I am very excited to present the first ever guest blogger on TopSolidBlog.com!
Daniel Forsman has been teaching CAD and Product Development for more than ten years on the University of Gävle. Recently he started his own consultant company, focusing on CAD and CAE using TopSolid 7 and NASTRAN. The company, called Flexible Engineering, is a TopSolid consultant.
TopSolid 7.3 vs the rest
TopSolid vs SolidWorks
TopSolid vs Pro/ENGINEER
TopSolid vs Inventor
It is common to compare CAD-systems before deciding which to choose, or sometimes just out of curiosity. Is my program really one of the best? Sometimes you could see users fighting hard to prove that their CAD-system is really the best out there. But let us be clear: There are no CAD-system that is best for everyone. They differ in price, functionality and sometimes also in their philosophy, like SpaceClaim is very different from Pro/ENGINEER. Some would say it is a matter of taste which to choose and I can agree on that. Well, as I started out a small consultant company recently, I had to go through the process of choosing. So another point to make clear: I am not working for Missler or TopSolid. But what made me choose TopSolid 7 as my standard CAD-system?
I have used Pro/ENGINEER (almost all modules) for 12 years and SolidWorks occasionally on my University, where I was teaching CAD and Product Development, even writing some books about Pro/ENGINEER. Before that, I used Autocad during my own education, and more recently I did try Autodesk Inventor for a while. I have also tried IronCAD, SpaceClaim and some other very interesting packages, for example T-flex from Russia. Then finally I tried TopSolid 7. I didn’t know anything about it from before, I just found it when searching on the web for reviews and comparisons. I soon found out that it was a great CAD/CAM-package, but as a standanlone CAD-system? My conclusion is that most systems today could be lived with, they can produce a decent result. So what is the difference?
Some of these programs was much more enjoyable to use. I felt inspired when using them. Among this group were TopSolid 7, IronCAD and T-flex. This is, as I stated before, a matter of taste. But I found those programs well thought-out and straight to work with. They are kind of transparent, letting you concentrate upon the designwork instead of the interface.
Some of these programs are old, but made up-to-date through patchwork. This applies to SolidWorks, Pro/ENGINEER and Inventor for example. Sometimes you could see their old roots, although hidden under a modern surface. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Age can mean experience and maturity. But sometimes I found that it hindered my creativity. And these old programs can sometimes be slow and memory-hungry.
At that point I felt confused. How can I choose wisely? For me, being a startup, the price/performance-ratio was important. At this point I found TopSolid very hard to beat! Some of the things that made me a TopSolid convert was these things:
• Price/performance among the very best. Cheaper than the more well-known-programs, but at least the same level of useful functionality.
• I am working much faster in TopSolid 7 than in either SolidWorks or Pro/ENGINEER.
• A built in PDS-module. Really great to have, and nicely implemented. Not an add-on, but part of the system from the beginning.
• My favourite user interface. At first I thought the new ribbon bar in SolidWorks or Inventor must be the best, but now I like this much better. It doesn’t take up much space, but is really slick and easy to understand.
• The sheetmetal-module is easily the best I have ever tried. Very powerful but still easy to use.
• Amazingly fast graphics, beatiful realistic rendering (also real-time rendering) and the fastest drawing views I have ever seen. From TopSolid 7.3 this works fine even on my laptop with an ATI-card.
• Mechanism-functionality is included from the beginning, making dynamic calculations of mechanisms possible. The only thing I am missing right now is a “bouncing” coefficient and maybe a belt function.
• From these points it seemed clear to me that some of these advantages must be due to TopSolid 7 being written from scratch, no patchwork like most other programs.
• The most intelligent libraries of standard parts I have seen. If you want to use a screw (or bolt) you just place the screw on the right place and then let TopSolid make the right holes for it. You could also make your own intelligent parts. This could be a very big advantage for some users, especially when using a lot of fasteners.
• If you are working with wood, sheetmetal manufacturing or CNC, then TopSolid must be very hard to beat. It is really intended for integrated CAD/CAM in those areas. This was not important for me as I am more of a CAE-user, but it may be very important to you.
So what did I not like with TopSolid? Of course TopSolid 7.3 could be even better. Being written from scratch, it was not as complete as TopSolid 6 last year. But with the coming introduction of 7.3 it will be very complete. These points may be drawbacks for you:
• For the beginner, the structure of the “model tree” could be very confusing. TopSolid is very different here than SolidWorks for example, using operations instead of plain features. But once you get used to it it works fine.
• I would wish for more and better FEA-integration of NASTRAN or Calculix for example, but TopSolid is not primarily intended as a CAE-platform. It has dynamic calculations of mechanisms, as I already wrote above, and it will have a basic FEA-module available. Maybe we will se more functionality in this area in the future?
• I would like some more Top-Down-functionality, like the skeleton models of Pro/E. But TopSolid works fine for Top-Down-design if you are using the In place parts and assemblies. You just have to be careful when choosing references.
• The user base of TopSolid is a lot smaller than the big four and it is not as easy to find information in forums or blogs. But these things can get better. I think this blog is one example of things improving.
I hope this can help you deciding what is best for you. You may reach another conclusion. But I suggest you to try you are welcome to discuss this or ask any questions about TopSolid 7 as a CAD-system for professional use.