Total new-comer to CAD. Which programme to choose.

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Richard Hed

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Discussions may not always benefit the original poster, and if rules are important, he could have done a search on this popular topic before posting.

Lurkers might be interested in other's past professional experience and how they use tools today. New tools and methods are constantly improving. Old ways of doing things without CAD are becoming valuable. Companies often switch hands and hold people's work hostage. All legitimate subjects for which CAD product one should chose. This benefits lurkers who wouldn't dare risk a post and might use a search function instead.

The mods could just delete all "Which lathe should I chose" posts...or they could banish the more illustrious characters to the experimental flash steam thread. For some it is a warm, happy place like Monty Python's Camelot...for others I work with in engineering disciplines, I could see it being an absolute nightmare.

This forum, along with the usual internet banter, has helped me formulate which CAD product I use today. Maybe these disorderly posts will help someone else?

I assume if I were in Oz right now, I'd be logging out for the summer!
LOL, yes, pleez DO post in "Experimental Steam" as the opening statement was meant to say anyone could say anything without being kikt off.
 
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Bentwings

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How many laps can you do is interesting I got to see some of the very first 2d cad . It was nothing more than electronic drafting you still needed to have a good understanding of old drafting standards then add them to your new drawings . My first introduction to this was a forever disappointment. The only thing it gave was more perfect alighted text perfect arrow heads etc. it was undergoing rapid change I think it was less than a year or two before it became wire frame 3 d then hidden line removal and modification you quickly got rid of your dance drafting set and you no longer needed ink pens unless you were assigned the plotter and print room as I was I hated that mess with a passion constant ammonia smell ink all over the place leaky plotter pens

Wire frame 3D hung one fir a while but it was very expensive . I’ve long forgotten what brand offered the first of shading But it turned out to be only gloss and poor colors. Auto cad came out with a sort of 3D but it was very difficult t use and poor documentation I don’t remember the first really good 3D. System . Maybe computer vision it was hugely expensive several grand per work station but then it took a minicomputer to run even 3 work stations. I remember the VAX 11-750 it had to be in a controlled atmosphere room. There were loads of books of documentation . The index was like a dictionary . A station monitor was 30 grand for a while prices were dropping daily but it was years before the desk top home computer was available it was goo for primitive data base that you created yourself or copied from else ware it was good at math if you knew how to enter numbers and letters. That took time to learn fortunatelybthe first hand held calculators came about……. If you could afford them my slide rule hung around for a long time I finally donated it to a collector.

There were a bunch of solid modelers that came out almost together. Al l were difficult to learn I remember going to o a semester long solid works class I think I used it about 6months at work then the work group changed to the first of auto cad ME. As it was learning all over but some things were at least similar . Then acad went to inventor more learning. Along the way I again came back to solid works then added a very high end analysis program . Fortunately I ran into probably the best instructor I ever had he really helped with fluid flow that I barely even knew terms I was able to design in SW then test in analysis. Now that’s built in if you get the right SW. MODULES Sitting down to jump into this today would be a big task without background in my opinion. I sit here looking at a near blank screen on my hot tod computer that most would just love to punch keys on yet I simply am cadded out 60 plus years of this has just plain worn me out So my comments are a bit jaded I think it’s called it’s time for youth to pick up the handle much of the input is now icons, it’s a matter of understanding what the icon can do you might have a dozen selections to make then jump to another to fix position then another to add material color and properties if they aren’t in the default list. You can get areas volumes stresses that would take all fat to work out with just a few clicks.

That’s enough for me today I have to shovel some snow
 
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johnmcc69

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There is no "Easy" CAD program to learn. They will all take some effort & persistence on your part. It's like teaching yourself how to "Tram" a B-Port mill, or learning how to run a lathe.

It's an additional skill you will add to your arsenal & may even find it rewarding or lucrative. It's fun to design in 3D, it's also fun to design in 2D. Whatever makes your boat float.

I guess it all depends on the goal you want to achieve, do you want to create pretty shaded views of model engines? Do you want to send the files to a CNC postprocessor & cut steel? 3D prints? It's all good.

There has been a huge shift in ("Big") industry about going "paperless" & I've often seen "Blueprints" that have said "Refer to the database" for any missing Dim's".-Cop out...

But that's not our hobby. As he mentioned, 60+ years of designing & building engines can't be argued with. Pencil on paper gets it done. See any of Rudy K's or Elmers drawings, & you'll understand.

