5 Things to Consider When Selecting 3D Design Software

Are you looking to switch CAD tools? Or maybe you’re seeking a better way to position your organization to bring higher quality and higher performing products to the market? Either way, it’s important to identify which capabilities and characteristics are important to you and your organization so that you can choose the right CAD tool to help you meet your goals.

Take a look at what Tech-Clarity discovered about Top Performing companies after they changed CAD tools. Respondents were asked to rank their performance in relation to their competitors on four key design metrics using a scale of one to five, with five being extremely effective. The Top Performers were defined as the top 20% of this group, and the graph below displays the metrics used to define success and each group’s respective performance.

Tech Clarity Are You Changing CAD Tools Performance Graph

Here are 5 things to consider when selecting a 3D CAD system:

  1. Capable software that can withstand your business needs
  2. Easy collaboration among customers, suppliers and manufacturers
  3. Tools to take your designs from concept through manufacturing
  4. A fully-integrated organizational infrastructure for data management
  5. Short learning curve with continued support

1. Capable software that can withstand your business needs

When evaluating 3D CAD software, find out how efficient each package is at creating the types of products your company makes. For example, if your company makes sheet metal parts, pay attention to the special aids for modeling them and automatically generating flat patterns. Industrial and product designers should consider tools that can generate high-quality surfaces to realize their stylish designs where smooth, organic appearances are paramount. Designers of machinery should examine how easily they can assemble large numbers of parts and insert purchased parts, such as fasteners and electrical components, from a library.

Design changes happen often, so it’s important to make this process as efficient as possible. Even eliminating 20 percent of the steps in your current process can add significant cost benefits to your organization. A 3D CAD system that offers the best value will combine exceptional technical capabilities with reasonable cost-of-ownership.

2. Easy collaboration among customers, suppliers and manufacturers

Most complain about the long conversion process necessary for sharing files with others who cannot read your current systems file format. Sharing these files with customers and vendors is essential, but it doesn’t have to be painful!

When possible, choose a 3D CAD system that’s popular in your industry and supplier community. This choice helps eliminate the need to translate files from one system to another. Consider each 3D CAD system’s ability to import files from other systems. Make sure the system you choose supports international standards such as STEP, IGES, VDA, and IDF. Evaluate the tools for fixing damage to imported shapes. How easy are they to use? How well do they work? If your firm must translate many files from several brands of CAD systems, check out the direct translators available with each CAD system and also those from third parties that specialize in translation software.

3. Tools to take your designs from concept through manufacturing

Designs don’t make money until physical products are delivered. Look for 3D CAD software with a rich variety of applications that can reduce manual and error-prone tasks, but also enhance your testing, machining and cost estimating.

Extensive testing can make the difference between a successful product and one that fails in the field. Look for capabilities that help you reduce the number of physical tests by simulating physical behavior, such as kinematics, dynamics, stress, deflection, vibration, temperatures or fluid flow. Software for designing electrical wiring can help reduce errors and ensure machinery is wired correctly. Cost-estimating software enables designers to hit cost targets by revising designs sooner instead of waiting for estimators to say they are over budget.

To make sure you have the best tools, choose a CAD platform that gives you a broad choice of solutions that will help you get your job done faster and more efficiently.

4. A fully-integrated organizational infrastructure for data management

Small teams with more than just a few designers to global teams collaborating across different continents can benefit from having a product data management (PDM) system integrated within their 3D CAD tool. Because relationships among files in 3D systems are so complex, an automated system to store and organize them is vital for project coordination and the engineering team’s sanity.

Without PDM, designers can unknowingly overwrite each other’s work, reinvent parts that have already been designed and send the wrong revision levels to manufacturers. Together, these sorts of errors can waste hundreds of hours of work each year and thousands of dollars in defective parts.

5. Short learning curve with continued support

Adopting 3D methods require training and experience. So choose a system that’s easy to learn as well as capable. Look for a system that has a consistent user interface and its design and manufacturing procedures flow logically from start to finish. Some systems have hidden dungeons and dragons that stop designers halfway through a task and make them start over.

There’s always more to learn. It can be by reducing the number of steps within a workflow, new hotkeys or simply becoming more efficient with the software capabilities. You want to make sure you can get the support you need. Select a reseller who can meet these demands with ongoing training courses and superior technical support. You also want to keep an eye out for which CAD systems schools and universities are using so you can hire students who are ready to work.

Not all the criteria listed above will apply to every organization. Making intelligent choices requires careful thought and a deep understanding of your company’s engineering needs. Read the full white paper, Nine Criteria for Choosing a 3D CAD System here, to learn more.

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