Going from Solidworks to Rhino? Compatibility?

Hello all!

First post, but not my first time on the boards. I have a situation that I am trying to work out and would love some help from you guys and gals. (sorry for being needy).

I know this topic is sort of beaten to death, but it is a bit complicated, so bare with me. I tried to keep it brief, but if you want the short and sweet question, skip to the bottom bold/underlined but my background info may help clarify some details.

I am newly employed (1 year) at a company as a secondary/assistant designer.
This company is newly interested in adapting 3D modelling in-house for product development.
We currently work with factories in Asia that use 3D cad solutions to run their machines.
Up until this point, the company has been relying on the factories to develop the 3D models from detailed 2D sketches (.psd/.jpeg/.pdf).
This is mostly because it is the way things have been done in this industry for a while, and the older generation has no formal 3D training.
Now I have come along and sparked the interest of adapting 3D cad in-house to gain more control over development, and save time on revisions and miscommunications.

Our goal is to provide Asia with the completed 3D files so that we do not have to rely on them to make what we want; we just develop what we want under the eyes of the designers and product engineers, and send it to them for final review and production.

Our plan is to invest in a 3D CAD solution and a purpose-built work station dedicated to CAD.
For the time being, I will be responsible for doing the 3D work until the process between us and our mould makers in Asia has been tested and proven; then we may hire a full time 3D engineer afterwards to do the cad work so I can move focus back to product design (no sense hiring someone until we know the process works).

The factories/mould makers we are working with currently utilize Rhino as their primary 3D Cad solution.

During my past studies, I learned and became quite proficient in Solidworks.

The Questions:

  1. My proficiency is in Solidworks. So, for that reason, my ideal choice would be to purchase a seat in Solidworks so I can begin clicking right away.
    My concern is whether or not the files I produce will be compatible with Rhino when they are sent overseas. If I export files to .iges format or similar, do I have to worry about our mould makers encountering model abnormalities, errors, and broken geometry when they open the .iges files in Rhino? I fear that the CAD operators in Asia are not so much problem solvers as they are good at following the method they have been taught, so if I give them a file and they encounter many file errors, they may not know what to do…

  2. My boss seems keen on purchasing Rhino entirely due to the worries of direct compatibility. They do not want to encounter the issues I have mentioned above, and figure we should just “get what they have” as it seems straight forward to them.
    With that said, how difficult would it be for me to pick up Rhino, having only Solidworks as my prior CAD education?
    I would be able to put full-time hours into learning how to use the program, but I am worried over how long it may take to become proficient enough to get the development process going.

If Solid-works files are directly compatible in Rhino without error, I don’t see the value in investing the company’s time and money over unnecessary concerns with compatibility… but if compatibility is going to be an issue, then obviously I will have to take on the leaning task to get this process going.

The TL;DNR question:

Asia uses Rhino, I know Solidworks. Can we invest the $ in Solidworks to save time, without fear of compatibility issues when files are shared. OR Should I invest the time into learning Rhino so that we are using the same CAD solution as our Mould makers, and how hard will this transition be/ how long can I expect this to take?

[ Deleted ]

FWIW, Rhino’s translation tools are generally very strong.

If you are not doing extremely advanced modelling, I suspect you could get away just fine using SW and translating. However, to ensure this goes smoothly you should do a practice run with a free trial of Rhino. Spit out some common file formats like .STP and .IGES from your Solidworks data and see how it imports.

As long as you can review the imported geometry in Rhino and it looks good, I expect you will be fine. Being able to review the imported geometry on your end however is key in that process. Leaving data control up to your vendor is a bad idea.

With that said, if cost is a big issue I would seriously just consider learning Rhino. Rhino is very easy to learn IMO, if not one of the easiest tools there is. I self taught myself Rhino freshman semester and was building cars within a few weeks just from prior knowledge I had from Maya. It’s also very cheap, and runs on almost any system - you could probably get by just fine with a $500 desktop rather than a purpose built workstation. If the models you are building were simple enough to be built from 2D still, then chances are the CAD databases will not be massive in complexity.

If the parametric nature of your products means that Solidworks is a much better choice (which may be the case) then I’d stick with SW and work on the compatibility before making the big investment in hardware.

Thank you for your help and input!

My initial hesitation against rhino was solely based on saving time (since our products are based on seasons, everyone likes to hear the time-saving solution). We are starting plenty ahead of time on this but the goal is to get this going ASAP so we have room for error every step of the way (which one can usually expect when you try to do something for the first time, especially overseas).

The modelling will be somewhat complex, as our goal is to take the difficult ideas on ourselves, and leave the simple stuff in the hands of the mould makers since they do an okay job with it. I work for a footwear company, so there are plenty of organic surfaces, curves, interesting extrusions and small shapes and patterns. A lot of my fresh and “complex” ideas have been hindered by the ability to communicate those ideas in 2D while attempting to explain in simple english through emails and phone-calls.

