SOLIDWORKS - A Solid CAD Package
December 18, 2018
SOLIDWORKS - A Solid CAD Package
Score 8 out of 10
Overall Satisfaction with SOLIDWORKS
SOLIDWORKS is used exclusively by the engineering group in my organization, and we use it in a variety of ways. During product conceptualization phase, we use it to generate models to use for feasibility assessments whether digitally or through 3-D printing for physical assessments. Once designs are finalized, we also use SOLIDWORKS to generate our final specifications and engineering drawings. We also use SOLIDWORKS' file management software as a respository for all of our models and drawings and use it in conjunction with our document control system to control revisions and track document history.
- SOLIDWORKS has a very graphically oriented user interface, which makes it generally intuitive to use - at least for a tool with very complex functions
- Capability-wise, SOLIDWORKS has been able to handle everything that we have required from it. While our organization does not require extroardinarily complex assemblies or models, there are some intricate and sophisticated features in our parts that we are about to design using SOLIDWORKS.
- There is a very large user base, which makes it easy to find help for specific items or issues. Even when the official SOLIDWORKS help doesn't provide enough information for a specific application, there are generally plenty of users that may have had the same issue or are willing to help from just a quick Google search.
- There are certain quirks that we run into with SOLIDWORKS such as graphical glitches, and despite contacting SOLIDWORKS technical support, we have been unable to find a solution. These are by no means major issues, but they force us to use workarounds that make our workflow less efficient. For example, under certain circumstances, we have had graphical views on our engineering drawings spontaneously disappear. The data is there, but they can no longer be seen and do not show up when printed. The only way to fix this is to remove the view and re-insert them, which takes extra time.
- SOLIDWORKS recently forced an upgrade to their file management system. They are no longer supporting the old software and are forcing an upgrade to a new software. While this is not completely unexpected, I felt that this transition was poorly executed from the supplier's end. There was insufficient communication about the details of how to transition, the options available, and the cost impacts. My concern is that this would occur in the future as well.
- When I run into problems or issues, I often find that other users are the best source of finding solutions. While the vast user base makes this possible, it would be really great if SOLIDWORKS had a better help system and could be the first and "go-to" source of assistance.
- Without SOLIDWORKS, our organization would be required to hire consultants to generate our designs and specifications. This adds a great deal of cost as well as would take much more time. Investing in our own CAD package, we gain a great deal more flexibility and efficiency for product design and manufacturing. It is difficult to quantify the associated costs, but in a manufacturing and oeprations setting, having this capability internally is an absolute must. The cost of investment is virtually negigible compared to the value provided.
- The subscription plan entitles users to free ugprades as well as technical support. The costs associated with this are also well worth the price paid, especially if it is necessary to be able to send compatible files to external organizations. Having the latest versions of the software is generally necessary; however, ensuring that the organization does not purchase more licenses than it needs drastically helps to ensure that this cost is not overburdensome.
- Some of the other features associated with SOLIDWORKS require additional fees. Our organization has not determined those features to add enough value to be worth the cost. Some of these include things like advanced file management and advanced simulation and analytical features (we purchase different packages instead)
The main alternative that I have heard of to SOLIDWORKS is PTC Creo or ProE (which is what I have heard it called). I have very little experience with the use of ProE, but in the opportunities that I have had to try it, I have found the user interface to be much less intuitive. From speaking with other users, I do not deny that it may be as powerful of a tool as SOLIDWORKS in terms of functionality, I have felt that the learning curve is much higher, and for those who are visually inclined, the user interface and graphical features of SOLIDWORKS feel much more accessible and convenient.
SOLIDWORKS is a great CAD package for generating a solid model of a concept or a design and ultimately translating that to production specifications for manufacturing. In this aspect, it is extremely versatile and capable to produce all sorts of geometries, features, and assemblies. While I have not used a lot of different software packages, it seems that SOLIDWORKS could be vastly improved in terms of document management and going beyond the actual designing. Due to the lack of capability, the inefficiency, and the clumsiness of the package, we have refrained from using SOLIDWORKS for things like BOMs, document control, and other functions beyond the actual designing of the parts and generation of drawings.