What's your favorite CAD system and why (Autodesk Inventor, Mechanical Desktop, AutoCAD, Pro-E, CATIA, Unigraphics, Solidworks, etc) and what training resources have you found?

At last we have a brand new topic area for CAD!  Thanks to Netminder. So to help people find it in searches and kick things off I thought I would ask what kind of CAD systems you guys are using.  The hot topic where I work is CATIA V5 these days.  (at an aerospace company).  I am halfway started using it but still have a lot to learn to get to a level like where I was with CATIA V4 (used it for the last 12 years).  I am really impressed with it, I'll just be glad when they get it perfected enough so that the new releases aren't coming out so fast as they are, it's a little disruptive.  Still it's good to know that they are working constantly to improve it.  

Have you found some good, free, online resources for CAD training or user-forms?  Please post any good links if you have some favorites.  Especially Catia V5!  But others are ok if you have some, like for Autodesk stuff.
Who is Participating?
kgerbConnect With a Mentor Chief EngineerCommented:
Wow, I was wondering when/if EE was going to get into the CAD arena.  I work as a Design Engineer for a crane compnay and we use Mechanical Desktop for all our drawings.  I have worked in the AutoCAD environment for fve or six years and I honestly hate it.  The fact that it does not have associative dimensioning kills me.  But anyway, enoug complaining.  I really like Solid Works.  I am not nearly as proficient at it as I would like to be but hopefully that will change if I can convince management to buy a couple of seats.  In my experience it is very intuitive yet powerful.  I have heard that it kind of runs out of horsepower handling large assemblies but for what we need at our company that would not be too much of a problem.  So anyway, there's my two cents.  Looking forward to hear what others have to say.
mmckeaneyConnect With a Mentor Commented:
I'm a Design Supervisor and CAD Coordinator for an engineering firm. Our primary business is building power plants. I've been using MicroStation for about 16 years. For the last 5 years or so, I've been doing 3D plant design using MicroStation and Intergraph PDS.

In our business the main tools are MicroStation and AutoCAD. I think mstation is far superior to acad, but I guess that's mainly because of my experience.
gotostevegConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Training Resources:
We've just implemented IGETIT, an online CAD training system from CADPO and we're very happy with it.

We were tired of paying for expensive off-site training and of loosing training investment when users left. Also with off site training, we were unable to assess how well our users understood the material.

IGETIT has inbuilt assessment and analysis to allow us to pinpoint our training. Also, it's always up-to-date with the latest stuff from the US.

See http://www.cadpo.com/home/elearning/igetit.asp for more info.
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WhiteLightninConnect With a Mentor Commented:
I am a Civil Engineer and primarily work in Land Development.  I was a CAD Manager for 2 years as well. I have experience in AutoCAD 11, 12, 14, 2000i, 2002, and now 2005.  I have also used Softdesk 8, Land Development Desktop, and Eagle Point Civil 2000.  I am at a loss for my favorite platform.

AutoCAD is definitely the best base for design, however, I am dissapointed with the lack of additional tools in new versions for standard CAD use such as layer management.  I have learned AutoLISP and VBA to overcome many of these hurdles and Autodesk continues to support these languages.  As long as you can run a Windows operating environment, I vote for AutoCAD.

I am still learning Eagle Point Civil at a new firm and am somewhat dissapointed with the stability, ofcourse, we are using version 2000 due to financial constraints to upgrade.  So the jury is still out on design software.
Sunny-glenConnect With a Mentor Commented:
I have 10 experience in AutoCAD 10,11, 12, 14, 2000i, 2002, and 3 yeas expenience in Microstation version 7 and version 8.1.
I think Microstation is much better than AutoCAD.
mark876543Author Commented:
I suppose it's largely a matter of what system you're most proficient with as to where your preference lies.  I think competition keeps CAD vendors making improvements, but then again you almost wish for one "perfect" system to dominate so that all us engineers could have a common "language" to work in.  It's humorous how the systems manufacturers must spy on each other or read each others press because they all get onto the same buzzwords and concepts sometimes.  To users, some of these new directions can seem like a solution looking for a problem sometimes.  Or seem like features that are geared to get the attention of a manager making a purchase decision but not really be something a user would see as a good thing once they actually have to use it.

I do wish there were good lower cost alternatives.  AutoCAD may be cheap compared to CATIA but $500-3000 is still a lot of money for software that will be obsolete very quickly.  Their idea of giving you a break on upgrade pricing is not at all in line with what I'd like to see either.  If your company is very small, it's a huge expense trying to keep up and be modern :)
Saqib Husain, SyedConnect With a Mentor EngineerCommented:
At long last this topic has found its way to EE. I wonder hy it took so long.