I have modeled shoes in solid-works in the past, and it was quite an interesting task, but was very doable.
I know it can be done in Rhino because it’s what is being used in the factories currently.
I no longer have access to solidworks so i cannot really give that a quick whirl to see what the outcome may be, but could look into a demo to regain access. I have not contacted Rhino about a proper full-version demo.

I work on a Mac (1 year old macbookpro with i7 and 16gb ram), since I work primarily with Adobe creative suite, so it is was my preference and I boosted the memory way up so i could be running multiple programs at once without a slowdown. So as KenoLeon mentioned, that might be a solution, and the cost of the computer is already covered since I already own it…
The windows workstation was though of to be a good future investment since, once we get the ball rolling on this, we will need a full time modeller and they will need their own workstation to themselves. Also, we don’t have any windows systems at our office that are really capable of handling the load of a 3D CAD program (other than our primary designer’s computer, which she needs for her work).
I had installed Rhino for mac BETA version a while back, but never really took the time to dive into it as I was just using it as a 3D viewer for my mac. From my understanding, the Mac version is still missing some features from the windows version.
Does this hurt it’s performance significantly in comparison?
Also, does the Mac version vary significantly in it’s keyboard functions to the Windows versions (like when you compare adobe mac vs windows)?
Just curious for future’s sake.

If the full Mac version is only appx 300$ as you said, then perhaps the best path may be to install the Mac version of Rhino on my mac, lean the software, run through the process, and then invest in the windows version on a full hardware setup when we have everything worked out…

I will get in contact with both CAD companies about a demo/trial, but from the sounds of it, if Rhino is not that hard to learn, then I may just go with that out of the sake of “straightforwardness” and we may also be able to save some cost both in the long and short run.

Thank you again!

If you are doing footwear, Rhino probably is a better solution. Most of your designs will be single quilts/solid bodies, rather than complex assemblies of intricate mechanical parts that require analysis, etc.

Rhino should run completely fine on a Mac for that type of work. Remember, people have been doing CAD on computers for a LONG time, and products have not necessarily gotten substantially more complex. An i7 Mac will shred that type of work no problems.

Since Rhino has come down in cost I would suggest that as a way to go. The freeform NURBS tools will be great for things like footwear since you can create very organic shapes by direct modelling, something solidworks struggles with.

Modern Man is very experienced with using Rhino and SolidWorks but nearly elusively uses the later because it’s more efficient workflow for his purposes. For renderings he used Rhino with V-Ray thus he often exports geometry from SW and imports it into Rhino.

Modern Man has found that when translating SW files into Rhino all too often the results have glitches. Instead he exports/exports STEP files which yields very reliable results.

Though quite different, Rhino shouldn’t be hard for an experienced SW user to learn. Modern Man agrees with Cyberdemon that Rhino is likely the better choice for designing/modeling soft goods such as shoes but ultimately it’s whatever you feel most comfortable getting the job done with that matters.

I concur on chosing .STEP as the export format of choice.
My co-worker uses Rhino, I use SW and we swop files back and forth all the time without issues.

Due to the affordability of Rhino, I have heard and talked to a few places that find it cost justifies as a virtually universal file translator, so even if you find it is not the software you want to use all the time, it has value aside from the modeling alone.

I’ve had experience bouncing out files from SW to Rhino (and vice versa) and in my use, I only ran into to problems when something wasn’t correct ie. naked edges , impossible geometry, and so on.

Modern Man wonders how MisterMr conjures up naked edges and impossible geometry in SolidWorks so he can try doing that and so on himself. Then he thinks out loud, “Jiggery-pokery, that must be some pure Nendo applesauce!”

P.S. Pro tip: Make full use of Analyze commands in Rhino, export geometry as STEP file.

P.S. , P.S.

Modern Man concurs with IDiot. It’s good to have both. If you’ve already made the big investment in SW, you might as well spend a little bit more and get Rhino too.

/ Just sayin’

Just a side note…Rhino opens native Solidworks files, no need to export as any neutral file type.

“I fear that the CAD operators in Asia are not so much problem solvers as they are good at following the method they have been taught, so if I give them a file and they encounter many file errors, they may not know what to do…”

I’ve made tutorial screen shots and Videos when this happens. Reason I say this is that I look at it from the stand point of your company is in the driver’s seat not the other way around. You should be setting the terms not them. The workflow of Rhino to SW and back happens everyday and if they cannot adapt to what you are sending them then they either need to upgrade or find someone who will adapt to your process.

I understand that companies work with factories mainly based on $$ as being a driving factor, but that can’t be the only reason for not having an alternative vendor. My old factory would ONLY take PDF’s for which I had to fight tooth and nail with upper management to either get the factory to switch over to using 3D or we’d take our business else where. In the end everyone saw not only cost savings, but the turn around time increase 10x.

