3D CAD Software Comparison Blog Series: Creo™ vs Solidworks™ vs Inventor™
In this blog series, we will perform a 3D CAD software comparison by designing or modeling a custom motorcycle frame in three different 3D CAD programs: Creo™ vs Solidworks™ vs Inventor™. We will review the CAD design workflow and feature sets of each 3D CAD design program as they relate to motorcycle frame design. Also, we will review some of the specialized commands of each of the 3D CAD software programs that are better suited for specific cases encountered during this design process.
Our engineers include experienced 3D CAD design engineers, those experienced in Finite Element Analysis (FEA or Stress Analysis) and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD or Aerodynamics) FEA & CFD, and an avid motorcycle rider who enjoys Harleys, Indians, and other V-twin custom motorcycles. We enjoy combining vocation with avocation, and hope you enjoy and benefit from this series.
Custom Motorcycle Builders Benefit From 3D CAD Software
3D CAD software can provide the latest design technology to volume manufacturing motorcycle companies, customer builders, and motorcycle aftermarket suppliers. The large meshed figure above illustrates 3D CAD software technology used in the sport bike industry. Unfortunately, many custom manufacturers and low volume motorcycle builders design and build by hand, not by CAD. They miss benefits such as the ability to redesign on the fly, optimize the material selection prior to fabrication, simplify their tooling and jigs, and significantly reduce weight. Designing in 3D CAD software will help the builders of many motorcyle kits and complete bikes: the rolling chassis kits (frame with wheels), the complete pro street chopper, and vintage style bobber pictured above, and motorcycle parts.
3D CAD software design provides distinct benefits to manufacturers, such as design reuse, modularity, and optimization. Large companies gain from these benefits by leveraging past engineering and failure analysis data in their product lines. Local custom motorcycle shops and other small companies can benefit from 3D CAD design in additional ways unique to their size: virtual (on the computer) presentation of the design to a customer, virtual redesign, and approval before investing in cutting or welding. Utilizing 3D CAD software, a custom motorcycle builder can design a new custom chopper while reusing a majority of the previous CAD design.
Mock-up the most wicked ideas with 3D CAD software. Perform stress analysis with FEA. Enhance the aerodynamics with CFD. Use advanced engineering to get the most out of your design and ride.
Motorcycle Frame Example
We will demonstrate in this blog series how to build a motorcycle frame utilizing 3D CAD software starting with the CAD design. As we draw or model in 3D CAD software, we will continue to capture screen images as shown in Fig. 1 below. This design is of a bobber style motorcycle frame. We chose the bobber frame because it is complex enough to illustrate the techniques without being overwhelming. Fortunately, 3D CAD software allows us to design any style frame, from simple hard tails, elaborate soft tails, and complex stressed member sport bike frames.
Fig. 1 – Early Stage 3D CAD Bobber Motorcycle Frame Design
3D CAD Software Comparison: Creo™ vs Solidworks™ vs Inventor™
3D CAD software containing extensive features may have accompanying disadvantages. Simply, it may be more difficult to use than less complex 3D CAD software; the additional complexity may not be worth it. One needs to decide if any theoretical advantages in a CAD software tool outweigh the potential increase in the workflow complexity and cost.
CAD companies design their software with different intended principal applications and markets, but hope to serve many others. Whereas AutoCAD™ was initially designed for Architectural CAD (ACAD), it is also used for mechanical design. The 3D CAD software CREO™, Solidworks™, and Inventor™ were originally designed for Mechanical CAD (MCAD). To some extent, most MCAD software integrates with or have some Electrical CAD (ECAD) capability. Further, they integrate with FEA and CFD. Most companies use 3D CAD software for various functions, not just mechanical design and layout: two dimensional (2D) part drawings, assembly drawings, illustrations, bills of materials (BOMs) or parts lists, animations, illustration, manuals and more.
There are many commonly held perceptions that certain 3D CAD software programs are more powerful, but that they are commensurately more difficult to use than less powerful CAD programs. In this blog series on 3D CAD Software Comparison, we will examine this perception as it relates to our firm’s 3D CAD software: Creo™, Solidworks™, and Inventor™.
