Debunking the Myths of 3D CAD


Transitioning from 2D design tools to 3D CAD can appear to be a significant undertaking, especially for small- to mid-size companies with limited IT resources, tight budgets and small design teams. For smaller organizations, dealing with the productivity downtime of even a small number of engineers during critical design projects can be hard to justify as can the upfront expense of deploying 3D.

When you look beyond the short-term, however, 3D can make smaller companies more nimble and competitive, evening out the playing field with their bigger brethren, who are no doubt already using 3D CAD. Adopting 3D CAD also opens the door to a host of integrated design tools that can further sharpen their competitive edge and get their products to market faster.

Still intimidated? Let’s take a stab at debunking some of the common myths surrounding 3D CAD (hint: they are probably being spread by your competitors).

It’s too hard to learn. Moving from 2D to 3D is not without its challenges, however, once implemented users will quickly realize that designing products in 3D from the start is naturally more intuitive. After all, we live in a 3D world, not a flat 2D one. That said; cultural pushback to learning 3D is common.

CAD vendors realize this and have created tutorials and tools designed specifically to ease the transition for engineers and designers accustomed to designing in 2D. Your vendor’s value-added reseller (VAR) is also a great resource for training and support.

Be sure and evaluate all your options for training: classes (on-site-versus off-site), self-paced learning tools and online webinars, and don’t overlook user group conferences and discussion forums where users can get help with industry- or product-specific issues. Identifying an internal technical “guru” or expert whom people can go to with questions or problems will also greatly reduce user frustration.

It will lead to significant downtime. This is a common fear, especially among smaller companies with correspondingly small design teams. One strategy often deployed to mitigate down time is moving projects to 3D CAD in phases, while continuing to use 2D to ensure that workflows aren’t abruptly disturbed during the transition.

Another method is to deploy 3D in a pilot project, one in which you can test your 3D processes and tools to identify and iron out problems before it’s rolled out company-wide. Typically, these pilot projects involve a new product that is self-contained so it does not interfere with other ongoing work.

Once a 3D CAD implementation is started—either through a phased or pilot project approach—the best way to assure a smooth transition to 3D is to make sure that all engineers are trained adequately, identify and promote best modeling practices, and provide the necessary support resources.

Our products are simple and don’t require 3D CAD. Even the simplest of products can benefit from 3D since it benefits can be realized throughout all phases of product development. Improved design is just the tip of the iceberg. Even simple parts can be optimized through virtual testing using simulation software. And, future customer demands may require modifications or customized versions of your product, which can also be quickly generated using 3D CAD.

In addition, making changes to simple parts originally created in 2D drawings is easy. Any 2D drawing can be created and re-created easily when changes are made within the 3D CAD system, actually speeding up design changes.

Downstream benefits in manufacturing can also be reaped by providing machinists with more useful 3D data, with which they can measure and section parts live with the push of a button, maintaining design integrity and dimensional accuracy.


We won’t be able to use our legacy data. We get it. You are sitting on a treasure trove of legacy 2D data that took years of hard work to accumulate. You can’t afford to start over. Good news: you don’t have to. You can leverage existing 2D drawings to create 3D models.

SOLIDWORKS enables users to import 2D data in DXF and DWG formats as well as AutoCAD Blocks to quickly create 3D models directly from 2D data. Other helpful conversion tools include a Design Clipart tool that allows you to drag and drop drawing views from DWG files into 3D SOLIDWORKS models, and another called View Folding that helps automate the creation of a 3D model by manipulating the views of an imported 2D drawing.

There may be a case, however, for leaving some legacy data in 2D. If you just need to print and view those 2D drawings, you can use a low-cost or free app to do so. Many 3D vendors now include a free 2D product, such as DraftSight, that you can use to access and work with legacy data.

We’ll have to get rid of our 2D tools.  Most manufacturers today continue use a combination of 2D and 3D CAD tools for myriad reasons. For some tasks, such as machine layout, schematics, and concept design, 2D tools may still work better for you. Some legacy drawings won’t warrant converting and you still might need to deliver 2D drawings to suppliers or customers.

Most 3D CAD systems enable you to easily output drawings, images and other types of required documentation in a multitude of 2D formats to share with supply chain partners or customers.

I don’t need to learn 3D. 3D CAD provides significant advantages and benefits that help organizations hoping to stay afloat in today’s increasingly competitive global markets, but it’s not just important for companies.

Individual engineers and designers who want to maintain long-term job security must keep their skills sharp and up to date to compete for future jobs or advance within their own companies. Engineering graduates have all been trained on 3D tools, so for working engineers today, learning 3D CAD is a keep-up-or-fall-behind proposition.

It’s too expensive.  3D CAD software isn’t cheap, but its ability to help companies increase productivity, improve communication, boost product quality, and speed time to market legitimizes and validates the initial investment.  But don’t take my word for it; do your own homework and calculate your expected Return on Investment (ROI) by using Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) to compare costs, including hardware, maintenance, upgrades, support and training.

Keep in mind that it’s not just the 3D CAD software that delivers cost-justifying benefits, but also the ancillary tools that enable designers to optimize products through simulation, evaluate the manufacturability of products, collaborate with design teams, and share valuable design data to downstream consumers of digital data that can deliver the most significant bang for the buck.

Find out for yourself. With the proper plan in place for training and support, the adoption of 3D CAD can deliver a multitude of benefits, including shorter time to market, improved communications, and higher quality, truly optimized products. Reaping these benefits can provide your company with a true competitive advantage.  Contact a SOLIDWORKS reseller and have them evaluate your specific needs to find out what you have to gain from implementing 3D CAD. What do you have to lose?

Want to see how SOLIDWORKS solutions can help you win new business and get to market faster? Request an in-person demo today.

Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp. offers complete 3D software tools that let you create, simulate, publish, and manage your data. SolidWorks products are easy to learn and use, and work together to help you design products better, faster, and more cost-effectively. The SolidWorks focus on ease-of-use allows more engineers, designers and other technology professionals than ever before to take advantage of 3D in bringing their designs to life.