Before You Purchase SolidWorks

SolidWorks is a high-end, corporate-level 3D design solution.

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Dassault Systems bills its SolidWorks products as "Intuitive Solutions for All Aspects of Your Design Process." It offers a powerful 3D design solution for rapid creation of parts, assemblies, and 2D drawings with minimal training. This high-end software certainly is powerful, and it includes functionality for developing just about any type of physical component that you can dream up. Before you grab your wallet though, here are a few points you'll want to consider.

Your Software Needs

More is not always better, particularly when it comes to design software. Consumers and software developers might labor under this impression, but in most cases, you're better off getting a package that does only what you need it to do and does it well. The more complex a design package becomes, the more time you need to spend training and struggling with excessive design parameters to accomplish what should be simple tasks.

SolidWorks is a complex system with extensive parametric design capabilities and parts cataloging, costing, and tolerance controls. The developers have made a concerted effort to keep the user interface as simple and dynamic as possible. It provides only the needed level of complexity for your design and keeps all the tools in a tightly integrated user-friendly display. The same editing tools are applicable for both complex and simple designs. 

SolidWorks consists of several components. You can buy them separately or for use together. They include:

  • 3D CAD
  • Simulation
  • Product Data Management
  • CAM
  • Electrical Design
  • Technical Communication
  • Visualization

    The Learning Curve

    The time it takes to become productive in any design program is a key factor in deciding whether to buy it. SolidWorks claims it requires minimal training. It's not that SolidWorks is difficult to learn, but there is a definite learning process involved. 

      Personal Versus Corporate Usage

      SolidWorks is an extensive program meant for a large production environment. If you're a private user who is looking to do some modeling for your latest invention or a prototype for a one-time concept, this is probably not the software for you.

      The real power behind SolidWorks is its integration with extended industrial parts libraries, material specifications, and data management functions. Design and manufacturing companies can access parts from built-in databases and add to or customize their own parts libraries in order to use a single component in multiple designs. If your firm has a standard widget that you use in 200 different components, you don't need to redraw it in each file, you just link to it through the library. When the widget is updated, the changes are automatically pushed out to every linked component.

      The extended controls aren't necessary for the casual user; most folks at home aren't likely to be developing hundreds of mechanical components in their spare time. For small-scale design and development of a few components or a single product, you'll be better off with smaller, more affordable design packages like DesignCAD 3D Max or TurboCAD.

        Software Packages and Hardware Requirements

        SolidWorks is sold by components. You'll need to contact the company through the website for a price on a configuration tailored to your needs. The cost involved takes it out of the range of most common users, but Dassault Systems offers a reduced price Student Version for high school and degree-seeking college students that gives them the opportunity to learn the CAD system without breaking the bank. 

        You need a powerful computer to run SolidWorks packages. For example, the 3D CAD package requires Windows 10 or Windows 8.1, 64-bit architecture, a minimum of 8GB of RAM, an Intel or AMD processor with SSE2 support, a high-speed internet connection, and a company-certified video card and driver.

        You need a high-end graphics card if you are doing renderings. SolidWorks has a helpful site that lists approved video cards and associated drivers based on the make of your computer and the OS you use.