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Help me decide on a 3D CAD program

Help me decide on a 3D CAD program

Help me decide on a 3D CAD program

I own a small business that focuses mostly on aftermarket auto parts and custom fabrication.
I started out using Solidworks. When I started my own business I started using freecad hoping it would grow with my needs. Unfortunately it wasn't able to grow fast enough or meet a number of my needs. Over the last few months I have been trying to figure out what to get and it has not been easy.
I am a devout Linux user and hate the thought of going back to Windows just for my CAD program. That rules out most anything good except for NX.
One thought I had was to get Solid Edge since it should be similar to NX in many ways and then upgrade to NX in the future if it was worth it.
This would still leave me on Windows.
The main thing keeping me from NX is base level Solid Edge is a good few grand cheaper than the base level NX.
I believe Solid Edge will do pretty much everything I need it to do but I have been wondering if NX may have more potential for better subcontract work or anything like that? If there is in general then is it the kind of thing that would benefit me enough to be worth stepping up right now?

The price issue is a huge one right now and is even a concern with the price of Solid Edge especially when I am not getting exactly what I want.
I have tried to look into options that might make things a little cheaper but the big systems don't seem to care at all about trying to get people in the door, helping small businesses out or anything of the sort.
I have tried to offer to be part of beta programs or do other things that may have inherent value. I have tried to find older versions or see if companies would sell me an older version for a discount to get me in the door. Nothing has paid off.
I know it's hard to transfer used seats but I have seen it done before. I know it's possible but it seems very hard to find.
Does anyone know of any ways to get in the door a little cheaper?
It seems to me like some of these companies would have some sort of promotional program where they give some discounted seats to up and coming businesses or some sort of way of helping give people a foot up to get into the game without needing to drop thousands to tens of thousands on a single program before being able to do anything at all.
Any help and suggestions would be greatly appreciated as far as thoughts on which direction I should go and hopefully some more affordable ways to get there.

I should also not that I have been playing with the Solid edge trials and also found Local Motors Design1 which is a really great deal and offers a lot but without being able to convert to 2D and without being able to make drawings it makes it next to useless.

RE: Help me decide on a 3D CAD program

If you're looking for comments about NX you may wish to post your queries here:


John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Industry Sector
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: Help me decide on a 3D CAD program

Legitimate 'Used' licenses aren't really much of a thing anymore.

Solid Edge is a good program but, depending where you are, may not have the market share that say Solid Works has.

I think really important is to think through what your requirement is, not just what the CAD can do but also if you need data interoperability with customers/vendors/contract design resource etc. and probably a bunch of other things - take a look at:

thread724-223361: Factors to consider when choosing a CAD Package

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: Help me decide on a 3D CAD program

I am pretty settled on Siemens but I am more looking at comparing options and cost and value.
NX is really outside my budget but hasn't been completely pushed off the table yet.
I know I should get over the whole Windows only issue with most programs but it really is an issue.

Kenat I appreciate the input.
I definitely know more people running Solidworks. They are more friends and acquaintances so not necessarily business oppertunities. I know many small to medium size companies run Solidworks and it may be my best chance for the greatest compatibility in my field however a couple things have put me off SW. One is they are latched onto the Microsoft teat more firmly than just about anyone else. The other is the talk about their current software and how their lack of foresight has pretty much jacked their long term capability. Last thing I want to do is dump 5k on software that many people will be trying to move away from in the near future for lack of capability.

