3D CAD career advice in Automotive industry

Hello, community,

I am working 4 years already as a 3D CAD modeler, creating soft chairs for production (for 3D cutting machine). Generally there are always complex organic shapes to work with. I am a Mechanical Engineer, working in Rhinoceros 3D, AutoCAD, Autodesk Inventor, 3Ds max.

I want to work in the future in Automotive industry. Modeling cars bodies or car interiors etc.

What should I know about it? What should I start from? What software / techniques should I learn? How this modeling process runs in Automotive industry?

Thank you.


you should know what Class A quality means (needed for interior and exterior). I have made two videos which might give you a rough idea:

Try to find tutorials which teach generating Class A surfaces. Have a look at our Shape Modeling plug-in, if you want to stay in Rhino, it offers functions and analysis needed for Class A (special discount price at the moment, up to 72%, valid until 7th of March):


Or learn Autodesk Alias or ICEM Surf (standard tools in this area). If you want to work on soft parts like seats, have a look at T-Splines (Rhino plug-in), maybe Clayoo (Rhino plug-in), or tools like Maya and Modo.


I believe CATIA is one of the most widely used mechanical CAD/CAE software systems in the automotive industry.

Thank you, Michael and AIW, for your answers. I will take a look at thees programs.

As far as I know Autodesk Alias Automotive (formerly Alias Studiotools) is considered one of the industry standards for automotive surfacing. When I studied at Umeå Institute of Design most of the car guys were using it and a lot them have gone on to work for the “big guys” in the car industry. So probably worth considering. Hope that helps…

wow, this is kind of info I am very glad to hear. I should definitely start with Autodesk Alias. Thanks :smile:

Rainadil: Alias is used by designers, sometimes called stylists (the shape people). CATIA is used by the engineers who make it work. The shape people come from an extensive education and background in Industrial Design with an automotive specialty. The engineers have a background not unlike your own.

AIW, does that mean that I can’t work in automotive design industry without specialty in automotive?

I didn’t mean to imply that. Ultimately it all depends on your particular set of training, skills and experience. I do know from my years of working for one of the big auto OEMs that while many in styling have some engineering skills and vice-versa, those who have formal training in one field or the other have considerably better instincts and much better skills than those who don’t have the training. I would expect from your qualifications as you described them that you would be most suited to a position in body engineering. If you feel that you have a natural talent and passion for styling my suggestion would be to study for an additional degree in Industrial Design. With the formal education in both fields you would be a highly valued prospect.

I do know that at the company I worked for, almost all the people I worked with were the best in their field. The big companies know they need the best, can afford to pay them, and can be very selective.

I guess I’m trying to suggest that Alias and CATIA are tools for their respective trades, and merely learning to use Alias will not make you a talented automotive designer any more than learning CATIA will make you a competent engineer. As you are already trained as an engineer, my opinion would be that learning CATIA will enhance your existing set of skills.

Another widely used auto CAE system is Siemans NX. CATIA is a Dassault product. The difference between these systems and tools like Rhino, AutoCad or Solidworks is the extent to which they are integrated into the entire Design and Release workflow of the company.

AIW, thanks for reply. Of course I understand that having additional degree in Industrial Design would be a big plus for my skills… and CV :smile: But is it possible to achieve something without additional degree? My primary diploma is a Mechanical Engineer of printing machines but I work as a CAD designer of soft chairs. And do that successfully.
I am originally from Ukraine and we don’t have such degree as Industrial Design, we just do have a Industrial Engineering.
But I never liked Engineering calculus and studied there only because I liked 3D industrial modelling very much.

I understand that all kinds of software that we are talking here are just a tools in hands of talented Designer.

Anyway in my case, if I would wanted to apply for a additional degree abroad I should also pass a certified test for English language. Which makes it an additional preparation and milestones in a way to achieve this career goal.

If there would be just a course or training like internship which company runs for candidate like me instead of taking 1 year + studying that would be great :smile:

Once again than you for reply.

Your postings here don’t read like machine translations, so if you haven’t devoted hours and hours preparing them word by word, I’d say your English is good enough or at least very close to it.

There might be some differences in the meaning of the term “engineer” between us. In the US and Europe a mechanical engineer is someone who has broad training in materials including fatigue, structures, dynamics, thermodynamics, hydraulics, some electrical and electronics, etc. Their duties in a large company usually consist of system design and integration, component conception, test design, etc. They coordinate and supervise CAE designers and analysts and test technicians as well as the downstream users of engineering information in purchasing and manufacturing. They work closely with the suppliers who manufacture the parts and assemblies within their scope of responsibility. Any specialization such as you refer to in “printing” comes about while they work for a firm in the field, rather than in their academic training. In the US and Europe a degree with a detailed specialization would usually imply training as a manufacturing or customer support technician, rather than a degreed engineer. While not required for working at a large auto company, many engineers go on to receive professional certification from the state. Many others attain master’s degrees. Some in my company who did structural analysis had PhD (doctorate) degrees.

If your main joy in life comes from actual part design, your engineering training would be a definite plus, but is not normally required for those working as CAD designers. I would think that it should be relatively easy for you to find a firm that supplies the auto industry and uses mainstream auto industry CAE software to hire you in an entry level position where you can learn the system.

I could suggest that you contact Dassault and Siemans to find out which software is widely used in your area and maybe even which suppliers are using it.

Good luck!

Wow, what a motivational speech! :smile: Kinda gives me a kick-in-the-neck to actually stand up and do something.
Thank you very much AIW