SolidWorks - Creo Comparison Series: Thoughts on Multi-CAD (Part 3)

The SolidWorks – Creo comparison series was an attempt to make a nuanced analysis of differences in approaches to parametric modeling in CAD packages. Based on emails and comments, I fear I failed. As I have explained, the underlying theme is the trade-off between simplicity and functionality. Yet people still see it in terms of “winning” and “losing” and declaring / proving which one is better.

Another reason I started the series was to address the realities of Multi-CAD in today’s product development world. When I was a Creo and Windchill administrator at Amazon, I also was a SolidWorks admin. At Blue Origin, our CAD team managed AutoCAD, CATIA, and NX in addition to Creo and Windchill. Here are three lessons I have learned from my experiences in CAD teaching, consulting, and administration.

Multi-CAD is bad for companies. Managing multiple CAD systems in an organization provides more disadvantages than benefits. Every CAD system requires at least one subject matter expert to provide support, deliver in-house training, and develop standards and processes. Supporting multiple CAD systems requires these experts to manage integrations between the systems. Although Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) systems like Windchill can support other CAD packages in addition to Creo, it is often through an external workgroup manager application rather than direct integration. Multi-CAD creates additional dimensions of complexity in an already complicated situation.

Multi-CAD is the new standard. As problematic as supporting multiple CAD packages is, it is the norm for product development. More likely than not, a company will have design partners, suppliers, manufacturers, or customers that are embedded in a different system. Or the company has acquired other companies that are entrenched in another platform. If there has been a CAD displacement, there may be existing product lines that are too far into development, production, or sustainment to move into the new system. Multi-CAD simply cannot be avoided.

Multi-CAD is good for designers and engineers. The more skills an engineer has, the more valuable they are to employers and the more employment prospects they have. Multi-CAD also makes people better at CAD. Learning the techniques for one CAD system opens people up to approaches and possibilities they might not otherwise have considered in their primary CAD system. You can develop more creative solutions by thinking in multiple paradigms, blending parametric modeling with direct- and Boolean- styles. Exposure to parametric modeling in CAD systems other than Creo also expands your range of thought inside Creo. Anytime that we get out of our comfort zone in terms of CAD skills, we improve as designers.

Multi-CAD is a complicated situation, just like comparing two different CAD platforms. Hopefully over the course of more videos, I will be more successfully in getting people to understand the nuance, appreciate shades of grey, and not see things as a zero-sum game.

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