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If you want to execute sophisticated 3D printing projects, finding a good modeling software is essential. Today we’re going to compare Solidworks vs CATIA – two popular 3D modeling programs from Dassault Systèmes.
These products have many features and qualities in common, but one of them is more advanced and comprehensive, while the other is more simple and has limited features. This article will guide through their most significant differences and help you choose the one that’s going to work for you.
First, here’s a brief summary of the main differences between Solidworks and CATIA.
Main Differences Between Solidworks vs CATIA
The main differences between Solidworks vs Catia are:
- Solidworks is easier to learn and more suitable for beginners, whereas CATIA is better for experienced users
- Solidworks is designed particularly for 3D solid objects modeling, whereas CATIA is an all-arounder
- Solidworks is compatible with Windows only, whereas CATIA works on Windows and Unix
- Solidworks is a mid-range product, whereas CATIA is high-end
- Solidworks doesn’t provide differentiation based on roles, whereas CATIA offers intuitive role-based functionality
Exploring Solidworks and Catia features
Solidworks and Catia are both well-known 3D CAD programs used mainly in fields such as product design, electrical and mechanical engineering, automotive industry and aviation, and architecture.
Although they might look very similar to an untrained eye, when you take a detailed look at some of their functions such as 3D rendering, sketching, role-based differentiation, or integration with some of the libraries, you will discover many notable differences. Let’s compare some of their features and qualities in detail.
Drawing and modeling
Computer-aided design programs are mainly used for precise technical drawings and designs. So whether you’re just designing new requisites for your cosplay costume, or you’re creating a vital component for innovative machinery, this is the feature you need to consider the most.
Both compared programs have sketching, 2D, and 3D drawing capabilities. And both of them, of course, can create printable models for your 3D printer. But which one works better?
Solidworks is mainly designed for 3D modeling, so that’s where the program is really strong and capable. Solidworks is a parametric modeling software, which means that it works with the dimension values provided by the user.
When you modify dimensions, your model is reshaped accordingly by the program. This makes the software great for product design and various projects related to machinery. On the other hand, Solidworks completely lacks some of the tools and skills needed for architecture projects.
CATIA has more sophisticated and versatile tools for drawing, modeling, and sketching. Though their use requires more skills and experience, you will be rewarded for your efforts with the results that are stunningly accurate and imaginative.
This particularly applies to CATIA’s extra smooth 3D rendering and Photo-to-Shape app, which creates immersive 3D models from 2D photographs. Although SolidWorks is also capable of photorealistic rendering, the results are slightly less impressive.
Workflow and collaboration
If you own a 3D printer, you might be working on your private project and depend only on your own capabilities and workflow.
But most of the projects that include sophisticated CAD programs are executed by teams of numerous designers. Software’s ability to manage such collaboration is therefore one of the important factors most of the designers need to consider.
Solidworks provides a cloud environment that facilitates collaboration between multiple team members. It is easy to use and quite intuitive, helping you capture, share, and store all your new ideas easily and quickly. However, collaborative features of this program are quite limited and focused mainly on reviewing and sharing. Solidworks also lacks any form of role-based differentiation.
CATIA offers pretty much everything that comes with Solidworks, but it adds one very important feature, and that’s role-based differentiation of functionality.
With CATIA, you have more than 50 roles at your disposal, so you can manage your projects even more effectively. CATIA’s collaborative designer center is called ENOVIA, and it offers great management solutions even for extended enterprises.
Modules and libraries
Good three-dimensional modeling software is like an open organism – the more flexibility, compatibility, and support it has, the better it usually is.
Solidworks is a relatively thin 3D modeling software, which is great if you want the process to be simple, but it also limits your overall possibilities and options. For example, although Solidworks is compatible with Modelica libraries, they are not integrated into the program itself, which limits their usability.
The program contains several dozens of integrated partner products either for CAD design or Product Data Management, which nicely extends your options, but in comparison with its competition, Solidworks still remains the less flexible software.
CATIA is a robust software that comes with impressive support – since 2006, a new updated version of this software is produced every single year. The software comes with about 129 unique products that provide users with almost unlimited options. CATIA software also integrates Modelica libraries directly, allowing their full utilization.
Thanks to this versatility, CATIA is perceived as one of the most universal and flexible CAD programs on the market. While Solidworks is great when you focus on one particular component or task, CATIA is the program you choose for executing a whole project, whether it concerns aviation, automotive industry, architecture, or educative projects.
