New CAD for ID?

Hello all,

I’ve read through many useful posts so far on this forum and find that, in general, you all know what you’re talking about.

I’m looking to invest in new software for ID consulting and my experience is with Solidworks, Rhino/Flamingo, and Illustrator/Photoshop.

My most recent work has involved taking imported files and reworking them. More specifically I have needed to preserve surfaces shaped by hand and digitally scanned, while adding dimensional and geometric changes specific to mechanical needs. I have used Rhino primarily for extracting surfaces to be thickened in SW. I’ve also been able to directly cut into .iges files or other imported files directly in SW, with reasonable success.

I just spent 4 days with Autodesk Inventor, Alias for Inventor, and Inventor Fusion - hoping that their integration of the sort of workflows I use would be an advantage. Unfortunately I upgraded my OS during the Trail period and lost my ability to open these programs, so I still have many questions. For the most part my impressions of Inventor and Alias were favorable (even though Alias is frustrating to adapt to) but I know that the real issues don’t crop up immediately, and I was not able to reproduce my most recent project using these two programs. Inventor Fusion was a real disappointment in terms of working with imported files.


Inventor did not seem to recognize an imported .iges in terms of being a solid “blob” that I could cut into the way I would in Solidworks. Does anybody have success with that in Inventor? Actually, does anybody use Inventor on this forum?

The Alias plug-in in Inventor is pretty cool but I’m more interested in using Alias for what it is worth on its own. I think this would be referring to the base level ($4000) version. I’m curious how well a model created in Alias could be opened and manipulated in Inventor, and how that would work. Also, what do miss by going with the lowest level of Alias?

Any thoughts on SW+Rhino vs. Inventor+Alias?


I’d stick with what you know. Rhino and SW in tandem will get you pretty much anywhere. Evangelist should have some good insight on Inventor + base Alias. I know they’ve been trying to get them more tightly integrated.

Having no experience with Rhino or Alias I can’t speak to how well these programs work with the solid modelers.

I used Solidworks at school and used Inventor during summers at work. Conceptually these programs are the same, but Solidworks takes the cake on usability. They seem to care more about getting the little things right, like they really study people using it and apply this to interfaces. This isn’t something I’d underestimate. There isn’t any one big difference in the two IMHO, but it’s a thousand little dumb things that add up. I get a sense Inventor’s development is about putting fires out rather than getting ahead of the game.

I have been using CAD for about 10 year and have worked with both Inventor and SolidWorks. I use Inventor in my current job.

In my experience, the only advantage you have with Inventor is dwg file integration, since Invetor can read those files natively. As far as integration with other formats (such as IGES, STEP, ACIS, etc.), Invetor does a good job, but once in a while there are some problems, specially when you are dealing with complex surface geometry. I find that Solid Works, not only has a more intuitive work flow, but also deals with surface geometry better. Inventor Fusion is in it’s infancy at this point and I would wait a couple releases before even considering it as a viable option.

Rhino is pretty much the standard program that I’ve used to transfer 3d data from one program to another, it’s very good at opening many different formats and saving out to a another. Of course, it is expected that you’ll have some cleaning up to do once in Solid Works or Alias.

My advice to you is that if you are investing in new software, go with what you already know. CAD Vendors will talk about all the benefits you will get by using X or Y software, but remember that they are in the business of selling software, maintenance agreements, etc. In the end, it’s all about how much of an investment it’s going to take for you to get the work done. You either work with what you know and get the work done fast, or you take time (and money) to learn new software, convert your legacy files, deal with difficult installations and setups, new service agreements, etc.

The only time I would suggest you switch software is if the software can do something that you need (really really need), and can’t be done (in any way) with your current software.

Thanks for the replies,

Yeah, my gut tells me to stick with what I’ve got, but in terms of “really, really need” I guess I’m wondering if the Alias for Inventor direct modeling feature will help in a big way? So far I’ve never been a big user of Nurbs manipulation - at least I haven’t found much success with it. But to push and pull simple shapes into complex geometry in a solid program seems pretty cool to me.

I really like being able to see the dimensions in my sketches in Inventor (in a feature or assembly), without having to open and “edit” my sketch (SW) just to see the dimension. There are lots of things I like in Inventor. And I guess Alias was always the standard for surfacing and now it is affordable at a certain level. I’m at a point where I can take the time to learn something new if it will make sense down the road, productivity wise. But the answer I seem to be hearing from you all is, “not so much.”

Another interesting note: During my evaluation both Alias and Inventor crashed on my new machine running XP 64. I’m not a big fan of programs crashing when I haven’t even started building a part in them. Figuring the OS might be to blame, I upgraded to Win7 64 (included w/ my computer). When I reloaded Inventor and Alias it seems my trial was no longer valid. Upon contacting my reseller I was told they could not help me, and they were also critical of my machine, and were not receptive to answering some very easy questions. I just wanted to point out that the trial period is about more than evaluating the software; customer service counts too.

Erikb, I liked the sketches on your site. What are you using for those?

I really like being able to see the dimensions in my sketches in Inventor (in a feature or assembly), without having to open and “edit” my sketch (SW) just to see the dimension. There are lots of things I like in Inventor.

So the question or questions then become:

  • Will the ability to see your dimensions of your sketches, as well as the other features, make your modeling experience better?