RE: Help me decide on a 3D CAD program

You will probably get some more replies if you actually say what it is you need the system to do and what you want it to do. All you say is it needs to be able to create 2D drawings, which just about any system including free ones can do and you would like it to run on Linux which no system I am aware of does, but to be fair I have never looked or do not know anyone else with this requirement.
Do you need to make your own models or just import those created by others, will you machine directly from the models, use them as dumb solids in conjunction with 2D drawings or just create 2D drawings, in which case do you need a 3D package at all?
Assuming you need solids will they be free form with lots of curves and A surfaces on them, in other words do you need strong surface modelling or just solid modelling capabilities?
Then comes compatibility, do you need the history tree in a specific program and if not who dictates what you provide to customers / suppliers, do you dictate this or do they?
Once you know what you NEED, you can then look at what you want and come up with some compromises. There are some okay packages out there around £1K like Rhino, IronCad and TurboCad and probably many more and even maybe some free ones, certainly if you only need 2D, but all will have some downsides. I believe Delcam also did a free version and you only paid for each save, but you would need to check this out.
In short if you know what you want you will probably find something, if you want a full blown legal seat of Catia with all the bells and whistles that runs on Linux for under £1K you have more chance of winning the lottery.

RE: Help me decide on a 3D CAD program

Sorry for lack of clarity. I thought the title was enough to clarify I am looking for a 3D CAD/modeling program. My comment about the 2D is that while design1 allowed me to do a decent bit of 3D modeling it does not give me the ability to make drawings or convert the 3D part to 2D format. Both of which are essential to me.

I need a moderately capable program. I have used Freecad along with librecad and draftsight for the last two years and have been able to do a lot with it but it crashes a lot. It also has bugs pop up where something that it did fine yesterday doesn't work today and I spend 8 hours trying to figure out why.
The thing I have found requiring the most capability so far have been non interference pistons. I need to model the motor or really the key features like crank, rod, cam profile and combustion chamber plus a piston plug, create an assembly,time the crank to the cams, and then at the point when the piston and valves are closest together cut the valve profile out of the piston plug.

Another more challenging requirement is designing headers and exhaust systems.

Other than that I will be designing and machining basic parts and products for my business.

I would also like to advertise for freelance work. Since it's not my primary business I don't expect to land high level contracts but it would be nice to be able to get the occasional project.
This is one place where I'm not sure what the best bang for the buck will be. Like I said I have seen a lot of people using Solidworks but I have read so much that makes them sound like a sinking ship right now it's hard to want to jump on board.
Solid Edge has very impressive capability when it comes to modifying dumb models so if the contractor doesn't need the tree I could still do a lot but if for example it was a lot more likely I could get jobs with Solidworks it might sway my decision.
I have pretty much decided I can't afford NX right now but if say there was a huge demand for it and it looked like I could make a lot more money with it then it may sway me that way.
I know that these aren't questions anyone will be able to definitively answer but I would still appreciate any input, opinions and thoughts before I do it.
I am pretty set on Solid edge right now but it's a big commitment so I want to be as informed as possible before I commit.

RE: Help me decide on a 3D CAD program

So your free CAD has just cost you a thousand dollars. I'd lose the Linux handcuff, I don't understand why but Linux and CAD just don't seem to be a common combination (Ideas used to run on Unix, in my experience things that will run on Unix will run on Linux, but never tried that).


Greg Locock

New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: Help me decide on a 3D CAD program

NX is available on Linux as well as Mac OS, and of course, Windows.

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Industry Sector
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: Help me decide on a 3D CAD program

There is nothing that makes linux less capable of running CAD programs, it's just that there aren't many commercial CAD programs made for it. There are a few but I couldn't stand the interface on the ones I have tried. There is one that is pretty much an autocad clone that looks like it has decent capability but it seems so inferior to me compared to programs like Solid Edge, Solidworks, NX etc.

I believe the biggest issue is that most programs have been around for quite some time and 10-20 years ago it was completely commonplace to build platform specific software. Once they started developing on windows machines they started using and relying on microsoft based architecture. Solidworks and from what I understand Solid Edge are so reliant on MS that there is just no way to make them cross platform.

I just wish there was a Linux version of NX with similar price point and features as Solid Edge Foundation. I would hop on that with great enthusiasim.