Also, figure that it would be worth saying, that a great combo is Modo with Colorways. Colorways allows for vendors, clients,…etc to see the rendering but also make changes on the fly to colors/materials/lights that you’ve preselected. I’ve found this useful when communicating with renderings and rather than going back and forth with some details, it allows for the client interact and give instant feedback that can then be imported back into Modo with the updated changes.

Are you sure the mouldmakers are using Rhino? Seems like an odd choice for that type of work. I’d hazard a guess that the people doing the shoe models were doing it in Rhino and were then passing their models on to someone with probably solidworks.

Cadjunkie pointed out that Rhino opens native sw files. If that’s true but you want to send dumb files instead of your sw files, use parasolid, skip .step.

As others have said, Rhino is probably better suited to this work anyway. Surfacing keeps getting better in sw but it’s still a long way off the tools I’ve seen in Rhino.

Very easily…
Lofts not creating bounded edges is the first thing that comes to mind, screwed up fillet operations is the next.


It’s been well established here (widely known) that Rhino opens native SW files; however, AustinSedz quite rightly expressed concern or questioned the possibility that his mold makers might encountering model abnormalities, errors, and broken geometry when SW files are translated into Rhino. Such glitches in translation between these and other programs are not uncommon, even with good geometry originating from SW.

Bad lofts, boundary surfaces, fillets and etc. in SolidWorks are so immediately obvious and easily fixed that the driver would have be a complete SW greenhorn to go so far as to have that be the source of trouble at the point of importing their geometry into Rhino. Modern Man’s droll response was intended to express skepticism that this is a highly prevalent problem at the professional level.

While Rhino 5 can export parasolid (.x_t) files it cannot import or open a parasolid without an additional Parasolid 3D Importer plugin for Rhino which costs US $1,700.00.

Setting aside whether AustinSedz’s mold makers might be willing to make such a purchase to accommodate AustinSedz’s possible preferences, Modern Man is genuinely curious to hear what advantages of using parasolid rather than STEP would justify spending the additional amount for the necessary plugin to do so.

I was simply listing some known nuisance areas, not inviting snide comments. When exporting to step these things can cause headaches. With the direct import ability presumably a lot less so, but it’s still going to cause issues when creating toolpaths.

I am interested though, if solidworks says something is watertight, and all the geometry checks check out, but you’re exports are failing or someone is having issues importing your models, what is a greenhorn to do?

Ouch, was not aware of that.

Less translation steps, parasolid being the solidworks kernal it won’t do any translating on export and if a direct import function is available presumably no translations on import either. With step it’s two translation steps, and things do go wrong. Maybe this is only an issue for greenhorns who don’t know how to translate properly, but translation errors are common and someone pays for them.

“Sometimes you eat the bar, and sometimes the bar eats you.”

Try a different format. Modern Man, thus far has never himself experienced issues with importing geometry as a STEP into Rhino originating from SW - which requires no additional cost. If need be, on the rare occasion all else fails, fix the problems in Rhino.

AustinSedz is clearly looking for the best bang for the buck. AustinSedz and his or her business associates will obviously have to decide among themselves for what and how much they’re willing to pay to do what they do, however they do it. Reading between the lines, Modern Man would guess they’re likely not inclined to spend the extra $1,700 for a plugin.

Looks like I’m a little late to the party, but I go back and forth from SW to The Horn from time to time, so here’s my suggestion:

You’ll need a seat of both SW and The Horn for sure. I “Save As” .iges out of SW into a dedicated Horn folder, just to keep things neat&tidy. The geometry is very clean when you open the file in The Horn with one caveat; all the surfaces are SEPARATE SURFACES. And this is why I suggest you also have a seat of The Horn.

So, upon first opening the .iges file in The Horn, all the geometry will be selected in that eye-searing yellow color. Move your mouse cursor directly to the “join” icon and click it. now all the geometry will be sealed up perfect. But But But, you will notice a bunch of random layers - and they are random - in your layers tab. All that geometry is scattered throughout those layers. The best thing to do (for me) is to group the geometry by part (or assembly or whatever) as needed and move to new, renamed layers for said parts & assemblies so they can be easily identified, color coded, hidded etc. Save as a .3Dm file so your overseas sources can open it with minimal craziness to ensue.

Now. Going from The Horn back to SW I do not advise unless A) COMPLETELY necessary or, B) A VERY simple part that SW can analyze and rebuild.

However, since you’re Mac based (sweet!) and your overseas shops use The Horn, and The Horn is significantly cheaper, and you’re in footwear, I would say just stick with The Horn if you don’t mind getting Horned daily. I’ve used The Horn beta for Mac a little bit (but I don’t have a lot of 3D to do at home, and half of the time I wind up turning to Blender or Inventor 360) and the interface is quite nice from what I’ve noticed. A little different, but in a better, easier to use way. I have noticed a feature missing here & there, but it’s been a few months since I’ve used it and I don’t even remember what those missing features were, so I doubt they were that important.

Hope this helps.

The Horn - Modern Man says, “That’s fantastic!”