The Best CAD Software for Design and Engineering in 3D

What is the best CAD software?

This is a hard question to answer. How do we define best? How do we test different systems? We could get someone with no experience to try and use the software and see which one is easiest. We could get trained professionals to build an object and examine speed, methods and difficulty. We could rank software by available features. By capabilities. By availability. By Accessibility. By price, or hundreds of other criteria. Would be get an answer? Yes. Would it be the same as someone else? Probably not. Why? Because the answer is subjective.

The question isn’t which CAD software is best. It's which CAD software is the best for you?

Cad software: Insights based on experience 

As a designer and engineer, I have used many different CAD packages over the past few years. SolidWorks was the first 3D modelling software I learnt (covered during the second year of my undergraduate degree) and remains my preferred CAD modelling program. There are many reasons why Solidworks holds this prime position for me.

Firstly, I find the Solidworks interface to be intuitive and simple to use – menus and options are clearly marked, positioned and descriptive; more so than the options provided in programs such as Rhino or Geomagic. Errors are highlighted instantly. Whilst they may not always be clearly visible at the time (and initial hints may be confusing), there are tools which assist in solving these problems. In my experience, drawings based on complex surfaces (like that of human bone) often have small gaps which are less than 0.05 mm, preventing the use of extrusions and cuts. This was incredibly frustrating until I discover the Check Feature tool, which provided a quick and easy fix – eliminating the frustration of the problem in future work. If the built in features, hints and tutorials still do not provide a solution, the extensive forums and support network offer myriads of assistance for all forms of issues.

Secondly, the integration of Solidworks with Programs such as ANSYS (advanced simulation) and Keyshot (Photo-realistic rendering) opens up more avenues for advanced modelling and computation. Whilst Solidworks itself does have integrated simulation and rendering capabilities, which are incredibly useful and effective, the ability to link with more advanced specialised software presents many benefits and can lead to the production of high quality designs.

Conclusion & Recommendation

These two advantages represent some of the key factors which make Solidworks my CAD program of choice. However, it is not conclusive evidence that Solidworks is the best software available. 

Throughout my university and work life, Solidworks has always been readily available for my usage. As such, I used it for a majority of projects - from simple gears and hinges modelled in my early undergraduate years, to complex products for 3D printing and manufacture – giving me extensive experience and knowledge of the software capabilities. Should an alternative program been utilised throughout my professional development, it’s quite possible that the contents within this article would be different. If anything, it cements the notion of subjectivity. It isn’t which software or system is the best. It’s which one is best for you.