best cad program for furniture design?

What is the most widely used cad program in the furniture design community. I am looking into getting and learning a cad program like autocad/ vectorworks/ or autodesk . Are there any other programs that are especially great for this purpose and easy to use that I should look into before spending a lot of time and money on one particular program.
Are the best programs for the PC or MAC?


go for solidworks. parts and assemblies, BOM, easy format for making 2d drawings, cosmos xpress, decent rendering capabilities. Parametric modeling makes it easy to make revisions.

Engineers and designers use it, which also makes it great for production too.

Thanks alot, I will look into solidworks .
What are the differences between Rhino and solidworks and which has the faster learning curve. I see a lot of designers like to use Rhino. I am looking at design colleges here in New York but none of them seem to be teaching these programs while they seem to be preferred by the design community, how come?

if you just want to learn the software inexpensively, I’ve seen quite a few community colleges that offer two or three levels of solidworks classes.

if you just want to learn the software inexpensively, I’ve seen quite a few community colleges that offer two or three levels of solidworks classes.

Ditto that. You go to design school to learn history, processes and techniques to help you develop your personal design voice, not just “Heres how you use the latest software from Autodesk.” Start with a pencil and paper, then move on.

yah, take the classes at a community college. it’s not going to be design-based, but you can pick up the techniques and translate them in your concepts.

rhino is very easy to learn and inexpensive. the surfaces, quite frankly, suck for rapid prototyping. it’s a great complex surface modeler, but assemblies and redesigns are a bear. over the years, engineers roll there eyes at me when i tell them i have the concept in rhino.

i still use both rhino and SW. i still render everything in VIZ/3d studio max.

thanks again for all the input,

what is the story with the software though. I want to use this for my own use, but I heard the program cost like $4000 + maintenance fee’s, what is the difference with the student edition, can you still export files etc. or does it have severe restrictions?

Definitely the way to go. I interned for an american furniture designer who works mostly for italian companies, and used solidworks every day. For furniture, you’ll want to start with a sketch that defines the basics- seat hight, seat angle, back height and angle, overall height and depth. Then, build everything off of that… when you get done making your chair or whatever, and decide 18 inches is the new 17.5 inches, you should be able to change that dimension and the model will rebuild itself. It almost always works :slight_smile:

That’s exactly how I do it too- a single assembly sketch drives everything. A bit of a pain to setup right the first time, but after that you can reuse the same basic models over and over again.

Yes, a parametric modeler like SolidWorks or Pro/ENGINEER (both would work well) is going to run you $5K for a copy. Thats the breaks. If you are going to get serious about furniture, you’re going to need at least one modeler that won’t fight back if you want to publish dimensioned drawings and talk in terms of manufacturing tolerances.

Rhino is only $900 or so, but it isn’t geared towards engineering or production. Nice for making swoopy shapes, though.

Before you decide what you want to invest your time or money in you are going to benefit greatly from a few inexpensive community college classes, everyone is right on about that. But those will probably tell you more about what you want to invest in in the future, than they will prepare you to be genuinely productive.

You can download a 30 day trial copy of most of these… even Pro/E now has a trial download. The learning curve for some of them is pretty high, though. I’d want to have someone looking over my shoulder if i were to attempt to learn Pro/E. SolidWorks has some decent tutorials with it.

Consider Alias Studio, Maya, Catia and Inventor, too.

Some of the programs that aren’t all hardcore about engineering and dimensioning, are still good for establishing your design, and if you’re facile with both programs, you might model a shape with Maya or Rhino, and use that shape’s geometry to build from in SolidWorks or Pro/E. A hardcore parametric modeler user will scoff at that and say he’d have to rebuild it all in Pro/E or SolidWorks, but so what.

Get a book or two for each program you attempt, and get started! These have a fairly high learning curve, so its just important that you get started and keep building on what you know.

We use Solidworks for modeling, and recently got sold on a seat of Autodesk Showcase for renderings (not cheap at all, but similar to Bunkspeed I think). Very nice results I might add.

While i enjoy SW’s usability, all manufacturers we work with are PRO-E based, so file exchange is an issue.

the big five Furniture manufacturers use Pro/E.

Herman Miller

Thats just the engineers though.

Designers use Alias and Rhino

Since the engineers will rebuild the geometry parametrically I would suggest not using a parametric modeler unless it’s Pro/ENGINEER. The smaller manufactures will use Solidworks tho.

Your question (posed to get a discussion going) though was whats the best. I would say that the best tool would be the one that gets you in as a designer at a manufactures. I think all the firms can handle import geometry. A parametric tool is nice for making changes… you don’t have to remodel geometry. Instead you parametrically modify too get prove the form you want.

I think designers should use the Wildfire software but that can be intimidating. For the ergonomic forms, there are some amazing surface modeling tools in WF4.0 and it is sad that ID’ers don’t embrace that functionality. But they probably never saw it run like a designer should use it.

well for me i still uses autocad…

design engine-

i think the primary reason designers aren’t using Pro-E is I’ve yet to hear of a design school teaching it.

that would be a problem… Purdue uses it but not many can teach it except in the Engineering department. I am slated to go down in October to do a 12 hour workshop. Anyone want to join me? They pay for the transport and some dinner afterwards. Other than that i don’t get paid but its fun.


No one answered his question.

Rhino is a surface modeller, in specific quite a good nurbs modeller, this is used to build surfaces for objects without haivng any real idea of how it works.

Solidworks is a solidmodeller, you actually are having to cut, extrude and shape a solid material and is easier to directly make drawings of this as it actually has some dimention information which youve inputted into it, whereas Alias only uses pixels as a reference for length, which is scalable.

my reccomendation, is learn as many as possible. different companies have different software and you may not have your preferred flavour of modelling software there.

When i interned in france for ford, they just used ideas, and frankly that sucked more than a hooker.

I have been in the furniture industry a little over 3 years and have used nothing but SolidWorks. It does everything you need it to, how you want it to, and easily. I have tried Pro/E, and its very archaic (a la AutoCAD).


i primarily use solidwork, but i use rhino when i need to poop something out.

i still know how to use 3D VIZ/Max, AutoCad and a few others very well.

They all work essestially the same to varying degrees. they’re only tools anyways.

i’m looking into this myself…

i can run cad all day and can do some modelling in it… but what if i want to do some hottness renderings…

how does cad compare to solid works in term of drawing/making objects…

i can sketch all day but if i want to get serious i need to be able to provide shops with dwg’s… even though i have done exhibit engineering so whats the real difference

a bit confused but want to do it right and not waste time on programs that wont get me anywhere


well got a friend that he uses intericad in designing furniture . does anyone can confirm this.