John

(Disclaimer: This is purely my opinion. I know we all operate differently & use the tools we have, there really is no better method at the end of the day except the satisfaction of making a part.)
 

Bentwings

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I definitely agree . Early on I had access to what ever I wanted in the shop . Lots of after hour projects . The paperless shop had a few quirks it was customary to provide a bill of materials “ page”. For the cnc group. The Monday morning meetings were for any questions maybe a special cutter or tool might be required so who was responsible for ordering and tracking it after a year or so there were few special tools needed . Often models and the few drawings generated were not even checked or inspected . I was into automation machines so if the assemble was animated and there were no collisions it was considered ok. Many machines operated right out of the box so to speak . The assembly and cnc shop seemed to enjoy giving us near heart attacks by calling and saying “ hey mr engineer you need to get out here ASAP “ I’d think what the heck did I forget? “ the gang” would be standing around like there had been a head on crash I’d see things going in and out up and down It was always nice when they would ssy it’s running full speed no rejects everything fit perfectly . I’d just say nice job guys and gals I appreciate the good work .
Once this system got really working , things went smoothly a couple of the engineers simply could not get thing right . Designing out of limits too big or too small and variations Of “ too something “ Sitting at my work station I might have some I idea it was easy to either create and test it in space then just delete the original rather than toss a weeks work in the shop
 

TSutrina

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As you can see, there are quite a few opinions on software here as well as any other site that discusses Cad or Cad/Cam software. If you never have used any Cad software, then there is going to be a learning curve you will have to go through. Everyone has a different approach on how to solve a problem, that's just human nature. It's that difference that makes people prefer one thing over another, including software.

Since you have been modeling over 65 years says you have been around the block more than a few times, like a lot of us here. A question you need to ask yourself is how many more times you can make it around that block. In other words, how many laps are you willing to give up learning a Cad Program? I am not trying to be facetious here, I am just trying to make the point that you want to keep that learning curve at a minimum. A lot, if not most 2D Cad programs work similarly to AutoCad. If you can sketch something out on a bar napkin and your buddy can understand it, then the 2D program won't take long to figure out. It will draw a straighter line and rounder circles than you can though. :)

3D in my opinion is horse of a different color. The learning curve is much steeper and the interface between the software and the user can be frustrating. I believe most all Cad products have a user group where you can ask for help, as well as here on this site. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but a video is so much more. Vendors should offer instructional videos on their site or have them available on YouTube. You Tube can be your friend when trying to learn something, just don't pay attention to the influencers that try to compare Cad A to Cad B.

There has been some good advice given by others here, along with several capable Cad programs. Check out their websites for the programs mentioned and take advantage of the 30-day free trials. At some point you are going to have to put your toes in the water.
I
 

justisla

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I do not post here very often so may be well off track with what I want
I started out with Autocad version 3 . A green screen & watering eyes. I eventually progressed but found that Autosketch version 6 did all I needed. I had a joinery shop & a building business. I needed to do drawings for winder stairs which had dimensioned drawings of each winder tread, The housings for the newels. The shape of the strings at the winders & details for the machinists where to groove for the winders & risers complete with dimensions.
What I liked about autosketch was that I could open & close it in seconds, Store the files easily. Work on it whilst watching TV at night ready for the workshop next day.
I could do all the operations with shortcut keys at speed or with a mouse. I could cut & paste stuff at speed. I could do a complete cutting layout with printed sheets of all the components of a flight of stairs with winders top & bottom in 30-40 minutes ready to print out at work the following day. The machinist would just cut everything & assembler would assemle without much adjustment
I could also do the patterns for ramp to ramp handrail wreaths which are based around an elipse but that used to take a couple of hours as I only did one every couple of months.
So what I now want is a 3 D programme for my modelling hobby. But taking fusion 360 as an example- It is a pain to open having to wait for it to load then use my phone then my internet goes down or my WIFI drops out etc.I cannot just turn it on & off at will if doing several jobs at once. It is a pain to set up. Data entry is clunky compared with autosketch . I cannot get my head round the key strokes with 1 finger, whilst using the mouse with the other hand like I did with auto sketch
So can someone tell me which CAD programme is easiest to use in respect of:
1- fast easy data input 2- Short cut keys 3- file storage & access 4_-learning curve-5 Freebie at least for trial, then cheap if I have to buy it
I am not so worried about the finer features, I just want something that I can knock out some 3d drawings. For instance I want to design & sketch out dimensioned drawings for a windvane steering gear for my yacht
Apologies for the rant
 
