I've worked in SolidWorks for 3 years now and have found it to be a highly productive and capable software. I recently heard in passing that Autodesk surface modelling is far superior to SolidWorks. His case was that SolidWorks is great fro mechanical design but that Autodesk tools are much better for surface modelling. My questions are:

1) In what ways are the Autodesk Suite tools superior to Solidworks?

2) What is the difference between "surface modelling" and the mechanical design stuff SolidWorks facilitates?


First of all, the comparison you suggest isn't really valid since SolidWorks is really a parametric solid modeling software package, while The Autodesk Suite encompasses several different software packages, one of which, Inventor, is roughly the functional equivalent to Solidworks.

In an attept to answser your questions:

  1. The surface modelling functions that Autodesk offers are primarily part of other Autodesk software packages and not Inventor. From my perspective, the choice between one or the other comes down to interoperability with other engineering software like Product Lifecycle Management/Product Data Management tools, how they deal with legacy data and, in many cases, interoperability with the customer's software.
  2. As others have mentioned, surface modeling is just that, modeling of just the surface. There's no material properties and the models aren't parametrically driven. Their real application is in things where apprearance is the primary goal (think artist's renderings, sales brochures or animation).

I've used both Inventor and Solidworks (along with Catia and Pro/E), though never as part of my primary work function, mostly to revise and modify existing parts. I prefer Autodesk Inventor over Solidworks, but it's really just personal, I know others who feel exactly the opposite.


This may be the fact that the Autodesk brand covers quite a broad range of software including more graphics orientated products like Maya and Mudbox which are intended for things like animation whereas Solidworks is more narrowly focused on engineering and manufacturing applications.

Typically the more 'artistic' surface modelling software is focused on manipulating complex meshes eg for creating realistic face and figure models and is much more geared towards creating complex organic surfaces rather than building up solids according to specific dimensions. For example Mudbox is more or less a digital equivalent of modelling in clay as opposed to assembling a kit from carefully dimensioned parts.

Having said that the Autodesk stable does include things like Inventor which very capable for designing mechanical parts and assemblies and includes things like basic finite element analysis and specific environments for welded and sheet metal assemblies as well as tools for things like threaded fasteners, holes as well as standard section materials (I beams etc) as well as the ability to easily generate projected drawings, parts lists etc from models and assemblies.

  • $\begingroup$ also autodesk owns alias studio tools which is supposedly the best of best in nurbs surface modeling $\endgroup$ – joojaa Jan 17 '17 at 16:13

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