Six Reasons to Use Professional 3D CAD Software

Written By: Cat McClintock
  • 3/8/2017

Whether you’re growing as a student, or a professional, the time comes when it no longer makes sense to use design software made for hobbyists. That’s because even though the software is often inexpensive to buy and easy to use, it can cost you time and money in ways you may not be aware of.

For businesses, that means it’s hurting your ability to compete effectively.

How do professional 3D CAD tools save time and money? They support design by multiple people, in multiple roles, throughout the product development cycle. Here are just a few of the capabilities you’ll see in a full, professional CAD package—and why successful design and engineering teams wouldn’t be caught without them:

1. Parametric modeling

Parametric modeling has been the standard in 3D CAD since the late 1980s. It is an approach to creating digital parts and assemblies that preserves your design intent, relations between features, and constraints.

A major benefit (one among many) is that changes are no longer a headache. Modifications to one part will be reflected in related parts automatically. For example, if the length of a screw increases, the hole it fits into increases proportionately.  This is especially important when you’re working with complex models or need multiple design iterations.

Anybody who has been through a development cycle or two can assure you that changes and revisions are inevitable. The key to success is being able to quickly adapt.

2. Freestyle modeling

The structure and discipline of parametric modeling provide a critical advantage. But sometimes you need flexibility—for example, if you’re going for sleek, curvy industrial designs or working with unpredictable, biometric shapes. Figuring out the best structure to deliver a smooth, flowing surface can be overwhelming. It can also require significant expertise.

Here’s where you need a CAD tool with freestyle modeling capabilities: This gives you the flexibility to work with free-form surfaces as if you were molding clay—starting with a primitive shape and pushing and pulling it to reach the form you visualized. While at the same time, it ensures these beautiful shapes can be manufactured.

This is especially useful when you want to quickly come up with multiple concepts and iterations of free-flowing designs while still maintaining the discipline of parametric modeling.

A model created with a flexible freestyle tool.

3. Simulation

The sooner you find a problem with a product, the better. Recalls, of course, can be catastrophic, but even unnecessary physical prototypes can eat into your budget and timeline.  

To ensure a product will hold up under real-world conditions on a timeline you can afford, choose a CAD solution that offers a fully integrated simulation capability.  That way, you can spot design flaws or test out alternative designs, quickly detecting design issues and making modifications before the design leaves your desktop.

This enables you to create the most reliable and optimized designs before formal analysis or prototyping phases even begin.

A trailer hitch model simulated

Results of a simulation run on a trailer hitch assembly in a parametric modeling system.

4. Skeleton/top down modeling

Few teams can afford to wait for a single engineer to design all the parts of large or complex models. But multiple engineers working on their own pieces simultaneously risk undoing each other’s work. And to complicate matters, it’s inevitable that some requirements will change after you’ve started work.

How do top manufacturers overcome these problems? They use top-down modeling methods to create a high-level central definition of the overall product. Then engineers and designers can safely design in just the area they are responsible for. Watch this video to see how JR Automation does it:

5.  Design for downstream

Smart companies design for the entire product lifecycle: Your company can’t afford to have every downstream team recreating a model in their own tools. The model your team creates today should be the one your manufacturing, assembly, and even service teams use tomorrow.

High-quality CAD solutions help you define and visualize manufacturing process so you can specify downstream operations (machining finished parts, etc.). When design change requests come in, this tight integration and connectivity between CAD and CAM saves your team rework and reduces the risk of error.

toolpath automated in Creo

This CAD system includes technologies to lay out toolpaths for material removal during manufacturing.

A great CAD system will also embrace emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT). With IoT integrated into your design software, you not only create smart connected products for your customers, but you also can start collecting and reporting on this valuable data that can reap big benefits. This enables your company to quickly enhance and take to market second and third generation versions of your product.

6. Multi-CAD capability

Working with different suppliers, your team likely brings in designs from other CAD programs. Using a CAD-neutral format such as IGS or STEP is one solution—but in addition to losing time, you’ll lose valuable data in the process. Translators are another way to go, but here you can run into file corruption, requiring multiple fixes after the translation. Teams in this situation often find it faster (but not fast enough) to rebuild the part from scratch in their native tool.

A CAD solution with multi-CAD capability is a better answer for your team. Multi-CAD support lets you import parts from other vendors and use them as if they were native. This expands your options for using the best supplier for the job—not the one that happens to have your CAD tool—while also protecting your model’s data integrity and saving time and money.

Top Seven Reasons to Choose PTC Creo

If you’re ready to move to the next level, you’re ready for Creo. It's the industry’s leading 3D CAD software, helping you create great digital prototypes for more than 30 years. Download this free e-book to learn how Creo helps you create your best products reliably, on budget, and on time.

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About the Author

Cat McClintock

Cat McClintock edits the Creo and Mathcad blogs for PTC.  She has been a writer and editor for 15+ years,  working for CAD, PDM, ERP, and CRM software companies. Prior to that, she edited science journals for an academic publisher and aligned optical assemblies for a medical device manufacturer. She holds degrees in Technical Journalism, Classics, and Electro-Optics. She loves talking to PTC customers and learning about the interesting work they're doing and the innovative ways they use the software.