Compatibility with different platforms
If you’re not ready to adjust your whole technical setup to the 3D modeling software of your choice, consider the program’s compatibility with your devices carefully. This is especially important if you’re working with multiple collaborators, who can have all the different technical equipment. Unfortunately, both programs we compare today are rather limited in this regard.
Solidworks, for example, is currently working only on Windows computers. If you want to use it on your Mac, you can theoretically run Solidworks with virtual Windows parallels, since the program recently started supporting this, but you should prepare for various drawbacks and limitations that make this solution quite unfavorable.
However, Solidworks has developed several other products for macOS: they include eDrawings Viewer, eDrawings, and eDrawings Professional.
CATIA is also compatible mainly with Windows, but in addition to that, it also works with Unix operating system, which is renowned for its great multitasking and multi-user functionality.
Both Solidworks and CATIA can also be accessed via smartphone applications thanks to the Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE cloud platform. Solidworks also offers an educational application for kids and young thinkers.
As you probably already know by now, Solidworks represent more simple and less complex 3D modeling software that is more suitable for beginners, smaller enterprises, and those on a budget. CATIA is more robust, capable, versatile – and also more expensive. Here’s an overview of prices for both products:
Solidworks licenses come in three alternative versions – commercial, academic, and research. There are also 3 available packages to choose from: Basic, Professional, and Premium. If you’re a student, you can get a Solidworks license for one year for $150, but note that this will not be the program’s full version.
Basic license for Solidworks software will cost you $3,995, and be prepared to pay another $1,295 annually as a maintenance fee. An alternative plan allows you to get a term license at $810 per 3 months. The basic license includes the following features:
- 3D Modelling
- Mold Design
- Static Stress Simulation
- CAM Standard
- Plastic Parts
- Sheet Metal
The Professional Solidworks costs $5490 + an annual fee of $1495 (or $1080 per 3 months). On top of the standard features, you’ll also get:
- PDM Standard
- Photorealistic Rendering
- Cost Estimation
- Part Libraries
- Circuit Works
- Advanced simulation features
A premium license is available at $7995 with a $1995 annual fee (or $1450 per 3 months). It comes with these exclusive features:
- Structural part and assembly analysis
- Wire, pipe and duct routing
- Analysis of the environmental impact
- Advanced surface flattening
- Premium simulation features
You can also request a free Solidworks demo or test-drive the program online to understand its basics and determine, whether it really is the best solution for you. To request a personalized quote, you have to fill a simple form on the official Solidworks webpage or ask your authorized reseller.
CATIA is designed mainly for larger enterprises, and its prices accurately reflect the software’s bold functionality. But it also comes with more affordable basic plans for small entrepreneurs or even truly a budget-friendly option for students, who can enjoy some of the program’s distinct qualities for just $99 per year.
The final price quote for your CATIA license will be affected by several different factors, so the only way to know how much will it actually cost you is to ask for a quote through the official website or your authorized reseller.
In any case, be prepared to pay approximately $11,200 for CATIA’s Basic license (one-time payment) plus an annual maintenance fee of $2,000. If you’re not ready to invest so much at once, you can also lease the program, which will cost you $1,700 per three months or $4,500 annually.
CATIA’s standard modules include:
- Mechanical design
- Generative shape design
- Analysis & Simulation features
- Architecture, Engineering, and Construction layout designing
- Digital Mockup (DMU)
- Machining Simulation
- Equipment & Systems
- Ergonomics Design & Analysis
If you want to invest in additional role-based modules, you will pay $2,700 – $19,000 on top of the basic price plus an 18% annual maintenance fee. Unlike Solidworks, CATIA is not available in a free trial version, but you can request a demo.
Solidworks vs CATIA Ease of use
If you’re a 3D printing rookie who needs to learn how to use 3D modeling programs from scratch, Solidworks will most likely be your best choice. This program is very intuitive and it’s easy to orientate in its interface and somehow limited modules. That allows you to master your designing and modeling skills relatively fast and easy.
CATIA computer-aided designing program is much more complex, so it might be a bit overwhelming for a total beginner. On the other hand, it’s obvious that CATIA’s creators invested a lot of time and effort into the program’s excellent user experience.
Once you orientate in all of its features and modules, you will find them very logical and intuitive too. If you have previous experience with Solidworks before trying out CATIA, it will be your advantage, because these programs are navigated and controlled quite similarly.
What support is available for Solidworks and CATIA
Dassault Systèmes, a French company that produces both Solidworks and CATIA programs, is renowned for providing a thorough and complex support system. You can download all the necessary documentation directly from their web site, or you can access their vast Knowledge Base, where most of your questions can be answered and issues resolved.
