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9 Criteria for Choosing a 3D CAD Vendor

Thursday July 18, 2019 at 11:59am None

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 3D Design

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 products.

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 to work.  

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 individual study. 

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 the future.  


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.

 Solid Solutions | Trimech Group