When deciding whether or not to invest the time and money into learning a new CAD package, the sea of choice is often overwhelming. Making the task that much more daunting is that fact that not all packages are equal. Some are better suited for machine design whereas others are better suited for product design and prototyping. However, in some cases both disciplines are blended into one package in an attempt to create more functionality. So where does Rhino CAD fall in amongst all this uncertainty?
What is Rhino CAD?
An engineer’s preference towards specific packages is often determined by what software was used during university. If you’re like many other mechanical engineering undergrads then you would have been exposed to parametric modelling software. This is essentially a modelling paradigm where the model is made up of features that follow a timeline, where any feature can be modified after the fact. Rhino CAD is not parametric but rather a freeform modelling software where models can be modified by editing and moving nodes and splines. This is known as NURBS modelling or non-uniform rational basis spine modelling. This does not mean that Rhino CAD cannot be used for parametric modelling, as this functionality can be turned on or off, it is just not the primary focus of Rhino CAD.
Rhino CAD is first and foremost a surface modelling tool. It is used primarily by industrial, automotive and product designers. Due to its powerful toolset Rhino CAD is ideal for iterating over multiple designs in the product development process. However, as a mechanical engineer who has worked mostly in a machine design field you may struggle to find justification as to why you would need it. The popular CAD packages used by mechanical engineers offer less functionality when it comes to surface modelling, but in many cases have all that is needed. Rhino CAD falls short if your field is machine design as there is no easy way to create complex assemblies and there are no standard parts libraries.
Is Rhino CAD for me?
As a product design engineer you may find that Rhino CAD has a lot to offer.
- Perfect for organic designs that need to be tweaked multiple times.
- Can import/export a vast majority of CAD formats.
- Powerful surface modelling tools.
- Has a large library of add-ins that add to the functionality of the software.
- Very useful for designing parts for 3D printing.
- Handles large files easily without significant performance issues.
If you are an engineer who works with large complex assemblies with hundreds of parts that may or may not need modification, then Rhino CAD might not be suited for your application.
- No intuitive support for assemblies.
- No support for standard components such as bolts, flanges etc.
- Not suited for structural steel applications.
- Steep learning curve.
As of writing, Rhino CAD’s costing structures are as indicated below:
- Rhino CAD retails at $995 for the basic package.
- Rhino CAD also offers a bundle that includes a rendering and animation plugin and costs $1695.
- If you already own a previous version of Rhino CAD you can pick the software up for only $495.
- If you are using a Mac then Rhino CAD becomes extremely affordable at $695
Listing of the pricing would not be useful if not compared to other similar software currently available.
- Autodesk Alias, another powerful surfacing tool, retails from $2350 to $8400 per year depending on the package used. There are also monthly packages which work out more expensive in the long run.
- Modo, which is another well known surface modelling tool, retails at $1799. However Modo tends to be used more in the entertainment Industry and would not be well suited to an engineering application.
It must be noted that although Rhino has a large library of plugins, not all of them are free. Keep this in mind when comparing prices.
Trying to compare it to other popular CAD platforms that are usually used by mechanical engineers would be like comparing a hammer to a screwdriver. You can use a screwdriver to hammer a nail but it would not be the most efficient method. Rhino CAD can be used to do many of the things commonly found in other packages, however its prime function is surface modelling and this is where it stands out amongst the pack. Furthermore, it is great value for money.
And finally… Can I get Rhino CAD free?
Yes – well temporarily. Rhino CAD offers a 90-day trial with full functionality so I would recommend you take them up on their offer and try it out.