A recent Delphi expert analysis spearheaded by Ray Kurland compared out-of-the-box Autodesk Inventor Professional 2011 to SolidWorks Premium 2010 in fifteen functional areas: Part Modeling, Assembly Modeling, Simulation, Mixed Modeling, Plastic Part Design, Sheet Metal Design, Interoperability, Documentation/Drawings, Visualization, Design Automation, Mechatronics, Mold Design and Tooling, Routed Systems, BIM (Building Information Modeling), and Data Management and Collaboration.
Analyzing the expert ratings, he found that Inventor rated higher than SolidWorks in every one of the fifteen categories.
Inventor’s leading position can largely be attributed to the breadth of the product offerings from the Inventor family. During the past several years, Autodesk has expanded the Inventor product line enormously, both by buying promising technology and developing technology internally—some prime examples are the acquisitions of Algor and Moldflow.
More than acquisitions, these products are continually being merged into the Inventor core product. The results provide Inventor with a more diverse solution set.
Product Comparison Details
It is useful to examine how the two products stack up against each other and to make note of key strengths and differences.
Inventor led by a wide margin in the following functional areas: Plastic Part Design, BIM, Mold Design and Tooling, Routed Systems, and Mechatronics.
- Re: Mold Design and Tooling: Moldflow’s acquisition added substantial capability to Inventor in material properties and its close connection to the manufacturing process.
- Re: BIM: The strong result for BIM is to be expected since SolidWorks offers no solution for this primarily architectural area, while Autodesk is a leading BIM vendor.
- Re: Routed Systems: While both systems offer capabilities to route wire, cabling, and tubing, Inventor excels in its ability to place wiring based on electrical characteristics.
- Re: Mechatronics: AutoCAD Electrical has a large library of programmable logic controllers (PLCs) as well as other components for placement within a drawing. AutoCAD Electrical can also take a spreadsheet exported out of the PLC programming software and use this to create the appropriate drawings automatically. Any changes to physical parts in AutoCAD Electrical are updated in the Inventor model. SolidWorks has no comparable functionality.
Inventor still led, although by a narrower margin in the areas of Interoperability, Documentation/Drawings, Mixed Modeling, Visualization, and Design Automation.
- Re: Interoperability: Inventor rated more easily able to read other system’s data. Additionally, SolidWorks lacks a CATIA translator, which harms its interoperability score as compared to Inventor.
- Re: Mixed Modeling: Inventor Fusion Technology—Autodesk’s approach to mixed modeling, which allows users to interchangeably use both parametric and direct modeling is now beginning to be fully incorporated into Inventor and seems well received.
- Re: Design Automation: The expert users rated Autodesk’s iLogic with its built-in equation editor consistently better than SolidWorks for rules based modeling. SolidWorks requires Excel and was rated as more difficult to use.
The systems were almost tied in the remainder of the functional areas: Part Modeling, Data Management and Collaboration, Simulation, Sheet Metal Design, and Assembly Modeling.
Aggressive New Technologies
Inventor Professional has reached and exceeded SolidWorks Premium functionality in most of the functional areas studied.
This is the case both because Inventor has neatly consolidated many of its acquired technologies into the Inventor product line and because Autodesk continues to aggressively develop new technologies.
Given these results, users should definitely consider Inventor Professional in their evaluation of a product development system.
Watch Autodesk Inventor vs. Dassault 3D CAD:
Author: Jennifer Lewin