If CAD Programs Were Cars

Inspired by the popular posts of “If programming languages were _____” I figure that with my minor experience in different CAD programs through 3D printing, I could put up my own flawed attempts of analogizing certain CAD programs to cars.

Porsche 911 GT3

Solidworks: Solidworks is a Porsche 911. It was so revolutionary, it could claim it was the first “real” sports car. It has had a very long and matured refinement over the many years and is the gold standard of going fast and handling well. The 911 is very expensive, but worse yet a base model gets you very little car with very little performance features compared to other offerings. If you want the full experience you have to buy all the options and the most expensive Turbo version of the car which is a ridiculous amount of money. Worse yet, its a 911 with a 1 Year warranty, and although you could theoretically keep your 911 after the first year, you for some reason are unable to race with newer 911s the following year. Still with all these downsides, there are fans of even the base version that cannot do very much that insist that the 911 “feels more refined” and handles better than other cars and refuse to use anything else. Many people who are not fans or even previous drivers of 911’s question the cost and value of a 911 in today’s market.


Autodesk Inventor: Autodesk Inventor is a (new) Chevrolet Corvette. It is long and matured in its own way and has its own set of fans. 911 fans insist that Corvettes are never as “refined” or well handling as the 911, and the interior and user interface is crude and lacking. This may have been true for older versions of the corvette, but the latest version is highly competitive with the 911, capable of going fast and handling well from well seasoned professionals and insist that the Corvette has refined from its earlier generations to being right on par if not out-and-out better than the current 911. When considering the lower price of the Corvette  and it comes loaded with few optional features (yeah I know its a subscription but 3 year cost of ownership is significantly cheaper) it becomes hard to justify purchasing a comparable 911 at twice the price.


Autocad: Autocad is an (older) Shelby GT500. It goes really fast in a single dimension, but it has trouble doing more than that. Single dimension racing has its own die hard fans and the GT500 has its own professional racing niche it can fill.


Fusion 360: Fusion 360 is a BMW M3 that someone sponsors you to drive for free*. It goes fast and handles well, but is not “quite” as fast and well handling as the 911 or the Corvette, however it can do many things that even the other expensive cars cannot such as having 4 doors, and a reasonable sizable trunk. It can be used very casually such as everyday situations, but it can also do very serious hardcore professional racing if pushed to it. You may not win against the best drivers in a 911 or a Corvette, but you can get awfully close. *The contract you signed says you do not have to pay for the M3 until you win over $100,000 worth of races, but if you are only driving it on the streets and mountain passes it is totally free.


Onshape: Onshape is a Tesla Roadster. It is heralded as being the future of cars, and kind-of goes fasts, but handles pretty badly due to the extra weight of batteries. Tesla insists that in the future batteries will be lighter and more powerful, making it better than your normal cars. They may be right one day, but the awkward limitation of electric cars make them unsuitable for professional use or casual users who expect to go further than maybe expected. The Roadster has good range and capabilities for an electric car right now, but everyone will wait to see if the next model is better. Incentives at the moment make it very cheap to drive, so some people decide to test out if it really is “the future.”


FreeCAD: FreeCad is a Volkswagen GTI, revolutionary back in its day for affordable fast driving and well handling car (Although magnitudes slower than a 911 or corvette,) but has been left behind for other options. It is still respected for what it did in its day though.


OpenSCAD: OpenSCAD is a Caterham Kit Car. It theoretically could go very fast, and handle very well for cheap but the people who are good enough to assemble one end up talking more about the assembly process and making the car than really ever driving it. The drivers usually make better mechanics than drivers.


SketchUp: Sketchup is a Honda civic/Volkswagen Jetta. It is pretty good at what it does being an affordable car, unfortunately keeps being perverted into doing things it was never meant to do by people who do not know any better due to its affordability.


Blender: Blender is a free McLaren F1. It is the fastest car ever made and has all the capabilities of handling very well. It also has some comfort features like luggage storage and 3 seats, and was built to be the greatest car ever made and to do everything. The catch is that the F1 has no driver aids, it has no traction control, it has no anti-lock brakes, and has no airbags if you crash. The steering is unassisted and so is the brakes. Most people find the center driving position awkward and struggle to even get the car to move, most of them stall over and over again with its heavy manual transmission. If they ever do get moving, most people crash and get horribly injured and swear off driving ever again. Even highly experienced people crash the F1 from time to time.


TinkerCAD: TinkerCAD is a bumper car, it runs off of electricity like the Tesla Roadster. Anyone can drive it and is very safe to drive, but do not expect to go very far with it.


Autodesk 123D Design: 123D design is a GoKart. It is like a bumper car, but much faster and you “could” hurt yourself but not likely. Its easy to drive and needs very little education to drive it. It is fast and well handling in its own world but not much more after that. The things you learn in a GoKart can transfer to the bigger cars though.


Edit: People have asked where the pro tools like CATIA, NX, and Creo are. I am not an engineer or industrial designer even. I am a 3D printing guy who does it as a hobby so I only know them by name and reputation, but if I had to say what they are it is this…

Kampfpanzer Leopard 2 A5

CATIA/NX/Creo: These are Tanks in a world of sports cars. They cost even more than the most expensive of sports cars. They require entire departments and teams to maintain them at a daily basis. The procurement and purchasing is a bureaucratic mess and you believe you are overpaying them 100% of the time but so is everyone else. They are slow, unwieldy, run on ancient technology but revolutionary in their own area, massively powerful, and require massive amounts of training and proficiency to be qualified to drive even one of them. But you need to use them in areas of extreme responsibility in a hostile environment where if mistakes happen people literally die. Due to their expense few experts have driven one of them, let alone drive all of them (and get shot at professionally) to have an informed opinion. This does not stop people from having fans saying one tank is better than another tank, and people like watching on the sidelines of seeing tanks kill each other. Due to their high responsibility the proposition of an electric sports tank would get you laughed out of the room, but would you really want to drive a Corvette in Syria?


5 thoughts on “If CAD Programs Were Cars

  1. Great article, I really loved these comparisons. I agree to most of them, the only thing I would personally change is Fusion 360 from a BMW to a Tesla (almost like you did with OnShape). Great read! 🙂


  2. This is a great article and I didn’t realize Blender was so powerful. Any clever analogies related to interoperability, compatibility between “users” of each software? Like only Solidworks drivers can use certain roads…otherwise they have to exit and take the pothole filled STEP / IGS highway? Only compelling reason to buy Solidworks today is because most of the shops seem to use it…It also seems that “driving schools” also teach with “Porche 911s”. Either way, it will be fun to see how these software companies adjust to “driver” needs. Thanks!


  3. BRL-CAD – Looks like this old Pickup from American films about villages. But there are thousands of unmarked switches in dashboard. After you put them in correct alignment, it starts to fly.


  4. Good read, and great analogies! As I was reading through, I almost expected TinkerCad to be a toy car, but actually I am happy with what it got. Bumper Cars seem a good fit for students 🙂


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