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pkelecy (Mechanical) (OP)
1 Nov 05 17:01
I know this topic has been discussed before (probably many times) but as products keep changing I think it's worth asking again.

I'm a mechanical engineer with my own business but a newbie to CAD/Solid Modeling.  I orignally had a contractor working for me who did this (with ProE), but he is no longer available (now working full time at another firm).  So I've decided to try to take over some of this work myself, and am trying to decide on a package to use.

After reading a number of reviews/posts I've narrowed my choices down to SE, SW, and maybe AD (Alibre Design).  I plan to use it mainly for machine design types of applications.  We do mostly R&D work here, and a lot of that involves constructing prototypes made from machined parts.  I also do a lot of proposal writing which involves developing simple (but clear) concept illustrations of design ideas.  So I was hoping the same CAD tool could reasonbly serve both purposes (i.e. be reasonbly efficient and flexible to use).

Although I know this is a SE forum (and perhaps biased I also know (after reading through quite a few posts) that a lot of the folks here have used SW extensively and perhaps could comment on which one might be better for the types of work I do.  I'll probably post on the SW and AD forums to get their perspective, but this group seems to be pretty balanced, based on the posts I've seen.

Thanks for any feedback/opinions on this.  I appreciate it.

Pat
donyoung (Mechanical)
1 Nov 05 17:30
Hi,
My advise is: put down what you would like to do with the software
and then choose from those that match in most points -- and finally
choose that you would like to woork with *every* day ;-)

Also you may look http://www.cadalyst.com/cadalyst/ at look for
Magazines Archive. IMHO they do a good job on analyzing software
on their strength and weakness

Here is a comment from onother news group (name of author withheld)
about AlibreDesign. Chnages made to text are marked [red.]

dy

[cite]

What version do you want to here?  The sales and marketing version full of
buzzwords and other nonsense?  Or the engineering version which is filled
more with personal bias than marketing gimmicks?
 
Marketing first:
Alibre is the new player on the field and their whole business model is to
make solid modeling affordable to all.  Price/Performance is their metric
and based on that metric they're number one.  So, for those that don't need
all the bells and whistles, just basic prismatic machined components with
some swoopy lofts and sweeps, then Alibre will work.
 
User's [red.] view:
Point 1 - Alibre is currently on v8 and alpha testing v9.  It uses the ACIS
kernel but didn't start becoming a CAD program until v5 (so really they are
at v3).  Compare Alibre's functionality with SE at v3 to get an apples to
apples comparison.  (SE was even using ACIS at that time).
 
Point 2 - I can't afford SE for working and playing at home.  I model mostly
machined parts using protrusion and revolves, so Alibre has all the
functionality most people need.  Also, they are "new" in terms of CAD and
therefore listen as highly, or more so, as SE does.  Therefore, getting in
on the ground floor, so to speak, to recommend and get features implemented
that benefit my ONE license are possible.
 
Point 3 - Right now, Alibre has just a basic set of functions.  They are
still playing catchup in that realm with SE and SW.  Because of this, they
are not being too innovative in terms of new tools and functionality.  They
are, however, being creative on how their tools work compared to others -
configurations for example.  The main downfall in my point of view, is that
they are copying more of SW workflow than SE and I HATE the SW workflow.
Nothing holds a candle to the ribbon bar, even when the stream gets
polluted.
 
Point 4 - Yep, the GUI is terrible.  It is my biggest criticism of the
program next to the fact that it works like an old version of SW.
 
Point 5 - Alibre started out as on online collaboration tool.  SE came out
with Insight at v11, Alibre has had it all the time.  No one can meet the
online collaboration tools of Alibre, not even NetMeeting or Teamcenter.
And as wonderful as GTAC is, Alibre has one notch above them IF, and that's
a big IF, you can get in contact with an "Alibre Assistant" during normal
working hours.  The online collaboration tools allow tech support to see
exactly what you see and can, if you allow them, to take control and show
you step by step.  Have a crash on your system that GTAC can't duplicate?
Contact the Assistant, give them control and step them through the process.
When you crash, they'll know it - no denying it.
 
That's long enough.  If you have specific questions I can try to field
them.
Users [red.] final recommendation - for personal use or small shops that do lots of
consulting (work outside their local area), Alibre is a reasonable tool.
For larger companies, Alibre still has some growing to do before it is ready
for large implementations - at least 2 versions.

