Find us on Google+ January 2020 ~ Inventor Tales

Friday, January 24, 2020

Which CAD System is the Best? Guess What? It Depends.!

FIrst the Earth cooled, then I started my 3D modeling career with Mechanical Desktop....

A picture of my first engineering meeting.
Eventually I'd crawl out of the 3D primordial ooze and move on to Autodesk Inventor. That would be my tool of choice for much of my career.

A coffee table I modeled in Autodesk Inventor a few years ago

Lately, the shifting sands of my career have led me to use Fusion 360 more heavily for personal projects, and Siemens NX at work. I've even had an opportuntiy to dabble in Solidworks a bit, although I've only become acquainted with it.  



I'm far from an expert in every tool, I'm still far more capable in the Autodesk tools than I am in the Parasolid based tools such as Solidworks and Siemens NX.  

But I'm not writing this to claim "this CAD is better than that CAD". In fact, I'm going to avoid making statements to that effect.

There are plenty of bars, pubs, and lunchrooms where that discussion can be held! 

What I am going to do, is share what I've learned having been exposed to all these different systems. If you take a few moments out of your day, I leave you to draw your own conclusions.  I would even be as bold to say that there are some who have already made their conclusions. If that's the case, I doubt I could say something to sway you, if that were my intent.  

To that group of users, I say "Rock on, get down with whatever CaD system you've selected.

So here you are, a few things I've learned interacting with a few different 3D modeling tools.


1) They're exactly the same, except where they're different. 

I've learned that in general, most CAD programs can get your job done, especially for most common functions. The biggest difference is how they get there. Do you want to place sketch constraints in Inventor, there's a tool, and a workflow for that.  Do you want to get the same result with Fusion 360, Siemens NX, Solidworks, there's almost certainly a way to do it.  

A B-17 Bombardier's panel I modeled in Fusion 360

Certainly a case can be made that one workflow is better than another. I'm sure some of that is a matter of personal preference, and in others I'm sure that a workflow in a given program can indeed be better.  

2) The next tool isn't just like your old tool, get over it. 

Change can be hard. I get it! And I'm no better than anyone else when change comes stands at my cubicle and says "If you could change everything your comfortable with, that'd be great."

A bracket I modeled in Solidworks. It's certainly different than Inventor, but similar to Siemens NX

I'm currently in the process of learning Siemens NX after using Inventor for 20 years. NX is a great tool more than capable of doing the job, but there are a few places where Inventor runs circles around NX in ease of use.  

Sure, I could jump on my desk and scream "You can have my Inventor when you pry it from my cold, dead hand!" But ultimately, the company, you know those guys who write my checks, have decided NX is the way to go. It's up to me to be part of the team, or be that one worker that's so toxic that my comrades take the long way to avoid making eye contact.

3) Learning a new program can be a great opportunity to "skill stack".  (I said "skill stack"! Buzzword achivement unlocked!)

While embracing a new product can be a frustrating challenge at times, I chose to see it as a chance to expand my skills.  And I've found that by approaching a new system with an open mind, learning a new system isn't as daunting as it might seem.  Many times, tools are similar enough to one and other where I already know a big portion of a workflow. 

I've sat down with Solidworks and tried something and realized, "That's similar to NX!" They both use the Parasolid kernal after all. 



Likewise, I've that other tools have similar workflows to each other, and once you know one, it's not as hard to learn the next. 

I can now sit down with someone and say, "I've used 6 different CAD systems, and administered two of them".  

Am I an expert at all of these systems? Absolutely not. But I have the ability to pivot into a new tool and learn it if I need to. And 3D modeling isn't my only trick, I have my engineering and design background to fall back on. 


4) The best CAD system is the one your getting paid to use.

We all have our favorite CAD systems, that we'd use if we were independently wealthy, and could run whatever we want. But most of us have to use the program dictated by the company we work for. 

Is that a bad thing? I think that's for everyone to decide for themselves. I've learned (the hard way sometimes), to do by best to be passionate about the program paying my bills, even if it might not be my first choice of programs.

In conclusion, these are just my ideas. If you disagree, that's completely fine!  This is me on my little soapbox, waxing poetic about the way my career has been shaped.  

I encourage you to reflect on your own career and where it's taken you, and live that potential to the fullest. 

Acknowledgements:
photo credit: trustypics - Swiss Army Knife

photo credit: LadyDragonflyCC - Wrenches