Time to read: 5 min
Solidworks® and Solid Edge® are premium CAD packages used for product and machine design. Solidworks is primarily parametric whereas Solid Edge combines parametric design with synchronous modeling, a kind of direct editing.
Solid Works and Solid Edge have various tiers that lock complex functionality like FEA (Finite Element Analysis) behind higher costs, though Solid Edge has a more flexible subscription pricing structure.
While their general functionality is similar, this article examines their key differences.
What Is Solid Edge?
Solid Edge is synchronous CAD software developed by Siemens®. Synchronous design is a feature unique to Solid Edge that increases modeling speed, and can dramatically reduce modeling time once mastered.
One key feature of synchronous design technology is that it allows designers to directly edit a 3D model without having to click through various commands — and non-native models can also be edited using this technique. Solid Edge also incorporates advanced engineering features like generative modeling, CAE (Computer-Aided Engineering), electrical design, and CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing).
What Is Solidworks?
Solidworks has been developed by Dassault Systemes® and is history-based parametric 3D modeling software. In this context, parametric means that designs can be controlled with parameters, and the entire model can be updated by changing a parameter. Changes in the part do not require a complete redesign.
However, changes must be made with the part history in mind, as some features can break the model if inserted at the incorrect point in the design history. In addition to its powerful set of CAD features, Solidworks supports built-in FEA (Finite Element Analysis) and CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing), and can create detailed shop drawings for fabrications.
Solid Edge vs. Solidworks: Pricing Plans
Like most CAD packages, both Solidworks and Solid Edge can be purchased via a subscription. Solid Edge is more upfront with their pricing, whereas accurate Solidworks pricing can usually only be found by engaging with third-party resellers. What follows are details on how each software handles licensing.
Solid Edge can be purchased directly from the Siemens online store, which removes the hassle of dealing with third-party resellers — and the lack of resellers enables Solid Edge to be upfront with its pricing. Subscriptions can be purchased on a month-to-month basis, and you can cancel at any time, but month-to-month licenses are more expensive than a yearly subscription.
Solid Edge also has a value-based licensing system that allows large companies to pay only for applications they need. These applications can be activated by making use of a token system — tokens can only be purchased on a yearly subscription — where each application consumes a number of tokens when in use.
Solid Edge has four basic licenses:
- Design and Drafting
Solidworks is typically only available via local resellers, making it challenging to get accurate pricing without engaging with a reseller. Solidworks can be purchased as a perpetual license as well as a subscription. There are three main licenses available:
Functionality can be added to each of these subscriptions by making use of add-ins that must be purchased separately.
Solid Edge vs. Solidworks: Support
Solidworks and Solid Edge are both enterprise software packages. As such, they offer excellent customer support in the form of online tutorials, in-software help documentation, in-software guided tutorials, as well as access to support staff. Solidworks is sold through resellers who are also available to fulfill a support role, which can make it easier to find help when time is limited.
Solid Edge vs. Solidworks: File Formats
The table below shows the file formats supported by Solid Edge and Solidworks:
|Neutral CAD Formats||.stp, .igs, .stl, .x_t, .obj|
|Compatible Formats||Inventor® (.ipt, .iam)||Inventor® (.ipt, .iam)|
|NX (.prt)||Creo® (.prt, .asm)|
|Solidworks (.sldprt, .sldasm)||NX (.prt)|
|Catia™ (.CATPart, .CATProduct)||Solid Edge (.par, .asm, .psm)|
|Catia™ (.CATPart, .CATProduct)|
|Native Formats||Part File: .par||Part File: .sldprt|
|Assembly File: .asm||Assembly File: .sldasm|
|Sheet Metal: .psm||Drawing File: .slddrw|
Solid Edge vs. Solidworks: Learning Curve & Usability
Solid Edge and Solidworks are both fully-fledged design and drafting packages used to develop complex multi-component assemblies, perform component analysis, and produce shop drawings for manufacture.
The learning curve of Solidworks vs Solid Edge is similar since they operate very similarly apart from the Solid Edge synchronous modeling technique — which can be challenging to learn for designers accustomed to purely history-based modeling techniques. Both softwares have built-in tutorials that explain the main features on offer.
Solid Edge vs. Solidworks: Minimum System Requirements
Solid Edge and Solidworks both require relatively powerful PCs to function well, though large assemblies will cause slowdowns in either software. Solidworks manages this downside with large-assembly settings, lightweight mode, and virtual components that make the assembly more responsive. Solid Edge has a similar large-assembly setting that activates as soon as the assembly size surpasses a predefined set point.
The table below lists the recommended system requirements for each:
|Operating system||Windows 10, 11 Enterprise or Professional||Windows 10, Windows 11|
|CPU||64 Bit Systems only||64 Bit Intel or AMD|
|Disk space||9 GB for installation||5 GB for installation, SSD recommended|
|GPU||3D-capable graphics card, dedicated CAD graphics card recommended|
|Ram||32 GB||8 to 16 GB|
Solid Edge vs. Solidworks: Applications
Solidworks and Solid Edge are both used for product and machine design, which is evident given their similar feature sets. For example, solid modeling is designed to assist with the creation of complex assemblies made of various sub-components. In addition, both offer CAE (Computer-Aided Engineering) features like FEA (Finite Element Analysis) and generative design. CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing) can be used to prepare components for CNC machining.
Which Software to Use?
In most cases, choosing between two CAD packages can be easy when there are enough differences between them to make the choice obvious for your specific applications. However, when it comes to deciding between Solidworks vs. Solid Edge, their baseline features and offerings are similar, apart from small technology differences like synchronous vs. parametric design.
That said, Solid Edge is more accessible due to its flexible licensing structure, whereas Solidworks requires a significant capital investment. Another factor to consider is which software is more popular in your industry, since it’ll be easier to interface with others if you’re using the same software. In general, both Solid Edge and Solidworks are powerful and feature-rich, so here are some unique advantages to consider for each software:
Advantages of Solid Edge
Solid Edge is user-friendly and contains all the features required for developing advanced product designs. It’s key advantages are:
- Fast Modeling: The Solid Edge synchronous modeling technique can be difficult to get used to. However, it can significantly reduce modeling time and results in fewer feature conflicts since it’s not strictly history-based like Solidworks.
- Flexible Licensing: Solid Edge has a far more flexible licensing environment than Solidworks, and can be purchased with a monthly or annual license.
Advantages of Solidworks
Solidworks is one of the most popular CAD packages due, in part, to some key advantages listed below:
- Easy to Use: Solidworks is easy to pick up and learn because features are easy to understand and the in-software help is more than sufficient. Its parametric modeling also allows for varying degrees of complexity when it comes to 3D modeling.
- Active Online Community: Due to the popularity of Solidworks, there’s a wealth of information available online on how to effectively use it. Both free and paid tutorials are available and online user-based communities are active and responsive.
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