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I am using Autocad 2002 at the conceptual/developmental level to do simple 2d layouts and some 3 view details to check feasibility and make simple designs of prototypes (mechanical). I would like to move to a 3d environ, and am currently attempting to learn Solidworks. Is anyone aware of any significant flaws or weaknesses in Solidworks versus Inventor for prodict development work. Is Inventor possibly better for initial conceptual development work/design (and  SW possibly better for final product design and manufacturing). For example, SW is heavily "relations" dependent. This strikes me in a way counter-intuitive, not the way one normally thinks (top down, plan the overall, then fill in details). I Solidworks "overkill" and actually hinders development level thought? Any comment is appreciated  -- thanks in advance



Have you searched the forums for this topic, there is a wealth of info on SWks vs IV.  IV works very similarly to Swks on the relations dependent side...and as far as I know all of the solid modelers do.  Whether the relations are direct mates or whether you are using equations or other forms of placement.  You may feel that the way Swks is counter-intuitive because you are trying to get it to work the way ACad works...none of the solid modelers work well this way.  It is a different way of thinking.  I designed fixtures and gages in both Swks and IV for 5 years.  When you open your mind and learn the way that any solid modeler can help you, you will be amazed at the decreased development time required for your design.  They allow you do eliminate some prototyping stages if you desire due to being able to see some of the problems in the 3D world that normally wouldn't be picked up until the prototype is made.

Have you gone through the tutorials included with Swks.  Have you gone online and looked at some of the other tutorials that some of the users have come up with.  If you try to force Swks or IV to work like ACad you will never be happy with any solid modeler.

Alan M. Etzkorn  
Product Develpment Engineer
Wabash National Corp.


Hi Alan:
I really appreciate your reply, and it is very relevant to my question. Moving from Autocad 2d to a solid modeler, especially one like SW which requires that one abandon Autocad, is very problematic, a leap of faith.  My fear is that after significant effort to retool my thought process from Autocad to Solidworks, I may end up incompetent: a competent designer, however, an incompetent product development engineer. The net result after much effort will have been to replace a clumsy tool that worked, with a vastly superior tool that does not work (for me, basically as inventor/engineer).

In front end product development, where one is faced with the need to do something new (for example to cut a lawn by machine, before the day of lawn mowers as we know them), one tries to imagine various ways and means, and then explore these in overall concept, layouts, plans, specific possible components etc. This works well with pencil sketches, and for me with drawing tools like Autocad 2d. - a lot of free floating, not very specific stuff, that ultimately settles down to something that makes sense, and appears feasible.

At that point, it makes sense to hand it over to a solid modeler to take it to the next levels, manufacturing level details.

Before that point, solid modelers might in fact be too clumsy (require too much specific detail). Solid modelers seem to require that you know pretty well at the start what needs to be done, and where you want to go (in other words to design a cheaper version of something already in existence as example or starting point).

The common sense thing would be to leave a good thing alone, -- however, SW is such an appealing program - it is very difficult to resist - (or is it like the Sirens calling Ulysses -- ).

Perhaps one specific question, if I could ask you: As development engineer, which capability would you prefer (in addition to simple pencil sketching of ideas) - Autocad, IV or SW if you wanted, for example, to develop another way of automatically baking bread (i.e.: a new domestic breadmaker) that worked differently (and better, lets say) than currently available automatic breadmakers.


Mecheng13.... great post.

Kroth..... Once you forget AutoCAD and learn to design in 3D (no matter what modeler you use)I think you will find parametric modeling software lends itself very well to exploring "free floating" ideas that settle down into more specific things.  It's just a matter of learning how the new tool (modeler)works.  Take the leap! You will be glad you did.


Keep in mind that CAD tools are just that, tools. Use whichever tool that allows you to do your job better. Just because you have a solid modeler doesn't mean that all work must be done with it. For example, you wouldn't want to do electrical/hydraulic shematics with a solid modeler.
I still do a small amount of very basic and initial 2D work in Cadkey. I guess all those years of pushing a pencil make that style of work impossible to completely eliminate. I also use the design sketch method that the others have recommended and find that to be an efficient method as well.
The major features of the two modelers you are comparing are probably quite similar in performance and capability. Each of them probably have a few minor features that the other doesn't.
One thing about Inventor is the bundled Autocad. Solidworks counters this with the DWG Editor which probably works fine for the limited 2D work it is intended for.
Neither one has an advantage pertaining to the import of 2D geometry as far as I can see.
One feature that I use all the time in Solidworks is the very quick ability to toggle the transparency of objects in an assembly. This greatly aids my ability to view the interaction of parts, or deal with "internal" parts in the context of the assembly. I don't find the same quick methods in Inventor.