  • Are these “enhancements” really crucial to the end result?

  • Are these “enhancements” worth the crashes you’ve experienced on the trial basis?

  • Does that mean that you’ll have to invest in new equipment as well?

  • What will happen with all of your parts and assemblies that you have already done in SW+Rhino?

  • Will your customers see any benefits from you switching software?

There is definitely a LOT to consider. Don’t rush the decision, if you are eager to learn the software see if there are any community colleges teaching Alias and Inventor and take a class. Once you are more comfortable with the software and how they work together, then make a decision. But you should be asking yourself what the benefits will be in the big picture.

Upon contacting my reseller I was told they could not help me, and they were also critical of my machine, and were not receptive to answering some very easy questions. I just wanted to point out that the trial period is about more than evaluating the software; customer service counts too.

I have experienced this in the past. Most resellers don’t want to deal with these issues because it costs them money, bottom line. I know they should because better service could make the sale. But if they were that unwilling to help you, then you probably don’t want them as a reseller anyway.

I liked the sketches on your site. What are you using for those?

Thanks! Mostly ballpoint & razor pilot pens on copy or tracing paper, with a little bit of Photoshop. :slight_smile:

Are there any good CAD programs for mac?

McNeal is developing Rhino for Mac OS currently. They have a Beta release that you can download and test for it. Right now, it can’t do everything that the Windows build does, but it will eventually (crosses fingers). You can get more info at

There are some other 3d programs out there for Mac. I know Ashlar makes several programs for the Mac ( There is also Turbo CAD ( I haven’t personally tried any of these two yet.

I believe Autodesk has a Mac version of AutoCAD in development – Autodesk Slams the Hammer. AutoCAD on the Mac in Beta *Update* - SolidSmack

There are some rumor that Dassault Systems might be developing a Mac version of Solid Works in the future – What's SolidWorks Developing? Check Out their Job Listings... Cloud, Mac, Sketch - SolidSmack

There’s some hope.


All good points, and yes those are the questions I’m asking myself. I just got a new machine and I’m in the process of getting up to date on just about everything as I’ve decided to just jump full-on into ID. So no, at the moment the risk certainly does not merit a move away from what I am familiar with, and the reseller has not done a thing to convince me otherwise (quite the opposite).

What I was finding so attractive about the ADSK stuff was the integration, but after thinking about it, most designers seem to cherry-pick the best attributes from competitive programs anyway. ProE/Alias, for example, or SW/Rhino. In terms of workflow I guess I was hoping to reduce my time spent shuffling files from one program to another, but maybe that’s just the way to do it best. But, with all of the functionality improvements in most of these programs I still only use them for the basic things they’ve always done well. And as they add functions, the price goes up even though I don’t need all the new stuff. There is a point where I can’t justify buying a program if it only does one thing for me.

But like you said the client is the most important. SW and Rhino do a very good job of taking non-native files and working with them. I haven’t felt the warm fuzzies from Inventor/Alias in that department (maybe from lack of experience, but not from a lack of trying).

Thanks for the info, I’ll check those out.

Alias is also out for Mac and it’s primarily what I use.

You could also have a look at SolidThinking in combination with SolidWorks. The tandem works better then Rhino / SolidWorks, and gets you even further.

What kind of set-up are you running?
Got the trial, but it was just too unstable and prone to crash, so i switched to Rhino on the mac platform.

(mbp 2.33, ati X1600 256mb, 4gb)


Autodesk Alias typically runs better on Nvidia graphics cards. This is most likely the cause of your unstable experience. :frowning:

here is the list of qualified hardware . as you can see, ATI is not supported on OSX.
Qualified Hardware Charts

Yeah, but my card isn’t supported for the windows version either but it used to run well in there, Been a version since i used it the last time though.
Just curious if it was generally unstable in OSX or if it was my melting laptop exclusively. (Classmates with Nvidias aren’t too thrilled either)

are you saying Windows on a Mac or Windows on a PC?

totally different world between OSX and Windows. for windows, the graphics card companies release the drivers. on OSX, only Apple does and it usually is not as often.

I have been using Alias on my MacBook Pro for just over a year. I have not ran into major instability issues. HOWEVER, i did stay on 10.5.8 because of how many software issues appeared after 10.6 released.

this probably does not really help you in your current configuration, but i can assure you that software stability and quality is very very high on our priorities.

rock on!

You’re correct, i used to go Alias in bootcamp. It ran very nicely, and everyone seems to stay in bootcamp for their Alias needs.
Just found it interesting that it was such a major difference between the mac and windows version for me, where the mac one was almost impossible to use, and in win it worked just fine. Only issue i had there was transferring hotkeys from older versions. (probably user error)

Thanks for the replies though, made me a bit wiser!

I run Alias 2010 on my January 2008 Macbook Pro. It’s old.

OSX 10.6.3
2.2 GHz
4 GB Ram

It counts as old on a 2 year old mac? wow that surprises me.

HOw come ya’ll don’t install windows onto your macs as well as OSX and use these CAD’s there?

If the Mac version runs fine for me, there’s no reason for me to bootcamp it. I do have bootcamp installed, but just to play steam games.

And yes 2 years old is old. I can’t even run Steam on OSX without dropping to 2 fps. My battery also lasts for 30 minutes. (I bought a new one in January, and that one lasted for an hour… new.)