The first release of CATIA was back in 1977 by Dassault Systemes, who still maintain and develop the software. CATIA was initially developed for use in designing the Dassault Mirage fighter jet.

Over the years, CATIA has developed into much more than a CAD (Computer Aided Design) software package. It is now a software suite which incorporates the following capabilities; CAD, CAM and CAE.

CAD (Computer Aided Design) allows 2D and 3D design:
what is catia?

CAM (Computer Aided Manufacture) allows manufacturing processes to be designed for 3D model manufacture:
what is catia?

CAE (Computer Aided Engineering) allows verification through analysis of 3D models:
what is catia? Computer Aided Engineering (CAE)

CATIA currently stands at version level 6, better known as CATIA V6. The most widely used version of CATIA at present is CATIA V5, with CATIA V4 still being used in some industries, mostly in conjunction with V5.

Between versions, CATIA has varied significantly in terms of usage and appearance.

what is catia? catia v4 screen shot
what is catia? catia v5 screen shot
what is catia? catia v6 screen shot

Each Version of CATIA brings significant additional functionality. Between V4 and V5, the fundamentals to the design process were developed and between V5 and V6 the handling of data changed. Within each version, Dassault Systemes also offer updates in the form of releases. New releases are typically released annually and also bring additional functionality within the Version as well as bug fixes.

For large organisations, it can be difficult to handle large amounts of data and allow users to share this data. This can be controlled using PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) products. CATIA V5 can be used file based or alongside another software package which incorporates PLM, such as ENOVIA or SMARTEAM. CATIA V6 however already has ENOVIA V6 integrated. The main benefits for using a PLM product are the prevention of data loss and security context control.

CATIA has capabilities in multiple domains. The majority of users do not require all functionalities available in CATIA, which has significant cost impacts on the user or organisation. CATIA licenses are therefore broken down to include required functionality and are pre-defined by Dassault. Depending on the licence, additional workbenches become available and/or additional tools within workbenches become available. Workbenches in CATIA work a bit like different software held within CATIA. They allow the user to perform different tasks, from:

Part modelling (Part Design workbench)..
what is catia? part modelling - part design workbench

To Assembly modelling (Assembly Design workbench)…
what is catia? assembly modelling - assembly design workbench

To Surface modelling (Generative Surface Design workbench)…
what is catia? surface modelling - generative surface design workbench
To Finite Element Analysis (Generative Structural Analysis)…
what is catia? Finite Element Analysis - Generative Structural Analysis
To Sheetmetal Part design (Generative Sheetmetal Design)…
what is catia? to Sheetmetal Part design - Generative Sheetmetal Design
To Rendering (Real Time Rendering workbench)…
what is catia? Rendering - Real Time Rendering workbench

what is catia? rendering - real time rendering workbench
To Engineering Drawing creation (Drafting workbench)…
what is catia? engineering draweing creation - draft workbench
And many more.