Pro/E, CATIA, SolidWorks & My Needs

Hello all, ive been reading the boards for a while now and just decided to join and ask for everyones opinion.

I run my own small company, just me and three friends from college and were looking to purchase software that will suit our needs which are:
-Sheetmetal (Blades for motherboards and such, will use alot of standoffs)
-Plastic Shell Casing (Misc electronics need boxes)

Personal projects:
-Electric motorcycle
-CNC Machine

I can get licenses through my friend who works for a mfg firm in england and all three products are close to the same price but their all very different to use and I prefer not to learn one to then just switch to another.

My opinion sofar:
CATIA: wow, you can definatly tell its the top dog, it even eats computer resources like one but that aside I found modeling to be a dream. 100x easier than 3dsMax and Maya and within a day I was designing intricate parts and forming assemblies with ease.
Catia good points: Ease of modeling, Assembly (add one bolt and re-use pattern and bam autoinstall)
Catia bad points: Simulation? I watched a youtube video of a fork and I thought it was easy, my god no, sim is hella complicated and im lost. I also cant figure out animation and part movement if it has it.

Solidworks: Only used for an hour but it seemed clean and lightweight.

Pro/E: Ive been using it for a few days and Mechanica is awesome, ive never used such easy software to make things move and do static analysis. The ctrl/shift/mmb movement is annoying and I can never get to the oppisit side without being upside down and angled.
Pro/E Good Points: Mechanica suit is awesome to use and very intuitive.
Pro/E Bad Points: Sketching compared to CATIA is like pulling fingernails and personally I find it more annoying that 3dsMAx even. 3d movement makes my head hurt, when you click info and the web browser pops up the damn close box dosn’t work and the damn thing wont go away verrrry annoying, I can’t do thermal analysis because it says I need constraints and can’t find them.

So in general I find CATIA easer to use but not sim and Pro/E exactly opposite. Ill take a class when I choose a suit so these are trivial problems.

In the end im looking for a suit that will allow easy modeling and then allow me to push and pull components, check for collision, use gears and belts and to analysis on my motorbike frame so I know where to add members and such. Sheetmetal and Shell work needs heat transfer and airflow analysis for part longevity.

All opinions and suggestions relevant to the above appreciated, Thanks!

A few things to consider that may help you make your decision.

Firstly, do you have regular clients who use one of these CAD packages? Is it necessary for you to communicate native CAD data? I.e. share model topology etc.

Similarly do you have key suppliers who use any of these packages? Will you get any advantages from being able to share Native CAD data? Will you be working on collaborative projects?

Obviously these CAD packages all have import / export options for different formats and additional translators are available at a cost.

Currently we use both CATIA and Pro E wildfire for a number of different reasons. The majority of our customers (automotive) use CATIA and often require native CAD data and we regularly make use of their CAD data. A couple of our key suppliers use Pro E and in our experience Pro E allows us to output to a wider number of formats without having to pay extra for translators.

Both CATIA and Pro E allow you tailor a package that best suits your needs for different cost points. Currently we are running Pro E, without Mechanica admittedly, a lot cheaper than CATIA. Another major difference between these packages is how the licensing and product support work. With Pro E – you buy the package outright (high initial capital cost) and then you pay a far lower annual maintenance sub which keeps you up-to-date with product upgrades, bug fixes, community support/file sharing etc. Whereas with CATIA you have to continually pay a fee to use the product. If you don’t keep up the annual sub you cant use the software.

As you say CATIA and Pro E are really very closely matched and it’s a difficult choice to make. Providing you have the right options the creative possibilities are endless. Although I’ve never personally tried the simulation we do use it a lot for structure analysis and the results are pretty good.

Solidworks and CATIA are developed by the same people, I think solidworks is aimed more at the product design arena where as CATIA is designed to handle massive data sets and be used by a design team numbering in the 100’s. I’ve not used SW a huge amount but the UI is pretty similar to that of CATIA.

A large part will come down to personal preferences and what your operators are used to.