Which CAD software to learn and a quick Portfolio question?

I was just rely curious what other ID’s thought in terms of which CAD software is best to learn/accepted across the board. It has long been emphasised to us by our tutors that the likes of SolidWorks and 3Ds Max should get you into a job. However having recently started to look at possible intern ships in the summer literally every job spec requires you to know a different software? How on earth are we meant to cope with this or is it pretty much a learn as you go on the job thing??

I was also wondering how ID’s feel about putting a profile picture of themselves on their resumes/portfolio/web-sites? Is this a smart thing to do? Do you risk getting judged if you do??


Good questions - and thanks for choosing Industrial Design as your career path.

Some of our ID guys use Rhino and others have moved straight to SolidWorks - but keep in mind that neither of those replaces dynamic & communicative sketching as a foundation - our discipline is at its best when living and breathing through the work of our hands! beyond early sketch communication, we tend to use Rhino for explorative work or for very simple parts & assemblies. For more serious work, we’ve found that most of our clients who need tooling-ready 3D databases can accept our preferred choice - SolidWorks. My CAD guys are hybrids - ID guys who know engineering and have excelled at CAD proficiency (or vice-versa), so we can volley between pure ID, combo ID/CAD and combo CAD /Eng for the various phases throughout a program. The variation you see in requirements is typically due to structures where the workflow is ‘closed’ -a consultancy whose bread-and-butter client prefers one package over another, or a marketer/manufacturer whose plant engineers prefer one package over another. In reality, SolidWorks can deliver several filetypes that will work for almost any plant-engineering platform and has gained enough prominence that I would recommend you learn it.

As for including yourself in your portfolio / teasers, etc. - that’s a big plus and a great idea in my book. If a group, firm or hiring individual biases someone due to their appearance or ethnicity - you wouldn’t want to work for them anyway. :wink:

Best of luck!

SolidWorks hands down, not my personal favorite but it is what most people use these days. Many companies have switched from Pro/e because it costs less and is easier to learn, and Inventor hasn’t had enough traction.

Rhino is good too, great for ideation and surfacing, but files eventually need to be transferred to a solid modeling package.

You can experiment with Moment of Inspiration, the brainchild of Michael Gibson, the same man who created Rhino.

As far as posting a photo of yourself, that depends on your personality (and looks?). :laughing:

Here are my quick opinions of what I’ve seen:

Rhino (NURBS modeling)
Pros - cheap, simple, fast, lots of rendering options
Cons - factories hate it, tolerances can make solid modeling difficult, poor surface history (i.e. auto updates, etc.)

Alias (NURBS modeling)
Pros - good history, great attention to surfacing features
Cons - expensive, buggy, extremely steep learning curve, new version every year

Solidworks (Parametric modeling)
Pros - most factories will take Solidworks native files, extremely robust features, great history
Cons - steep learning curve (mostly with regard to surface modeling), expensive, a new version every year

Pro Engineer (Parametric modeling)
Pros and cons same as Solidworks, just more expensive and a little more difficult to pick up

Modo, 3D Studio Max, etc. (Subdivision modeling)
Pros - extremely fast, simple, lots of rendering options, standard type of 3d for animation
Cons - not a manufacturable surface

Personally I use Rhino and Solidworks. I prefer Rhino for 3d ideation and for work that will not go to final production (i.e. models that will only be rendered and not produced), while many of the manufacturers we work with request Solidworks files for final 3d. Because of the incredible speed you can achieve, I have seen a lot of chatter recently about designers moving toward sub-d modeling, especially if they know the manufacturer will be responsible for final 3d. I have not taken the time to explore this myself.

Its really good discussion for all the students and schools.

Thanks for all the feedback thus far :slight_smile:

It’s rely interesting to get a perspective from industry professionals what is expected of us once we walk (or slog) into our first job.

ha ha ha yes that is very true.

Also a valid point, if someone is going to judge you purely by looking at your photo then probably you don’t want to be working for them anyway.

Re question 1, Rhino or Solidworks but Solidworks isreffered, especially if you can get some hot surfaces out of it.
Re question 2, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with including a photo of yourself, yet there are so many ways it can go bad. Staring into space, action shots, an intense stare into the camera all can come off a little odd. Probably best not to do it unless you can get a nice casual shot of yourself working in the studio.

MOI also has an OSX Beta version.


If you are good with shapes and shape language, learn Rhino.

If you are good with numbers and math to build shapes, learn SolidWorks or Pro-E.

It is distinctly different work you are aiming at with the two approaches.

We use solidworks at my work and I have done some pretty organic models with it.

Learnt Rhino at uni and found it to be tedious. This was before solidworks was a good surface modeller.

If you want to crank out good surface models in SW, check out Matt Lombard’s surfacing and complex shape modelling bible and the SW forums. Solidworks is also good for doing welded structures or timber structures with your own custom profiles using the weldments tools.

All that being said, CAD is CAD and if you use it too much, you will turn into a monkey. Sketch with pencil/pen and paper as much as you can.

