CAD designers and engineers have a multitude of software choices. There is a plethora of different design programs to choose from. Since the 1980s, many different software developers have created both 2D and 3D CAD programs. As time has progressed, technology has evolved, and the complexity and usability of these programs have improved. We now have some of the most advanced and technically capable software ever, but choosing the right program can be a nightmare.
To help, we have put the spotlight on one of the premier CAD software developers in the world – Dassault Systemes. This company is renowned for its flagship product, SolidWorks. It also has a myriad of other useful programs for freelance CAD designers and engineers. In this article, we look at the history of Dassault, what software they have to offer, and some suitable third-party alternatives too.
Dassault Software – A Brief History
Dassault Systemes is a French company that was founded in 1981. Dassault Systemes actually stands for The 3DExperience Company and is often abbreviated to 3DS. The company specializes in software design for CAD and product lifecycle management. Based in Velizy-Villacoublay in France, the company employs over 16,000 people and has estimated assets of 6.94 billion euros.
Initially, the company started out as a producer of CAD and CAM software products. The company started in 1977 with a small team of engineers. They created various small-scale software programs to help the CAD design process within the aircraft building industry. As their ideas grew, so did the scope of their business – they expanded their range to include a myriad of different industries and sectors.
CATIA, their flagship product, was initially only sold internally. A partnership with IBM changed this, however, and the computing company promoted their CAD product. From there, Dassault’s company grew as their software became increasingly popular. To continue this era of CAD and CAM development, the company acquired other businesses and created a myriad of successful partnerships.
Movement to PLM
At the turn of the 20th century, Dassault changed its vision and veered towards PLM – product lifecycle management. They felt that only working on CAD/CAM products was too restrictive and that PLM was the way forward. From here, the company created a range of new products such as ENOVIA, DELMIA, SIMULA, and the hugely popular SolidWorks. They also continued to acquire other businesses and improve their research capabilities. Dassault is now one of the leading companies within the CAD/CAM and PLM industries – their products are used worldwide by millions of people.
Current Product List
Dassault Systemes has an extensive product listing as seen below:
Considerations to Make before Selecting a Dassault Software Program
To make the correct software choice, you must consider the decision beforehand. CAD software is generally expensive – it is not a small investment. Because of this, it is important to research the available products and understand which program would suit your needs the best. Just because a program has CAD design capabilities does not necessarily mean it is suitable for your line of work – it could be for a different industry, for example. The following are some important considerations to make before selecting a Dassault program.
The Primary Purpose of the Software
Most CAD software applications will have a primary purpose. This could be to create a specific field of products, or maybe to be used within a certain industry. Just because it is a CAD program doesn’t necessarily mean that it is suitable for your usage. Ensure that you look at what primary industry you will work within. Is it manufacturing? Product design? Engineering? Medical? By understanding this, you can then choose a program that fits this need.
Software Price and Support Options
There is no denying that CAD software is on the expensive side. This form of software is hugely complex and advanced – the processes you can complete using CAD design software are astounding. Because of this, you can expect to pay a premium for software subscriptions.
You must consider your own finances. You must also look at your budget for software. Some programs can be purchased outright with a one-off cost. Others may require a monthly subscription. For example, AutoCAD costs approximately $220 per month or an annual cost of $1450.00. Obviously, this isn’t a small sum.
Community Presence and Available Learning Material
CAD software can be difficult to learn. When choosing a program, you should consider what support is available. How easily can you contact the customer service team? Do you gain a dedicated service manager who will install updates and fix any bugs you encounter? These are all important things to look at. Customer support can vary greatly from developer to developer.
Aside from customer support, what is the community like that surrounds the product? Does it have a forum where developers can join together and share ideas? Forums such as these are superb places to find out useful tips and tutorials. What about learning material? Can you easily find guides and support material for the product online? If a piece of software has excellent learning material, your learning curve will ultimately be quicker.
Available Computer Platform/Required Specs
Finally, you must consider the system requirements of the software, and the platforms it can be installed on. Some CAD programs are only available on Windows devices. Others may only be available for MAC devices. Some are available for both. You must check this out – moreover, you must check if the product is still supported on the system you use. Companies can sometimes discontinue support for a product on a system if they deem it is not profitable anymore.
Once you have looked at what computer systems the product is available for, you must see if you have a device powerful enough to run it. CAD and 3D design programs are extremely processor and memory intensive. You are working with complex graphics and procedures, which put a great strain on your computer. You will undoubtedly need a computer that has a sufficient amount of RAM, a large hard drive, a dual or quad-core processor, and a quality graphics card. Check the minimum system requirements beforehand!
