How To Choose Between SolidWorks, CATIA, and Inventor

Presently, 2D and 3D design software often have grand names like 3D Product Lifecycle Management Suite. The software packages fill some or all of the needs in a product “lifecycle”: conceptualization, designing, manufacturing, engineering, testing, deployment, etc. For instance, AutoCAD is mainly a design tool, and basically not used for manufacturing or product lifecycle. CATIA is great for conceptualization and designing.


CATIA is an acronym for Computer Aided Three-Dimensional Interactive Application

This software is used by the massive automotive and aeronautical companies. Boeing, Airbus, and Bombardier use CATIA for their planes. Both 777 and 787 were designed in CATIA.

Mainly CATIA isn’t taught at college level and not used by small businesses because the licensing is quite expensive. You can learn it in-house by private trainers.

CATIA version 4 is based on Unix, and some companies are yet using V4, but in the last few years, the big names switched to V5, the Windows-based version of the software.

CATIA already has a Version 6, yet Windows-based, but basically, CATIA is quite expensive that not many of the big companies have migrated to it.

CATIA is customisable too. V4 can be tailored with the help of FORTRAN and C. CATIA V5 can be tailored using VB in the Visual Studio environment, or C++.


SolidWorks is a 3D CAD program which runs on Windows. Being most widely used 3D CAD program on the planet, it’s less expensive than CATIA. AutoDesk’s Inventor is a competitor for SolidWorks, but it’s newer and couldn’t tackle SolidWorks’ market share, till date.

SolidWorks is used by more number of industries in the product designing and manufacturing sector mainly because it is more affordable. SolidWorks has a student version as well, so with required credentials you can get a working version of the software for some lesser dollars, and you can study the classes at your local college or university and get a certification which can increase your marketability.

SolidWorks was the first to use the “End of Part Marker”. Inventor and CATIA use this now, as well. SolidWorks introduced advanced and cool mates like gear, followers & cams, which allow you model the movement of gear assemblies. Inventor incorporates this now, as well.

SolidWorks has several add-on utilities which can be separately purchased from the main license.

The Design Validation products include:

  • Simulation, which allows you test how your models can behave as physical objects, and Simulation Premium, allows you do the same thing even if you are without a background in chemical or mechanical engineering.

  • Motion is a virtual prototyping tool which allows you to see your model in action, to make sure that it works properly.

  • Flow Simulation tests fluid-flow and thermal analysis on your virtual prototypes.

  • Sustainability calculates the environmental impact of your models.

  • Then there are the PDM, collaboration & communication tools. 

  • eDrawings and SolidWorks Viewer allow you to share your designs with the client even if they don’t have SolidWorks

Here we brief the SolidWorks utilities:

  • A toolbox is a part library with great ways of placing and sizing the parts.

  • Utilities are used to identify differences between two versions of the same part, and to make edits.

  • FeatureWorks is a utility to recognize features that allow you import and improve 3D models.

  • Routing is done for electrical mapping.

  • Moldflow Xpress is a mold design validation tool

  • MoldBase is a catalog of standard mold base assemblies and components

You can customize your SolidWorks tools using Visual Studio, too.


This was created by AutoDesk.

The coolest thing about AutoDesk is the AutoDesk Developer Network. Publishers and developers can reach out to beta versions of products and current releases so that they can develop third-party tools and publications about AutoDesk products.

The inventor is customisable as well, using Visual Studio.

Which one suits you?

Similar to CATIA, SolidWorks and Inventor are parametric modelers. Parameters could be measurements, or to the relationships between geometric entities. The parametric design allows you to make later changes to a part and have other parts updated automatically based on the relationships they share.

All the 3D modelers build parts likewise. It’s starts with a sketch. If you’re wondering which product would help you, remember that CATIA and its sister products were developed as tools for huge aerospace or automotive companies, focusing mainly on 3D modeling & prototyping as replacements for engineering drawings, whereas SolidWorks and Inventor offers a broad variety of 2D and 3D tools for mechanical engineering.

AutoDesk and Dassault work hard to prove that they are the top sellers in 3D parametric modelled. Usually, colleges and universities are teaching SolidWorks, but Inventor is gaining a faster ground, because AutoDesk can slip Inventor where AutoCAD is currently being taught.

What about of stability? In the past, many SolidWorks users did complain about unworkable instability. SolidWorks reduces the load on your CPU so that your computer would crash less often.

Many Unigraphics users think that even CATIA v5 is barely a production-ready and that Unigraphics is more stable than CATIA v5. Unigraphics has a little, affordable sister, SolidEdge, and many users prefer to SolidWorks, and this is fully compatible with Unigraphics, whereas Dassault has gone out of its way to keep SolidWorks from opening CATIA files, to drive business to CATIA.

Which one is easier to learn? SolidWorks with several and more learning resources is better. There are tons of books and self-study materials and tutorials, besides in the English language for SolidWorks.

Which is easy to use? You don’t need any expertise in AutoCAD, but some basic understanding is a must. The SolidWorks and Inventor have much internal learning support, and all the three products have amazing online communities and forums where you can find more ideas.

To mention, SolidWorks and Inventor are identical programs. There are also some small hardware differences as well. The inventor can work on most consumer systems as-is, but SolidWorks often needs an AMD or NVidia video card.

The thought, which one is easier to use mustn’t come into your decision-making process. Instead, you have to base your decision on what you need your results for, your expenditure, your client base, etc. If you are a small company which provides design services to the aeronautic and automotive industries, you will need CATIA. An inventor is much in common with AutoCAD, so if you’re habituated to AutoCAD and require more 3D modeling capabilities than AutoCAD presently offers, Inventor will be a good fit.

An expert note says that most of the engineers who are trying to remain competitive are learning SolidWorks. Most of the CATIA customers are experienced V4 engineers going into V5. Hope you find this blog helpful.

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