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Richard Hed

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I do not post here very often so may be well off track with what I want
I started out with Autocad version 3 . A green screen & watering eyes. I eventually progressed but found that Autosketch version 6 did all I needed. I had a joinery shop & a building business. I needed to do drawings for winder stairs which had dimensioned drawings of each winder tread, The housings for the newels. The shape of the strings at the winders & details for the machinists where to groove for the winders & risers complete with dimensions.
What I liked about autosketch was that I could open & close it in seconds, Store the files easily. Work on it whilst watching TV at night ready for the workshop next day.
I could do all the operations with shortcut keys at speed or with a mouse. I could cut & paste stuff at speed. I could do a complete cutting layout with printed sheets of all the components of a flight of stairs with winders top & bottom in 30-40 minutes ready to print out at work the following day. The machinist would just cut everything & assembler would assemle without much adjustment
I could also do the patterns for ramp to ramp handrail wreaths which are based around an elipse but that used to take a couple of hours as I only did one every couple of months.
So what I now want is a 3 D programme for my modelling hobby. But taking fusion 360 as an example- It is a pain to open having to wait for it to load then use my phone then my internet goes down or my WIFI drops out etc.I cannot just turn it on & off at will if doing several jobs at once. It is a pain to set up. Data entry is clunky compared with autosketch . I cannot get my head round the key strokes with 1 finger, whilst using the mouse with the other hand like I did with auto sketch
So can someone tell me which CAD programme is easiest to use in respect of:
1- fast easy data input 2- Short cut keys 3- file storage & access 4_-learning curve-5 Freebie at least for trial, then cheap if I have to buy it
I am not so worried about the finer features, I just want something that I can knock out some 3d drawings. For instance I want to design & sketch out dimensioned drawings for a windvane steering gear for my yacht
Apologies for the rant
Alibre atom 3D. Free month trial, 100$ after that
 

johnmcc69

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I think I'll go out on a limb here & agree with "Richard" about Alibre. This seems to be a very popular program here for designing model engines & there are many experienced users here who have done some really nice work with it. See anything that Jason B has created...

I've played a little with 360 & hated the time lapse of connecting, losing my connection, just like you. I also played around with "FreeCad" & I did not like the "Workflow" of it, it seemed clumsy to me & unproductive. When I did experiment with it, I remember it seemed I had to switch "Environments" between "Sketching" & "Modeling" & it seemed cumbersome (This may be because of my misunderstanding of it..) . I really don't like programs like "Onshape" or other programs that store my data in the "Cloud".

The one thing that seems lacking in these programs is their drawing packages, they seem very adept at creating shiny 3D models for looking at, CAM, or 3D printing, but what about creating GOOD drawings? I see alot of the nice modeling done here & am impressed. But what if you want to share your drawings? Personally, I would rather not share my solid files, there has been to many instances where your files turned up on "GrabCad" or other sites (& in some rare cases, over seas where they were copied & mass produced).

These of course are just some of your "Free" options. If you are a veteran (THANK YOU), you may be able to get a version of SolidWorks (Which is a GREAT program) at a discounted price or maybe even free.

I am really impressed with "Draftsight", before they started charging for it, being that I started with ACAD. I've since moved to 3D & am loving it, unfortunately what I had access to was industrial strength 3D with Pro-E/CREO. I've created a few sets of plans that can be found in the downloads section on this site, mostly for other model engineers who were willing to share their designs for free. I applaud those of you who have done the same.

Just jump in!

It is, after all, just a hobby right?

John
 

pkastagehand

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I'm another OnShape user. Still more complex things it CAN do that I can't do at this point. But I can do most everything I need to do with it to get to the point of having a visual model and making 2D drawings. I looked at FreeCad for a while but it seemed more complex to figure out. At work before retirement I used Vectorworks which I got petty good at, but price tag is too hefty for me to buy my own copy. Looked briefly at some other free CADs like Q-Cad I think was one. But all seemed clunky in many ways. Maybe simply because they were so different from how VectorWorks handled 3D. I suspect that if you find one that you can at least start making some headway with, then you just need to stick with it long enough to get a sense of how they are doing things.
 

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My requirements for a cad program, and other software programs are: (1) The program must be user friendly and easy to learn for my limited hobby use. (2) The operation must be on my computer, not the cloud. I am not working on anything particularly secret but it is mine and I do not want it out in cyberspace where I do not have control of it. (3) I must own the program not pay a yearly fee to keep using it where they can decide to raise the price or just quit supporting my program. My work can just be inaccessible due to some software company.

