Wondering how two of the leading 3-D CAD packages stack up? A just-released paper by Ray Kurland of TechniCom Group compares Autodesk Inventor Professional 2011 to SolidWorks Premium 2010, using tests of seven digital prototyping workflows to chart the differences between the two MCAD platforms.
Let’s get it right out there that the report was commissioned by Autodesk so it’s no real surprise that Inventor comes out on top. Nevertheless, the report, entitled “Digital Prototyping Workflows: Inventor vs. SolidWorks,”, provides a pretty good look at some of the strengths and weaknesses, not to mention, key capability differences of both packages. The seven digital prototyping workflow tests included: assembly design and analysis; exporting BIM-ready models; interoperability; design automation; and mechatronics. The TechniCom team admits some bias in selecting the functions to be compared, particularly favoring those related to BIM, a particular strong suit of Autodesk and not SolidWorks.
Despite that fact, the TechniCom team defends any question of bias by explaining the technique it used to do the evaluation. Called the Delphi Expert Analysis, the process entails evaluating the functional areas using a questionnaire with 161 questions. Both products were ranked on each question by a team of four experts for each product who rated how well each tool performed for that functional question. Kurland says the TechniCom analysts independently selected the questions, without interference from Autodesk, and claimed they did not favor any specific vendor or product.
In the end, Kurland says his team was surprised by the fact that Inventor scored higher than SolidWorks in each of the seven categories. Okay, maybe no real surprise there, given the circumstances, but let’s get to their findings. Here are a couple of key highlights from what Kurland’s team found:
* Inventor completed all aspects of the Plastic Part Design and Injection Model Design tests–with built in analysis powered by Autodesk Moldflow–while SolidWorks was unable to complete major portions of the analysis of the part and the mold without turning to third-party software. Inventor also designed the mold significantly faster than SolidWorks due to the inclusion of automated tools, Kurland found.
* Both tools were able to successfully model the addition of a clevis pin to a hydraulic clamping assembly in the Assembly Design and Analysis test, but Inventor took a slightly smarter engineering approach, according to Kurland. It took the calculations concerning stress requirements of the pin to select the correct pin size, while SolidWorks employed a library to size the pin and then called upon its built-in FEA tools to analyze the stress requirements. Kurland says a user would have to bring in a more advanced FEA tool to determine if the FEA properties of the pin were correct.
* No surprise that Inventor came out in front in exporting BIM-ready models so we’ll just leave it at that.
* The design automation tests revealed that users had to do a bit more manual work to get SolidWorks to do certain tasks like automatically scale drawing views to fit a part within the confines of a drawing after the size of a part was changed, Kurland charged, or to scale a copied assembly using drive curves.
* Both products scored fairly close on collaboration, data management, part modeling, simulation, sheet metal and assembly modeling.
Kurland attributed much of the strength of Inventor’s showing to the fact that Autodesk has expanded the product family fairly substantially via both technology acquisitions and internal development. While certainly not the be-all-end-all commentary on both products, it might be worth taking a look, especially if you’re doing any kind of MCAD product evaluation.