Solidworks vs. Rhino?

I’m sure this debate has found itself on this board before, but in the event of sounding particularly ignorant I implore you to give me your professional input.

-Which has a steeper learning curve? (I have experience only in Maya and Silo)

-I know Rhino is infinitely cheaper, but which do ID (esp Furniture or Houseware) companies prefer employees use/know?

-Rhino is coming out for the mac. Does anyone know when?


IMO Rhino is easier to learn. But if you already have some cad background Solidworks isn’t very difficult. Solidworks is a parametric solid modeller, you can create an object and go back and make lots of changes after the fact. With Rhino you have what you have. If something changes you either need to recreate the object, or start erasing things and recreating them.

Every ID company has it’s own preference. A company will never dismiss you because you know 1 program over another. While they might look favorably on you being fluent in their software, as long as you can demonstrate you’re proficient at CAD modelling in at least some major application.

Rhino has GREAT translators which means it can import/export data from really just about everything, and it’s surface tools are top notch.

In the end it’s about what you can use the most efficiently, or what your company requires you to use.

Thank you cyberdemon, do you know if Rhino is capable of showing things like mechanical moving parts like door hinges, rollers for drawers etc? I’ve been told Solidworks can… If you can shed some light on the matter please.

Not sure exactly what you mean. In terms of modelling the mechanical components or making an animation of the pieces moving? Rhino has an animation plugin (Bongo) though I’ve never used it. If you know Maya already they Maya would be your best bet for creating your animations/renderings.

Sorry my description was rather vague… I’m referring to using Rhino to develop 3D/CAD data that can be given to the factory… Can you provide a Rhino file to a manufacturer and he be able to mass produce it from that? Like a plastic chair? Or a door hinge? Can you output data from Rhino so that a CNC operator could make use of it?

Please pardon my poor description… I’m only at the very foundational level of ID at this time.

Both software packages have their strengths and weaknesses. To paint with a broad brush… Rhino is more ID, Solidworks is more Mech CAD.

So it comes move down to what you want to do with it. if you’re looking to do concept work, go with Rhino. If you’re looking to do more mech CAD and production assemblies, go with Solidworks.

Give a better indication of what you want to do and we/I cm give a better response.

Rhino can export to virtually any format you can imagine. So yes, you can send data to manufacturers, create 2d drawings, export to rapid prototyping machines, etc.

Thank you Cyber and IP.

IP: I want to know, if I develop an RTA metal bookshelf. It would have the sides with holes for hardware/fastener installation, a few one piece shelves, and a back. Could I develop these parts to exact specifications within Rhino and then submit this file to a manufacturer for production?

Bear in mind… this is just an example from the top of my head. I don’t have such plans at this time.

Basically, I know that Solidworks is very VERY expensive, and as a student I can only afford Rhino. If I am not able to learn Solidworks by the time I graduate, will many doors be closed on me?

It doesn’t help to not have software at home and still be expected to learn and then practice modeling in it everyday.


The Solidworks student copy is under $100. Over the past few years, Solidworks has put extensive work into their surfacing. It is much better now.

I would have a hard time using a program that did not have a feature tree. Changes are a way of life in our profession.

Yes, you can do this in Rhino. Although I would argue not as efficiently as in SolidWorks.

When you put it in perspective that a few thousand dollars is not a lot if you are making $60/hr using that software package. Its a large upfront capital investment, but over the course of a year or two it isn’t much at all. To a student…yes…its an obstacle. But as already pointed out, you can get student versions.

You will not close any doors by choosing one program over the other. Not being able to design will close doors. Software does not make you a better designer. Its just another tool.

While it is true that you can export these formats it is not a guarantee that they will be brought in ok in the software (most likely Pro E) the factory is using. Even surfaces that have been knit have a tendency to fall apart at random. It is much more painless to use Solidworks for this purpose as you know it is already a solid when you build it.