I played around with Fusion 360 until they decided that they were no longer going to permit hobby users to have free access. Fortunately I had not done very much work on the program because I found it hard to understand. If I had continued longer I may have eventually made sense of it. I then tried Free Cad and again I just could not get comfortable with it. Again if I had tried longer I probably could have made it work. Recently I made a concerted effort to use Alibre Atom and so far have been happy with it. It does not do everything that the high price programs can do but this is a hobby and I want to be making chips, not sitting at a desk fighting with the computer. So far I have been kind of making detailed models/drawings as I need them so the present design is still not complete.

I have the same problem with other software programs. I am still using Microsoft Office 2007 because they went to a subscription service. If that stops working I will go to one of the free office programs. When I was in business I used Quick Books and it worked fine so I continued to use it for personal use and to retain access to old files until they went to a subscription service and stopped supporting my old program and I could not even print. I found a copy of QB 2018 on eBay and I have been using that. I suspect that at some point that will also quit working.
 
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Richard Hed

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My requirements for a cad program, and other software programs are: (1) The program must be user friendly and easy to learn for my limited hobby use. (2) The operation must be on my computer, not the cloud. I am not working on anything particularly secret but it is mine and I do not want it out in cyberspace where I do not have control of it. (3) I must own the program not pay a yearly fee to keep using it where they can decide to raise the price or just quit supporting my program. My work can just be inaccessible due to some software company.

I played around with Fusion 360 until they decided that they were no longer going to permit hobby users to have free access. Fortunately I had not done very much work on the program because I found it hard to understand. If I had continued longer I may have eventually made sense of it. I then tried Free Cad and again I just could not get comfortable with it. Again if I had tried longer I probably could have made it work. Recently I made a concerted effort to use Alibre Atom and so far have been happy with it. It does not do everything that the high price programs can do but this is a hobby and I want to be making chips, not sitting at a desk fighting with the computer. So far I have been kind of making detailed models/drawings as I need them so the present design is still not complete.

I have the same problem with other software programs. I am still using Microsoft Office 2007 because they went to a subscription service. If that stops working I will go to one of the free office programs. When I was in business I used Quick Books and it worked fine so I continued to use it for personal use and to retain access to old files until they went to a subscription service and stopped supporting my old program and I could not even print. I found a copy of QB 2018 on eBay and I have been using that. I suspect that at some point that will also quit working.
If you want to dispose of msux office download completely free LibreOffice. It does everything msxu office does and it's FREE. It's very good, I've been using it for many years.
 

Richard Carlstedt

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Well I won't get into the plus and minus's of the many various CAD programs
My suggestion is to check out local colleges and see if they have a senior or military discount.
Our local tech college allows (62 age+) to enroll in "not filled" -open seat classes for far less ( a $ 200 class is $40 ie)
because you do not earn credit ( no tests too). So at the age of 76 , I enrolled in Solidworks.
And as a student I get the program free for study use for a year. having a teacher guide you through the basics is worth the money ...double
So for the past 6 -8years I have enjoyed the use of a top CAD program --yes, I have taken the same program class multiple times -
-I am slower than a 18 year old.
Also if you join EAA, you can get Solidworks for about $ 100 a year.. but it comes withpout instruction--I think ?

Rich
 

Jasonb

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Regarding drawings, as with everything the Computer won't do it all for you. It still needs some thinking about as to where you place the dimensions, what views to show, is a section needed, etc. though it does make it a lot easier than pen and paper. I find the ability to add a small 3D vie wof the part useful as a lot of my shared/published designs are aimed at the beginner who may have difficulty visualising a part from 2D drawings

Beware that some of the free programs won't output things like DXF or DRW files only pdf so not much use if you want to send off and get a part laser or waterjet cut or simply have a basic 2D CAM/CNC need.

Couple of examples of drawings from Alibre



 

Richard Hed

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Well I won't get into the plus and minus's of the many various CAD programs
My suggestion is to check out local colleges and see if they have a senior or military discount.
Our local tech college allows (62 age+) to enroll in "not filled" -open seat classes for far less ( a $ 200 class is $40 ie)
because you do not earn credit ( no tests too). So at the age of 76 , I enrolled in Solidworks.
And as a student I get the program free for study use for a year. having a teacher guide you through the basics is worth the money ...double
So for the past 6 -8years I have enjoyed the use of a top CAD program --yes, I have taken the same program class multiple times -
-I am slower than a 18 year old.
Also if you join EAA, you can get Solidworks for about $ 100 a year.. but it comes withpout instruction--I think ?

