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Solidworks
AutoDesk Inventor
comparison

Solidworks AutoDesk Inventor comparison between Solidworks 2006 and Inventor R10. I decided to post a comparison of their features to assist others who may be considering the purchase of any of these 3D modeling and CAD software packages. In making my comparison here I will try to be as objective as possible, trying to highlight the good points and bad points of both software packages as I have experienced them.

In a solidworks autodesk inventor comparison price is most likely the overiding issue if you are considering purchasing Autodesk Inventor R11. Autodesk Inventor is still less expensive in its basic form than Solidworks. Many companies will find that given the lower price and the assumed ease of transition using their existing Autocad data, that using Autodesk Inventor is the way to go.

Solidworks Autodesk Inventor - Drawings

The Solidworks Autodesk Inventor match up can both work with Autocad drawings. Both software packages allow you to open an autocad .dwg file and import all of the line work. I often make duct layouts using this feature with both packages. You can open an existing arrangement drawing, a plant layout for example and directly superimpose your 3D models onto the imported drawing to see how your equipment will fit in the field. This is a tremendously powerful feature because it does not require you to recreate plant layouts or other old Autocad drawings. You can make use of what you have. Also, it serves to illustrate any inaccuracies in the original file if views of the 3D model do not line up properly with the imported geometry. That being said both Autodesk Inventor and Solidworks as yet dont allow you to dimension to imported Autocad geometry. You will have to export your drawing back to Autocad to do that.

One area where Solidworks has the upper hand is in cut and pasting autocad geometry straight from the Autocad drawing to a Solidworks drawing. Autodesk Inventor does not allow you to do this. Both packages will import entire drawing files however and their import drawing dialog boxes look curiously identical. Importing drawings also allows you to import existing drawing borders for use in your new system.

Autodesk Inventor will require you to separately import your border, your title block and your company logo's. Solidworks does not require this separation procedure. Both Autodesk Inventor and Solidworks will export their drawings to Autocad format. Solidworks will also export to pdf without additional software. When exporting drawings both packages may require font mapping and special preparation to insure the resulting autocad drawings export the required layers, text and dimension styles to match existing company standards. As a default both packages export their own native styles which most likely wont match what your company is using now.

Solidworks Autodesk Inventor - Sketching

Sketching

Both Autodesk Inventor and Solidworks use similar sketching tools to created your 3D geometry. I find Solidworks sketcher to be easier to use because it does not require you to right click and press done after each tool selection. The Autodesk Inventor sketcher and the Solidworks sketcher both use familiar automatic osnaps to create lines to midpoints and endpoints, and lines perpendicular and parallel to one another. I like to make use of the Inventor Sketcher

  • You have to right click and press done every time you switch tools
  • Construction lines are so feint you can barely see them
  • When you click show constraints, the constraints are diificult to see
  • To work with the standard planes, origin and axes, you must first project these onto your sketch plane
  • midpoints are not available for constraining

    Solidworks Autodesk Inventor - Assembly and Mating

    Mating is one area where Inventor shows a great weakness. It relies on the same mating and constraining system that was developed for Autodesks Mechanical Desktop. This ten year old carry over is badly in need of an upgrade. By comparison, mating objects in Solidworks is much simpler and better information is presented so that mates can easily be changed should a revision be necessary. At the basic level both Inventor and Solidworks can mate objects together by mating faces and axes and vertices. The difficulty arises when a mate needs revision after the model is completed.

    In Inventor the only way to see which faces are mated in a given mate is to see which faces are highlighted in the model. Usually one or both of these faces are hidden and near impossible to find. Solidworks provides information in the browser telling you which faces on which parts are mated. This helps you find and revise the mate quickly. In Inventor you often have to suppress the mate and try to review the order in which the original mates were placed to revise your near invisible mate.

    In addition Inventor requires you to specify direction of mates by entering negative or positive values and then hoping the completed mate wont wreck the model. Solidworks gives you a direction toggle which previews the results of the intended mate. When mating two new faces of a part, Solidworks will tell you how far they are apart. In Inventor you have to measure the distance between faces and then apply a mate to get the desired seperation. The default is zero which may likely pull many parts in your model out of alignment.

    Drafting and Detailing

    As you might expect from an Autocad product, Inventor has an excellent drawing module that allows you to create detail and assembly drawings from your 3D models. Solidworks drawing module is just as good. Both Software packages have a few features that the other doesnt but in the end it pretty much balances out.

    Parts and Assemblies

    Solidworks and Inventor both have the ability to create standard parts that can be reused and reconfigured in many different ways. In Solidworks these parts are just part configurations. In Inventor these are called factory or Iparts. If for example you have a custom line of pipe flanges that vary by diameter, thickness and mounting style, both programs will allow you to create one part file that can be used to generate all variations

    Inventor

  • Iparts can be created through a built in table. Requires user to pick a key field yet still requires field "Part Number" to always be unique and shown in the table
  • Iparts allows feature suppression but requires user to know what items are to be suppressed/unsupressed before working in the table.
  • Iparts allow the creation of duplicate key names within the built in table, if left uncorrected, this will the insertion of incorrectly sized parts.
  • Iparts allow the creation of duplicate key names within the built in table, if left uncorrected, this will allow the insertion of incorrectly sized parts.
  • Solidworks

  • Allows the creation of configurations for both parts and assemblies allowing the minimum number of files.
  • Only requires user to give each configuration a unique name. Has error prompt to prevent duplicates being created.
  • Configurations edited within Excel spreadsheet or at the browser level


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    • Sketching on a SolidWorks drawing

      If you are new to SolidWorks, there can be times when things are a little frustrating. One of those simple things is adding notes or sketching lines on an exisiting drawing with several views.

      You add your note or centerline and then move one of the views but the note you added stays where it is and you end up having to move it seperately.

      Or you have a note that belongs somewhere else in the drawing that gets moved when you are rearranging views when you dont want it to.

      The solution to these problems is found in these excerpts from the SolidWorks help section.
       
      Lock View Focus.
      Allows you to add sketch entities to views, even when the pointer is close to another view. You can be sure that the items you are adding belong to the views you want. You can also double-click views to lock the focus.
      So if you want to add a note or a line to views and have them move when you move the view, click in the views, right click and lock the view focus, then add the items you want.

      Once you are finished just click the views and unselect the lock view focus. Now your items should move in lock step with the views.

      What about notes that you want to be part of the sheet. Say you have some general material or heat treatment notes that you dont want to have moved when views are manipulated. You need to use lock sheet focus.

      Lock Sheet Focus.
      Allows you to add sketch entities to the sheet. Otherwise, the sketch entities belong to the view that is closest to where you begin sketching. You can also double-click a sheet to lock the focus. Lock Sheet Focus is available when at least one drawing view is present. When Lock Sheet Focus is enabled, the drawing sheet border is pink.

      Finally if you are in a situation where you want to lock certain projections in postion use lock view position. I find this useful when I want to use a single projection to show an open or closed position by superimposing views on top of each other:

      Create two views of the same part or assembly. Align them horizontally or vertically as required. Right-click anywhere in the desired view and select Lock View Position. Then you can line up the copied views right over top of the original, making it look as if both are the same.
      Following these directions should help so that notes and sketched lines dont end up where they are not supposed to be!