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What CAD program for complicated parts?

  1. Feb 17, 2015 #1


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    What CAD program do people use and like? What programs use a standard data file format?

    It's ok if it requires me to pay. I have budget. But suggested good free programs are appreciated.

    What I am looking for is a CAD program to do 3D design of complicated parts. In particular, I am a nuclear safety guy, so I am looking to do design of various parts in a nuclear reactor. But also other things like fuel transfer equipment, handling bays, storage bays, etc. I'm hoping for a nice 3D view.

    Also, I am hoping to take the data out of the CAD program, manipulate it, and feed it into an analysis program. That is why I am hoping for a standard data file format that I can get the definition for, and write a program to extract the data.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 17, 2015 #2
    In my opinion, Creo Parametric is a good one. If you are a student, you can get it for free, but the commercial version is gonna set you back quite a bit. How much, I don't know.
  4. Feb 17, 2015 #3
  5. Feb 23, 2015 #4
    "Complicated" is such a vague term it's hard to prescribe any one program. Plus, it really depends on your needs and standards.

    (NOTE: there are more systems than just these, but AFAIK these are the industry "standards")

    If you're designing 3D parts, you can go with Solidworks, CATIA, Siemens NX, Creo Parametric. Solidworks is a a cheaper package, and while it can do complicated parts, it's really limited in the "other" things it can do well, such as advanced surfacing, parametric constraints, etc. Plus, there is no accepted PLM system for Solidworks for keeping track of revisions of parts, workflows, etc. although there are PLM systems like ProductCenter that integrate well. Solidworks licenses start at around $3k-5k.

    Usually, if you require more features and more workbenches like tool path planning, finite element software, or tighter integration with PLM systems, you can choose from CATIA, NX, or Creo. They all have similar features but each has their good points and bad points. These are also all "high-end", meaning that they can do anything that modern CAD allows you to do, but each license starts at $30-50k. Government subcontractors usually like high-end systems like this because of traceability, options for configuration management, revision control, workflows, etc. As well, each industry usually favors a certain CAD package, although that's by no means standard. Aerospace companies usually like CATIA, but the company I work for uses Creo and I know Boeing uses NX, CATIA and Creo (but usually in different divisions of the company).

    From what you described, Solidworks might be enough for what you're going to design, but I can imagine you needing other software for the product lifecycle management.

    About file formats, each CAD system has their own proprietary file format. There are a whole host of reasons, but there are ISO standard file formats like IGES or STEP that try to be universal. Also, geometry kernels can be shared by many different programs (e.g. NX, Solidworks, and GibbsCAM all use the Parasolid geometry kernel), so the kernel file format (such as Parasolid file format) is often shared between programs as well. Finite element analysis programs like Femap, ANSYS, and Abaqus already import these file formats.
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