[/Cite]
pkelecy (Mechanical) (OP)
2 Nov 05 18:18
dy,

Thanks so much for the reply and info.

As far as what I want to do, I think my needs are pretty basic - develop part designs and mechanical assemblies, creation  of detail and construction drawings, BOM.  But being new to this, there could be features I need (or would like) that I'm not yet aware of.  More generally, I'd like the tool to be easy to use (a universal want) and, if possible, good for concept development and "what if" types of brain storming.  

I've tried Alibre before (their Xpress version) and its 3D capabilities seemed pretty good (2D was a bit weak compared to other drawing programs I've used).  But then again, since it's the only 3D package I've tried (so far), I don't have much to compare it to.  In trying it out I mainly worked through a couple of tutorials.   Could be if I tried it with "real work" (i.e. shapes other than simple cylinders and blocks) I might be less impressed.

Its price seems very good compared to other packages(less than half of SW) - so I don't doubt they're the value leader.  What does a basic seat of SE go for?  About the same as SW?

What I probably need to do next is go through trials of the others.  My experience with technical software though is that it usally takes using a package for quite a while (and on my own projects) to fully appreciate what's good and not so good about it.  And that usually takes more time and use than a typical trial allows, which is why forums like this are nice. It really helps hearing others opinions based on long time experience.

Thanks again, and any other comments/suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Pat
donyoung (Mechanical)
2 Nov 05 18:35
Hi pkelecy,

I don;t know the US prices. Alibre (Pro) will go for
aroud 1500 SolidEdge AFAIK for 5000 (basic now addins
like Feature recognizer a.s.o). I Think SW PRO/E will
be in the same range.

For SolidEge there is a somewhat smaller 3D-version available
I think it is named Design & Drafting (not Layout which is 2D only!) wich will be half the price, you have to check this with a reseller.

dy
moldcore (Mechanical)
3 Nov 05 10:20
I’ve been using Cadkey now called KeyCreator since the 1980’s and have been trying to learn Solid Edge for the past 18 months with little success because of the time needed to learn is just not there.  If you’re looking for something in between Alibre and Solid Edge look at KeyCreator.   I believe you can get it for around 3K and from what I can see after 18 months with Solid Edge they are pretty close in capability with only a slight edge to S.E.  If you absolutely need a history/parametric based modeler then KeyCreator will probably not work, but its feature based editor can have its positive aspects.  Also, KeyCreator’s ability to deal with imported geometry is excellent with the exception of DXF and DWG 2D translations have been a struggle over the past couple of years.
pkelecy (Mechanical) (OP)
4 Nov 05 9:44
Hi moldcore,

Thanks for suggestion.  KeyCreator does look interesting.  Another product that appears to be similar is IronCAD.  It's also a "non-history" based modeler in about the same price range.  cadalyst just did a review of it in their lastest issue which was very favorable.

The non-history based modelers seem to have a lot of advantages, particularly with respect to ease of use. So I definitely want to try one for comparison.

Also, the articles I've read have not made it real clear what the disadvantages are compared to a history based modeler.  In fact, they've talked mostly about the disadvantages of a history tree (add complexity, loss of flexibiliy, harder for others to follow).  Does anyone know what the downsides are to a non-history approach?

Thanks,  -Pat
PellaKen (Mechanical)
4 Nov 05 10:27
The downside to a non-history based modeler is the inability to design any intellegence into the features such that they behave in an expected way based on other features and their order.  For instance, if I have a block and I want to shell it with one face removed, either system can do that easily.  If I want to go back after the fact and add a hole through the bottom up to the face removed with a boss around it, the history based modeler can accomplish this simply by placing the hole feature between the block feature and the shell feature and it is done.  In the non-history based modeler, a boss would have to be manually placed, and then a hole placed through it and the bottom surface, or the shell deleted, the hole placed, and the shell redefined, thus no dependency between features.

Traditional history based models where difficult to change if extensive changes were needed (because of the dependency), and imported geometry was typically unmodifiable (because it had no history).  That is no longer the case.  Systems like Solid Edge give you the ability to use the history based modeling along with tools (direct edit) that allow modification without disturbing the history or if the history does not exist.

