3D printing technology has captured the attention of many creative types, including those who endeavor to just now dip their toes into the areas of making and prototyping as well as those who are already completely immersed in the technology.
Computer-aided design (CAD) is an enormous part of their production process, going hand-in-hand with the process of 3D printing, offering huge benefits, but also big choices that can be overwhelming to a novice. CAD allows the user to perform 3D modeling in fields like:
- Numerous infrastructure systems to include utilities, railroad, communications, etc.
Deciding which software to use offers a number of considerations like what sort of learning curve is involved, how much it costs, and of course — what can it do for you, and which package does that best?
While we are barraged with marketing and promises regarding millions of products across the board, no one helps us out with better information and consumer advice, obviously, than our experienced peers. In this context, we look to other 3D designers and 3D printing enthusiasts who have used and tested a variety of CAD software. In an outline that truly is based on ‘customer satisfaction’ as well as scientific algorithm technology to rate the software, G2 Crowd displays the top CAD vendors for winter of 2015.
With several different reports, G2 Crowd gives a comprehensive look at what is available to the consumer in reports on General Use, Building Design and Building Information Modeling (BIM), as well as Product and Machine Design Software.
Based on almost 200 reviews for General Purpose CAD Software, G2 Crowd listed the current forerunners in CAD software in four groups:
- High Performers
For the general CAD ratings, G2 looked at software that is varied in what it offers to users, but is not specifically designed for any particular sector. The general category includes sketching and 2D drafting programs, as well as 3D modeling and rendering.
Each product received a minimum of ten reviews and ratings based both on customer opinion and market presence, with the coveted spot being that of leaders. These software providers received the top ratings from consumers, while others fell below the mark but were highlighted in other categories. Leaders were:
It’s interesting to see that while the three leaders are definitely offering the most satisfaction, companies like TurboCAD and Rhino are not far behind in the High Performer category but have not yet reached the mark of the leaders.
Contenders such as 3Ds Max Design, AutoCAD LT, and MicroStation are still coming along as significant CAD resources, but don’t have enough reviews or customer satisfaction points yet. For this grid there was no CAD software listed in the niche category.
Not to be overlooked in general, G2 also highlighted Vectorworks Fundamentals, BricsCAD, and ZWCAD+ as software that you may want to keep any eye on for the future as designers use the products and reviews follow.
Reviews lent insight into why users found each software so important in their work in this category, which focuses on the architecture and construction fields, offering tools also for the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) areas.
“Revit provides the design professional the opportunity to ask the ‘what if’ questions necessary for good design…Starting with Revit 2013 the object selection tools have been improved. With 2014 and 2015 they [were] made better. Improvements to the Stair and Scheduling tools are a big improvement. 3D view controls continue to be enhanced,” said John Bund, Sr. BIM Specialist DTS at Callison.
High Performers were DataCAD, Vectorworks Architect, and ArchiCAD. DataCAD came in with highest marks for customer satisfaction.
“ArchiCAD is very good for 3D BIM modelling. The best parts are the intelligent building materials and the material composites. I like to work with the 3D model best because the output is amazing. Generating [floor plans], sections, elevation, renderings at the same time. The teamwork function also works very well for remote collaboration,” said Bettina Jochum Duller, freelance architect.
Again the Niche category was empty. For Contenders, AutoCAD MEP and AutoCAD Architecture filled the spots as up-and-comers.
For the Product and Machine Design Software Report, G2 considered software geared toward designers and engineers working in manufacturing, product design, automotive, and aerospace fields. These users require very precise tools to create 3D models for detailed components and parts.
With SOLIDWORKS bearing a concrete edge over its competitors, the focus seems to be on user friendliness and overall power. They won the highest level of satisfaction for their customers.
“SOLIDWORKS is extremely easy to use. [It’s very] intuitive, efficient, and [powerful] software. I have used it to design complex surface parts, basic machined parts, complex sheet metal, buildings, and [more],” said Aaron Jackson, Design Engineer at Spray Equipment & Service Center.
Solid Edge seems to have strength in offering professionals intuitive technology that allows them peace of mind knowing they’ll have greater productivity throughout the workday.
“The best part about Solid Edge is the strong capabilities and intelligence that is part of the synchronous technology. It allows you to make a model without having to worry about order of operations, yet it still uses features that make for easy editing. This has been a game changer for me when roughing out a design; even while in the context of an assembly. Less time is spent thinking how to make the change to the model, which frees my mind to think about how to design the part,” said Brian Stewart, Design Engineer at Apex Tool Works, Inc.
While the High Performers category remained empty, CATIA and PTC Creo Parametric dominated the Contenders category. A Niche company finally emerged here, in the form of Rhino.
Keeping in mind that reviews were written experienced professionals in business and engineering where the products are actually used and very necessary, it’s important to see the big picture in what is available, as the products left out of the Leader category are still used by many others and have to potential to steadily gain ground.
Are you using any of these products? If so, do you believe G2 did a good job of rating them? Do you differ in opinion regarding the ratings? Tell us your thoughts in the G2 Crowd Rates 2015 Winter CAD Software forum over at 3DPB.com.