Why Non-Technical Points May Drive Your Next 3D CAD Purchase

Written by: Gavin Quinlan

Without a doubt, software features are very nice.  So are things like file compatibility, and modular extensions, and the ability to talk effortlessly with both advanced and legacy manufacturing equipment.  Your 3D CAD platform doesn’t do much good if it doesn’t have the technical features that you need, not just today, but tomorrow as well.

Training and support should inform CAD software purchases, as well as technology.

CAD Selection: High quality support and training ensure team members are making the most of your software investment.

However, your next 3D CAD purchase may well be made based on points that aren’t so technical.  And why is that?  Because designers – the living human beings who work to turn ideas into products – aren’t machines themselves.  And because even the finest features don’t do much good if you don’t have the support you need to integrate them into your design workflows.

Features come and go, and technology changes fast.  To ensure that your next 3D CAD platform investment generates the return that you need, consider:

Availability and quality of support.  Any major 3D CAD vendor will offer the prerequisite 1-800 support hotline and an online knowledge base.  But what will your post-sale experience actually look like?  Will vendors provide support themselves, or do they outsource it?  Who do you call when you need help?  Are their support engineers backed up by the actual software developers?  These are all questions that should be foremost in your mind as you select your next 3D CAD investment.

Training.  3D CAD software is a tool for realizing design ideas – it doesn’t, in itself, create good designers.  How easily will your staff be able to learn the new platform?  How long will it take to optimize the platform’s use in your current engineering flow?  Will your vendor offer quality, comprehensive, instructor-led training classes?  Are provided educational materials created by the developer, or by a third party?  And will the vendor continue supporting your team with training opportunities aimed at moderate and advanced 3D CAD skill levels?

Integration and development ability.  Strangely enough, the ability to effectively integrate with an established design workflow is often ignored in 3D CAD purchase decisions, leading to all sorts of problems, compromises, and ill-fitting workarounds.  The best 3D CAD platform in the world does you little good if it doesn’t truly contribute to your product design and team’s productivity.  Make sure that your next CAD purchase plays well with others.

Path of innovation.  The cutting edge tends to get dull fast, and today’s breakthrough may well be tomorrow’s passing fad.  In a manufacturing industry that is evolving fast – with technologies such as 3D printing, IoT, and augmented reality – it is more important than ever that your 3D CAD platform can keep up.  Make sure that your CAD vendor is looking ahead, has a clear vision of how the industry is developing, and has a concrete plan for keeping up with it.  Timely and well considered features will cost you far less – both in terms of money and opportunity – than will hastily assembled systems that have been cobbled together in reaction to market shifts.  

In the end, bullet-pointed feature lists are easy to assemble and promote.  Creating comprehensive and reliable value in a changing industry marketplace is a lot more challenging.  As you consider your next 3D CAD purchase, look for vendors that are committed to delivering that value – and are strategically planning their technology in order to practice what they preach.

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Tags: CAD

About the Author

Gavin Quinlan