Although it is hard to explain the differences, industry has leaned heavily to the history based modeling approach based on the leading CAD systems in use today.
CorBlimeyLimey (Mechanical)
4 Nov 05 10:29
pkelecy ... History vs Non-history http://www.eng-tips.com/viewthread.cfm?qid=123050&page=1


Helpful SW websites  FAQ559-520
How to get answers to your SW questions  FAQ559-1091

moldcore (Mechanical)
4 Nov 05 17:06
PellaKen,
I don’t want to make this thread another history vs. non-history diatribe.  I was just pointing out another cheaper alternative.  KeyCreator is perfect for small shops on a budget, don’t do large assemblies, and work with imported geometry.  99% of the work we do is building tooling around someone else’s data.  I’m finding this very frustrating to do in Solid Edge, but like I said, my experience with S.E. is limited.
pkelecy (Mechanical) (OP)
4 Nov 05 20:51
PellaKen,

Thanks for the explanation.  Your example was helpful, and I now see how having the history can be useful.  From all I've read (various posts, product reviews, etc.) its becoming pretty clear there are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches and which is better is very case specific.  But as you pointed out, a lot of products now combine features of both, so maybe it's less of an either/or than it use to be.

I'm starting to think that in my situation, where  every design tends to be different, not very large and only moderately complicated, that one more towards the non-history end of the spectrum might be better.  But I plan to try both types just see (probably Solidworks or Solid Edge and IronCAD).


CoreBlimeyLimey,

Thanks for the link.  It was interesting to read, especially the later discussion concerning Vellum  vs Solidworks.  Not being conditioned to any particular package, it really made me wonder which one I would find easier or more intuitive to use.  If it wasn't so time consuming to do a trial, I might give Vellum (now Cobalt I think) a try .  I must say though, some people certainly feel strongly about the packages use!

Thanks again.  -Pat


 
PellaKen (Mechanical)
5 Nov 05 2:25
moldcore,
I was simply answering pkelecy's question as to what the down side of a non-history based modeler was. It was not a rebuttal to your post in any way.
beachcomber (Mechanical)
5 Nov 05 5:24
Have a look on the Solid Edge website (www.solidedge.com)for their free trial offer.
I can't say exactly what you will get, but it seems to indicate a free 30 day trial of the full software.
I've used SE for quite a while, but recently my contracting work has taken me into Solid Works.
From my personal point of view I would much rather use SE. I find the interface messy, too many clicks, and contstant pop-ups of SW most annoying - but maybe that's inexperience.
I can't comment on Alibre as I've never seen it.
The cut-down version of Solid Edge is called 'Drafting and Design' and gives you basic 3D modeling, assembly and drafting.
What's missing is, I believe, all the surfacing, complex curves, sheet-metal, and possibly some of the solids commands.
If you only do protrusions and revolves it may be an option. I think the UK price is around £2000.

beachcomber
pkelecy (Mechanical) (OP)
5 Nov 05 8:00
beachcomber,

Thanks for the info, and will check out the free trial offer.

Your comments on SE v SW are consistent with others I've read.  Based on that, plus other product reviews I recently read, leads me to believe that any ease of use advantage SW had over other products is pretty minor, if not gone, at this point.  Regardless, they'll still sell lots seats though as the market leader.  A friend of mine who owns a small medical instrumentation company recently bought a SW seat, but I don't think he did much comparing of competing products. I think it was just recommended to him by someone as a "safe" choice (which it is) and he went with it. I'm guessing his case is pretty typical (but understandable also, given how overwhelming it can be to try to sort through all the options, especially if you're new to it all).


   
SBaugh (Mechanical)
9 Nov 05 9:48
IMO,

The best thing to do is call a local VAR and get a copy of SE and a Copy of SW and sit down for 1-2 weeks / Package and test both of them and see which one is going to do what you want it to do faster. Take plenty of notes as IMO this will help you decide on the best package.

Keep the VAR out of the picture unless you have a problem. That is the way I did when SW and SE first came out in 1995-6.

I chose SW and have never looked back.

Best Regards,

Scott Baugh, CSWP
www.scottjbaugh.com
FAQ731-376

PellaKen (Mechanical)
10 Nov 05 0:04
Unfotunately, getting trial seats is probably a poor way to test applications as complex as CAD.  I have heard of people working with applications for several months complaining about not being able to do something when the function was right under there nose the whole time. Generally the issue is that a particular function is called something different than what they were used to or only accessible from a shortcut menu.

