Both Solidworks and CATIA are owned by Dassault Systems. From an outsider’s perspective, they both look remarkably similar. Both are modeling software.
However, once you start looking a bit deeper, they are two wildly different pieces of software. So, which one is right for you? Let’s compare Solidworks vs CATIA and find out, shall we?
If you’re interested in learning Solidworks, check out this list of The Best Solidworks Tutorials
Solidworks vs CATIA: A Comparison Table
Both Solidworks and CATIA are incredibly complicated pieces of software. While we will start with a quick chart that will allow you to compare Solidworks vs CATIA, you should read the rest of this page too. This is because we want to take a deep dive into the key differences between the two.
Remember, we are only going to be focusing on the differences between the software here. Many of you will probably know the rough similarities between what each piece of software can accomplish.
|Starts at $4,600 per year
|$11,000 for a lifetime license, but extensive extra maintenance fees.
|System Spec Requirements
|16GB of RAM, 64-bit Intel or AMD processor. Minimum Windows 10.
|4GB RAM, Intel i5 processor, or better. Works with Windows 7.
|Ease of Use
|Easy to use. Plenty of training material out there. One of the most-used CAD programs.
|Design stuck in the 90s. Lots of complicated features designed for enterprise-level applications. Not a lot of training material available.
|Parametric 3D CAD program
|Project Lifecycle Management (PLM)
|Used in most industries that use CAD, particularly those dealing with smaller assemblies.
|Aerospace, vehicle design. Rarely used in other industries.
|Great simulation capabilities, particularly with surface modeling.
The price can vary considerably for these pieces of software. Neither of them is going to be cheap.
Solidworks will set you back $4,600 per year, although you can buy a full license for around $6,000 but, even then, you still have to pay $1,500 to use it every year.
CATIA starts at $11,000 for a lifetime license, with $2,000 in maintenance fees each year. However, that is just the starter price. Once you start to add the various libraries that you need onto CATIA, then your price could easily be $25,000 for a license.
Major corporations often pay $60,000+ per individual license, mostly because they need to have custom libraries designed for their applications.
Both pieces of software have student options available, and these are considerably cheaper. You just can’t design anything commercial with them.
While CATIA is an overall more powerful piece of software, the system specs are much lower (minimum 4GB of RAM, compared to 16GB minimum for Solidworks).
That being said, you probably shouldn’t pay too much attention to the system specs here. Solidworks may have higher software specs, but you can probably upgrade your computer to meet these specs for a much lower price than the CATIA license would cost.
Type of Software
CATIA is a Project Lifecycle Management (PLM) tool. It can help to design everything about the product. We mean everything.
It is about creating large assemblies, and even designing systems to help create those assemblies (yes, it is that sophisticated). This is why it is used heavily in certain industries (more on that soon) because they need to have a lot of parts designed.
Solidworks is a parametric 3D CAD program, something which many CAD users will be familiar with. Solidworks is ideal for those systems that are a bit smaller in scope i.e. not whole vehicles, but tiny engineering projects i.e. the sort of thing that the average CAD user is probably going to be designing.
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Solidworks doesn’t work as well when you start to create complicated projects. As a project gets bigger in Solidworks, there can often be a bit of lag, even on beefier computers, simply because the software hasn’t been designed for that purpose.
Both Solidworks and CATIA have some solid simulation capabilities. However, CATIA is a clear winner on this front. Because it is used in the design of aircraft, cars, etc. the simulation needs to be absolutely perfect to account for safety laws. It accomplishes that with ease.
Of course, you have to spend a ton of time putting together your models but, once you do, CATIA gives a much better representation of how they would work ‘in real life’.
Ease of Use / User Interface
CATIA was originally designed in the 1990s, and because people really hate change when they are used to a piece of software, the design of CATIA has remained much the same since. A lot of people open up CATIA, take one look at the interface, and wonder whether they have installed the wrong software!
CATIA is loaded with features, which does mean that it is a touch more difficult to use. It takes a while to get to grips with where all the features are. Although, when you do know how everything works, the world is pretty much your oyster (well, the CAD world). If you can nail using CATIA, then the transition to any other software will be a breeze.
Solidworks is simple to use. Sure, it is a CAD so there will still be a degree of complexity that you need to navigate. Although, you will find a lot more helpful material online about how to use Solidworks. You could probably click a couple of features and get a rough idea of how to use them too.
If you are looking for something incredibly simple to use (well, in the CAD world), then Solidworks is the path to go down.
Who Is The Software Designed For?
CATIA is mostly used in the aerospace industry. It is what the software was originally designed for, and you will rarely find it used outside of automotive and aerospace applications. If you intend to get into aircraft design, then CATIA is probably going to be perfect for that.
Solidworks is for pretty much all other applications where a CAD may need to be used. Actually, unless you are working with a massive company with a huge budget, then Solidworks is probably going to be the choice for you. It can do everything that CATIA does (nearly) but in a much more streamlined way.
CATIA is really for those big projects with tons and tons of parts, with multiple people collaborating to make it work. Solidworks is for a single person, or perhaps a couple of people, that want to collaborate on a project.
Both systems have moved into the cloud, which makes them great for collaboration. However, if you are looking to collaborate with other CAD users, you may be in a better position to use Solidworks.
It is the most popular CAD program around, so you are much more likely to encounter another person that is using it.
The collaboration features on CATIA do seem a touch more limited when you have a couple of people collaborating. This is because while CATIA has been designed with collaboration in mind, it is far more difficult to get it working how you want it.
This is because CATIA is deliberately compartmentalized to ensure that people only have access to the features that they need. This can make it insanely difficult to set up if you don’t have a clue what you are doing.
Solidworks vs CATIA: Which One Is For You?
Unless you have your heart set on working in the aerospace or vehicle design industry, then Solidworks by a long shot. While CATIA is a powerful piece of software, its uses are much more limited.
It is also tougher to get to grips with. Since you8 are looking at this comparison page, we believe that you likely have no use for CATIA at this stage of your career. So, stick with Solidworks.