You will need to learn and use both. Don’t pick one over the other. SolidWorks is more of a pain in the azz to learn but it is totally worth it in the end. You can probably get student versions of both for cheap.

I would argue that being able to communicate your design intent properly will make you a better designer. You may have the best ideas but if you can’t communicate it to your client or to manufacturing what good does it do?

I don’t know how in-depth the schools I will be attending will go into teaching Solidworks – I’ve heard it’s mostly Rhino. As a mac user, I’ll now have to looking into getting a PC.

Are there guides which teach Solidworks? Or do you guys recommend learning from some kind of intensive 3-day type institution? is near me. They teach Rhino AND Solidworks.

I understand what you guys mean about being able to present your design ideas. I do not intend to get caught up in the programs themselves… I do look at them as another tool that helps visually-communicate those concepts.

Do you guys know how much manufacturing we’ll typically learn in school? I mean is manufacturing process something that you guys just learned over time from your own work and business experiences or is it taught in school too? I will be attending CCS and most likely Kendall later on (cost-issues).

Is solidworks fairly intuitive? Or is it like SDRC or Ideas? I am familiar with the feature tree because I worked at a ford-supplier that crunched cad on various solid-modeling programs.

Now ProE, is that ANOTHER mechanical Cad type application that needs to be learned in addition to Rhino/Solidwrks?

Or parallels, or bootcamp…or ??? You don’t need to invest in a PC. Although, if you do, I recommend looking into a tablet (whole other discussion).

Solidworks has a great tutorial and help system.

Stop fretting over technology…seriously. Learn 3D. Pick one and move on. If your school focuses on Rhino, go with that. My experience is that you are 1 or two weeks away from learning any CAD package once you learn one. A couple days of training and a project or two and you will be learn another.

Every school is different. You will probably learn some manufacturing aspects from every school, but likely not enough.

Yes, its another CAD package. STOP WORRY ABOUT WHICH ONE. Just pick a CAD package before I come over there and strangle you like Homer strangles Bart.

you can get solidworks for a mac now.

you can also run virtual pc and run sw on a mac.

with both software packages you can export and most manufacturer’s will be able to use the file, you generally still need to draft it though, for fail safe reasons, or at least until you develop a work history with the mfg.

i use solidworks and have since 1996, its ok, you get out what you put in, i think that its the same with anything.

the place i use for cnc milling uses rhino.

most places around here use solidworks but i think thats just because the distributer of sw has been actively giving out major deals to mfgs who switch from another cad software.

i’ve tried a lot of 3d modelers, i really liked pro e but, with 10 years on sw, i didn’t see the worth in switching.

if you haven’t used either, i would pick sw over rhino, due to the paremetrics, but i would pick pro e over sw if you are starting fresh.

Thank you Budda!


Every school is different. You will probably learn some manufacturing aspects from every school, but likely not enough.

What do you recommend doing in order to gain some manufacturing knowledge? Work in a factory or mill or some sort during my schooling?

Yes, its another CAD package. STOP WORRY ABOUT WHICH ONE. Just pick a CAD package before I come over there and strangle you like Homer strangles Bart.

What about Cobalt?

Hahah just kidding. Thank you though. To summarize: I will NOT get a pc, and I will just learn whatever cad prog my school has, focusing more effort on coming up with good ideas and perfecting my sketching, rather than trying to become a cad monkey. I’ll be honest, I like people WAAAAAAAAAAY more than computers.


Is Co-op synonymous to Internship whilst in school?

please pardon my blatant and yet repeated ignorance.

Internship and Co-op are effectively the same. Internship has the tendency to carry with it the idea that it is unpaid. Although, I personally find that to be unethical.

What kind of Mac do you have? If you have a newer intel based Mac you can install windows XP on a partition of your drive. No need to get a PC if you have an intel based Mac. You download and install Bootcamp (free) and you need a copy of XP. It is not a virtualization software so youre running it natively the way you would on a pc. Just make sure you max out the RAM.