Alias - Rhino - Solidworks?

I know this type of thread has been done before but I have some specific questions to ask. These quesions are only for me as a product designer.

A. I hear that Alias is the best tool for producing Class A surfaces. Does this mean that the same quality of Class A surface is not possible in the other two programs? In product design how important is it to be able to acheive this standard of surface?

B. As a designer (not an engineer) what software usually pops up the most as a skill requirement for a product designer job?

C. I hear people say that a lot of the time the designer’s model will be ‘rebuilt’ using a program such as Pro-E or Solidworks. If this is the case then am I right to believe that both those programs are able to identically replicate complicated Class A surfaces? Is it just that it’s slower to get the same results using them?

I’ve seen some amazing models with Alias but when I tried the program it just seemed very restrictive ie. having to hold down 3 buttons to rotate the view. I couldn’t change the settings for this and don’t want to put any more time into it if I can use more liberating software to get similar results. Rhino seems like a good option. Solidworks really interests me but what I question is if it can produce the quality of surface that you find in some product design or will I be using a slower, less intuitive tool, to try and achieve the same results with a dedicated surface modeler?

For Automotive Class A requirements, you are Correct that Alias is the only one listed that is able to achieve this.

For Product design, this is not as important.

Alias is considered a 2 handed application. IMO this is actually the advantage over other apps. between the 3 keys and the 3 button mouse, you have instant access to 13 different features at your finger tips not including the tools that you have in your marking menus(radial menus).

Im a heavy marking menu user (around 45 tools), basically outside of the curve and surf tools in the shelf, I have the entire interface at my cursor.

Alias is all about muscle memory when it comes down to it. It steepens the learning curve to an extent, but most tools require multiple key presses at some point or another.

Once you’ve gotten over that initial hump, it becomes second nature. My marking menus are ingrained in my skull - it’s like playing an instrument, once your body learns the moves you can recall them instantly with no thought whatsoever. Never have to worry about “ok I need to go to edit->Surface->solidify” etc.

Some people hate it, but having dipped my toes in all of those boats (Rhino was my package of choice for about 4 years) I would never go back.

But it’s not some point or another it’s all the time :imp: Do you really not find it irritating to have to hold down 3 buttons to rotate, pan or zoom? And having to press buttons to deselect objects. It just seems very stiff to me but then again I didn’t give it much of a chance. I’m concerned about spending loads of time getting to know the program to find out that I still feel the same later. Cyberdemon what made you want to change?

If there is not much requirement for class A surfaces in product design is Alias overkill for my needs? What is it exactly that makes Alias the only one able to produce class A surfaces? Is Alias heavily used in the product design industry or will I have a larger audience of Rhino or Solidwork job positions?

Also is it possible to make any form in Solidworks that can be made in Rhino? If so, are surfaces harder to make in Solidworks than Rhino? Lots of questions :slight_smile:

Don’t find it irritating at all. Admittedly I’ve been using Alias in some form or another since version 8.5, then switched to Maya, then added Rhino, then jumped back to Alias around 2008. The Maya UI is almost the same, so no - never really bothered me. My left hand just does it’s dance and I don’t even think about it. If it really does bother you, you can also consider a 3D controller like a space mouse. I have one, but never really use it anymore.

After I started getting demo’s on what Alias was really capable of (especially in conjunction with a Solid tool like Pro E) it really impressed me. A lot of it had to do with workflow, but the end results and the flexibility of the interface and construction history. I looked at the stuff I was doing in rhino and realized I could do it much cleaner and faster in Alias. That is, once I spent some time with the tool and really understood what was going on - the first 2 months was certainly very frustrating, though I think more of that frustration was around learning good technique (just because you CAN build from a trim edge, doesn’t mean you should!) and the Pro E side of things.

I do think Alias’s biggest problem is still education. Rhino and SW are definitely easier to jump into. When I actually had people sit down and explain things to me, it made a lot more sense than just trying to continue to self teach myself. Teaching yourself the tools is easy, teaching yourself good methodology requires someone with experience to show you why X is better than Y.

You can make just about anything in any tool (theres guys now who will do pretty detailed cars in SW, just not to the same standards as a real car model) it’s more a matter of frustration and flexibility along the way.

What does the construction history allow? And do you know much about the product design employment side of things compared to the others? Are there any recent stats about for this? Also do you have any good links to beginner tutorials for Alias with good methodology?

Construction history is the NURBS equivalent of parametrics. IE if you made a surface from 4 curves, then manipulated those curves, the surface would update.

Disclaimer: I know Rhino can now do this - though at the time Rhino couldn’t.

As far as design employment - it really depends. I think all 3 tools are pretty relevant, nowadays I think Solidworks is probably the most dominant of the 3 in most smaller businesses. You need a large corporation to afford the price of Alias for the most part. Frankly if you spend some time looking at Coroflot, you’ll see many will simply require knowledge of 3D in general and then specify (Alias, Rhino, SW, Pro E) - something along those lines. It’s pretty easy for an employer to say "Hey, this guys a whiz at SW - won’t take him long to adapt to Pro E) and vice versa.

