CATIA is a 3D, parametric CAD/CAM/CAE system developed by Dassault Systemes and marketed by IBM. As a complete Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) package, its components cover the entire design process from part design and assembly design through finite element method analysis on to the manufacturing design, with a number of other possible steps along the way.
The current incarnation, CATIA Version 5, is available in three "platforms" which encapsulate different uses of the system. P1 is for small to mid-size customers who are mainly interested in incorporating digital design into their business. The more powerful P2 Platform provides all the tools to take a product from design to manufacture, even providing a program to design the manufacturing facility (for all you industrial engineers out there). P3 is a specialized tool for industry-specific design requirements, notably, automotive exterior design.
CATIA currently consists of 115 individual products (combined into a single user interface) and is available in 67 configurations depending on the customer's needs.
It is a very popular package, especially with large firms, and is used by a number of companies, mostly aerospace and automotive. When Boeing designed the 777, the first aircraft designed entirely with software tools, they chose CATIA. The software is also in use at BMW, Chrysler, and Sony, among others.
CATIA is available for the following operating systems on a variety of platforms:
Having used CATIA v5 for an introductory aerospace design project my freshman year, I can say that it has its strengths. The learning curve, however, is steep, even though I had previously used another 3D CAD product (Solid Edge). Our design was limited to the exterior of a 75-passenger commercial aircraft (and a seating layout which we drew by hand). Making the parts is easy, but assembly is rather time-consuming and difficult. However, I can see where this could be a powerful tool in a large engineering firm.