Home » AutoCAD vs. SolidWorks – Can they be compared?

AutoCAD vs. SolidWorks – Can they be compared?

You would often listen to people discussing whether an AutoCAD is better or SolidWorks. But the reality is that both are better. There is no point of comparison among them. Both serve an entirely different purpose in many cases and focus on other areas of the design. In this article, we will differentiate between these two software and would be guiding you on which one to choose that depends upon your need.

autocad user interface
AutoCad user interface

Where are the similarities, and what are the differences?

Similarities

The most significant similarity between these tools is that both are used for a computer-aided design for civil and mechanical engineering products. AutoCAD is usually preferred for the design of Civil works. On the other hand, SolidWorks is predominantly used for the design of mechanical components.

Differences

The most significant difference between these two is that AutoCAD is used for two-dimensional drawings. It has limited three-dimensional ability. On the other hand, SolidWorks is good for three-dimensional drawings. There is an alternate product by Autodesk, which serves as the better alternative to SolidWorks. It is called Autodesk Inventor.

AutoCAD vs. SolidWorks – Usability and Performance

solidworks rendering performance cpu multi thread

Which one has an easier learning curve, and which one is more taxing?

learning curve experience time

Usually, most of these software users have pointed out that SolidWorks has a more user-friendly interface and good customer support provided by Dassault (Its manufacturer). Therefore, SolidWorks is much more user-friendly. In the case of AutoCAD, the support is widely offered over the internet. However, this support is most for 2D designs, and the amount of support officially provided by Auto Desk is a bit limited on the use of the software.

One last fact that must not be overlooked is the background of the user. If a user is entirely new to the world of CAD, AutoCAD is the right place to start. A good understanding of 2D design can be developed first, and then the user can move towards 3D modelling and preferably in SolidWorks.

 

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How do they compare in 2D drawings ability?

SolidWorks provides you with a solid base for defining background 2D layouts for 3D design models. However, if you are primarily designing in 2D, AutoCAD is the right choice, as it offers much greater capabilities in this arena.

How do they compare in 3D design features?

If your goal is to develop 3D models and designs, the right choice, in this case, is SolidWorks. SolidWorks offers you excellent simulation capabilities. These simulations could range from calculating stress and even to demonstrate failure in some cases. That is why SolidWorks finds its biggest user base among the engineers.

On the other hand, AutoCAD does also has 3D capabilities. But they are somewhat limited in comparison with the one offered by SolidWorks.

Which is better for animation?

SolidWorks offers much better options to create animations and visualizations. It also offers you much better photo-realistic animations. On the other hand, AutoCAD does provide capabilities to generate animations, but they are somewhat limited. 

Here is a video on SolidWorks animation:

Can AutoCAD blocks increase the efficiency of design compared to SolidWorks 3d modelling?

CAD blocks are a collection or set of objects that behave together as a single object. They are particularly useful if you must use a particular set of objects serval times in your design. In such a case, you can group all the objects within one set called a block. AutoCAD offers the capability to make and use blocks for 2D and 3D drawing. Using blocks in the case of simple designs with repetitive details is useful. In those cases, using AutoCAD would be a much more efficient approach than using SolidWorks for such a design. However, for complex 3D design with unique details, it is still recommended to use SolidWorks.

autocad blocks example

Can you do CAM in AutoCAD?

CAM stands for Computer-Aided Manufacturing. If one has to differentiate between CAD and CAM, it can be said that CAD makes the design of a product possible, while CAM allows making the product. You can ensure your design’s proper functioning in CAD, but it is of no use if the design cannot be translated into a real product. Here comes the role of CAM, which successfully allows you to translate your design to a real product. AutoCAD does not offer CAM capabilities. For that, you must use another software by Autodesk named Fusion. On the other hand, the CAM module comes as an add on SolidWorks.

solidworks cam module

Case wise comparison between SolidWorks and AutoCAD

SolidWorks Electrical vs AutoCAD Electrical

AutoCAD does not offer any specific tools for creating electrical drawings. Instead, however, you can make such a drawing by employing some programming in AutoCAD. On the other hand, SolidWorks has a dedicated tool for drawing electrical diagrams. So you can say SolidWorks is a much better choice for electrical drawings.

