Traditionally Alibre has always compared its software with that of SolidWorks. Some time ago Alibre had an interesting marketing line which went something like “get 80% features for 20% of the price”. That was when the price of Alibre Design Standard was 20% of SolidWorks. Of late, with Alibre announcing one unearthly discount scheme after another, that line could very well read “get 80% of the features for 2% of the price”. You cannot argue with the 2% number (now 4%) . That is really the price that Alibre Design Standard is being sold at. But I think you could definitely argue about the 80% number.
Recently SolidWorks Certified Professional and Blogger Gabi Jack wrote a piece on Alibre Design titled “What you get for the money” in which she suggests that the 80% number is way higher than what it should be. For example, she notes that Alibre Design has absolutely no surfacing capability. She is right. Alibre Design lacks a full blown surfacing module. But if your life depends on it, you can still create non-prismatic parts using the solid modeling route. Just that doing so is not as easy as using the surfacing capabilities of SolidWorks.
I asked Paul Grayson, CEO of Alibre, about the lack of surfacing capabilities in Alibre Design. This is what he told me:
While some people do require advanced surfacing, most people do not. Our product is oriented more towards mechanical design than consumer design, but we do have a strong set of surface oriented design tools that are capable of designing most consumer products. We don’t hide the fact that advanced, aerodynamic or complex organic surface modeling capabilities are not our strength.
Here is the thing with Alibre Design. No matter what Alibre’s Marketing or their resellers say, Alibre simply cannot match the advanced modeling features of SolidWorks or any other mid-range MCAD system. But for simple prismatic mechanical style modeling, it does the job just fine. I don’t believe I could model the Christmas wreath or rose in Alibre Design without tearing my hair out. But that is not what it is for. I believe people who “look down” (as Gabi put it) on Alibre Design do not seem to understand that.
Understanding the basic idea of Alibre Design is as simple as understanding that you don’t need a sledge hammer to drive a nail into a wooden plank. Somehow, I get the feeling that this very simple message may be getting lost in all the discounting noise that’s being going on for the past few months. One gets the feeling that Alibre’s entire marketing is focused on the fact that their software is cheap. And that is not always a good thing.