Home / General / TechniCom’s Kurland Discusses the Autodesk Inventor vs. SolidWorks Study

TechniCom’s Kurland Discusses the Autodesk Inventor vs. SolidWorks Study

TechniCom's president Ray Kurland discusses the outcomes of a study that compares Autodesk Inventor and SolidWorks.

TechniCom's president Ray Kurland discusses the outcome of a study that compares Autodesk Inventor and SolidWorks.

If you’re a devout SolidWorks user, you’ll probably take issues with the outcome of a study TechniCom published this week. In “Comparing the Capabilities of Autodesk Inventor Professional 2011 and SolidWorks Premium 2010,” TechniCom analysts found that “Inventor rated higher than SolidWorks in every one of the 15 categories.”

Introducing the paper, TechniCom president Ray Kurland wrote, “TechniCom compared 15 functional areas of Autodesk Inventor Professional 2011 vs. SolidWorks Premium 2010 using a technique called Delphi Expert Analysis. We compared 15 major functional areas using a questionnaire with 161 functional questions. Both products were rated on each question by a team of four experts for each software product who rated how well each product performed for that functional question. TechniCom’s analysts independently selected the questions. In my estimation, the functional questions do not favor any specific vendor or product.”

Kurland acknowledges that one evaluation category, the integration of BIM (building information modeling), tips the scale in Autodesk’s favor, a sponsor of the published paper. He clarified, “The study was not asking whether each system could perform BIM — rather, the seven questions we asked the experts were focused on the interaction between a mechanical system and BIM. In essence, could mechanical parts be designed for use within a BIM system? Areas of focus included: managing the space requirements for the mechanical  design within the building model, bi-directional data transfer, associative data management, and UI (user interface) issues.”

Neither of the packages compared in the study is meant for architectural modeling or BIM. However, Autodesk Inventor offers BIM exchange tools that allow users to export mechanical models into Autodesk Revit, an architectural modeling program from Autodesk. Both programs facilitate import/export of common file formats such as IGES, STEP,  or DWG, allowing their users to work with architectural modelers.

Sustainability, a category omitted from the evaluation, could have conceivably favored SolidWorks, as SolidWorks ships with Sustainability Xpress, a tool for measuring environmental impact of designs.

“Readers might ask how unbiased this analysis is, since it was sponsored by [Autodesk] the author of one of the products being compared,” Kurland noted. “While we admit to some bias in selecting the functions to be compared, particularly as it relates to the mechanical interest in BIM, all the functional areas selected for comparison are important.”

Its controversial nature notwithstanding, Kurland stands by the study. He concluded, “Readers need to understand that this report provides a glimpse of certain expert opinions. While this was a small group considering that both products have hundreds of thousands of installations, we believe that the results are valid in assessing overall capabilities.”

For more, listen to my conversation with Kurland.

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About Kenneth

Kenneth Wong has been a regular contributor to the CAD industry press since 2000, first an an editor, later as a columnist and freelance writer for various publications. During his nine-year tenure, he has closely followed the migration from 2D to 3D, the growth of PLM (product lifecycle management), and the impact of globalization on manufacturing. His writings have appeared in Cadalyst, Computer Graphics World, and Manufacturing Business Technology, among others.

17 comments

  1. Making detailed and frequent direct comparisons to other CADCAM software is the only way to convince and convert potential customers who are very skeptical of any type of claim made by a CADCAM company.

    Jon Banquer
    San Diego, CA

  2. Having no questions/answers list it is impossible to pay any respect to such “analisys”. For example, in published wihtepaper there is such text:

    “… one Inventor expert noted, “Inventor allows constraints to be added during the routing creation process. If constraints are defined, Inventor recognizes them for avoiding violations.” Several SolidWorks experts stated that it “does not possess this capability.””

    This is absolutely lie about SW – I work with SW Routing for many years, and all the sketcher capabilities including constraints adding are available of course also when create/edit the route.
    So the main question is who are your SW “experts”? Autodesk employees as I see.

