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Which high-end CAD tool to use?

Posted by quadshop 
Which high-end CAD tool to use?
October 14, 2009 10:34PM
I'm planning on making a RepRap. I'll probably end up modding it and/or building a derivative, and I'm looking at CAD tools that will help with that.

I'm a CAD newbie, and it looks like any CAD program I choose is going to require significant learning curve. If I decide to try something else, there will be switching costs (I have to learn something new). So I'm looking for advice on which package to start with so I don't have to learn 4 different CAD programs until I find the "right" one.

I am affiliated with a university. Because of that, I have free (and legal) access to all of AutoDesk's product line. Also, through my school, I can purchase a low cost ($55/year) subscription to Solidworks. It is likely I can get access/purchase other high-end tools as well (though I don't even know what other tools in that league exist to ask about).

So my question is, for the purposes of learning CAD that I can use for design of something like a RepRap derivative, is Solidworks or Inventor the way to go? Is there another commercial tool that would work even better? Are any of the free/low-cost tools even close in terms of what those two packages can do?

My experience is literally limited to doing a couple of the basic Inventor tutorials, so it is hard to figure this out on my own.
VDX
Re: Which high-end CAD tool to use?
October 15, 2009 03:24AM
... look at Caligaris Truespace - it's now for free (until Microsoft smash it completely down): [www.caligari.com]

I'm constructing 3D-parts with high complexity for micromechanics with Lightwave - and for solving some specific problems, sometimes with 3DSMax.

Most 2D, 2,5D and 'simpler' 3D construction is made with IsyCAM suited best for my Isel-CNC-mill.

You have to look at your aims - best 3D-working is with parametric CAD's, but the export to RepRap (or common 3D-RP too) is often in STL or even 3DS.

So you have to convert the data for further processing anyway.

Another essential point is the interchangeability of CAD-files and ready-to-print 3D-data with other users or programs ...

Viktor
Re: Which high-end CAD tool to use?
October 15, 2009 12:17PM
As another data point, I have access to the PRO/Engineer suite of tools as well. I get completely overloaded looking at PRO/E vs. Solidworks vs. Inventor.

Again, my target is to use this CAD package for the design of a modified RepRap or a new design for a CNC machine based on the RepRap electronics. I know that these tools would be huge overkill if I used them *just* to design the parts to be *made* with a RepRap.
Re: Which high-end CAD tool to use?
October 15, 2009 05:55PM
Yes, its not like in the graphic business where the answer always is: Adobe! (well if you are die hard: Inkscape, Gimp!)
The 3d world is scattered and there is a lot to chose from and while i do have lots of experience in 3d visualization I struggle with the same problems when deciding what too chose as a Cad app. I am afraid nobody will be able to give you a definite answer sad smiley
Re: Which high-end CAD tool to use?
October 19, 2009 10:31PM
Do you know what you'll be making _with_ the CNC machine?

By this, I mean, if you plan on making art objects/industrial design/architecture/jewelry, "Rhino" is popular.

If you are building bipedial robots, for example, or yet other CNC machines, I've heard many good things about Autodesk Inventor. Unfortunately, at $5K for non-academic users, other RepRap builders will get a bit frustrated trying to collaborate on/tweak your files.

It doesn't help that there's no perfect, GPL, CAD program we can all happily use. Blender, ArtOfIllusion, and BRL-CAD exist, but people are unhappy with them for various reasons.

You may just want to use the same program a local project collaborator uses, frankly.
Re: Which high-end CAD tool to use?
October 28, 2009 11:47PM
Whichever CAD tool we use, reprap doesn't really have neutral format files to work with for the parts. The file repository has Solid Edge, which is proprietary, AoI for open source, and stl, for printing, but no IGES or STEP. Adrian's team ought to be able to output those formats from Solid Edge. I'm competent in many commercial apps and I see I'm not alone. I think it's a backward step (no pun intended) and a waste of time reskilling for AoI.

I doubt that parametrics are of benefit for working with reprap right now, but I own and use both Alibre and an old TurboCAD Solid Modeler, which was originally CorelCAD. But I also use TurboCAD Pro V15 and ViaCAD because they're "crossover" apps, that can do some arty-style surfaces, but can integrate them onto regular block/sphere/cone/prism primitive objects, they excel at modeling with them, while allowing freeform features. They also exchange data really well. In the everyday, I usually work in TurboCAD Pro V10.5, about five years old, which I just really like the interface of. Even that old thing has constraints (which I hardly ever use) and a great range of exchange formats. Older variants of TurboCAD (go for Pro, much more useful) go for impulse-buy money on ebay.