I am a civil engineer by profession and orking in the field of ater resources. Cad is not my job but is an integral part of my job. Draughtsmen at our place mostly use Autocad. Autocad is my hobby. I try to help out the draughtsmen with tips and tricks and with small time automation using VBA/Lisp/Excel.

Looking forward to a healthy Q & As on this forum.


gonzal13Connect With a Mentor RetiredCommented:
A while back I suggested that they add an Acad topic.  Anyway no matter how it came about it is great. There only a few sites for any kind of support

This AutoCAD® 2004 File and Registry Cleaner resolves a problem that, in certain situations, prevents you from reinstalling an AutoCAD-based product. This utility removes problematic registry entries and user data files that remain after an AutoCAD 2004–based product is uninstalled. Use the AutoCAD 2004 File and Registry Cleaner to remove those files from your system.

http://usa.autodesk.com/adsk/servlet/ps/dl/item?siteID=123112&id=3318900&linkID=2475161  AutoCad File and Registry cleaner

Now AutoDesk 2002 2004 lite and 2004 have a bug that the solution of which is deeply burried in their site.

It concerns 'ac1st15.dll in the 'common' folder in Program Files thich when cporrupted or when the program is installed, it comes up with an error message.



Hello everyone, I am happy to hear that so many are glad to see that I have added CAD to our list of Topics...it's about time huh?

In the coming months, I will probably be adding as many as 50 up to a 100 new Topic Areas.  So far I have added about 50, you have to first create the area, place it in the correct hierachy then vaidate it and cache it to all 8 www Servers, including the Beta Server.

Before Christmas, we will be adding a completely new layer dedicated to Digital Living, which will include, but not limited to:

Satellite Communications
Satellite TV
Plasma TV's
HD Equipment
DVD Progressive Scan Players/Recorders w/480i, 720p, and 1080i resolution
DVR's (Tivo/Echostar...)
Home Theater Systems
Personal Electronics
Home Security Systems
Digital Homes
Home Bluetooth Devices
Computerized Homes
PC/Home combinations

And much, much more...

Thanks again all,

Wes Lennon
Director of Community Services
Experts Exchange

btw-If you think of TA's you might like to see, and you might think popular on ANY subject you can post your ideas to the New TA Area: http://www.experts-exchange.com/Community_Support/New_Topics/ 
jamie_bennettConnect With a Mentor Commented:
I personally have used Pro-E for 6 years now and consider it to be far superior to AutoCAD. I’ve never used CATIA but I’ve heard good things about it.

The latest incarnation of Pro-E; Wildfire is by far the most awkward to get used to for previous users (IMHO) as it changes a lot of the basic functionality for no apparent reason. Does anybody have a viewpoint on this?

Jamie Bennett
The common generic name is Autocad which covers all types of programs and disiplines.

mark876543Author Commented:
AutoCAD is just one brand of CAD software.  A lot of people use it since it's been on the lower end and favored by small and medium companies for a long time.  Other more expensive systems are in widespread use too.  Once only found on very expensive Unix workstations, these others have now moved to the PC.  Among automotive and aerospace companies, Catia is one of the leading systems, and also UG and Pro-E.

Pro-E is a CAD system. (Engineering apps?)   'CAD' systems today seem to try to include a lot more than "design".  But the term CAD is probably sufficient.  Ideally there would be an area for each main brand of CAD/CAM/CAE system: CATIA, Pro-E, Unigraphics, AutoDesk products (Inventor, Mechanical Desktop, Architecural Desktop etc), and more.  But right now not enough people know about it so there wouldn't be enough activity to break it up that much.  Until a lot of people with CAD on their mind start posting and answering CAD questions, it will seem slow.   I know there are a zillion people out there with burning CAD issues, I'm not sure how to get them coming here for their questions and answers.

I know what you mean Jamie about awkward for previous version users!  Catia V5 is like a totally different program to Catia V4, in fact they say it's almost better to be ignorant of V4 because it's so different.  Catia V5 is nice.  It touches so many disciplines it's unbelievable (if you pay $$ for the extra modules).  It is great because it's relatively new, and that's also it's biggest problem.  It's very modern & innovative and designed to be PC friendly.  (You can always tell when you're using an app that's very dated and was originally designed for unix and ported to PC.)  Not so with V5. But it's new enough still that it's not 100% bug free yet.  But they are making frequent improvements, and with huge companies so heavily invested in it it's not likely to go away.
nickaskewConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Was administrating uStation32 on a bunch of clipper workstations in '89, uStation32 was itself being controlled via a MicroVAX II ::drools:: Quite incredible queueing one workstation up to use 100% of the Vax while doing 3d phong shaded rotation of a complex engineering component!

