SOLIDWORKS, Mastercam, or Both?
I often get questions related to using Mastercam or SOLIDWORKS for a given task because they overlap in a lot of what they do and not everyone can learn or even afford to buy both tools right away. Both can create model geometry, both can generate NC code, and both have additional unique capabilities that might make it a compelling choice for you. So, when do you use one or the other and do you need to buy both? The easiest way to describe which tool you should primarily use is to ask yourself if you are a “designer who also needs to program some parts”, or if you are a “machinist who is modeling parts to program them”? However, even that fails to capture the question in full and how it might impact your daily work. It depends on what you need to do. So, let’s compare the two programs to see how they stack up on a variety of topics. Keep in mind, these are two very different tools that are considered the leader’s in their respective markets. These tools don’t typically compete on features unless you happen to fall right in the sweet spot between their respective primary capabilities.
SOLIDWORKS is the world’s most widely used design software for a reason. It has a clear advantage for anyone routinely performing the design of products or fixtures, but it isn’t necessary for every company. To illustrate the differences more specifically, I recently modeled the same basic part in both tools and here are some of my impressions in terms of the modeling component alone:
If you are already familiar with both Mastercam and SOLIDWORKS design tools you’ll generally prefer SOLIDWORKS for design work if you can justify the purchase. SOLIDWORKS is the superior design tool, but for just creating and modifying 3D models for programming Mastercam Design can get the job done.
Mastercam is the World’s #1 CNC Programming software for a reason, it is powerful and easy to use and supports a wide range of machines and technologies, so how does that compare to SOLIDWORKS CAM from a purely programming perspective? Why would you choose to add Mastercam to your license of SOLIDWORKS, or when would you opt to work only in Mastercam?
SOLIDWORKS CAM is a low-cost option for users whose primary needs are design rather than manufacturing, so from a purely programming perspective they are both capable, but Mastercam offers a breadth and depth of features that cannot be matched for machine shops and programmers.
Documentation, Analysis, Renderings…
Not every designer or machinist needs to worry about documenting, communicating, analyzing, or selling parts or designs, but factoring in any additional tasks you are responsible for will help you decide if your CAD tool selection will have additional benefits beyond modelling.
If it all seems like a lot to process or you have more questions you might find it easier to talk it over with our experts. We’ll start by understanding your specific challenges and budget and provide a recommendation to get you up and running with the best software tools, training, and services in the industry. We’ll educate you on the available licensing options, alternative approaches, and industry best practices that we recommend for you be successful in your business.
About the author
While Marcus has been a SOLIDWORKS Applications Expert with MLC CAD Systems for over a decade, his knowledge extends into all 3 product lines MLC offers. More than once, he has held the prestigious title of the world’s most certified SOLIDWORKS AE. He actively supports the user group community and is known for his improv comedy tips and tricks session. Connect with Marcus on Twitter to discuss your project.