We get asked what differentiates the various CAD programs out there on a regular basis. Yes, all CAD programs do the same basic tasks, but some are better at some things than others. However, the bland and confusing marketing that all the manufacturers produce makes figuring out which program is best for you harder than it should be.

We’ve been in this industry for many, many years and we have a solid understanding of all the different CAD solutions available. Our customers often have multiple CAD programs so we see and hear the good and the bad about pretty much all of them.

As a PTC reseller, we are obviously somewhat biased in favor of PTC Creo, but we don’t always drink the PTC Kool-Aid and we do always put our customer’s needs before our own short-term profits. So with that disclaimer in mind let’s see how the PTC Creo and Autodesk Inventor CAD programs compare.

Both have the same basic functions.

Since PTC Creo and Autodesk Inventor are both CAD solutions made for designers and engineers they share many of the same basic functionalities:

  • Parametric modeling
  • 2D drawing tools
  • 3D modeling tools
  • Optimization tools
  • Collaboration features
  • Documentation support
  • Animations
  • Rendering
  • Simulation
  • Analysis
  • Part Assembly
  • Cost estimation

So what makes them different? Intuitive tools.

Although PTC Creo and Autodesk Inventor have many of the same features, they differ in how easy they are to use. It’s nice having access to a range of tools and features, but if designers can’t figure out how to use them or need to attend costly training sessions it isn’t worth it.

We looked at seven different categories to determine which CAD program was better, taking into consideration the capabilities of the available features and how easy they are to use.

Overall Productivity: Creo

When designers have to spend time figuring out how to make a program work, they simply aren’t going to get as much done. Although Autodesk Inventor does have amazing features, users report that they sometimes have trouble locating the tools they need. In contrast, the intuitive UI in PTC Creo helps speed up all aspects of the development process, resulting in increased productivity throughout your organization.

As we mentioned we are biased, but even 3rd party research found that PTC Creo users experience a 45% decrease in mouse travel and a 2x increase in overall productivity.

PTC Creo users experience a 2x increase in productivity.

Managing Data: Creo (for now)

PTC Creo includes Unite Technology, which allows users to open and modify any file type from 3rd party and legacy systems. Once the file has been imported and opened, designers can easily add design intents by defining features/patterns, and they can make complex geometry changes. Since PTC has been working with this technology for a while, they have been able to remove and fix the initial issues. Unite Technology makes working with any type of file a seamless experience.

Autodesk Inventor has recently added AnyCAD to their platform, a similar technology that creates an associative connection between models within Inventor and the original CAD file.

Both of these features simplify design by removing the need for manual file translations or multi-CAD systems. However, since Unite Technology has been available longer all (well, most) of the bugs have already been removed. In contrast, Autodesk Inventor’s newly added AnyCAD technology is useful but still has some significant issues that need to be worked out. So, as of now, PTC Creo prevails in this category, but in a few years, we believe that AnyCAD will have caught up to Unite Technology’s standards.

The Unite Technology included in PTC Creo allows you to easily handle any type of CAD file without manual file translations.

Late-Stage Design Changes: Creo

Even when every effort is made to avoid late-stage design changes, unforeseen circumstances can make these modifications necessary. PTC Creo has flexible tools that allow you to make the changes you need without disrupting the original design intent. You never need to completely rework a design from scratch, you can always just make some adjustments, saving your organization time and money. Plus, since each change is recorded as a feature, engineers can revert back to old versions if necessary.

Autodesk Inventor has optimization tools that attempt to prevent the need for late-stage changes, but if modifications are required they can be difficult to handle.

PTC Creo’s flexible tools make it easy to manage late-stage design changes.

Freestyle Modeling: Tie

Every design and development project requires 3D modeling. Both PTC Creo and Autodesk Inventor have intuitive modeling tools. PTC Creo has advanced freestyle modeling features, simplifying the creation and optimization of stylized designs. Users can easily create freeform shapes and surfaces with pushing and pulling tools, similar to modeling with clay. PTC Creo also has a large high-quality engineering surfaces library and tools for sub-divisional modeling.

Screenshot of freeform modeling with PTC Creo

Screenshot of freeform modeling using Autodesk Inventor

Autodesk Inventor also includes freeform modeling tools. It has similar push and pull capabilities and allows users to refine shapes by removing points, matching edges to existing geometries, or bridging faces.

Of course, we personally still prefer PTC here, but the easy-to-use modeling tools are so similar that this is really just a personal preference.

PTC Creo and Autodesk Inventor BOTH include intuitive freeform modeling tools.

Sketching: Creo

Sketching is an important part of the development process. Designers and engineers flesh out their ideas before modeling and prototyping begin. PTC Creo makes sketching easy, whether users want to use old-fashioned pen and paper and then import or sketch within the software itself. Users can sketch directly onto model surfaces and easily reference other 3D objects. The latest PTC Creo release includes improvements to preview, editing, and auto-regeneration. Once sketches are complete they can be imported into the Creo Parametric software for future development.

Unfortunately, Autodesk doesn’t have a comparable tool for sketching. Users must sketch within the platform. Users can use outside data by copying and pasting into Inventor sketch, but files must in the AutoCAD format. There is no way to hand draw and import sketching like with PTC Creo.

PTC Creo allows users to directly import hand drawn sketches.

Large Assemblies: Creo

Handling large assemblies in CAD programs can be a challenge. Loading large files can cause lagging responses, however, PTC Creo has the capacity to can easily handle them. PTC Creo uses lightweight graphics capabilities to ensure that the program still runs smoothly, regardless of assembly size. Easy-to-use drag commands help users modify and explore models.

Autodesk Inventor can handle large assemblies but not directly out-of-box. Software and hardware modifications must be made obtain the same level of speed as PTC Creo.

PTC Creo can handle large assemblies with ease without any software or hardware modifications.

Sheet Metal: Tie

PTC Creo and Autodesk inventor have strong sheet metal modeling capabilities. PTC Creo allows engineers to modify features as they are being created. Users also have access to dynamic previews and editing tools. Autodesk Inventor also has advanced sheet metal tools for designing, visualizing, and documenting parts. With Inventor, users can even project 2D drawings to easily create 3D models that are converted into sheet metal parts.

Both PTC Creo and Autodesk Inventor include advanced sheet metal modeling tools.

So who wins? PTC Creo

Based on our criterion, we believe that PTC Creo is the winner. It can fulfill more needs than Autodesk Inventor and users find that they are more productive with it. Of course, Inventor is still a great product and many designers like it for light CAD design tasks, but for heavy 3D CAD design, we think PTC Creo is the clear winner.

Want a second opinion?

It is only fair that we offer some outside resources to help you get some additional opinions. Remember, some of this information is based on older versions of both programs so it may be outdated.

Software Insider: Breakdown comparison of features.
Quora: What is Creo Software?
Quora: What is Autodesk Inventor used for?

Don’t miss our previous post covering similar issues: Debunking 3 Common Myths about PTC Creo.

Convinced that PTC is the solution for you or have additional questions?
We would be happy to answer any of your questions and help you understand the licensing and packaging options available. You can contact us on our website, or call us at (866) 624-3HTi.