SolidWorks and AutoCAD are both industry leaders in CAD software, but your choice will depend on your style of design. Read on to find out!
In the computer-aided design world, you may hear people comparing SolidWorks and AutoCAD. But the truth is, once you get into the details, you’ll find two different tools that run similarly but focus on different aspects of design.
Both SolidWorks and AutoCAD give you the ability to design the latest feats of engineering on your computer, a huge step up from the slide rules and manual measurements of the early drafting era. Both have established standards in the field, through decades of solid development, adapting to the needs of their users. And both are compatible with almost any industrial machine and process needed to manufacture your final product.
Yet, SolidWorks concentrates on “building up” your 3D models, while AutoCAD is the standard for 2D drafting. Each can do both, but there are nuances in their performances that clearly demonstrate their strengths. (For two platforms that are more similar, check out our article comparing SolidWorks to Autodesk’s Inventor.)
We’re here to help you untangle this overlap and distinguish between two of the most recognizable names in computer-aided design. Read on to discover the differences and which works best for your ideas!
First released in 1995, SolidWorks quickly became the industry-standard solid modeling software, and Dassault Systèmes bought it in 1997. In 2001, it incorporated simulation into its CAD features, which became its signature strength.
The kind of computer-aided design employed by SolidWorks uses standard engineering features like bosses, holes, and slots. These are put together in specified designs and rendered into real-world models.
SolidWorks is best known for 3D modeling, but it uses a 2D drawing system to start on each design, so those functions are available as well. They just aren’t as fully realized as they are in AutoCAD, which uses 2D drafting as its main focus.
SolidWorks has developed a wide variety of useful features to stay a favorite of users. Most notably, users have relied on consistent upgrades of the simulation modes to render their designs as close to the real world as possible.
Although it’s an industry mainstay, SolidWorks doesn’t replace all CAD software. We’ve detailed some weak spots below so you can decide if any are deal breakers for you.
AutoCAD is considered by many to be the “original” computer-aided drafting software. Autodesk premiered the first version in 1982, and since it was the first CAD program designed for PCs (instead of industrial minicomputers), AutoCAD became an instant hit. Like SolidWorks, it has evolved with computing power while staying true to its drafting core.
Although it does have 3D design features, most of AutoCAD’s audience uses it for 2D designs, which is where its strengths lie.
As the first wide-spread CAD program, AutoCAD defined many of the industry’s standards. Its dominance is well-earned with features like the following:
AutoCAD came to embody design industry standards because it was the first program to encompass the vast majority of design needs. That doesn’t mean everyone loves it. If these disadvantages make you pause, know that there are a lot of AutoCAD alternatives with niche improvements – some for much less cash.
On the surface, SolidWorks has beefier 3D options than AutoCAD, but at the cost of a significant uptick in up-front investments and 2D design flexibility. Ultimately, what’s going to decide this for you is what you’re doing with your designs:
(Lead image source: Javelin Tech)
License: The text of "SolidWorks vs AutoCAD: The Differences (2020 Update)" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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