In many industries 3D CAD software has become the de facto product design tool, and a new crop of designers are turning to 3D CAD due to the explosion of 3D printing technology.
How do first-time buyers or managers, who are new to the CAD selection process, identify what capabilities and characteristics are important to them and their organisations?
Although some tasks will always be done with 2D CAD, the number of first-time buyers of 3D CAD software continues to grow. In this article we hope you will learn more about what criteria you should consider when choosing a CAD solution.
1. Capable, Efficient
The 3D model must accurately represent
every part in your company’s products and the
relationships among them. To maximize
efficiency, designers should be able to design in 3D with as few steps as
possible without compromising design quality.
When evaluating CAD software, find out how
efficient each package is at creating the types of products your company makes.
For example, if your company makes sheet metal parts, pay attention to the
special aids for modeling them and automatically generating flat patterns. If
your firm designs stylish products, look at the tools for creating freeform
surfaces and blends with continuous curvature.
2. Information Flow Through Extended Enterprises
Whether your company is a supplier, a
customer, or both, it can benefit from sharing 3D CAD models with others.
Translation takes time and can introduce errors. 3D Interconnect allows SOLIDWORKS users to
incorporate native parts from other CAD systems into their designs without
translation! The ability to collaborate in 3D on
products and processes can reduce costs while helping to deliver better
3. Drafting Tools That Meet Your Standards Today and in the Future
Even though you’ll be designing in 3D, your
suppliers and factory workers may need drawings. A clear drawing shows
information that isn’t obvious in a 3D model. Be sure any 3D CAD system you buy
can make drawings to your current standards for dimensions, tolerances, lettering,
and parts lists.
However for those looking to manufacture
from 3D models, SOLIDWORKS® Model Based Definition enables engineers to
generate one master document for all product and manufacturing information
without having to produce and maintain separate sets of 2D drawings.
4. Tools to Take Your Designs from Concept Though Manufacturing
Designs don’t make money until physical
products are delivered. Look for 3D CAD software with a rich variety of
applications that can reduce not only design time, but testing, machining, cost
estimating, and inspection. Because physical testing is costly and slow, you should look to reduce the number of physical
tests by simulating physical behavior, such as kinematics, dynamics, stress, deflection, vibration,
temperatures, or fluid flow. Look for a system that has integrated analytical tools or efficient
interfaces to your preferred simulation software.
5. Help Managing Data
Organisations with more than just a few
designers can benefit from product data management (PDM) software integrated
with their CAD tools. Because relationships among files in 3D systems are so
complex, an automated system to store and organise them is essential. Without PDM, designers can unknowingly overwrite
each other’s work, reinvent parts that have already been designed, and send the
wrong revision levels to manufacturers. PDM systems do much more than store and
organise files. They also help designers find existing
parts to re-use instead of reinventing
them, generate materials lists for cost estimating, and feed data to
manufacturing resource planning (MRP) systems. More advanced PDM software can automate
change-control processes to ensure that out-of-date or unreleased information
isn’t sent to factories or suppliers.
6. Innovate R&D to Protect Your Investment
Computing technology is constantly
changing. If your CAD vendor doesn’t take advantage of this evolution, in a few
years you’ll find that your organisation has an obsolete and costly-to-maintain
CAD system. Buy from suppliers that have a proven record of being manufacturing
industry leaders with large and sophisticated R&D teams.
SOLIDWORKS releases new features regularly and the majority of enhancement are requested directly from customers. This means you can essentially vote to shape the future of the software, as the user base drives development the end product stays relevant. Check out our What's New page to see some of the great new features this year.
7. Short Learning Curve
Adopting 3D methods requires training and
experience. So choose a system that’s easy to learn as well as capable. Look
for a system that has a consistent user interface throughout. Be sure design
and manufacturing procedures flow logically from start to finish. Some systems
have hidden dungeons and dragons that stop designers halfway through a task and
make them start over. Developing your own training materials is costly. Choose a system with built-in tutorials, a
rich array of computer-based training aids, and a vibrant online community that
lets workers ask questions and get answers. You’ll also want a system that’s
taught in local schools and universities so you can hire students who are ready
At Solid Solutions we offer the full range
of Certified SOLIDWORKS and Partner Product Training courses, from beginner level
through to advanced modules. We also offer TrainingPassports, so you can make big savings when booking multiple courses. All our courses are CPD accredited, which
means we offer formally certified CPD materials and certificates, so you can
put the hours dedicated in our training sessions towards your CPD points and
8. Pleasant Business Relationships
Believe it or not, some of the greatest
sources of friction between buyers of CAD software and their customers are the
nontechnical business aspects of the relationship. Just as some airlines annoy
customers with extra fees for checked baggage, flight changes, drinks, and
blankets, some CAD suppliers levy hidden charges for software and services that
most customers need.
To avoid aggravation and lower your costs,
look for suppliers who offer straightforward software packages that have what
you need. Look at the terms for floating licenses that enable designers who
don’t need CAD full-time to share licenses. And be sure your best designers can
use the software both at work and at home without hassle.
9. A Dealer that Can Help You
A successful relationship with your CAD
software dealer only begins with the sale. Buy from a dealer with the skills
and experience to help you successfully integrate 3D design with manufacturing.
Find out how many 3D customers potential dealers have trained and supported.
Look at the availability of quality training classes. Does the reseller offer ongoing training
classes to help you improve your design and manufacturing processes? Ask for
the resumes of the technical staff and interview them before you buy. Ask
reference customers if the dealer’s technical staff is capable of solving tough
problems. Good local support can make the difference between a costly adoption
of new CAD software and one that advances your business objectives now and in
Not all the criteria listed above apply to every organisation.
Making intelligent choices requires careful thought and deep knowledge of your
company’s engineering needs. Making the wrong choice wastes time and money.
Don’t make emotional decisions based on brand preference or focus on too
limited criteria. Do consider the full range of capabilities your company needs
to bring better products to market faster.