Top Dassault Software Choices for CAD Designers & Engineers
As discussed, Dassault has a broad offering of products. Their main software packages are SolidWorks and CATIA, but other programs such as DraftSight and 3DVIA are also highly useful. We have picked out 5 suitable Dassault programs that could be useful for CAD designers and engineers.
SolidWorks is undoubtedly one of the most powerful CAD design programs available. It is used by over two million designers and engineers around the world. SolidWorks design services can accommodate a variety of disciplines including 2D CAD, 3D CAD, CAM, electrical design and product data management.
The 2D and 3D CAD sections are highly intuitive. You can easily create designs and new products from scratch with a great level of detail. Moreover, you can take care of the CAD design process from every aspect such as conceptualization, creation, management, and transformation into an end product. When designing, you can usually start with a 2D sketch, and then transform this into a complex 3D creation.
This product is not restricted to one single industry and is a fantastic multi-purpose program similar to AutoCAD. It is currently used in a myriad of different industries such as aerospace, retail, high-tech, consumer goods, sciences, architecture, and industrial design. The only downside is that SolidWorks uses a proprietary file format. You can use a wide range of tools, however, that can export the files and sub-files to be used with other platforms.
In terms of cost, SolidWorks is quite expensive, but it is worth the investment. An annual subscription, which usually includes technical support and upgrades, will cost approximately $1295.
CATIA is dubbed as the “world’s leading solution for product design and experience.” It is one of the oldest Dassault products but remains hugely popular. CATIA is used for CAD, CAM, CAE, and PLM – it has a fantastic scope and can be used in a wide range of industries.
CATIA design services remains popular for mechanical engineering, systems engineering, electrical systems development, and fluid systems development. It is also used in the following industries – automotive, shipbuilding, aerospace, high tech, energy, architecture, and industrial equipment. The program is undeniably powerful – you can create superb 3D models with excellent detail. You can create anything from fully-fledged 3D models to blueprints and realistic renderings.
If you want to test out the product, you can download a free 30-day trial. After that, however, the cost increases significantly – it is considered one of the most expensive CAD products available. Some consider CATIA to have an outdated interface but it is easy to use and can be customized too.
DraftSight is a low-cost version of SolidWorks and has many similar features. Where SolidWorks will set you back over $1,000 a year, DraftSight will cost just $100 per year. For 2D modeling, this program is a superb choice. However, it doesn’t have 3D modeling capabilities. This is a much more user-friendly program – the layout is simple and the tools are easy to use. Furthermore, there is a host of keyboard shortcuts that make the design process that much easier.
Finally, this program does not require as much processing power as some of the other CAD programs. If you are unsure if you want to make an investment in CAD software, DraftSight could be a good starting point. It will also introduce you to CAD software and what you can expect from Dassault Systemes, and is excellent for drafting services.
3DVIA is a specialized brand of Dassault Systemes that is primarily concerned with design and development for manufacturing, marketing, and architectural design. Within this brand, there are several tools and programs including 3DVIA Composer, 3DVIA Shape, 3DVIA Store, and 3DVIA Studio. These programs cover a broad spectrum of design – from 3D modeling creation to the design of retail store layouts.
If you specialize in these industries and need software for interior design and architecture then the 3DVIA brand could be an excellent choice. 3DVIA Composer, in particular, is a useful CAD program – it can be used to repurpose existing CAD designs and turn them into useful 2D and 3D communications and online applications. 3DVIA could be used in conjunction with other 3D CAD programs if you need to create end designs and products for a wide range of purposes.
GEOVIA is another specialized software product from Dassault Systemes. It is primarily used for geological modeling and mining engineering. It essentially provides a 3D virtual planet that you can explore. You can create complex simulations in various different disciplines – from our atmosphere and geosphere to urban cities and small settlements. You can use this program to capture images and also to assess the worthiness of geological areas. Mining companies, for example, use this to scout out potential new mining sites.
Top Alternative Software Choices for CAD Designers & Engineers
Although Dassault is a fantastic CAD software developer, it is not the only one! There are many alternatives available – each with something slightly different to offer. To give you a broad range of products to choose from, we have listed six alternative software solutions to the above Dassault programs.
AutoCAD is created by the software giant Autodesk. This is one of the main rivals to SolidWorks and is used by millions of people worldwide. AutoCAD is also one of the oldest 3D CAD software programs in existence. It was first developed in 1982 and since then has developed hugely.