Bentley Systems bought it after creating a port to Win32, thats where the name changed to Microstation (Micro-pc?) from uStation (Unix-?).  Ever since, I have seen AutoCad trying to play catchup, stealing functionality but never quite implementing it how SG/Intergraph invisaged...  I hear you ask me, 'Nick, so why is AutoCAD so blumming popular these days?' - I blame it on AutoCAD v9 (I think v9), they 'forgot' the dongle protection code which meant everyone and his dog could use a non-legitimate copy on their desktops.. it's funny how users of unlicensed software drive the market in the end.

Anyway, the Q at the top of this post said which do I prefer, 'Microstation, Microstation, MICROSTATION!  no contest'

Looking forward to Q's on the Microstation file format, I used to specialise in it! (WTF - Words to Follow!)



mark876543Author Commented:
Well I learned something.  Not being on the Architechural & Civil Engineering end of CAD I'd scarcely heard of Microstation but I looked at their website :)

Interesting theory.  Might be some truth to it.  For example it seems like I read something that Big Bill once said like...  it's ok if the world wants to steal his software (for now); get addicted to it, and then he can always make it harder to steal after it's all that's left.  I wonder if "off the record" some of the big CAD software companies know and don't mind that the "little guy" has their cracked software; it's not 'lost sales' because the average draftsman isn't able to buy $20,000 software just for the fun of playing with it at home.  Anything that expands their user base probably helps the company.  A big part of what gives a CAD software its value is how many people are in the workforce who are skilled at using it.
jamie_bennettConnect With a Mentor Commented:
I’d like to see a copy of CATIA one of these days, but unfortunately I've never had the necessity (Nor have the companies I have worked for) to get involved. Sounds like V5 might be a good start! Pro-E was a very obvious port from UNIX. Still has some legacy functionality that makes it more annoying as you've got to deal with multiple terminology and control styles. It looks like someone was trying to do a complete rebuild of the system but then got the funding cut for the more obscure stuff. Ho Hum... still love using it though... the flexibility of the parametric data it uses is phenomenal. Especially in the hands of a skilled designer :-)

AutoCAD is an excellent tool for 2D drawing however, and if I have to work 2D I'll choose it every time. Although I would like to see associative dimensions as kgerb suggested (Lets hope AutoDesk are reading this :-) ) I've used a program called GTXImageCAD on and off for a while now, this is a direct copy (Sanctioned, not a rip off) of AutoCAD, but with the ability to edit raster images (Scanned images). Excellent for digitising old legacy stuff.

Jamie Bennett
AutoCAD - because it's vastly more customiable then others
mark876543Author Commented:
CATIA V5 has facilities to write apps with visual basic.  They wrote some here for things like semi-automated design of aircraft bond molds and also for form dies with springback added to the bend angles (contoured dies).  For really serious apps they can also use C, but I think all the api's aren't exposed yet because the software has been so 'new' and they didn't want people doing a lot of that until it stabilized more.  There's always the debate about custom apps; you get stuck with something that you have to maintain & update for version changes.

Do you AutoCAD guys work in 3d or mostly 2d?  There's a movement to try to get away from 2d drawings if your mfg processes are mostly driven by 3d models.  You attach text and tolerance info to the 3d geometry...  not sure how that's going to turn out yet.

The CAD system you (and I) used on the VAX back in the '80s was actually Intergraph. The name changed to MicroStation when it was ported to Win32. The executable was ustation.exe -- the "u" stood for the Greek letter mu, which is commonly used as an abbreviation for micro.


To completely nit pick, I have to make comment that the full title of the software was IGDS (Intergraph Graphics Design Software)!

Interesting fact about 'u' in uStation32 :)



I ever work in CAD reseller company. I use CoCreate from Germany an also ever use UG. In my opinion CoCreate OneSpace Designer is very good for solid modeling (better than Solidworks) because you don't have to worry about parameter value so you can modify it anytime you need. But If you use CAD for automotive I think UG and CATIA or CAM-TOOL is good (I never use Pro-E or the Others) because it is design base on serfacing and have CAM Module.

Check this site
http://www.cocreate.com for OneSpace Designer
http://www.graphicproducts.co.jp for CAM-TOOL
http://www.eds.com for Unigraphics and I-DEAS

My favorite for straight-forward 2D drafting and basic 3D modelling is DesignCAD, now at version 15.

Steady improvements to this inexpensive program have given it capabilities beyond what most users need and an interface that gets the work done FAST.

Easy to learn and very open and 'freeform' in how it creates both 2D and 3D objects. Very customizable with BasiCAD, Macros and VB scripting.

I've tried more than a dozen other budget programs, and DesignCAD wins for me hands down.

As far as parametric modelling programs, I have played with several, but like IronCAD Innovate, and to a lesser degree ProDesktop.

