How usefull is it to learn Catia?
As a product designer I'm looking for an upgrade on Solidworks. I'm working with sw for almost 6 years now, and still going back to rhino sometimes. The further I go the more limitations are thrown in my face by sw. I need more surface capabilities. Now I've seen some interesting video's on Catia tablet sketching etc. It looks to me like a very interesting program, however. The costs for programs like catia Are huge. Starting around 10.000(inlcuding service) up to over 70.000 euro's. This seems a bit insane to me. Since I'm not probable to ever work in a large company. What do you guys think. Is it worth it?
ya, it's expensive. In the real world I've only seen it used by, as you said, large companies in the automotive, shipyard, and airplane industries (But also that means many of their suppliers of parts use/need it also). As well as engineering firms offering services (modeling, drawings, & engineering work that may be required in CATIA). Although you can't use it for business purposes you could get a student version of it for like $99 (if going to school or know someone who is that would qualify). If CATIA is of interest, they're competitor is Siemens NX (formally called Unigraphics) has some good surface tools as well and is very expensive as well.
CATIA is EXTREMELY good at surface modelling with great surface modelling analysis tools also. I am aware of a lot of sole traders using CATIA also just because of its capabilities. Yes it can be expensive but you should always contact a reseller in order to determine the final cost, there's no harm in finding out, its free! I normally deal with Intrinsys (www.intrinsys.com). If you want to contact them, try email them on firstname.lastname@example.org or I think their number is +44(0)1908278606.
I've done some videos for them in the past, check out: http://www.intrinsys.com/blog/catia-v5-creating-lofted-surface
This gives you a good understand of how powerful CATIA can be and the above is just the basics, it has so much capability.