Alias has some pretty good included documentation, and the Alias Design site - but I feel that some of the on site, intensive courses (expensive if you’re not a professional or very dedicated) might be the best options.

Just look at the products available out there. Toasters, hairdryers, headphones, lamps, water boilers, suitcases, ATMs, intercoms, etc etc etc.

How many of those have Class A surfaces?

Zero. Or very close at least.

And at one point you will have to give your model to an engineer. If you come to them with an Alias model, they will probably have to do a lot of work, unless you are in the automotive industry. If you come to them with a Solidworks model, chances are that they might be using the same program even.

On the other hand, you don’t have to use three buttons at the same time in Alias. I never use those marking menus. Instead, everything is mapped to a single key, including “select none” (simple as pressing “n”). I’ve been using a keyboard for 20 years, so that beats any muscle memory involved in trying to aim for a specific item in a cluttered menu while holding down two keys and a mouse button at the same time, and I know Evangelist and Cyderdemon will go ape shit for me saying this. :slight_smile:

Also, the construction history in Alias is flaky as hell, and breaks all the time. The construction history in Solidworks also breaks a lot, the difference here is that Solidworks won’t let you continue modeling until you repaired it. The construction history in Solidworks also essentially means that you have unlimited undos. In Alias, you sometimes don’t even have one undo.

Solidworks will also show you only the specific tools you need for the task at hand. In Alias, you have to set that up by yourself.

Solidworks will, however, feel much more restricted and whenever you try complicated surfacing, it will make you want to pull your hair out. Alias feels like total freedom, but at the same time you want to pull your hair out constantly while working with it.

Eh… so ok, that’s perhaps not much of a “positive” side for Alias on my account, but at least you have two opinions to judge now. :wink:

PS. I should point out that both programs have extremely high learning thresholds, and you basically NEED to take a good course in either of them. Learning on your own is like self flagellation, and you will miss out on all of the shortcuts and tips an experienced teacher will give you. Rhino is mentioned here, and that is usually the cheap alternative for those who don’t want to take a course in anything.

My take on it is to learn both SW and Alias, then all the other programs will be pretty simple to figure out.

Eobet are you saying that you don’t have to use 3 buttons to zoom/pan/rotate in Alias? How?

Do you reckon with the time and practice it becomes easy to produce complicated surfaces in Solidworks or is it just not really designed for it?

Do you think there’ll be a lot more focus on developing the software towards complex surface modeling?

Those models on your site eg the car/boat. Is that in Solidworks?

You sound like you use Solidworks much more than Alias. Are there many times that you find you can’t make something in Solidworks that you could in Alias …or that it takes a LOT longer to do and is impractical? Thanks

in order to get an A-Class surface a software package must offer specific control over the amount of isoparms in a surface. That is that the surface must be built as lite as possible. Secondly any specific package that wants to offer specific control over the specular highlights should offer a rebuild option of the curve math. More specifically that package should offer the ability to rebuilt a 2 degree parabola curve into a 3, 5 or 7 degree curve y=x^5 type of geometry and reverse. The math i share here is simple calculus of Integral and derivative, both sort of opposites in that one can derive the curve by looking at the math of the light reflection comb plot. All this is covered in our one week surfacing intensives BTW complete with examples and references to various software packages for comparisons sake. For example if your taking a Solidworks or Pro/E surfacing intensive we spend over an hour looking at Alias and Rhino. If your taking a Rhino intensive we spend some time looking at Solidworks or Pro/ENGINEER. We found that this type of comparison enables the participants to explain strengths and weaknesses of how much control over control vertices in each package’s curve tools.

In the end designers that take this training are better equipped too educate then ultimately obtain the help of engineers on their team.

By the way, next week I am teaching a ‘specular highlights’ Solidworks surfacing intensive starting May 10th. SW addressed almost all of my concerns and has created an impressive package. The class I am teaching is this but with Solidworks.

This is the only thing I personally take issue with - I bring geometry into Pro E, and hand them off to engineers. Those surfaces end up in final tooling. If your engineers are rebuilding it’s either because:

1: You have failed to deliver what they need

2: They do not feel comfortable enough working with your data.

About a decade ago our group made this transition and not only does it completely preserve the ID design intent, but it greatly reduced the product development cycle time.

Not only does this workflow do that, but because of Pro E’s flexibility to replace surfaces, if the Pro E model is built correctly, I can come in downstream modify a surface in Alias, replace that feature in Pro E, and like magic, my feature tree will regenerate all the engineering features and I have an updated ID/ME model.

Solidworks is a great tool, don’t get me wrong. But it’s a great tool when you KNOW what you want to build. Alias affords a flexibility to think and work quickly in 3D.