Scripting visible and hidden portions of a complete product lifecycle benchmark and having an experienced AE perform it is probably the best method I have seen.  This eliminates the "newbie" factor, and only exposing the hidden portion of the benchmark test at the time of the benchmark eliminates any forethought and tricks by the AE.  This may take 1-2 days per vendor, and unless you are buying a lot of seats, you may have to pay for this. It may seem like a lot of effort, but in the long run it will eliminate the problem Scott has of not being able to look back because the CAD system he didn't pick was now out in front :)

Just kidding Scott.
SBaugh (Mechanical)
10 Nov 05 0:36
Today's CAD like SE and SW are honestly easy to learn. If you go through the Tutorials any user with half a understanding of CAD could understand it enough to make a determination of what they think will work for them. Especially if they try to make their part(s) in the CAD. SW gives the user 30 days for a trial.

Having an AE perform in front of you maybe impressive, but if you are going to figure it out, then you need to do it on your own... but maybe that's just me because I am a power user and I don't need someone to hold my hand to show me how to do something. no offense towards you - PellaKen That's why I think this is the best way, so you as a user, you can find out if the Software will work for you instead of against you. You can have an AE make a part for what your business is about, but don't keep them there to train you... you can do after you decide if you want to software or not. You must first determine if it's going to do what you want it to do for the type of business you are in.

AE are there to impress you with the software, but at the same time they are full of knowledge an know how. I know from Experience.

Best Regards,

Scott Baugh, CSWP
www.scottjbaugh.com
FAQ731-376

PellaKen (Mechanical)
10 Nov 05 20:17
Scott,
   I wasn't talking about modeling a couple of piece parts, but rather large multi-configuration assemblies a variety of different parts and the drawings to go with them as well as a complete product lifecycle of concept to obsolescence.  Basically compressing several years of a complete complex products design lifecycle into a day or two.  It literally takes a couple of weeks juat to create the benchmark script, and I don't care who you are, your not going to excercise the software to that extent by following a few tutorials and learning by feel.  It takes months just to get everyones percieved needs boiled down to their actual needs.

Kind of like making a very informed decision instead of pulling a decision out your @$$.

Ken
Gildashard (Mechanical)
11 Nov 05 9:35
We sat down and remodeled a moderately large assembly in each package (Solidworks, Solidedge, Mech Desktop) and detailed it. Basically dedicated a month to the task.

Jason

UG NX2.02.2 on Win2000 SP3
SolidWorks 2005 SP5.0 on WinXP SP2
SolidWorks 2006 SP1.0 on WinXP SP2

SBaugh (Mechanical)
16 Nov 05 17:02
That maybe, but watching and AE demo the product doesn't give the person a true understanding or feel of the product. The best way to understand it is to use it. Most users will get a feel for if the product is going to be easy to use or if they are going to struggle with it.

Best Regards,

Scott Baugh, CSWP
www.scottjbaugh.com
FAQ731-376

Gildashard (Mechanical)
16 Nov 05 17:17
Really you need several people to sit down with each. I would get a power user and a rookie with little cad experience. The reason is that experienced cad users are conditioned to what they are used to and do something a different way can be hard to adapt. A person who hasn't used cad as much may give you a more honest answer regarding easy of use. Still, you need the expereinced user for really delving into those deep areas of advanced modeling.

A good example, experienced Autocad users seem to struggle with parametric modeling ala Solidedge or works. Where a college student with little cad will usually gravitate to solid modeling with easy and hate using Acad with a passion. At least that's been my experience.

Between edge and works, I think they are both sufficient to get the job done and both fairly easy to get up to speed. At the time we evaluated them (works98 vs edge v4), Edges sheetmetal was superior, while Works assembly was. Kind of a toss up since we needed both. In the end I recommended works cause edge seemed a bit slugish getting around (sketching, assy, etc) Works just seem to respond faster. Functionally they were about equal.

Model up you products in each and come here to ask questions is about the best you can do.

Jason

UG NX2.02.2 on Win2000 SP3
SolidWorks 2005 SP5.0 on WinXP SP2
SolidWorks 2006 SP1.0 on WinXP SP2

SBaugh (Mechanical)
16 Nov 05 22:51
I never said leave the experienced user out. I just said it makes easier for the new user to decide if it will work for them and if they need help to contact their AE to help them. This is what we do to make a sale. Let the user use it for awhile and if they have any questions they contact the AE.

Regards,

Scott Baugh, CSWP
www.scottjbaugh.com
FAQ731-376

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