One thing: I don't yet know how fussy reprap is about stls, because commercial machines can be very fussy. There's a free analytic program called MiniMagics, which has a commercial relative: MagicsRP. MagicsRP can repair less-than-optimal stls so they're completely kosher. MiniMagics doesn't repair, but it does show you where the faults are, if any, so you can fix 'em.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/28/2009 11:50PM by murd.
Re: Which high-end CAD tool to use?
January 20, 2010 01:41AM
In my book it basically comes down to two competitors:

Pro-Engineer vs. SolidWorks

Pro/E is very powerful and really a joy to use once you figure it out. But the learning curve is a bit steep, and it's incredibly expensive. I'm also told it's becoming a bit reactionary in the Mechanical Engineering community, and only the old giants like John Deer or Ford still use it.

SolidWorks is also fairly powerful, but easier to use, in my opinion...not to say it doesn't have it's quirks...but it is more accessible in terms of price. I do most of my work with it now. It also seems to be gaining speed incredibly rapidly within the ME community.

...long story short, I like SolidWorks!
Re: Which high-end CAD tool to use?
January 20, 2010 05:30AM
Whichever CAD tool we use, reprap doesn't really have neutral format files to work with for the parts. The file repository has Solid Edge, which is proprietary, AoI for open source, and stl, for printing, but no IGES or STEP. Adrian's team ought to be able to output those formats from Solid Edge.

I'll email him.

I'm competent in many commercial apps and I see I'm not alone. I think it's a backward step (no pun intended) and a waste of time reskilling for AoI.
If we were only doing things one way, even the 'best' way, it wouldn't be RepRap. smiling smiley

To be less flippant, for many of our user-builders, they can barely afford a Mendel, let alone a legal copy of non-GPL CAD software.

We've extensively dabbled with AoI because of that. On the other hand, the major releases are done with Solid Edge.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/20/2010 05:32AM by SebastienBailard.
Re: Which high-end CAD tool to use?
January 21, 2010 12:35PM
We should stop using AoI as it is so bugged, it cannot be opened if Java 6 is on your machine.
Blender however is continually being updated with frequent updates during the year, and runs on any machine, so my suggestion, scrap AoI for the open source method and begin using Blender.
Re: Which high-end CAD tool to use?
January 21, 2010 01:20PM
Problem is Blender is a mesh editor, not a solid modeller, so is fundamentally the wrong tool for CAD. Nearly everything it produces seems to be non-manifold, so it's not even a very good mesh editor.


[www.hydraraptor.blogspot.com]
Re: Which high-end CAD tool to use?
January 21, 2010 03:33PM
I wonder if as a non-profit, open source project, we could negotiate some low-cost licenses to SolidWorks (or other) CAD? Something similar to the academic licenses that they have.

-Tim


[bothacker.com]
merlin
Re: Which high-end CAD tool to use?
March 15, 2010 07:25AM
a bit late... but since no one has mentioned CATIA then i will.

If you want a high-end CAD application you should check out CATIA, it doesn't get more high-end than that. CATIA is like the CAD program of all CAD programs. It's easy and intuitive to learn but extremely expensive, however you can get a students license very cheap.

Other CAD apps worth taking a look at is SpaceClaim and Think3.

CATIA: www.3ds.com/products/catia
SpaceClaim: www2.spaceclaim.com
Think3: www.think3.com
Re: Which high-end CAD tool to use?
March 16, 2010 12:46PM
Problem is though that most are inhibitly expensive or you need to be a student... Maybe spaceclaim or think3 will be better priced but solidworks and catia sure are not.
Re: Which high-end CAD tool to use?
March 19, 2010 08:33AM
Spaceclaim is around USD 750 starter. I looked at Think3 about six or seven years ago, when they were leasing the software. At that time they charged USD 2000 per year. I believe they sell the licenses now, but parametrics aren't part of the lower end packages.
Re: Which high-end CAD tool to use?
May 19, 2010 05:07PM
Of the nice 3D modelers I have used Pro/E, Solidworks, Inventor and Mechanical Desktop.

Solidworks is probably the most friendly one, as it is nice to work with and capable.

I do however prefer Pro/E, a harsh mistress but immensely powerful. Bought a license for myself, Wildfire 3.0. May or may not get 5.0 soon, or get Solidworks instead.

Autodesk Inventor is okay, fast and simple though slightly quirky and when you push the envelope you find holes.

Mechanical Desktop is a festering heap of dung and I rue my aquaintance with it.

I have not used I-DEAS more than a few hours, was inferior in almost every way.

I have poked around with Catia, it was fancy but cumbersome and slow. The company I worked for tried it out and then went Pro/E and manyfolded their productivity.

AutoCAD is nice for 2D, nothing else.

Microstation is probably better than AutoCAD in every way except market penetration. Still only for 2D.

I have a TurboCAD license for simple 2D sketching. Featurewise similar to AutoCAD LT but less intuitive and quirky. Can't beat the price though - I got an old version for €50. They brag about 3D but that aspect is entirely useless.