  3. I wonder what the results of a study commissioned by Dessault (makers of SolidWorks) would show?

    Studies like these are of very limited utility. Let’s see some studies with criteria selected by users who are independent of the various software makers.

  4. There will always be limitations to benchmark testing, and scientists, engineers, and other users of software applications will be sometimes more, and sometimes less represented with these arbitrarily selected criteria. Features that benefit one user will be untapped by another. But benchmark testing serves an important purpose, despite its critics.

    Having used both programs, my preference is with Inventor. The pace of development at Autodesk has been consistent and broad-scoped, allowing users to cross platforms and media in ways that remain unparalleled. We do a lot of forensic work, in addition to scientific work, and the portability between Inventor, AutoCAD, MAYA, Mudbox, MotionBuilder, and other Autodesk products is a huge benefit.

  5. I think that the only way to compare products is to put them to compete solving the same problem and evaluating their results. This have been done for many companies that have made the decision with a very profound and responsible study, why not hear them instead of the software companies.

  6. The limited number of comments made regarding this article may be the most telling evidence regarding it’s value.

    What did we really learn from this evaluation? A vendor can pay for an evaluation that will be biased? Caveat Emptor?

    I guess the good news is TechniCom and DE maintained ‘full disclosure’.

  7. Dr. Art Croft: Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Benchmark testing — that is, subjecting both programs to the same benchmarks to see how each measures up — would have made people less critical of the results. But that’s hardly the case here. Technicom has essentially revealed that:

    (1) the paper’s sponsor was allowed to arbitrarily select judging categories to use, and they selected the categories where they know to be stronger; and
    (2) if the categories were reshuffled, SolidWorks could very well come out on top.

    If the point of the study is give users guidance on which program to buy, I’m not sure this study accomplishes it.

  8. Paul, just to clarify: DE has no involvement in the survey or the paper. DE is not affiliated with Technicom.

    I invited Ray Kurland to discuss the results here in a podcast because I anticipated people would want to ask the same questions.

    Personally, I think the best approach to comparing software packages is what Leonard Defaux suggests: “Put them to compete solving the same problem and evaluating their results.” This could be, for example, creating a sheet metal part with the same complexity in both programs by the same set of participants.

  9. Kenneth, Thank you for the reply. I fully understand the relationships. I value your review’s here at DE and Ray Kurland’s at TechniCom.

    What I would REALLY like to see from DE or TechniCom is a presentation or discussion about an evaluation technique that has been around for many years but which might need ‘dusting off’ for some.

    Originally offered by Kepner-Tregoe Consulting, the K-T matrix provides the user with an individualized, rational approach to problem solving. I’ve used it, over the years, to bring companies to good decisions across many conflicting needs.

    It’s meat, not jell-o. Reader’s will sink their teeth into it…

  10. Whenever a white paper is published, and the results are supposed to be an unbiased opinion about a subject, and the results show that 15 out of 15 categories favor one solution for two capable products in the same market … then I know the review/method/outcome is useless. The bias is overwhelming.

    The author is no longer unbiased in my view and I don’t read any further work by that person. It’s basically at the level marketing material from a company.

  11. I think they should take the discussion/comparison to the open market. As one person above points out there is not much value in this without seeing the list of things compared. Cadalyst has created a new pod cast series for just this type of discussion http://www.cadalystedge.com/. The format is to get people with multiple points of view on a subject together and discuss/debate a topic.

    It would be great pod casting “radio” to hear these 8 experts talk live about what they saw. I expect that the AutoCAD 4 might have some nice things to say about SolidWorks and vice versa. Would certainly make a great hour on the web.

    Get in touch with nancy.johnson@cadalyst.com to set this up.

  12. In the videos on youtube they clearly say ‘we beat them’. How is that unbiased? Secondly you can see in the videos the use of Inventor, Alias and Fusion, so hardly a comparision of Inventor vs Solidworks, and hardly comparing software bundles of similar price. Should be called Inventor+Fusion+Alias gang up on Solidworks. Technicom = zero credability

  13. Great post. Keep me updated with your progress!

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