Today’s 3D modeling community has a waste variety of 3D modeling
software to choose from, with upgrades that come out each year and new and
improved types of software for every
purpose imaginable. However the leading 3D modeling software developing
such as Dassault Systems and Autodesk still claim the majority of the market.
One of Dassault’s front runners in the past years, with an astonishing
number of 1.5 million licenses and a great number of pirate users has been SolidWorks. With an annual upgrade and
multiple versions, SolidWorks is a parametric, solid modeler which uses
features based approach to create models and assemblies.
The workflow of SolidWorks allows
creating 2D drawings consisting of geometries such as lines, curves, arcs,
point and etc. and their transformation in 3D volume with a variety of
available features. Once a part is made as a 3D volume, it can be assembled
with other parts, used in a simulation, rendered or used for an extraction of a
2D technical drawing. One of the main
benefits of the workflow is the possibility of interactively changing an
initial drawing and distributing automatically the changes trough out all of the
files where the part was used (drawings, assemblies, simulations an etc.)
As a suite of multiple modules for different
disciplines and uses, one of the most exploited are:
The Simulation tools
applied to LCA(Life cycle assessment) and variety of different simulation
scenarios where different forces are being examined
The Rendering tools used for producing high quality
photo-realistic images of the products and systems that are being manipulated
in the software
The CAM tools which allow the user to interact with
the manufacturing processes
data management tools, allowing users to share information about their models
In addition SolidWorks
has created a number of modules purposed for different domains in the industry,
such as SolidWorks Plastics, which allows a better
workflow and a preliminary analysis of the manufacturing of plastic products; SolidWorks MBD (Model Based Definition) used for
the manipulating with all data of the model intended for manufacturing; CircuitWorks, a module specialized for the electrical
aspect of a product or a system.
As one of Dassault System’s most appreciated, CATIA is advertised as a
complex high-end 3D modeling software. CATIA is a slightly more mechanically oriented
and links the user to the manufacturing process, early in the
product development phase. It combines high- end precise solid modeling,
detailed analysis and simulation of the model and it allows the user to examine
the model or system in its operating
CATIA Engineering enables the creation of any type of 3D assembly,
for a wide variety of engineering processes. It connects all parties included
in the process by allowing them to exchange data while developing the model, and
uses performance based systems engineering approach that minimizes the production
CATIA has integrated
Product development (CAx)
Conceptualization and design (CAD),
Surfacing & shape design
Electrical, fluid and electronic systems design
Mechanical engineering and systems engineering.
CATIA enables the
design of electronic, electrical, and distributed systems along with the
technical documentation needed for manufacturing.
is one of the first CAD programs to run on personal computers in 1982, and
since then it has been upgraded into 2D and 3D computer aided drafting software
used in multiple industries such as architecture, construction, producing
manufacturing blueprints and engineering applications.
it was first developed AutoCAD was focused on the creation of 2D drawings and
technical documentation. Today’s version of AutoCAD features a full set of
basic solid modeling and 3D tools, high quality renderings with the integration
of the mental ray engine included in
rendering, parametric functionality and mesh modeling.
has also established DWG (drawing), their native file format for as a basic
standard for CAD data interoperability.
domains of application for this software are:
drafting – technical drawings and 3D
models for machines and devices.
drafting- creating plans for residential and commercial buildings.
Civil drafting – creating plans used for building roadways,
bridges and other public service units.
drafting – preparation of schematics for
wiring electrical systems.
drafting – preparation of layouts for
the electrical installation and repairing of electronic gadgets.
Because of its wide usage in
different domains, Autodesk has also developed a number of vertical programs
such as AutoCAD Architecture (architectural applications ), Civil Design (public
service unit planning), AutoCAD Electrical, AutoCAD Civil 3D, AutoCAD Map 3D,
AutoCAD Mechanical, AutoCAD MEP, AutoCAD P&ID, AutoCAD Plant 3D and AutoCAD
Having the basic information for the 3 leading 3D solid modeling
software, we can focus on their comparison. All three modeling softwares are
widely used and praised, but their general comparison is hard to conduct due to
some fundamental differences in their purpose and features. The comparison is
going to be shown through a repartition into different fields and based on experts
and user’s experience and analysis.
The main categories in which these
softwares are used are architectural, design, electrics and mechanics. With CATIA and AutoCAD
being adapted to all four, in this category Solidworks has the poorest
qualities amongst the three due to the lack of features that would initiate its
usage in the architectural sector.
The user interface criteria
is the ease and intuitivism that characterizes the use of each software. In
this category SolidWorks has the best performances. New users have no problem
getting accustomed and statistically SolidWorks takes the least time to be
Advanced Surfacing Features
features come in handy when dealing with complex organic models and fluid forms
that are most commonly present in plastic products. With the basic options like
heal, trim and create organic shapes, CATIA has the last place in this category
with performances similar to those of AutoCAD, whereas SolidWorks has a
well-equipped Surface modeling menu that recreates and deals with the most
organic shapes found in products.
Being able to have multiple user reviews or a quick
conversion with no middle man applications for 3D printing are just examples of
some of the useful collaborative features that are implemented in 3D softwares
nowadays. SolidWorks once more has the
poorest performance in the category with the lack of 3D printing features and
2D to 3D CAD conversions.
Writable/ Readable file formats
astonishing number of 22 readable and 21 writable file formats, SolidWorks
dominates this category. The list of file formats that can be manipulated in
these software includes: IGES, IGS, JPEG, Parasolid,PARASOLID XT, PDF, DWG, STP, TIF/TIFF, VRML, WRL, DXF and etc.