it would be cheaper than solidworks.

    #3 Solid Edge: Its not as popular as the other 3 choices out here.

    #4 Pro/E: Its a pretty crap cad platform. It does handle large assemblies a bit better than the rest. Pro/E will cost you the most money in the long run. If you transition from solidworks to Pro/E you will find the user interface/general feel to be inferior to what you were working with. This platform does have a solid presence in the defense and semiconductor sectors.
  4. May 20, 2010 #3
    Previous post is largely accurate except this: pro-e has the hardest ui because it's the most powerful package. That's why it leads in aerospace. Most desigers say if you use proe you can pick up the use of any other cad package fairly quickly.
  5. May 21, 2010 #4
    In terms of power CAD packages are roughly ranked as follows (each one seems to specialise in some areas):

    CATIA V5 (> ProE > Nx5/Unigraphics > Solid Edge/Solidworks/Inventor.

    I have extensive experience of Inventor and Solidworks. They are likely to be able to do everything you want, it's only when you get to very specific or specialised needs you need to go for a more powerful cad package.

    I believe that in the long run Solidworks is marginally more expensive that Inventor for a seat license at a given feature level. However Solidworks is by far the best package I have ever used in terms of user friendlyness. Your company will probably find it cheaper in the long run in terms of overheads with SW, just getting things done is so much simpler. Although one thing I have found is that Inventor deals with sub-assemblies very well indeed and has better transferability to AutoCAD.

    On the FEA side, I'm currently using inventor and the inbuilt FEA package is dire to say the least. Cosmos wasn't fantastic but it far outshines inventor fea, if you do alot of FEA work i'd suggest investing in Ansys. It makes running each job quicker (but it's a second set of costs).

    EDIT: And on the sending out files to customers, standard practise would be to send out the part as an .iges file for 3D and DWG/DWF for 2D. So any package is the same.

    I just read you deal with assemblies quite a lot, that is one of the very few things that Inventor does better than SW.
  6. May 21, 2010 #5
    Thanks for all the replies. I had been under the impression that proE was much more widely used than the others. (Of course this was probably just frustration bias, as I was job searching last year and it seemed like every position I found "required" experience in the one CAD package I had never used.)

    I thought there was some standard for exporting files to do CNC/etc, but my memory of CAM is vague and fuzzy, so thanks for the clarification.
  7. May 21, 2010 #6
    Requiring experience on one type of package is like asking for experience using a specific calculator. As long as you have experience 3D modelling it only takes a little bit of time to apart to new software.
  8. May 21, 2010 #7
    Having used 3 of them, I completely agree. This made the experience all the more frustrating, because there's no reasoning with bureaucracy. I could send out my resume saying "experience with Inventor, SolidWorks, and SolidEdge" but if I couldn't check the box next to "proE" I would get automatically rejected. I'm glad I ended up at a small company in the end. =)
  9. May 21, 2010 #8


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    I really only have extensive experience with Unigraphics (v3,4,6) and all in all it's pretty damn good. It does have some quirks with edge blends, but other than that, it's solid, even handling extremely large assemblies.
    In my experience, I find parasolids to be more robust than we call in my (former) industry the IGES (I guess) file type.
  10. May 21, 2010 #9
    Parasolids... kekeke. You can tell you are a NX user. Isnt the parasolid a proprietary format for Siemens software?
  11. May 21, 2010 #10


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    Sure am (was), and it is. I'd had so much better luck with parasolids than iges files though. iges is great for 2D, lots of problems with 3D though.
  12. Jun 18, 2010 #11
    I am still in school so my experience is limited. We have Solidworks there and I like it. Making parts and assemblies is easy. I haven't done any more than that.
    I just got an internship at Raytheon and they use Pro/E. Holy $h!t that is a confusing program to use. I took about 1.5 weeks worth of lessons and I still have a ton of trouble.

    I heard about a very cheap CAD program, Alibre. How is that program?
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