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Understanding 3D Design Software: CAD vs. BOM/BIM vs. IdeaRoom

by IdeaRoom Technologies, on May 23, 2024 5:07:12 PM

Prefer a video? Check out a short 3 minute, 24 second synopsis of this article on our YouTube channel.

What do you think of when you hear “building designer”? Do you think of traditional CAD software? A Building Information Model (BIM)? A customer-friendly visualizer? Your answer probably depends on where your business is currently focused!

At IdeaRoom, we receive inquiries from folks who are trying to optimize all areas of their companies from lead generation to engineering and fulfillment. In order to get the best bang for your buck, it’s critical to understand the difference in building design tools and who they are meant to serve (e.g., a power user, or the average Joe). 

Traditional CAD Software

CAD or Computer Aided Design software is a system that enables the modeling and design of, well, just about anything! In the building industries, CAD software is primarily utilized by engineers and architects to create detailed, technical models. For example, a business designing a new single-split slider may draft the details of the door in CAD to generate exact specifications for manufacturing. While CAD tools excel at precision and technical depth, they are generally only accessible to power users with a great deal of training. 

Because of this, we’ve found that CAD is great for creating reusable assets or templates, i.e. (drawing again on the example above), “here’s how you build this door”.

On the flip side, CAD is less useful for rapid customization. To put things into context, imagine that the door can change several features (hinges, trim style, color, size, etc.) according to the customer’s needs. Creating a CAD model for each unique scenario would be quite a bit of work, and it would require a skilled, likely high-cost person to implement.

So how do we sum up CAD? 

Powerful! And often necessary. Just not for the end consumer.

BOM, BIM & Engineering Software

Bill of Materials. Building Information Model. Engineering Specifications & Certifications. For the fulfillment of certain buildings, the heaviest lift comes after an order is placed.  

BOM, BIM & Engineering software is aimed at producing draft drawings with detailed information for erection and install. This can include dimensions, materials lists, structural requirements, and detailed visual representations down to the girt, purlin and screw. 

You may have heard of systems that serve the shed, carport, post frame or red iron industries. Two of the best on the market are SmartBuild and MBS. Often, prospects ask us “how does IdeaRoom compare to SmartBuild?” or “how does IdeaRoom compare to MBS?” Our answer is that it doesn’t, really!

What we mean by that is that we view SmartBuild and MBS as complimentary systems to IdeaRoom. Their software covers the BOM / Engineering component of building construction, whereas we are a sales and marketing tool that focuses on the consumer experience (more on that later). By and large, these systems are used by domain experts with the technical knowledge of building construction. Therefore, you will most commonly find these systems on desktop computers, where estimators crank out bids with accurate engineering specifications. 

We actually recommend that businesses who are looking to cater to both the customer experience and engineering needs consider an integration with IdeaRoom and one of these systems. Think of IdeaRoom as the front end that can be utilized with customers and salespeople, with starting designs passed to either MBS or SmartBuild for more detailed fabrication details.

The final word on BOM, BIM & Engineering software? Often essential for manufacturing and production, providing detailed lists of materials and technical specifications. However, they are not always optimized for the sales process. 

So what is IdeaRoom?

IdeaRoom is an online 3D sales suite, designed for the end consumer. What this means is that your system was created with a user-friendly interface that allows sales representatives and customers to easily interact wit h3D models without needing extensive training. this accessibility facilitates quicker and more effective customer engagement, designs and quotes.

While CAD software can create detailed models, it lacks the real-time interactivity that IdeaRoom provides. IdeaRoom allows users to make real-time adjustments to their designs, offering immediate visual feedback. This feature is crucial for sales scenarios where customers want to see how different configurations will look instantly.

And while BOM, BIM & Engineering tools can provide accurate draft drawings and final certifications, they are not appropriate tools for end consumers to quickly arrive at a building design in a self-service way. Being primarily desktop-based and often not optimized for mobile, these software tools do not follow the principle of “meeting the customer where they are”. 

So what are the strengths of focusing on sales, marketing, and the consumer experience with regard to building design?

Interactive 3D Models

IdeaRoom’s interactive 3D models allow customers to visualize their designs in a way that static images or drawings cannot. Customers can rotate, zoom, and modify their designs, giving them a clear understanding of what the final product will look like. This immersive experience helps build customer confidence and satisfaction.

Intuitive Design Process

The intuitive design process of IdeaRoom simplifies complex decisions. Customers are guided through each step, with clear options and visual feedback. This ease of use makes the buying process enjoyable and less intimidating, leading to higher customer satisfaction and increased sales.

Pricing Accuracy

One of the standout features of IdeaRoom is its pricing accuracy. The platform automatically calculates prices based on the selected configurations, providing customers with precise quotes in real-time. This capability is particularly beneficial for sales teams, as it eliminates the need for manual price calculations and reduces the risk of pricing errors.

Business Logic and Rules

IdeaRoom incorporates advanced business logic and rules that guide users through the design process, ensuring that all configurations are feasible and align with the company’s manufacturing capabilities. This feature prevents errors and miscommunications that can arise when transitioning from sales to production. It’s the right amount of detail and accuracy for this stage of the customer journey (hint: the average joe doesn’t need to see fasteners and wetset brackets)!

Mobile Optimization

In today’s digital age, mobile optimization is crucial. IdeaRoom is fully optimized for mobile devices, allowing customers to design and visualize their products on the go. This flexibility is a significant advantage over other systems that may not perform well on mobile platforms, ensuring that IdeaRoom meets the needs of today’s mobile-centric consumers.

Data-Driven Insights

With analytics integrations, IdeaRoom allows businesses to track how customers interact with their 3D models. This data can reveal trends and preferences, helping companies to tailor their marketing strategies more effectively. For example, if a particular feature is frequently selected, marketing campaigns can highlight this feature to attract more customers.

Integrations can also enable businesses to track lead generation and conversion rates. By analyzing which design options lead to completed purchases, companies can optimize their sales funnels and improve conversion rates. This level of insight is not typically available with traditional CAD or BOM systems.


IdeaRoom stands out as a premier 3D sales suite designed specifically for enhancing sales and marketing efforts. Its user-friendly interface, real-time customization capabilities, integrated business logic, and pricing accuracy set it apart from traditional CAD software, BOM systems, and other 3D design tools. Additionally, IdeaRoom’s focus on delivering an exceptional customer experience, combined with its mobile optimization and powerful marketing analytics, make it an indispensable tool for businesses looking to optimize their sales processes and drive growth.

By choosing IdeaRoom, businesses can offer their customers an engaging and interactive design experience, gain valuable insights into customer behavior, and streamline their sales operations with precision and efficiency. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, tools like IdeaRoom will play a crucial role in helping businesses stay competitive and meet the ever-changing demands of their customers.

Topics:3D configuratorProduct ConfiguratorInnovationBusiness growth