Custom RV design software switching from AutoCAD LT to 3D


I was wondering if anybody has some advice for me. I’m a student worker for a custom Recreational Vehicle manufacturer. We only do 5th wheels and Travel Trailers. I’ve been here for over a year now and we’ve been using AutoCAD LT which is similar to AutoCAD 2000i (what I was trained on years ago). Anyway… getting to the point… the CEO put me in charge of picking out a new 3D software package that would allow us to draw the basic outside walls, floor, and the interior cabinets so that our cabinet shop didn’t spend so much time trying to interpret our 2D cabinet drawings. Here are the 3D programs I’ve looked at but seem to not quite work for us:

Autodesk Inventor
Autodesk Revit

I’ve looked at Catia a little, but not enough to make a judgement call. I need help here because we can’t afford to spend days drawing up these cabinets, but we need them to be accurate enough to build. Each customer we take on is a custom job… it would be easier if we just had a new model every year but that’s a no go. If that were the case, any of the afore mentioned software packages would have worked. If anybody know’s of any software that may best suit our needs… please let me know.


my experience is with Pro/E. very little with SW. and have only sat over a Catia ops shoulder.

i wouldnt consider Catia. costly. esp for what you want. Pro and SW could easily do what you need. i won’t go into details b/c you should really research cost/benefit for yourself. you can get demos from the companies and see what you like. better than the opinions you’ll get here which are usually one-sided.

might also download the Rhino3D demo. it could be just what you’re looking for. and is cheaper and easier to use than most anything.

if you do not need curvy surfacing you can do pretty pro in inventor. it can do solids ok and has buildin rendering engine too. quite familiar interface plus most of 2d commands you already know.

eh…sorry. inventor is the best trancision tho. and its parametric which means you can modify existing dwgs any time you want. not shure about the price. but if you want to save on training its rings the bell for me imo.

was thinking i’m not sure what CATIA costs today. last i knew it was about $9000 for basic version. that was last year. very cool software. am interested in latest pricing if someone has it.

Why don’t you get AutoCAD 2004?

If not, then Solidworks.
You’ll have a hella time with Pro E
and the others are crap.

i love Pro/E.

Pro is a very capable software and well worth the learning curve, however for cabinetry (basically what you are going to be using it for) I feel it is over kill. Unless you plan on designing the entire RV from suspension on up. I do custom furniture, cabinetry, in-home displays, and museum hall exhibitions on the side, and personally for the basic manufacturing data is most rapidly and cost effectively translated through hand renderings (to client) and AutoCAD or Hand detail drawings (to manufacturing, well if not doing it myself).

The above is only assuming that you are doing only the interiors. However if you are a company such as Featherlight that actually manufactures the entire trailer then I would consider Pro or SW, as this would allow your entire trailer to be designed in the same program start to finish.

I think you best bet is to get the demo disks of SW and Pro. You will need XP or Win2000 to run these programs. Each demo will give you 60 days to evaluate the software. If you wait about 2 weeks SW 2005 will be out, and Pro just released WildFire 2.0 a couple weeks back.

Before evaluating the software you should evaluate your companies needs, what roles the software will fill, how the learning curves will be handled, and what hardware upgrades will be needed to run the chosen software.

Another early solution would be to have the designers sit down with the cabinet makers and figure out the real issues they are having with drawings. Could be your current software is performing perfectly, designers just need to add more specific dimensions, or simply learn what dimensions the cabinet makers need and do not need in the drawings. If it is a dimensioning problem, no matter what software you get you will have the same issue. It is also important to discuss the software switch with them as they will be the ultimate enduser of the output.

“The best solution is often the simplest”

Depends on your personal approach to CAD modeling, I had a harder time learning Solidworks, but picked up Pro/E 2001 and Wildfire like nothing. Infact I prefer Wildfire over SW, personally I find it more intuitive and feel it gives far more control over the curves and surfaces. Actually allows g2 continuity between surfaces and curves. Well and I personally think SW makes everything look cartooned when you are modeling.

maybe i misinterpreted “outside walls” to mean exterior shape of these things. would explain interest in CATIA. please clarify.

Thanks everyone for your comments… I think that I’m going to test the water w/ solidworks again… We just got the Personal Edition and one of the “Sales Engineers” is going to do some custom work for us to see how he can show us our stuff in his program. If that doesn’t work out, I’m going to try and scrap the idea to the CEO but he may not like that very well… I’ll keep a look out in case something cutting edge comes along.

Thanks again…

if ease of use is an issue might still want to consider Pro/E. “Designer” has posted Pro/E Wildfire is easier to use before above posting i think. have heard this from other SW/ProE IDers. new interface is winning lots of people over.

before it sounds like i’m selling it i’ll add two things. first, i prefer older Pro/E interface. second, i’m unhappy with PTC re maintenance contract issues. not sure i’ll continue using it as a result. unfortunately they come with the deal.

I agree that ProE wildfire has a good user interface… most people I know who have trained on earlier versions seemed to have trouble making the switch. However, I have been told by the same people that if you learn on it, it is quite a lot easier to swallow. When it comes to SW, they are trying to sell me on a plug-in called DriveWorks… Automated Design from a system of fixed perameters… that would take a lot of set up time, but it may be interesting to try. Its supposed to be perfect for custom designs. I’m not sure if ProE WF has a form-based automated design plug-in or not. They use that here at my university for the MEs, I could just ask them…

switch is difficult when so many clients still use 2000i2/2001. lot of back and forth. agree its nice. but had no troubles before.

almost certain Pro has built in support for automation. been awhile since i’ve seen that kind of stuff. unsure what current status is. or if its bundled with with basic package. might now be in Pro/Mechanica. when you find out, pass that on please. curious now.

you should post a sample image of what you want to do. nothing from you or company. something already online and disclosed. get better feedback that way.

Considering you are already familiar with ACAD LT, you might want to look at the Inventor Series more closely. It comes with Inventor and Mechanical Desktop (which sits on top of ACAD). You would be able to leverage your old material and that of your clients while slowly getting into 3D.

My biggest problem personally is that I’ve done 3D so much with Mechanical Desktop, I can’t do 2D anymore… Ok, don’t want to, but anyway…