And luckily, I don’t work on ATM’s or Suitcases - which is why Alias’s evaluation tools for surface and curve quality are invaluable. If it wasn’t still unreleased, I would show you a recent example where an ODM tried to rebuild a fairly simple design in Pro E - even though they got within about a .2mm tolerance to my original surface, it was amazing how bad the surface quality was compared to the simple 5 degree original.

At the end of the day use what you feel comfortable with. But in my opinion the Alias->Pro workflow is just super powerful when tamed.

Just go into preferences - hotkeys and remap anything you want. You can even remap tools you’ve saved to your own custom shelf onto a hotkey (which can be used to map the degree of a curve to a button for example).

Of course it becomes easy with time and practice, and also courses. But yes, it’s also not really designed for it.

But as I said, 99,9% of all product design only requires tangency continuity or rather simple surfaces. It’s really only cars and stuff like bicycle helmets that requires Alias, and even some of that is done with Solidworks (high end bikes for example, which I thought had really complex surfacing, are ALL done with Solidworks, except one company who uses Alias, and oddly enough, they build really simple designs).

Yes. Curvature continuity for a spline was new to the 2009 or 2010 version of Solidworks, and two new tools were recently introduced called filled surface and boundary surface, which can both handle curvature continuity.

However, where Solidworks excels is not surfaces. It’s solids. And therein lies one of the two key philosophical differences between Alias and Solidworks. If you work with solid bodies in Solidworks, you can do pretty much whatever you want, with complete disregard to anything but your design, and you can quite often throw something together in seconds, and whatever you do it will be correct. In Alias, you can never escape the square patch restriction, which has nothing to do with your design, but is something you must constantly be aware of. You must also always be careful of holes and gaps in your model, again something you never have to care about while working with solid bodies in Solidworks.

Yes, I’ve been 100% using Solidworks up until now. I’m currently working on my first Solidworks + Alias model, and perhaps my next one will be pure Alias. But I’m currently in automotive, so I have good reason. If I go back to product design then, will I continue using Alias? If you asked me a month ago, my answer would have been “hell no”. Today? It’s a maybe…

But again, ask the engineers you’ll be working with what they’re using, or what they’re used to handle.

Think I managed to answer this already. I’m sure other people will chime in now. This is, oddly enough, a hot topic. I’m not sure why, though, because I don’t think Solidworks and Alias have anything in common, nor perhaps should they.

I can’t comment on that, but I’m sure you are right.

But unless we are dealing with very large corporations, how common is that workflow?

My experience, as I think with most people, are on the smaller end of the spectrum with a design consultancy of perhaps 2-5 people working with small firms of perhaps 50-100 people in total, at most. They can’t afford the kind of pipeline you’re talking about.

So, perhaps all this discussion is moot anyway, but those very people all tend to use Rhino because it’s the cheapest. :slight_smile:

I love Alias. It was the first package I learned in school, which was followed by SW, then Rhino, and now Unigraphics. The marking menus don’t bother me, nor does pressing multiple buttons. Like someone said, it’s all muscle memory. I’ve yet to use another package that I can design as well in. Yes, design, not just make a CAD model of my sketch.

Eobet, it seem like you’re pretty down on Alias…so don’t use it. Learn Rhino, or whatever and you’ll be able to make everything you can think of and you won’t be bothered by what you’re missing out on

Hehe, I harp on Alias because when it comes to the automotive industry, it’s in a monopoly position and unless someone gives them a foot up their ass, they can just sit back and relax. :wink:

Also, the Alias interface is an old dog that either needs to learn a few new tricks, or be put to sleep. The evidence of that comes from Autodesk themselves, in that they use completely different paradigms of UI design in their newer products like Showcase, Sketchbook and Inventor.

If you notice, I never give Alias a hard time on it’s surfacing, because in that regard, yes, it is absolutely deserving of it’s monopoly position as no other CAD package comes anywhere near it.

But Autodesk bought Alias|Wavefront, so I can see them not changing up the interface too much simply due to the volume of users in the system. It’s such a powerful tool, and nothing like Autodesk had ever had, if they changed it too much they’d risk losing users.

Showcase and Inventor are native to Autodesk, and I believe Sketchbook came in after the acquisition, correct?

Sketchbook was an Alias product prior to Autodesk.

Well that throws my theory right out the window then.

actually your theory is pretty solid.
Showcase and Sketchbook pro were both Alias products.

Inventor(autodesk) -Ribbon UI similar flow as many Microsoft products.

Sketchbook pro - originally developed for the Tablet PC and focused on ease of use and discovery. maximum canvas space with minimal UI.

Showcase - Most of the UI elements are generated on the fly and by the user. Very powerful architecture and fully customizable. you can easily create HTML or Flash UI overlays to drive Kiosk’s and Point of purchase displays.