With the largest technical team in the industry, our staff at CATI knows a thing or two about 3D printing and 3D CAD software. Our experts have helped everyone, from designers and engineers to manufacturers and students, find the perfect CAD software to meet their 3D printing needs. We’ve found that, for the professional, the best 3D software for 3D printing is SOLIDWORKS and GrabCAD Print – this blog explains why.
Best Design Software: SOLIDWORKS
Widely recognized as one of the best CAD software options for 3D printing, SOLIDWORKS offers a number of useful products to aid the design process – including software for design automation and design validation – as well as more industry-specific products like SOLIDWORKS Electrical. SOLIDWORKS’ solutions are built to speed up design, test your design against real-world conditions, and allow you to design with your environment in mind. As one of the more popular software options, SOLIDWORKS has a large presence in both schools and the workforce; in 2016, 40% of Monster posts seeking applicants with 3D CAD skills specified they wanted SOLIDWORKS users. That same year saw more than 2 million students in 31,000 schools using the software.
SOLIDWORKS has built on its marketability with employers by offering many professional certifications that can be used as a benchmark to measure competency with SOLIDWORKS software. By setting an industry standard, companies can ensure they’re onboarding qualified workers, while potential employees can stand out and establish their competency. Anyone looking to pass a SOLIDWORKS exam (or simply brush up on their skills) can take advantage of SOLIDWORKS training, or leverage the collective knowledge of the large SOLIDWORKS community through SOLIDWORKS forums and the SOLIDWORKS User Group Network. SOLIDWORKS users can even access free, supplier-certified 2D and 3D models through 3D ContentCentral.
SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD software is a must-have tool for many engineers and designers and is available in three tiers: SOLIDWORKS Standard, SOLIDWORKS Professional, and SOLIDWORKS Premium. The package you choose will ultimately depend on what capabilities you need, and if upgrading will streamline your design process. (You can learn about the differences between SOLIDWORKS Standard, Professional and Premium here).
Best Software for 3D Printing: GrabCAD Print
GrabCAD Print is free software capable of working with the entire Stratasys FDM line (sans Mojo), as well as the Connex3, J750, and Objet1000 PolyJet machines. This cloud-connected solution is designed to streamline the 3D printing workflow and is built for accessibility and speed. Users can schedule and monitor print jobs for increased efficiency, leverage the cloud for on-the-go printing, or easily collaborate through file sharing.
GrabCAD Print is a “slicer” used to process files for 3D printing on Stratasys machines. Like Catalyst, Insight, and PolyJet Studio, it supports polygon-based STL files, but unlike most slicers, it also directly reads most native geometric CAD modeling file formats like SOLIDWORKS, CATIA, UG/NX (among others), assembly files, and the usual neutral formats (e.g., step, parasolid, iges).
While GrabCAD Print is designed for Stratasys 3D printers, GrabCAD Print also works well as a free CAD and STL viewer, or as a way to justify an investment in new FDM hardware.
Picking the Right 3D Printing Software
Choosing the right 3D CAD software and pairing it with the best 3D printing software will ultimately depend on your budget, industry, and end goals. If you’re unsure of what option is best for you, please contact our experts for guidance.