First, we will introduce each of the 3D CAD software programs and give a brief background. Next, we present some of the perceived advantages of each CAD software program in the brief background, then examine those perceptions in the blog series.
A Brief History of Solidworks™
The first version of Solidworks™ was released in 1995 as an affordable 3D CAD software package. It did not require expensive computer workstations to operate. Solidworks™ developed one of the first 3D CAD software programs to operate on a Windows™ based computer. Shortly after its introduction, Dassault Systems of France acquired Solidworks™ in 1997. Currently it occupies a market position below Dassault Systems’ competing premiere, feature rich Catia™ CAD product. The Dassault Website describes the product as follows: “SOLIDWORKS design software is as simple as it is powerful.”
Who Uses Solidworks™ and Why Companies Choose Solidworks™
Solidworks™ tends to be used by small to medium sized companies who need an easy-to-use, intuitive, and affordable 3D CAD program. The medical device industry uses Solidworks™ almost exclusively. Many perceive that it has a fast learning curve and is user friendly compared to many of its peers.
A Brief History of Creo™
Parametric Technology Corporation (PTC) of Massachusetts released the first version of Pro/ENGINEER™ in 1988 as the very first parametric, associative feature-based, solid modeling software. PTC re-branded Pro/ENGINEER™ as Creo™ in 2010 to showcase the fact that the software was the first to integrate both parametric functionality along with direct modeling technology. This feature rich CAD program offers a number of available enhancements.
Who Uses Creo™ and Why Companies Choose Creo™
Large companies, and their supply base, looking for a mature and robust 3D CAD program employ Creo™. They especially value the ability to handle large assemblies and uniformly control many CAD seats. Many companies and their supply chain in the defense and aerospace industries use Creo™ for complex projects. CAD users often perceive, rightly or not, that Creo™ has a steep learning curve. However, the same CAD users perceive its many advantages for complex projects and configuration management. Simply, some feel it trades power for simplicity. PTC has made many changes in Pro/Enginner, then CREO™. It it is not the CAD software that it was three decades ago. PTC has made many enhancements to the graphical user interface (GUI) rivaling the competition’s. user experience. CREO is PTC’s premier CAD program; they do not limit its power. It has many features that appeal to large companies.
A Brief History of Inventor™
The first version of Inventor™ was released in 1999 and was one of the initial 3D CAD software that allowed the graphics of the part to be loaded separately from the material and geometric data. This breakthrough in computing methodology helped to ensure the loading of complex assemblies in record time.  Inventor™ came from the well established Autodesk™ of California, who had dominated architectural CAD for decades, but needed a 3D modeling CAD software to compete in the emerging 3D mechanical CAD (3D MCAD) and product design market.
Who Uses Inventor™ and Why Companies Choose Inventor™
Inventor™ tends to be used by small to medium sized companies who may be interested in looking for an alternative to Solidworks™ or Creo™. Autodesk has sold more seats of this CAD software than many realize. Often, companies who had previously used AutoCAD™ and 2D CAD migrated to Inventor™ for its 3D capability, design tree, and other features that are necessary to MCAD users. It also provides tight integration with their FEA and CFD offering (FEA & CFD). Autodesk sells Inventor™ as part of a software design suite with 20 other pieces of software to enhance the design process. CAD users often perceive it as having a simple user interface, but lacking some of the features needed by very large companies, which may be partly because it is often in a suite, and not meant to stand alone.
The engineers at Glew Engineering use all three of these 3D CAD software packages (CAD), and wrestle with the question of which package is best for an application. Generally, we use the CAD software that our clients use for compatibility, and suffer or benefit along with our clients based on their choice of a CAD tool for a particular design project. This leads us to many of the same questions that we pose in the blog series relating to which 3D CAD software would be best for a specific project. Please read for our next installment in our 3D CAD Comparison series of blogs where we’ll dive into the actual design and modeling of our motorcycle frame while starting to compare the 3D CAD programs, eventually showcasing a design similar to Figure 2, below!
Fig. 2 – Completed 3D CAD Bobber Motorcycle Frame
 http://www.solidworks.com/sw/656_ENU_HTML.htm , https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SolidWorks