Hi Kroth

If you want to upgrade to a good solid modeler! don't forger to take a look at Solid Edge, with V16 they brought some new stuff to help you design with an hybrid approach of combining 2D and 3D, I don't want to start a debate weither SE is better than the others, but take a look and you may found it better suited for you than SW or IV.

Good luck, and don't be afraid to change, as long as you are willing to free your mind and start over everything will work out fine.




Like Pat, I use SE but you'll find Inventor, SE and SWX to operate in similar fashion as far as how you go about creating parts, assemblies and drawings.  Using parametric assembly modelers requires a shift in your thought process but I think once you do that, you will find these systems to be quite flexible.  All three require you to constrain parts to each other when building assemblies, but you can also alter the constraints if needed.  Even though you don't have to, it's a good idea to constrain features in the parts themselves to make them behave properly when editing.  Another tool available is the ability to sketch in the assembly to create your concepts, then use the sketches to create and "drive" parts that make up the assembly in a top down fashion.  Other powerful advantages include the ability to create complex shapes and surfaces in 3D using 2D profiles to control them. Again, no matter what product you choose, they operate in similar fashions and there are many users who visit this forum who will gladly help you out.



Hi Kyle:

Thanks for your note - your comment "Another tool available is the ability to sketch in the assembly to create your concepts, then use the sketches to create and "drive" parts that make up the assembly in a top down fashion".

Is this a capability of SE, or SW., and to what degree.

Maybe I can re-state and focus a bit clearer on some subtleties. All CAD/solid modeler/etc. programs shoud in some ways be "a tool for the brain, an extension -- " to allow imaginative visualizations to express themselves in the external world, as correctly (and naturally, as possible)(to check on their viability, and to let others also see the same thing). Pencil and paper, in many ways can do just that, depending on talent and skills. I had a designer once, two years out of high-school, who had the ability to draw 3d exploded views of complex assemblies populated by near perfect 3d miniature components, rapidly, and very understandably without erasures. He could also sketch 3d framework layouts, and populate these with key 3d specific components (parts). Autocad 2d to some extent allows this (to the less gifted), for example, to create a 3 view layout, and populate it in correct mathematical proportions with 3 view details of specicfic, exact parts, as they make sense and occur.

For my specific needs, I would be best served by a solid modeller that would have the second capability of the deigner mentioned above (a beautiful capability, one I have only to a very limited degree) - but one I can imagine could be achieved by software:

To allow first to create a dimensioned specific 3d layout skeleton layout (one easily modified and refined) that can then be populated at will anywhere with specific parts, sub assemblies, components --etc.). The objective of all of this beeing to render nebulous brain imagery sooner or later to specific systems, numerically correct, populated by real parts (an evolution from vague mental ideas and concepts to the final specific product over a period of time, not necessarily tied to a schedule, but allowing the human brain to to work in its typical messy and unpredictable fashion - helping the Eureca or aha effect with some reality feedback).

Can/does(which one does it better) SW or SE or ? do this level of top down design/development intuitively, in other words, assuming one is fully competent in the program, can mouse and keyboard do on a monitor what the designer above did with a pencil and paper, a few steps behind imaginings, cleaning up ideas and fixing them in reality, giving the brain feedback on reality implementations?

Specific to SW: Does SW allow the evolution of a dimensioned 3d framework layout that can be populated anywhere at random with specific parts (as they occur), keyed to the framework, such that eventually a conventional 3d assembly exists, populated by real parts, in real space, all driven or evolved over a period of time by mental imagery?

(my effort to learn SW continues - the above are just musings, an effort to get grip on what is possible, and what is just wishful thinking)


Hi Kroth.

Having worked with Acad since R11, Solidworks Since 94, and Catia and Inventor this year. In my opinion SW is more suited to me as a Product designer, But this is only my opinion. I must say once you have grasped the world of 3D design you will find the urge to use you 3D for you conceptual thought process rather than a pencil and paper.
The major plus with 3D modelling is most of what you design on screen can be used to generate the final product, unlike pencil and paper.

Happy Modelling

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