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Not All Solids Are Created Equal

Solidworks vs Solid Edge – CAD Software Compared

Picture of Melanie Griffin
by Melanie Griffin
Sep 26, 2019
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SolidWorks and Solid Edge are both advanced CAD programs, but what's the difference between them? Explore this guide comparing SolidWorks vs Solid Edge, which will help you make a choice between the two.

SolidWorks vs Solid Edge The Basics

SolidWorks and Solid Edge are CAD programs with similar features.
SolidWorks and Solid Edge are CAD programs with similar features. (Source: javelin-tech.com)

Much like great minds, great CAD programs often work alike. SolidWorks and Solid Edge are both professional modeling tools that give you all you need (and more) for intricate design and modeling tasks.

These are tools for solid-modeling functions, which means they’re capable of building 3D models as well as 2D engineering plans. Both programs use the Parasolid kernel as the core of their program. Both run on Windows, though technically, you can run SolidWorks on a Mac (but that’s not supported by SolidWorks, so you’re out of luck if it crashes). Both were first pushed out in 1995 and have been putting out regular updates ever since.

But despite their similarities, SolidWorks and Solid Edge have very different approaches to the same problems. User experience will make or break a program, no matter what awesome creations it can spin out, and that’s where SolidWorks and Solid Edge part ways.

Now that you know what they have in common, it’s time to check out their different strengths, weaknesses, and uses.

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SolidWorks vs Solid Edge SolidWorks: Advantages

You can create complex surfaces on your model in SolidWorks.
You can create complex surfaces on your model in SolidWorks. (Source: cati.com)

SolidWorks is a highly popular CAD program for a number of reasons:

  • User-friendliness: SolidWorks first earned its reputation through its simple, intuitive user interface. Because it keeps your space clean and allows you to customize what you see while you’re working, SolidWorks helps new users learn at their own pace. Using SolidWorks helps you focus on the process at hand without overwhelming you, especially if you’re new to drafting in general.
  • Comprehensive integrations: Another reason so many people use SolidWorks is that SolidWorks files are compatible across a wide variety of other CAD programs. This makes it easy to collaborate with just about anybody, whether they use SolidWorks or not.
  • Motion analysis: This lets you see how your creation’s size, shape, and materials can stand up to weight, movement, and friction. And it also gives you advice on how to improve that to get the maximum efficiency from your design.
  • Complex surfacing: SolidWorks’ surfacing tools support complicated geometries that aren’t available in other programs, letting you take your surface work to new heights. You can also generate a surface from a solid model and repair existing parts in SolidWorks.
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SolidWorks vs Solid Edge SolidWorks: Disadvantages

SolidWorks doesn't allow for dynamic editing of your models.
SolidWorks doesn't allow for dynamic editing of your models. (Source: GoEngineer / YouTube)

Just because SolidWorks is so widely used doesn’t mean it’s flawless. Its lack of power in certain aspects makes it weak for several niche uses, and it’s not always as universally accessible as it’s touted to be. Here are some of its drawbacks:

  • History-based modeling: One big disadvantage of SolidWorks is the way it handles image editing. It uses history-based, parametric modeling. This means designs are built piece by piece, usually from a 2D sketch, and changes at any point of the timeline propagate all the way down, which can have unintended consequences.
  • Image rendering power: Unfortunately, SolidWorks does not give you the rendering power of other programs like CATIA, which means it’s not the best choice for modeling in extreme detail. SolidWorks also can’t make detailed drawings from raw data, so if this is what you need, look for something more powerful.
  • Porting to other CAD platforms: While SolidWorks is great at accepting other file types into its own workspace, it doesn’t return the favor. SolidWorks files themselves aren’t compatible with many CAD programs.
  • Cost: SolidWorks is the more expensive program of the two, with a copy costing from $3995 to $7995 depending on the version you buy. And if you’re looking for student discounts, you’re out of luck with SolidWorks, which doesn’t offer free or reduced pricing for nonprofessionals.
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SolidWorks vs Solid Edge Solid Edge: Advantages

Solid Edge lets you edit and adjust your design on the fly with their synchronous technology.
Solid Edge lets you edit and adjust your design on the fly with their synchronous technology. (Source: engineering.com)

Solid Edge is a direct competitor to SolidWorks, which means a lot of their core functionalities are the same. But Solid Edge approaches CAD from a slightly different angle, focusing on 3D modeling first. Here are some positive highlights of Solid Edge:

  • Synchronous technology: One thing that makes Solid Edge stand out from its competitors is its ability to integrate 2D and 3D sketching. It uses synchronous technology that lets you immediately start modeling without needing extensive planning beforehand. This means you can directly edit the geometries in your 3D model. You can also integrate additions and changes from other 3D modeling files by opening them and dragging their features onto your original drawing, which makes it a lot easier to make adjustments as your design comes to life.
  • Scalable data management: Solid Edge’s product lifecycle management solutions give you the ultimate power over your design workflow. Solid Edge includes integration with Windows Explorer for viewing thumbnails of parts and assemblies, and the ability to open SolidWorks files in its Revision, View, and Markup modes with just a simple right-click. If you want, you can even add the Teamcenter module for optimized sharing across your data line.
  • Pricing: Solid Edge also has a free student licensing program as well as a free 45-day trial for non-academic users who want to try it out. This makes it a great choice for anybody who needs to test out their CAD software before fully committing.
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SolidWorks vs Solid Edge Solid Edge: Disadvantages

You'll encounter a little more of a learning curve with Solid Edge.
You'll encounter a little more of a learning curve with Solid Edge. (Source: Siemans PLM / YouTube)

Solid Edge has its detractions, too, especially if you’re looking for a more beginner-friendly program. These stem from Solid Edge’s slightly narrower purpose:

  • User experience: With more power comes a more complicated user interface, and Solid Edge is no exception. It doesn’t have the streamlined feel of SolidWorks, and its extra features create a steeper learning curve for those who are first diving in. But keep in mind this is relative to SolidWorks, so if you’re convinced by the rest of Solid Edge’s features, this may be a hurdle you can easily clear.
  • Lack of weldments: Despite its range of edits and design adjustments, Solid Edge does not have a weldments feature. Weldments are construction sections held together by welding, and many CAD programs have a section dedicated to the specific details of these. Unfortunately, Solid Edge does not have this capability, and that might be a deal-breaker.
  • No 3D Sketching: Another noticeable flaw in Solid Edge’s program is its lack of 3D sketching capabilities. However, you can build, edit, and share 3D models all you want, which does go a ways towards making up for this.
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SolidWorks vs Solid Edge The Final Roundup

The interface of our choice: Solid Edge.
The interface of our choice: Solid Edge. (Source: Wikipedia)

SolidWorks and Solid Edge are both great modeling tools, and it’s hard to pick just one based on details other than personal preference.

Synchronous technology might seal the deal for you with Solid Edge. It’s dynamic creation and collaboration abilities could trump SolidWorks’ popularity and user experience. In addition, Solid Edge’s more economical pricing makes it more accessible to hobbyists and small business users everywhere.

On the other hand, SolidWorks is a massively popular modeling powerhouse that can accommodate immensely detailed models with ease. Turn to it if you need special analysis tools and detailed surface work.

In other words, either tool is capable of advanced modeling, it’s just a matter of which one works best for you. Luckily, both offer a free trial, so don’t have to guess.

(Lead image source: tpm.com)

License: The text of "Solidworks vs Solid Edge – CAD Software Compared" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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