So you’re on the move to find the ideal 3D modelling software for your design activities? Whether it is for school, work, business or hobby there are some important aspects to consider before making your selection.
This article may be a useful preliminary selection guide. It will discuss a few common CAD software used currently in different industries while providing feedback from experienced users.
Catia V5: Engineer’s best friend
When it comes to 3D CAD or Drafting in the mechanical or industrial engineering sector, Catia V5 from Dassault Systèmes as one of the preferred software.
“What’s great about Catia V5 is that it a multidisciplinary platform. You can create complicated parts and assemblies in 3D, then analyse their manufacturing, load carrying capacity and installation with different workbenches. You can also perform kinematics, simulation, electrical routing, tubing, drafting, fluid and thermal analysis” says Jakub Olej with over 10 years of working with the software.
This variety of engineering functions comes at a high cost off course, although Dassault offers several license packages depending on your needs which can in turn reduce the expense.
You can save or export your files in a variety of formats:
Typical Catia native formats are: .CATProduct .CATPart .CATDrawing and some common external file types: .dxf .dwg .cgm .pdf .tif .jpg .3dxml .stl .igs .model .stp .cgr
Below are some examples of concepts that were conceived using Catia V5 and rendered with KeyShot. Rendering is another limitation for Catia V5 as the software primarily focuses on design and engineering functionality.
Commercial Airline Seats done by Jakub Olej
Airport Bench done by Jakub Olej
Google Sketchup, a treat for architects and interior designers
Google Sketchup is widely used within the interior design and architecture domains. Perhaps the main reasons for its popularity are: accessibility, functionality, user experience and a huge library of existing 3D models available, many of them for free at www.3dwarehouse.sketchup.com.
Some of the drawbacks of Google Sketchup are: limitation to architectural or interior design, some industrial design is possible but for more complex elements (advanced surfaces, assembly design) and precise analysis (gapping, alignment and kinematics) we would recommend another software which off course would come at a higher cost. Another drawback, just like with Catia, high quality rendering cannot be achieved with Google Sketchup alone, in this case one needs to use the V-Ray plugin which does a very good job at producing high resolution realistic renders.
Typical file types common to Google Sketchup are: .dwg .dxf .stl .dae .fbx .kmz .obj
The Elegant Bank done by Mariam Omotayo
Supper Club Concept done by Maya Hayek
Alias Studio made by AutoDesk for the aesthetically correct
The Alias Studio product is primarily used in the industrial design and automotive industries. Its main selling point is the tools and functions used for creating advanced, high precision and eye pleasing surfaces. Designers who often need to generate realistic renders with surfaces with impressive shapes tend to use this software.
Alias is not just limited to surfacing functionalities. Besides this strong capability it also has tools for sketching, visualisation and exporting files in different CAD formats.
The main disadvantage of this software is that it is not quite user friendly but when you master its use, it could be very practical or better than other more advanced software like previously discussed CATIA for generation of state of the art surfaces.
The main file formats that can be exported from Alias Studio are: .c4x, iges, .stl, .cadpart, .cadproduct, .obj, .ai, .iv and .prt.