Rich
Ho ho. So your instructors all know you and at opening day in Sept. they all say "Here comes that Carlstedt character. Don't look".
 

Richard Hed

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Regarding drawings, as with everything the Computer won't do it all for you. It still needs some thinking about as to where you place the dimensions, what views to show, is a section needed, etc. though it does make it a lot easier than pen and paper. I find the ability to add a small 3D vie wof the part useful as a lot of my shared/published designs are aimed at the beginner who may have difficulty visualising a part from 2D drawings

Beware that some of the free programs won't output things like DXF or DRW files only pdf so not much use if you want to send off and get a part laser or waterjet cut or simply have a basic 2D CAM/CNC need.

Couple of examples of drawings from Alibre



I'm not a beginner yet I do the same as you--that is, put in isometrics for easier understanding. Occasionally a drawing is nearly impossibl;e to understand without an isometric.

When I bought Alibre Atom and finally understood how it workt, (It works concepturally differently than most other CADs), I was extremely pleased when I discovered how the 2D and dimming is done. It was SOOO much simpler than AutoCAD (which, of course, is much more powerful), and so much faster too without all the rigamarole of the 'Paper space' business.
 

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Hmmmmmmmm - - - wondering if its time to give Blender a whirl.

It certainly seems to be used for some interesting kind of stuff!
I have read many, many times that Blender is a VERY steep learning curve. Based on my little bit of experimenting with it, I think that is correct. But it is super impressive what it can do!
 

justisla

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Alibre atom 3D. Free month trial, 100$ after that
Thanks for the reply. I have looked at some tutorials & I reckon i could work with that. I have not tried the 30 day free trial yet as I do not want it over Xmas as there will be 2 weeks where I will not get much time to use it. So I will take that up in january & then have a detailed experiment without too much interuption
What does concern me is your comment about price. That seems wholely inaccurate.
I have just had a quote from the Uk distributor & it is £269 + VAT so I am looking at £ 323 That is nearly $400. Four times what you have suggested
Can anyone tell me if there is a cheaper source. Am I paying through the nose where I should not be? Help please!!!!
 

SmithDoor

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I disagree about the learning curve for 3D cad being steeper. I thimpfk 3D CAD is easier to learn than 2D.
I agree.
I have work in 3D
I did find 2D was better than 3D .
But on other hand I had over 4 years of training and over 30 years in paper witch is 2D. I start drawing in CAD in 1995.
Some problemy 3D would better with lack of training in drafting.

Dave
 

awake

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I also played around with "FreeCad" & I did not like the "Workflow" of it, it seemed clumsy to me & unproductive. When I did experiment with it, I remember it seemed I had to switch "Environments" between "Sketching" & "Modeling" & it seemed cumbersome (This may be because of my misunderstanding of it..)

Interesting ... I hadn't thought about it until I saw this, but yes, my earlier experience with FreeCAD seemed to involve a lot of switching of "Workbenches." However, in recent memory I don't have the same issue. I'm not sure if a) my workflow has improved (better understanding of how to do things with the tools on the Part Design workbench that I and most people tend to use the most), b) FreeCAD has improved (it definitely has - keeps getting better and better), or c) I am simply more used to switching when needed and it no longer feels like a distraction. Probably a combination of all three!

The one thing that seems lacking in these programs is their drawing packages, they seem very adept at creating shiny 3D models for looking at, CAM, or 3D printing, but what about creating GOOD drawings? I see alot of the nice modeling done here & am impressed. But what if you want to share your drawings? Personally, I would rather not share my solid files, there has been to many instances where your files turned up on "GrabCad" or other sites (& in some rare cases, over seas where they were copied & mass produced).

John, one of the places where FreeCAD has improved GREATLY over the past couple of years is in the TechDraw workbench (hmm, there you go - it doesn't bother me at all to switch to that workbench, but part of it is, it is a completely different task than building up the model). This is where you can produce VERY nice 2d drawings of the 3d model. And yes, I use this all the time, now that it works well. A few years ago, I used to model in FreeCAD, then go to LibreCAD to produce a 2d drawing that I could use to construct the project. These days, I hardly ever fire up LibreCAD ... though once in a while I have a problem that just seems to be easier to solve there.
 

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