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Catia vs. SolidWorks – Which one should you choose?


The world of CAD modelling can undoubtedly be a very strange and distant one. Odd terms and highly technical jargon can often sound like a foreign language to those not a part of the field.

Of course, these sort of things are better left for the capable hands of professionals. One of the most common questions is Catia vs. SolidWorks and how they compare.

But as a budding client or perhaps a fresh face to the industry, it is essential to ask yourself. Which of the major players in the CAD field should you be going for and why?

solidworks user interface catia vs. solidworks

Currently, the prominent names in the field of Computer-Aided Design are Siemens, Autodesk and Dassault Systémes.

Each of the multinational competitors has its own contribution to every subfield of Digital Design. Today, we shall be discussing the premier offerings of Dassault Systems.

CATIA and SolidWorks.

The primary differences between Catia and Solidworks

Now the fact that the illustrious team at Dassault Systemes creates both these industry-dominating software can clearly be seen throughout the various aspects of their design philosophies.

The general user experience when it comes to handling files and dealing with settings and menus clearly share very similar sentiments. Even the modelling space and some shortcuts and bar tools are “cut from the same cloth.”

Unfortunately, this is where the similarities end.

What is different between Catia V5 and V6?

CATIA V5 SAP ECTR user interface

Now before we start to assess the fundamental differences between the goliaths that are CATIA and SolidWorks. We need to ask some more fundamental questions that you may have noticed as an outsider to the CAD fields.

As you surely know, technology is rapidly being upgraded, and every cycle brings with it the latest technology crammed into the newest software. But within the CAD sector, many designers like to stick with outdated software.

This does not mean that the software is old and incapable of the work. It is moreso to do with other aspects of the program. Quality of life, for example, is often a factor that is altered with updated programs.

Catia V5, in relation to V6, differs most significantly on the integration of Data Management software. The design tools, the interface and the workbenches remain mostly unchanged. The capabilities of both CATIA V5 and V6 from a technical standpoint are virtually identical. But in terms of data management and operational efficiency is where CATIA V6 really starts to shine. From a big business point of view, CATIA V6 is clearly the way to go.

Famously, however, SpaceX refuses to update its chosen program of operations from CATIA V5 to V6!

Here is the short Catia tutorial to give you an idea on how the user interface works:

What are the strengths of each CAD software?

Now when comparing both CATIA and SolidWorks do the differences become more apparent. However, both software indeed covers a very broadly similar scope. They are both optimized for very particular applications.

Don’t get me wrong. There are many many things that both CATIA and SolidWorks can do just as well as one another. However, when it comes to the more complex applications, does each alternative shine in their respective specializations.

Considering both programs are the leading choices in the field of 3D modelling. A great analogy before this discussion gets too complicated is the use of CATIA in designing a car. In contrast, SolidWorks would be better suited in designing the many components of a car.

This is not to say that CATIA is incapable of designing vehicular components and that SolidWorks could not comprehend an entire automobile. It is just the process would be considerably less efficient.

Ease of use and performance

solidworks rendering performance cpu multi thread

Choosing to invest both your time and finances into Industry-standard software should have a mountain of forethought before it. Aspects like the ease of use and performance can make a simple project unnecessarily tricky and vice versa.

Which one is more difficult to learn?

Within the CAD and Modelling world. CATIA is infamous for its difficulty to learn. SolidWorks has an up to date and revolutionized interface and design systems that are definitely more convenient and easier to use.

However, CATIA libraries are incredibly in-depth and complex. Some savvy SolidWorks users would have noticed the integrations of .CAT (CATIA file types) being utilized for a variety of functions by Solidworks.

CATIA also has a unique and revolutionary free-flow design system (Generative Surface Design system) that is perfectly suited for vehicular design. This freestyle shaper contributes to most of the complexity within the program.

Here is a short SolidWorks tutorial which will help you get the feeling about how this cad software is used:

Which one offers greater speed and performance?

A concept like speed and performance is a laughable assessment when considering any modelling software, be they in the mechanical, architectural or design field. Any old hat 3D modeller will tell you that you need to have some patience regardless of how much money you’ve invested into your hardware.