Excellent summary, and very accurate. They do the “same” thing to a degree.

My thoughts exactly…sketching is still loads more fun and should be the primary tool in my opinion.

I will make a note of this also :slight_smile: Thanks for sharing.

So general consensus seems to be that Rhino/SolidWorks/Pro- E are good platforms to learn…so I’m on the right track in that regard.

Thanks for all your feedback and comments!

Couldn’t disagree more. I am not very good with math or numbers, and use solid works no problem… As far as designing, it doesn’t matter what you use, but the problem with NURBS based modeling is that it doesn’t translate well into mass manufacturing. And sooner or later, you, or someone will have to re-make it in a parametric app. and it won’t match exactly your design or vision. So might as well start with parametric. Furthermore you can be highly organic with SolidWorks, but the learning curve is a bit longer… Once you get the logic of S.W you’ll find that it is actually amazingly intuitive and fast.

Not accurate. Sooner or later someone may have to fit geometry into a mold base using a parametric program, or cores and ribs added, etc., but if the surfaces are rebuilt using a parametric modeler and the original design and vision is lost. That is a design tragedy.

The surfaces that come out of Rhino or Alias are accurate, the “inaccurate” meme was propagated during the early phase of Alias by the workstation software sellers, I heard it first from my Pro-E salesman in 1996. What might be more appropriate to base this perception on, is that users of Alias or Rhino might be less mechanical and manufacturing oriented, requiring an engineer with engineering software to rework or rebuild geometry to fit production constraints.

The ready and low-barrier-to-entry manipulation and evolution of shape is critical. A minimum of steps and new structures of logic is required. Parametric modelers do not allow that.

+1 - you can absolutely take NURBS geometry to production - it just involves having the correct workflow, tolerances, and a mental understanding of what good and sh*tty CAD is.

All of our production external geometry is done in Alias and brought (mostly) seamlessly into Pro E and through to production with no rebuilding whatsoever.

To me, this really sums up the biggest argument I’ve had in the back of my head between parametric modelers and direct modelers. With parametric, you spend some effort keeping a good history tree rather than in say Rhino just exploring the form

Some good answers here. I just want to add my note: if you learn proper modeling, it doesn’t really matter what software you use. While the menus and buttons will be different - the techniques are all the same. That being said - 3ds Max won’t do you much good in ID. Stick with the parametric modelers - Solidworks and ProE are the most widely used.

Yes and no… with a Rhino model, you approach building/rebuilding geometry differently and there’s no chance of model collapse. Plus there still seems to be different levels of surfacing control between programs

We recently needed a C2 surfaced model, rounding the back of a rectangular box (that old challenge). We had our CAD guru try it in ProE, Catia, and Alias. The results showed differences, and on ProE he just couldn’t seem to smooth out certain dents/shallows that Alias had no trouble with. The Catia ended up being the most useable of the bunch.

Im a ProE/Solidworks guy, so I understand most designs are possible on different software - I’m just leaning toward lighterweight modeling these days to prove out form

It’s not just about possibility anymore, it’s about speed and ideation. People have clearly proven you can do very complex form with SW/Pro E/Catia, but how long it takes to get to a result and how much thought and freedom are left is still the big reason to embrace NURBS modellers, at least at the front end.

For some designs, parametric are great. If you know the tool well enough you can set things up so that you can manipulate dimensions and have everything rebuild nicely, but for some designs making an otherwise simple form change can become a huge undertaking, and the subtlety of design (ie this corner is too tight, theres too much tension in this surface, etc) is almost impossible to clearly capture and explore in a parametric tool.

It’s all about the right tool for the job. To me the difference between a NURBS modeller and a parametric modeller in terms of thought process and creative flow is as wide as the gap between doing a sketch vs an autocad drawing.

Spot on and diplomatic.

I have twisted Pro-E into some very organic surfaces for snowboard bindings, but the mindset was as far away from design as I can imagine, it was about anticipation and calculation and the headaches of model tree collapses.

I now view parametric modelers as tools to be used once the design is finished. Nurbs and surprisingly, even mesh based systems, can arrive at what I need to see, for example a SLS model, quickly and flexibly. This is for my type of objects I am designing. For items such as watches, for example, I can see how parametric modeling can be more applicable.

At one time in my career I imagined a great synergy between shape-form-and-function iteration and CAD and tooling generation. I now realize that constrains the front-end too much. Design should be as free of constraints as possible, only the usage and perception of usage matters, how it is made is irrelevant, and the CAD tools used to make it, even more irrelevant to the final product.

Design it as it needs to be, toss it over the wall, someone, or me when I have the industrialization hat on, will figure out how to build it and advance the overall game.

To the question of the original poster, if you specialize in parametric modelers, you are most likely going to be building someone elses designs. In fact if you specialize in any CAD system or CAD methodology, this will probably be the case.
If you are using parametric modelers as your primary tool for form development, you are limited against your competition.