Does anybody have experience with Catia or Pro-E, how well they can be used in conjunction with Solidworks, which would be better to "upgrade" to from Solidworks, relative cost of each? My application is aircraft sheet metal, where all bends have substantial bend radius, and few bends are actually straight.
We once subcontracted some modeling to a Catia company, and I was deeply unimpressed with the results.
With aircraft surface skins, you're dealing mostly with sheetmetal "forming" as opposed conventional bending. It's possible that both UG and Catia have modules for this. Both of these programs originate in the aircraft sector, and this remains there primary focus.
I don't know that either Solidworks, or Pro-E have an add in for this.
Catia will flatten curved bends. Most curved bends in aerospace are very mild in curvature so Catia ignores the shrinkage/stretching in the flange. if the contour will cause wrinkling most designers incorporate cutouts or flute the flange at the inter rivet positions. e.g. at the leading edge of wing ribs.
Catias sheet metal module is streets ahead of Solidworks, but so is the price, the module is an expensive addon not included in the base package.
If we pattern curved bends we do it manually in Solidworks, ie flatten a straight flange with the same bend and flange criteria and then offset that distance from the curved spline to get the curved flat pattern.
In most instances sheet metal curved flanges are tried out on the tooling first and any problems with wrinkling back engineered into the design.
I do hope you will put in a request to Solidworks, there are a lot of smaller aerospace based companies would love to have this feature in Solidworks.
We do much different stuff (hand-held computers), but have talked to Catia, NX, and Pro/E about the problems we have with SolidWorks surfaces. The Pro/E people haven't tried very hard to get our (small, five seats) business. The Catia and NX people made an effort to show how their product could generate our type of parts. We liked what we saw with Catia best and had them build one of our most troublesome parts. They couldn't do it any better than SolidWorks could in the two days on-site that we scheduled. They took it home and are working on it. Still haven't gotten results back. I'm impressed by their professionalism. The NX sales people started out pretty lame, but got better when we pointed out how the Catia people were kicking their butts.
I don't know how well any of the packages work with SolidWorks.
Jerry Steiger Tripod Data Systems "take the garbage out, dear"
If you were dissatisfied with your contractor's CATIA work, it was most likely the contractor and not CATIA that was to blame.
I noticed some strangeness when importing CATIA sheetmetal parts to SW and Pro/E. CATIA has a way of skewing sheetmetal surfaces that should be parallel. These surfaces are off generally by .000005=B0 or less, but it is enough to "disqualify" a part from being treated as a sheet metal part in Pro/E and SW. This error originates in CATIA, and is not just a translation error.
I've used SW, Pro/E, and SW extensively. Currently using SW with access to Pro/E Wildfire for legacy data.
If you have to deal with a lot of customer imported data that has no features, buy UG, it will be worth it. UG has amazing abilities to manipulate non-parameterized suface and solid geometry. The trick will be finding a user savvy enough to do it.