The thing about all this software is that their speed and performance vary according to the project’s complexity. They are capable of rendering universes, but you need to be prepared to wait for that whole vision to be digitally created and assessed.

Which one offers better work efficiency?

Now I’m sure there are many aficionados of both software that’ll swear by their respective programs. And that is certainly hard to argue with. I mean, being comfortable with your tools is half the battle on the path to becoming a master craftsman.

Although, it is fair to say that the kind of work you’re looking to do in the field of CAD modelling will be an apparent determining factor in terms of work efficiency.

Use cases for Catia vs. Solidworks

CATIA is for cars, SolidWorks is for car components. This sentiment definitely holds true. The fact that Dassault Systémes create both also ensures a lot of cross-compatibility between the two premier software. But let’s start getting into the more specific application differences. 

What is the common industry use for each software?

CATIA and its FreeStyle shaping feature is genuinely invaluable for its applications in vehicle design. This ability to enable designers to create the extremely complex schematics needed easily is what makes CATIA so much more advanced than SolidWorks. This added feature is undoubtedly reflected in the cost as well.

However, SolidWorks can still maintain its stakeholder in the modelling sector by perfecting its particular focus on 3D solid object modelling. There exists no truer parametric modelling software. This makes SolidWorks ideal for product design and machinery-related projects.

Catia vs. SolidWorks – What does the market say?

Perhaps one of the most important considerations when comparing these two world-renown software. This facet will affect potential earnings and job opportunities that can be assessed by two clearly defined factors.

cad software market share graph
source: https://www.cnccookbook.com/cnccookbook-2020-cad-market-share-survey/

The Global reach of each software

Dassault Systémes is a massive multinational company with an influence that purveys across a multitude of industries and sectors. We are looking to compare the actual market penetration of both CATIA and SolidWorks.

CATIA is a considerably more specific piece of technology, aimed primarily at modelling and simulating those bodies within a physical space. As opposed to the more intricate and technical simulations and computations that SolidWorks hankers a reputation for.

As both these softwares have separate nichés and would not be considered competitors to one another. One must consider the market capitalization of the industries both these softwares cater to.

Aerospace, automobile and various vehicular design may be an extremely lucrative industry. Still, it is considerably smaller than the entirety of the manufacturing industry that SolidWorks has consistently dominated for the past few decades.

Even in regards to the educational sector, most tertiary and higher education providers opt to teach students SolidWorks over CATIA (although the more specialized courses would beg to differ).

This is due to accessibility, global reach and our next consideration- cost.

Let’s talk about the cost and price point

Now, if you have the slightest idea of any kind of 3D modelling software, you should know that none of them are cheap. If you think about it, it’s somewhat understandable.

CATIA and SolidWorks can simulate real-life materials under a variety of situations. Increased temperature, changes in kinetic and potential energy, pressure alterations, aerodynamics under different conditions. This is pretty much a digital emulation of multiple branches of incredibly complex physics.

The digitization of these extremely intricate processes comes at the cost of unbelievably expensive software. But SolidWorks is the clear victor here, having affordable options for individuals and students.

On average, Solidworks is roughly a third of the price of CATIA equivalents. However, Business sized licenses for both CATIA and SolidWorks will still set you back in excess of tens of thousands of dollars yearly.

So which is better – Catia or SolidWorks?

As we can clearly see, one cannot simply say that one modelling software is superior to the other. From the same creator, they may overlap in their applications, but both have very different target markets that they aim to excel in.

In terms of mass appeal, SolidWorks clearly has a larger audience, compounded further by its many more generalized and versatile applications and its extremely cost-friendly price point.

While not everyone needs to design a car or an aeroplane, all other products are perfectly handled by software like SolidWorks.

That is why we at mechanic.ca have opted to become Industry professionals and absolute masters of SolidWorks.    

It’s not that we can’t design your spaceship, plane or car. It’s that the program we use isn’t fully optimized for it. We’ll still get it done.

Scroll up, look for a quote and let’s get your dreams in motion.