RE: Help me decide on a 3D CAD program

You may want to look at Bricscad Platinum... half the price of AutoCAD LT and nearly 100% compatible with the current AutoCAD. It does 3D and parametric modelling. I've been using Bricscad for many years and it 'crashes' far less often than AutoCAD and it nearly always 'crashes' gracefully and the data/drawing file is generally recoverable. It also has a Linux version that is almost as complete as its Windows version.


RE: Help me decide on a 3D CAD program

I played with Bricscad a little bit.
After years of Solidworks, Freecad and now Solidedge all of which I found to be extremely intuitive and easy to learn I found Bricscad to be the most counterintuitive and illogical software I have tried to date.
I could see it being possible to get used to it but I just couldn't be bothered. I suspect I would find myself very frusterated by it for a very long time.

RE: Help me decide on a 3D CAD program


I have to disagree... I've been using Bricscad for several years and it's remarkably configurable... and, I've set it up so that it is very similar to AutoCAD, and it works very well. The files are directly interchangeable with those at the office... can load a 50 meg 3d file created in autoCAD and modify it in Bricscad and it is usable in AutoCAD...


RE: Help me decide on a 3D CAD program

Different strokes I guess.
My little experience with Autocad is much the same. It seems like outdated archaic methodology to me.
May just be the way my brain works or because of the software I started on. It does look like it has a lot of capability but after a hours of messing around with it and watching tutorials and such I was still trying to figure out how to dimension drawings, change dimensions and create basic shapes.
Two hours into solid edge and I had most the parts of a simplified engine in a model moving, linked and with animation.

I'd kind of blown off Alibre in my search for Linux software but since that isn't happening right now anyway I am going to check it out.
I don't believer there is any free version but it is cheaper than Solid Edge. It also sounds like it has some nice features. I would need to set up my own server to have a floating license of SE. It sounds like Alibre hosts the license so that wouldn't be a problem.
I also have access to Solid Edge Design1 cheap enough which has a considerable amount of foundations capability but it doesn't have ordered modeling, drawings or convert to 2D so if Alibre can do those things I could also still used Design1 for some of the things it excels in. Then there is the monthly subscription of SE so really if I landed a bigger project or SE specific project I could always step up to a higher level if I needed too temporarily.

I'll try to remember to report back after spending some time in it in case others are struggling with the same decisions.

RE: Help me decide on a 3D CAD program

If you shake off the unix requirement then you can also look at Fusion 360 from Autodesk. The price point is much lower, especially if you get in before Nov 8th ;)


RE: Help me decide on a 3D CAD program

What do your customers/vendors use? I would try to be as much compatible to them as possible.
Try not to limit yourself to NX, you may limit your business.
Contact Solid Edge and SolidWorks resellers and see what's the best deal you can get. End of the year, sometimes you can get a discount.

Chris, CSWA
SolidWorks 14
SolidWorks Legion

RE: Help me decide on a 3D CAD program


If you are determined to run Linux, look into VariCAD. This does 3D, although I am pretty certain it is not parametric. You can download a demo version from their website.

I am running LibreCAD for some home projects, where it works fine. I would not seriously contemplate doing read work with it.


RE: Help me decide on a 3D CAD program

IR stuff. yoshimitsuspeed
The free version of Alibre is no more. Since 3D systems bought out Alibre and renamed it Geomagic design, the program is now priced at $2400.0 a far cry from the original $200.0 , they do however have a 15 day free trial.
That said, it has now become a powerful program Capable of producing 3D models, assemblies , bills of materials, and 2D drawings. On a par with most of the bigger names
It also has a built in translator that can import and export models and assemblies in Solidworks ( sldprt and sldasm files), STEP, IGES, ACIS, STL.ZPR , DWG and DXF files. With Keyshot it can also do photo rendering
I have been using the program for about 6 years now after using AutoCAD and Solidworks. I originally bought the program after getting sticker shock at the price of a single seat of solidworks.

You are judged not by what you know, but by what you can do.

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