It is one of the most versatile CAD programs available – this is partially due to the fact that it can be used for a multitude of industries and purposes. Moreover, it uses the DWG file format which is widely accepted as a vendor-neutral file extension. Basically, many other programs can read and view DWG files – this means that you are not restricted at all and can easily share your work with others.
AutoCAD has a superb range of features. AutoCAD design services use it to create both 2D and 3D CAD designs and models. The creation and design process is extremely robust – you can work to minute measurements and aspects of the design. Moreover, you can customize the program layout to suit your own needs – you can change toolbar positions etc. This program also benefits from a fantastic community of ardent developers. The web is awash with AutoCAD tutorials and guides. The only downside is the price – AutoCAD will set you back approximately $220 p/month.
Another product from Autodesk that could serve as a SolidWorks alternative is Inventor. Autodesk Inventor is a software program that is primarily used for mechanical engineering designs. This is a Windows program that is a great choice if you are regularly creating complex mechanical designs with many parts. Designs created using Inventor will usually have 2,000 parts plus – these could be whole assembly lines or large machinery.
Inventor primarily creates parametric designs. It has a fantastic library of add-ons, however, and you can include such things as injection molds, sheet metal, and frame design. The scope of this product is fantastic, but due to its complexity, the learning curve is quite steep.
Cost-wise, Inventor is on par with AutoCAD, if not a little more expensive. This product will cost you approximately $280 per month. You could consider the cheaper alternative of Autodesk Fusion360 which is a fraction of the cost and still allows for the creation of mechanical designs.
Solid Edge is one of the leading software programs within the industry for mechanical design and the creation of 3D prototypes. This program is created by Siemens and was first released in 1995. It is a Windows-based program and gives users the ability to create solid models, assembly models, 2D orthographic designs, and mechanical designs.
It is possible to fine-tune Solid Edge to suit a variety of different industries. The product also features extensive design management. This program can be used to create anything from simple single parts to complex machinery and mechanical systems. In addition to this, it is possible to collaborate with others on projects. You can share your work easily with colleagues, clients, or other freelance designers.
Finally, Solid Edge has a variety of modules that you can incorporate into the product. This means you have excellent flexibility and can easily keep up to date with the latest industry developments and new technologies. Cost-wise, Solid Edge is on part with other premium CAD solutions. It is a serious investment and is not suitable for hobbyists.
If you do not want to pay for your CAD software then FreeCAD is an excellent choice. This program is entirely open-source and free to download. That doesn’t mean that it lacks in quality or substance, however. It is a fully-fledged program that has an excellent array of features.
FreeCAD is an all-purpose 3D CAD modeling program. Its primary aim is mechanical design, engineering, and product design – it can be used for a wide range of purposes, however. Many freelance designers use FreeCAD for other industries such as architecture. This program has a plethora of tools similar to those from CATIA and SolidWorks. It uses primarily parametric modeling, but you can also incorporate 2D designs and sketches.
Another benefit of this program is the access you have to open-source libraries. You can draw on a huge catalog of products and designs from fields such as scientific computing and the Python scripting language. Finally, FreeCAD is available on multiple platforms – it can be installed on Windows, MAC, OSX, and Linux systems.
Varkon is an extremely powerful 2D/3D CAD design program. It can be used to create 2D and 3D models and also to develop applications for the design, architecture, and engineering industries. This is another free tool to use and is available for download through SourceForge. It was developed by a Swedish software team and is now managed by a team at Orebro University in Sweden.
It may not offer the same capabilities as the other programs listed, but as a starting program, it is a great choice. You could use Varkon as a starting point to learn CAD software basics before making a commitment to one of the premium products.
We hope CAD designers and engineers will find this information useful. If you choose a Dassault product, you can rest assured that you have a quality piece of software. Furthermore, you can benefit from their excellent support and documentation. SolidWorks, for example, has a superb community of designers who can share their knowledge and skills.
If you feel that the Dassault product range is not suitable for you, hopefully, one of the alternative programs we have listed will be a great choice instead. Software such as AutoCAD and Solid Edge offer just as much in terms of CAD design capabilities.
Cad Crowd’s CAD Design on Demand
Remember that if you require assistance or want to benefit from an experienced CAD designer, Cad Crowd can assist in your search for talent. Cad Crowd can help source freelance 3D CAD designers and more for help with your work and projects. When contacting Cad Crowd, it is important that you have an idea of which CAD software you will use – some CAD designers, for example, may only have experience on SolidWorks, while others may be able to use a range of programs. If you know what software you require, we can help find a suitable candidate quicker.
You should now have the confidence and understanding to select a CAD program, or to gain the help that you require. Interested? Find out how it works!