Software Profile: CATIA

Software Profile: CATIA

This series of software profiles will focus on CAD software applications meant to be used by engineering organizations for discrete manufacturers. In each post, an overview of the software’s capabilities will be provided and details on which industries use them most frequently.


CAD Application: CATIA

Software Provider: Dassault Systèmes

Capabilities and Partners

CATIA is a longstanding CAD application with traditional as well as progressive capabilities.

Delving into CATIA, you’ll find all of the capabilities one would expect from a traditional CAD application. You’ll find parametric feature-based modeling along with extensive drawing documentation functionality. You’ll also uncover NC machining, CMM and tool design tools. Routed system functionality is there with wiring, harness and piping. As opposed to Solidworks, most of the niche CAD areas has been filled with CATIA modules instead of 3rd party partners.

One area that differentiates CATIA, however, is its powerful surfacing capabilities. Users can build out complex surface models with tight control over continuity between patches. As a result, CATIA is used in industries where industrial design or fine tuned geometric control is necessary.

Another area where CATIA offers more than traditional CAD applications lies in system engineering and its integration with Dassault Systèmes’s SIMULIA brand. Advanced functionality to define requirements, break them down and allocate them to functions and then assign them to components is included, which is often part of a PLM system instead. This is also tied to various forms of 1D, 2D and 3D simulation. Dassault Systèmes is closely tied with the partnership between INCOSE and NAFEMS for systems simulation.

Industries and User Base

CATIA has customers in many industries, but CATIA is very frequently used in the aerospace and automotive industries. 

COE, formerly called the CATIA Operator’s Exchange, is the user group that holds annual conferences. They have subsumed many other user groups of other Dassault Systèmes software products as well.

Looking Forward

Interestingly, the future of CATIA looks similar to that of Solidworks. And it has everything to do with Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE (3DX).

Back in November 2012, Dassault Systèmes laid out a grand vision of offering industry solutions. But the vision isn’t just a pitch. The 3DX platform will utilize capabilities from many Dassault Systèmes brands, including CATIA, SIMULIA, ENOVIA and more, to create applications targeted at specific processes in certain industries. In this context, CATIA becomes almost like a software component supplier to 3DX. I do not expect CATIA to disappear, so fear not. But it is certainly tied up into a larger vision now than just CAD.

To be clear, the 3DX platform isn’t just about integration between existing Dassault Systèmes products: it is fundamentally changing them. And that’s good. For example, the meta-data that was captured in CATIA models is now being turned into meta-data in ENOVIA, decoupling it from its former bonds. As a result, the meta-data can be modified without changing the revision of the CAD model. But the implication is that there is no longer a self-contained file representing only the CAD model. The lines between the two are being blurred. Likewise, a similar future is what is occurring with SIMULIA.