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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.

SolidWorks

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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
that give the possibility to users to work on fluid flow, fluid forces,
computational fluid dynamics as well as life cycle assessment

·        
The Rendering tools for photo-realistic visualizations

·        
The CAM tools which combine and  integrate design and manufacturing processes

·        
Product
data management tools, which enables the sharing of design information and the
automation of workflows,

 

 

In addition SolidWorks
offers a number of different industry-specific solutions such as SolidWorks Plastics, which helps to predict and simulate
manufacturing and avoids defects; SolidWorks MBD (Model
Based Definition) used for the definition, organization and publishing of
manufacturing information; CircuitWorks, which enables
mechanical and electrical CAD designers to share data.

 

 

 

 

 

CATIA

 

As one of Dassault System’s most appreciated, CATIA is advertised as a
complex high-end 3D modeling software.  CATIA is a mechanical oriented and gives
access to quality and performance evaluation, early
in the product development phase. It combines digital prototyping, analysis,
simulation and allows the analysis of a mechanical product in its operating
environment. 

 

 

CATIA Engineering provides the platform which enables engineers to
create any type of 3D assembly, for a wide range of engineering processes. It
delivers a platform that fully integrates the cross-discipline modeling,
simulation, verification and business process support needed for developing
complex products. It connects all stakeholders in a product development by
giving the opportunity to evaluate requests for changes or develop new products
or system variants, while utilizing a unified performance based systems
engineering approach that reduces the overall cost of production.

CATIA has integrated
modules for

·        
Product development (CAx)

·        
Conceptualization and design (CAD),

·        
Engineering (CAE)

·        
Manufacturing (CAM)

·        
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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

AutoCAD

 

AutoCAD
is one of the first CAD programs to run on personal computers in 1982, and
since then has developed into 2D and 3D computer aided drafting software used
in multiple industries such as architecture, construction, producing
manufacturing blueprints and engineering applications.

 

 

When
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.

AutoCAD
has also established DWG (drawing), their native file format for as a basic
standard for CAD data interoperability.

 

 

 

 

The main
domains of application for this software are:

Mechanical
drafting – technical drawings and 3D
models for machines and devices.
Architectural
drafting- creating plans for residential and commercial buildings.
Civil drafting – creating plans used for the construction
of roadways, bridges, sewer systems, and other major projects.
Electrical
drafting – preparation of schematics for
wiring electrical systems.
Electronics
drafting – preparation of layouts for
the electrical installation and repairing of electronic gadgets.

 

 

Based on the application fields
for the software, Autodesk has also developed vertical programs. AutoCAD
Architecture (formerly Architectural Desktop), Civil Design (last version was
2007), AutoCAD Electrical, AutoCAD Civil 3D, AutoCAD Map 3D, AutoCAD
Mechanical, AutoCAD MEP, AutoCAD P&ID, AutoCAD Plant 3D and AutoCAD
Structural Detailing.

 

 

 

 

 Comparison

 

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.

·        
Principal purpose

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.

 

·        
User Interface

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
learnt.

·        
Advanced Surfacing Features

Surface modeling
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.

·        
Collaboration Features

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

With an
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.

 

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