Do I Need SOLIDWORKS or CATIA?

By Adam Ferrer on

Buying a car can be challenging because of all the different options to choose from. Knowing the features, functions, and intended use is imperative to making sure you choose the right one for your driving needs. How many seats will I need? How much storage space do I need? What kind of surfaces will I encounter? How is the drivetrain configured? How safe am I from a crash? What is service like? Who are the current users?

Now take all the questions listed above and copy and paste them into your CAD shopping checklist.

Searching for the right CAD program can be tricky and since it is a tool that you’ll be investing in and living in, you want to make sure you’re making the right decision. This short post will be used to help distinguish the differences between CATIA and SOLIDWORKS to help you figure out which of the two is best suited for your business.

What other contributors will influence your decision? Factors such as design philosophy (i.e., parametric or Sub-D), industry preference, compatibility with other tools, ease of use, data management, and more.

Today there are a multitude of CAD systems to choose from, make sure to ask partners and other businesses that you will be working with what tool they’re using, especially if you will be sharing CAD files with them.

Who uses CATIA?

Founded by Dassault Systemes in 1981, CATIA was focused on 3D surface design in the French aerospace industry. Since then, it has evolved into a program with a wide variety of tools used for design, styling, project engineering and systems engineering. One of the best ways to figure out what “car” you want to buy is finding out who commonly uses that car.

CATIA model
Figure 1: CATIA Model

CATIA continues to be a staple in aerospace, defense, and automotive industry. To this day, most major aerospace, automotive OEMs and select suppliers from all tiers are using it for mechanical, electrical, and fluid systems design and styling.

Who uses SOLIDWORKS?

SOLIDWORKS is also owned by Dassault Systemes and founded in 1993 by Jon Hirschtick who recruited a team of engineers with the purpose of making 3D CAD more accessible. It is one of the most commonly used CAD tools by professionals and businesses of all industries and disciplines. SOLIDWORKS has suite of add-ins to go along with mechanical CAD such as Simulations (static, flow, etc.), Electrical, Composer, Visualize rendering tools, Plastics, Routing, and more.

It has maintained it’s goal of making CAD intuitive, user friendly,

Fun Fact: SOLIDWORKS was founded in 1995 by Jon Hirschtick after he won $1 million on the MIT Blackjack Team.

Modeling

There are many things that both software can do just as well as the other, but when it comes to more complex applications, each alternative shines in their own specializations.

A commonly used adage comparing the two is, CATIA is for designing cars, and SOLIDWORKS for it’s components. CATIA is a sophisticated and powerful tool for sketching, drawing and modeling. Although there is a larger learning curve for using it, you can achieve rewarding designs with accuracy and precision. Where CATIA shines is with it’s advanced surface modeling tools available.

SOLIDWORKS is an industry dominating program with a wider spread of designers and industries than CATIA. With an intuitive UI and design tools, SOLIDWORKS follows the designer as they create features and is smart enough to do the heavy lifting for you. SOLIDWORKS is designed to be intuitive and provide you with the most efficient workflows available at your fingertips. They have perfected their focus on parametric modeling and is ideal for machinery-related projects.

Collaboration

Interacting with other products is important since modern businesses have many other tools implemented for operations. When looking at CATIA and SOLIDWORKS on the Platform, Dassault has made it clear that having the two integrate with the platform is a main priority for operating on the cloud. The CATIA and SOLIDWORKS file formats on the platform are designed to eliminate disconnect from other apps in the platform, so there’s no need to translate between the applications.

CATIA Assembly
Figure 2: CATIA Assembly in 3D Experience Platform

Outside of the 3D Experience Platform, CATIA has a PDM Workbench (PWB) for CAD-Specific PDM functionality, as SOLIDWORKS has SOLIDWORKS PDM and Manage.

Libraries

Since CATIA is updated every year since the early 2000’s it comes with over 100 original products that can be used with CATIA. There’s also the ability to integrate other libraries seamlessly since it is such a flexible program.

SOLIDWORKS has its own integrated libraries that are available as well as libraries that can easily be imported from Dassault resources or partner products. There are also many compatible partner products to populate the library with manufacturer parts, symbols, DWGs, and more.

Figure 3: SOLIDWORKS UI with 3D Experience
Figure 3: SOLIDWORKS UI with 3D Experience

Add-ins

Both programs come with a slew of add-ons and supporting software to expand the reach past the 3D modeling space. If your team expects to grow and take control over more steps in the connected design process such as simulations, electrical integration, creating marketing content, etc. refer to the links below to see the add-ins available for either solution.

CATIA add-ons

SOLIDWORKS add-ons 

Cost

If you have been shopping around for your CAD software, you already know that none are cheap. Understandably so since the digitization of these complex processes is a costly process.

SOLIDWORKS is the more affordable option out of the two, making it more accessible to individual, students, and smaller businesses. As a rule of thumb, it is around a third of the cost of CATIA.

Overview

The two programs both share many similarities when it comes to modeling capabilities. Although cars and planes can be created in SOLIDWORKS, the advanced surfacing and focus on those types of models makes CATIA the preferred solution. Designing all the components and mechanisms within those cars and planes is a different story. SOLIDWORKS is one of most used programs in the world, it is more likely that suppliers or other stakeholders in your value chain will be using SOLIDWORKS than CATIA, which is something to consider for collaboration when choosing a software. Both have their own roster of add-ons and libraries that come with different levels of licenses, so that will have to be a discussion needed to be had with your VAR. Finally, SOLIDWORKS is undoubtedly the more affordable option of the two, accessible to more businesses and individuals looking for CAD software.

If you have more questions about SOLIDWORKS, CATIA and the 3D Experience Platform, reach out to TriMech and we can help qualify the best fit for your business.