With a Jobs-less MacWorld now underway, we are reminded of two things: how much we yearn for the sweet, clean surfaces and brilliant interfaces of Apple's progeny; and how the need to do serious 3D CAD keeps them away from us. Unless you pursue the solution of one studio we saw, and keep both a Mac and a PC on every desk, the 3D modelers among you have probably gotten resigned to an unfair bargain: use Parallels to run your CAD in a half-assed way on your sexy Mac, or proclaim "I'm a PC" whether you like it or not.
Developers of 3D CAD packages have been listening, though, and while not nearly to the level of their PC-based counterparts, a number of options exist for Mac-native modeling. Here's a quick rundown of what's out there now (along with some general impressions based on what little we've seen), and what's on its way:
Form Z - Self-described as a "general purpose solid and surface modeler," Form Z has a definite entry-level look and feel to it, and most of the sample projects in the gallery bear this out. That said, many of those projects are visualizations rather than production data, and for this application it it seems well-suited, with lots of users praising its flexibility and ease of use.
solidThinking - The only existing Mac 3D CAD we found specifically directed at Industrial Designers, solidThinking claims to be used by Toyota, Pininfarina, Bulgari and Nikon, among others. Features a combination of NURBS and solid modeling, with a Construction Tree reminiscent of parametric modelers.
MacWorld attendees take note: we were recently informed that solidThinking will be handing out free student licenses of its software to full-time students who drop by their demo booth (#3320) at the Expo, from today until Friday the 9th.
Shark LT - Also purporting to be a combination surface/solid modeler, Shark retails for $500 in the US, runs on both PC and Mac platforms, and is aimed squarely at the ease-of-use market as well. They also offer a free, fully-functioning 14 day demo on their site if you're looking to try it out.
VectorWorks - Based out of Munich, parent company Nemetschek AG claims 450,000 designers use VectorWorks for "the AEC, entertainment, landscape design and machine design industries." Runs on a Parasolid core, also available for PC.
Rhino for OS X - McNeel has actually been working on a Mac version of Rhino for quite a while now, and posts
new builds of the thing on a pretty regular basis -- the most current is called Wenatchee, and is less than a month old. According to Scott Davidson in McNeel's marketing department, the Mac-based Rhino project is a slow one because they're re-working the interface to make it more Mac-like as they transfer the software over. "It'd be nice if it was a year away," he says of a fully-featured release, "but it's hard to predict." The current build has most of the functionality of the original PC version, however, barring certain minor features (though what constitutes "minor" is highly subjective) and McNeel eagerly encourages current users to download it and give feedback.
AliasStudio (?) - Absolutely nothing official has come from Autodesk about what they've got in the works for Mac, though rumors and shaky videos abound. Rest assured they know people want a Mac version of Alias, though -- keep your eyes on this space for future developments.
SolidWorks and Pro/E - Every time we ask a VAR rep from D'Assault or PTC if there are any plans for a Mac version, they chuckle at us.