Both Solidworks and Catia also come with large user communities – some of them are managed directly by the brands, others are independent. Dassault Systèmes also runs a hotline for all specific questions and inquiries.
If you need professional technical support (whether cloud-based or on-site), your products must be certified and eligible for the desired type of support. During the “Full Support Phase”, there are two available levels of Support Services:
- SECURE: Basic support which enables a customer to report defects and malfunctions
- ADVANTAGE: Advanced support available only for certain products and plans
On top of that, you can also buy various optional Support Services.
Of course, CATIA as a more sophisticated and expensive software comes with more support options than its mid-range counterpart.
Pros and Cons
- It’s easy to navigate and suitable for beginners
- It allows collaboration to multiple users (mostly reviewing and viewing)
- Mid-range product with affordable prices
- Great for solid modeling projects related to mechanics and machinery
- Good rendering skills
- You can request a demo or trial version
- It’s good for 3D modeling but lacks many other features
- It has limited support
- It works only with Windows
- No role-based differentiation
- Robust program with complex features and tons of modules
- Compatible with Windows and Unix
- Comes with extensive support
- Can be used for complex projects in many different fields
- Integrated Modelica libraries
- New updates and upgrades are published frequently
- Expensive high-end program
- No trial version available (only demo on request)
- Probably too complex for a beginner
Are there any alternatives?
Inventor is a computer-aided design application by Autodesk that was created specifically for 3D modeling. However, it also allows 2D and 3D integration in a common environment, which enables you to create complex models and very accurate simulations in many different situations and projects.
Inventor includes direct edit, freeform and parametric modeling tools and uses Autodesk’s proprietary modeling kernel ShapeManager. Although Inventor could hardly compete with CATIA’s complexity and sophistication, it’s a very competitive alternative to Solidworks. You can learn more about Inventor software in our Autocad vs Inventor comparison here.
Creo Parametric is a powerful and flexible 3D modeling software that blends popular features from many other programs, aiming to provide its users with complex experience. Creo is capable of parametric, direct, and assembly modeling, catering to many different fields and tasks.
PTC, Creo’s creator, claims that this is the only modeling software you will ever need – a bold statement, which is supported mainly by Creo’s great compatibility with many other tools and its numerous built-in integrations. This enables seamless collaboration among team members who use various different programs and tools. Creo’s license for 1 year starts at $2,390.
FAQs About Solidworks and CATIA
Can I run any of these programs on Mac?
Solidworks and CATIA are both designed mainly for Windows computers (CATIA also runs with Unix). If you want to use CATIA and Solidworks on a Mac computer, you have to install a parallel Windows OS on your Mac first. As a result, you might be able to use these programs on your Mac with some possible limitations.
Is there a trial version for CATIA or Solidworks?
Solidworks can be tried for free thanks to its demo and trial versions. You can experience the program for free even without the necessity to download and install anything. CATIA comes only with a limited demo version, which is available on request.
Which notable companies use CATIA software?
CATIA is a preferred CAD software in many automotive companies including Škoda, Renault, Volvo, BMW, Fiat, Scania, Tesla Motors, and Porsche. Additionally, CATIA is also used at SpaceX and Boeing.
Where can I get some training if I am a total beginner?
Dassault Systèmes, the producer of all CATIA and Solidworks products, offers various onsite and e-learning training programs that can help you master your 3D modeling skills. You can also become a member of dedicated user communities, where users share their knowledge and help each other overcome various obstacles.
How expensive are these 3D modeling programs?
If you’re a student and need just some of the basic modeling features, you can have CATIA for just $99 per year or Solidworks for $150. Premium version of CATIA that includes all advanced modules can cost you tens of thousands per year for the license plus additional maintenance fees. Solidworks is cheaper, starting at $3995 + $1295 fees annually and offering its Premium version for $7995 + $1995 per year.
Solidworks is a great 3D modeling software that works neatly in many different kinds of assignments. Its strength lies mainly in the 3D modeling itself, and it’s also a good starting point for those, who are new to the computer-aided design software.
But if you can afford to invest in CATIA, we believe you really should. The complexity of this software will allow you to experiment, grow, and broaden your horizons with each new project. Whether its construction, product design, and styling, or systems engineering, CATIA is an all-arounder, that will give you unlimited possibilities.
Thanks to the massive support and various training programs that come with this product, you don’t really need to worry about learning how to work with this comprehensive software. With advanced features for collaboration, CATIA is also great for larger teams.
Of course, we understand that CATIA’s price might be quite discouraging, especially if your project lacks the commercial potential that would outweigh the initial investment. In its class, Solidworks still remains a great option with thousands of satisfied professional users around the world.