I have created http://designcadunleashed.com as a free support/tutorials site to help anyone learn DesignCAD.
My pet peeve with cad systems is this:
Whatever system you may use, the design for manufacturing may be great, i.e. 3d- solid modeling, etc.

However you still need to create documentation, i.e. drawings. If you have ever worked for a company that does work with the government, this can be a nightmare. Producing MIL-SPEC drawings is not an easy process without alot of work.
mark876543Author Commented:
There is this trend or "fad" if your wanna be cynical that is sometimes called "model-based-definition".  Boeing is trying it on the 7E7 I think.  I don't quite see how it's going to work out, but the idea is to attach information onto the 3d objects, and eliminate most drawings.  This idea was obviously invented by an engineer and not by the less computer-skilled shop guy. :)

As long as all your manufacturing processes are computer driven I suppose it could work ok though.  I'm an NC programmer and I'd just as soon have a good 3d model as a drawing, for what I normally do to make the part.

If it becomes a commonplace and successful way to do business I guess the govt will eventually change their requirements to match.  It's in its infancy though.
kgerbChief EngineerCommented:
I'm sorry but I think that your personal pet peeve is completely unfounded and only proves the fact that you've never tried to make techincal drawings in AutoCAD or some other 2D environment.  I have not made drawings for the government but I have made plenty of drawings for Union employees.  I have also documented hundreds of parts/assemblies in 2D and I can tell you that 3D cad systems are to documentation what the invention of flight is to the transportation industry.  Nothing is easier than making very clear, understandable, concise drawings with any half way decent 3D CAD system.
Well I have over 15 years experience with ACAD, PRO-E and other lesser known systems. Both as a CAD manager and designer. This includes mechanical design, electrical (schematics), and printed circuit board design.
As with any program, "out of the box" does not cut it when trying to produce detailed drawings for the government. There is alot of customization required. Some of it is fairly easy to setup while other parts can get pretty in depth.

I will admit ACAD is alot easier to configure than PRO-E and some of the other systems I have used.

For most companies the documentation requirements are not as strict as they are for government projects. Anyone who has done work on government contracts can attest to that. Why else would a simple hammer cost of $300? While the documentation is not the total cause of the price, it contributes to it in a great way.

I've been involved with so called "sparse drawings" and in general they are good. However it takes a lot of forthought to create 3D models in this way as you need to design it how you'd dimension it. This is not always the most convenient (Or fastest) way to create a 3D model. As a designer who worked his way up from the shop floor (Through QA as well) I can say that a sparse drawing is brilliant for NC but problematic for anything else. It's a double edged sword. But at least it does create one good thing... decently designed models. I've seem some appauling 3D models "made good" by a lot of hard work on a drawing, when if it'd been thought out and planned to start with it'd have gone together so much easier. And as a result it can be modified and built on much easier. Guess it all boils down the the skills of the opperators, not all of us are experienced CAD users, but given time everyone envolved in the manufactureing process will need CAD as a core skill.

I've been involved in MIL spec drawings for some time, and I totally agree with you... out of the box, no drawing package I have ever encountered complies to any MIL standard, but then from the software developers point of view that's not their goal. As far as we're concerned it's a pain to set up all the variables and what not to get the system to "conform", but if the software was pre-set in any way you can guarantee it'd be a pain to someone else. I think MIL spec users must be in the minority, becuase it's surely not set up for our convienience :-)

Documentation and documentation management is a big piece of the design overhead, I use PDM (Produc Data Management) tools that make my life far from easy. The fact that these two systems (IE The Design package and PDM) are alien to one another results in the labourious repetition of data in the form of parts lists.

CAD is never going to be an easy task :-)
After working/supporting/administering both AutoCAD and MicroStation...MicroStation hands down.  There was a comment about how customizable ACAD is.  MicroStation is as (if not more) customizable as ACAD, but is far easier to administer to large groups.  I do agree that ACAD is so popular because everyone is (has been) pirating the software for decades, and this leads to an ever-expanding base for Autodesk.  MicroStation's ability to create/edit/save/print ACAD drawings (.dwg) along with its native format makes MicroStation the cost-effective answer as well.

Exchange_Admin:  I think that this category should be CAD-Engineering software (to include LDD, Eaglepoint, InRoads, etc).  It will be the same (if not larger) base of people.

As for training:  there are tons of people to do training, but I always go with small companies to my trainings.  They seem to deliver a more concise training, and are ALWAYS grateful for the work (and often times cheaper too!).

Having several years experience with AutoCAD doing anything from 2D to lisp programming, I find AutoCADs interface easy to use and the application is solid. AutoCAD will always be the industry standard for UK construction.

With the wealth of literature and experience easily available these days via sites like this one and others. Developing specialised training to suit individual companies needs is relativley easy.
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