Design, Tech

3D Modelling vs. CAD vs. BIM: What’s the Difference?

The times they are a changing, and with them, technology is changing too. This can obviously cause some confusion along the way. As technology evolves, new methods, pieces of software, ideas and techniques are coming about. No matter what line of work you are in, this all still holds true. And so, this is no different when we observe the construction industry.

An excellent example of the above is the confusion and the advance of 3D Modelling, CAD, and BIM. All of these are confused with one another, and while there is a certain amount of overlap between their design, functionality, and usage, there are very clear and tangible distinctions to be made.

3D Modelling

3D Modeling Basics

We are starting with this one, because it is the broadest term on the list, and rather difficult to define. It’s an umbrella definition that essentially includes everything from 3D modelling, to 3D rendering and 3D animation. This isn’t actually software so much as an activity you do by using software – things like PTC Creo, Solidworks, etc… The main issue with this category is that you need to figure out what kind of 3D modelling software you actually need. For example, for construction and engineering tasks, you will need Solidworks. However, if you are more interested in something more artistic and organic, then Rhinoceros 3D would be the way to go. There is also 3D modelling software used for architecture, specialized software for automobile engineering, agricultural machinery, safety specifications…

The impact this has on human error (or lack thereof) is staggering. Architects, designers, and contractors can invest more time on being creative and precise in certain areas, without wasting time on irrelevant minutia. Any mistakes made can be easily noticed, fixed, and modified, without wasting resources in terms of time, money, and manpower.


CAD stands for computer-aided design. While often confused with 3D modelling, some considering it to be synonymous with it, CAD is a bit more specialized. With CAD you will be able to design a 3D object, and then use this to produce a 2D drawing of said object. You can further use this model to serve as a base for manufacturing and production purposes. Essentially, CAD is most often used by engineers.

CAD is quite an old tool, and its purposes are focused on design and documentation. With CAD you get the information-rich and accurate models, as longs as you set everything up correctly. It’s great for anything that is composed of multiple parts and components.

It showed up in the nineties, and took the world by storm. CAD became a necessary component of any business that wanted to stay competitive, since it increased design speed immensely.   In fact, now you have specialized business that offer anything from actual software, to consulting services, to help you out. These kinds of services and groups are a big part of the industry now, all thanks to the existence of these tools.


Building information modelling is a bit different than CAD, even though it does serve a similar purpose. The main difference can be seen through the name. Namely, BIM has much more information, it includes details on the performance characteristics of models and objects, it has specifications, and a host of data that can be found within a 3D model of an object. What makes it useful even more is that it has collaborative elements. Namely, it allows contractors, architects, designers, engineers, and pretty much anybody involved with a project to work together. They all collaboratively work on one single model, sharing all the necessary information and work. These collaborative elements are perfect for companies that outsource their work, or if they have offices all around the globe.

Furthermore, you can do this simultaneously, or in sequences, having one team focus on one part, and another on a second part. This obviously helps save some time on money and on time, as well as allowing much more serious and ambitious models to be worked on. It ties teams together, helping troubleshoot each other’s work, and cultivating a healthy space for creativity.


If you want to get ahead in your line of work, you need to be up to date with all the technology that is offered to you. The business environment in practically every area today is shifting at an incredible speed, all thanks to advances in technology and the Internet letting its roots go very deep. Getting the right tools is important, and knowing the difference between the aforementioned terms is vital. As long as you do your homework and invest properly, you won’t have anything to worry about. Determine whether you prefer using a collaborative tool, and be certain about whether the acquired software is useful for the line of work you are in.

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