Which is better for creating fabrication drawings?

AutoCAD is a better choice for developing fabrication drawings in 2D. Workers can then interpret these drawings to produce real-world models. On the other hand, SolidWorks comes with the preinstalled CAD feature, which allows it to commute with CNC machines directly, and hence a much faster product can be achieved. To answer, which is better depends on the product. If you are thinking about civil works related to fabrication, in this case, you must be going for AutoCAD since it is rarely done by an automatic CNC machine. On the other hand, if manufacturing of machine part has to be done. In that case, SolidWorks is the right choice.

Which is better for designing furniture?

Furniture is a small accessory that may involve repetitive manufacturing. SolidWorks is the best choice in this case because of its CAM friendly features. In contrast, furniture can be designed in AutoCAD, but still, it would be needed to transform into an Autodesk fusion file before it can be processed for CAM. Moreover, SolidWorks also offers finite element analysis features, allowing you to validate your designs’ soundness before you manufacture them.

Which is better for Civil Engineers?

For civil Engineers, the best choice is AutoCAD. It is because they have to develop structural drawings of building elements like beams and columns, which can be done efficiently in AutoCAD than in SolidWorks.

Which is better for Mechanical Engineers?

Mechanical engineers often need CAD to create the design of machine parts. Those parts could be used in various mechanical industries, including the automotive, petroleum, woodworking industries, etc. In such cases, machine parts are usually manufactured using automatic CNC machines. Therefore, CAM is a requirement. Additionally, a structural and thermodynamic analysis of these parts is also needed to be done before manufacturing them. Therefore, SolidWorks is a perfect option for mechanical engineers. It can offer both the benefits of better CAM integration and analysis capabilities.

Which is the choice for the automotive industry?

In the automotive industry, complex mechanical parts are needed to be manufactured. Such parts can only be manufactured using an automatic process and hence reducing human error. Therefore, CAM technologies are vital for such manufacturing, which can be done most efficiently in SolidWorks with its strong 3D background architecture.

Market factors

Cost

understanding-cost-value-relationship

SolidWorks cost around 4000 USD for a lifetime license purchase and may cost about 1300 USD for an annual subscription. On the other hand, a yearly license of AutoCAD may cost you something around 1600 bucks. However, Autodesk offers special academic use of their product for 3 years free of cost.

Compatibility

AutoCAD is compatible with both Windows and Mac operating systems, while SolidWorks is only compatible with Windows.

Professional certifications

SolidWorks offers a variety of certifications for SolidWorks. They include certification for educational use, an advanced skill certification, a certification on environmental assessment and sustainable design, and certification for finite element analysis. On the other hand, Autodesk offers a single certification for AutoCAD software, declaring you a certified professional for design and drafting.

Which one you should be learning for your future job

If you are a civil engineer and will work on a construction site to monitor the progress of a project, we recommend you choose AutoCAD. The least CAD skill you would need on a project site is to interpret structural drawings, which are made in AutoCAD. Contrarily, if you are working in a design firm, knowledge of SolidWorks is a plus since it also offers analysis features. But it is still rarely used in the construction industry. Instead, you may be using other structural analysis software like SAP2000 or STAAD pro.

If you are a mechanical engineer, the best is to learn SolidWorks because this is one you would be using most often in your job, whether in the automotive or power sectors. However, the knowledge of AutoCAD is also a must if you are employed at some construction site, where AutoCAD is an industry standard.

Lastly, electrical engineers can opt for both depending on the nature of their job.

For architects, the best choice is AutoCAD since it offers you excellent capabilities to draw architectural components.