I know naught about Unigraphics, nor about Solid Edge.

As it stands, the serious CAD applications cost thousands of euro, but they are worth every one. The difference between wannabes like TurboCAD/Solidworks is like running a taxi company with either a rikshaw/Mercedes E-class. I think my Pro/E license paid itself in three months only from the extra evening work I got by having it.
Re: Which high-end CAD tool to use?
May 22, 2010 12:13PM
Michail Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> I have a TurboCAD license for simple 2D sketching.
> Featurewise similar to AutoCAD LT but less
> intuitive and quirky. Can't beat the price though
> - I got an old version for €50. They brag about
> 3D but that aspect is entirely useless.
>
> I know naught about Unigraphics, nor about Solid
> Edge.
>
> As it stands, the serious CAD applications cost
> thousands of euro, but they are worth every one.
> The difference between wannabes like
> TurboCAD/Solidworks is like running a taxi company
> with either a rikshaw/Mercedes E-class. I think my
> Pro/E license paid itself in three months only
> from the extra evening work I got by having it.

I'm glad you feel you get your money's worth from ProE, Our customers come to us for our ability, not our software. They never ask us what brand of pencil we use, either. We run a drafting and design business with TurboCAD and other wannabes. Our TurboCAD licenses typically repay their outlay within a week in product design and development work, then they pay our mortgages. Fortunately we don't have to subsidise them with evening work, driving cabs or rickshaws.
Unigraphics doesn't exist any more, but there are still lots of things for you to know naught about. Thanks for sharing some.
Re: Which high-end CAD tool to use?
May 25, 2010 02:58AM
I suspect you are being sarcastic and angry because I disrespect your tools of choice. Have you even used something like Solidworks or are you just venting some inferiority complex here?

I think TurboCAD is passable for 2D drafting, and excellent value for money, and if it puts food on your table then good for you! Meanwhile, the price of a Pro/E license is ca 2% of what an engineer costs over a period of three years.

Despite IMSI's boasting about 3D capability, TurboCAD is next to totally useless for the work I do - complex machinery made of bent sheet metal, milled steel, cast and moulded components, analysed with FEA, etc. A parametric solid modeler is an order of magnitude faster, not to mention it allows for tricks that a 2D drafter just can't do.

TurboCAD is a capable 2D drafter with a sloppy GUI and 3D ambitions tacked on as an afterthought, probably by the marketing department. Granted, I have only used versions 11-14. I suppose the newer might be better.

My customers usually use the same cad tool as me and want to own and be able to use the data files once the job is done, so many of them actually do come to me for my software. Or rather - unless I have it they do not come, ability be damned. This far I have managed a few years with Pro/E but the second I get a customer that wants me to use Solidworks or Inventor or whatever, I will slap up the VISA and purchase a license. With joy.

Also I see I might have been ambiguous - TurboCAD is to Solidworks what a rikshaw is to a Mercedes. Obviously, a lot of people make a living from pulling rikshaws. You may probably build a rikshaw imperium. Still, the Mercedes is probably preferable to both driver and passenger.
Sketchup + MeshLab
May 26, 2010 08:43PM
I just thought I would mention a possible free (as in beer) alternative:

Google Sketchup (free version) + MeshLab

The free version of Sketchup can export to COLLADA (.dae), which can be imported to MeshLab, which can export several formats (PLY, STL, OFF, OBJ, 3DS, COLLADA, VRML, DXF, GTS, U3D, IDTF, X3D). I can verify that this works, at least for simple models. I haven't tried anything too complex yet.

Now I haven't really started messing with the reprap software, but it is my understanding that it can import STL, so I assume it can import the output from MeshLab. Anyone who actually has experience with the reprap software want to try this out?

Sketchup is an extremely easy to use 3D modeller, and can it can be very powerful after getting well acquainted. Since it is designed for architectural work, it is very easy to make size accurate models. There is (unfortunately) no open source project that can touch it. It doesn't run on natively on linux (yet?), but the newest versions are platinum on WineHQ, so that could be an option for the linux users.

For those who are interested in learning a bit about Sketchup, Google has several tutorial videos which demonstrate its abilities.
Salome
May 26, 2010 08:55PM
Oh, I almost forgot. Another option that I haven't tried yet is Salome. It runs on linux and windows.

I don't know much about it, and haven't tried it yet, but I thought I would mention it since it looks promising.
Re: Which high-end CAD tool to use?
May 26, 2010 09:06PM
Michail: In simple terms of 3D geometry creation, TurboCAD or Punch Shark are as capable as SolidWorks, ProE, NX or Catia. With qualification, as you'd expect for the relative pricing. For parametrics and sheet metal, Alibre. Sarcasm, yes.
Re: Which high-end CAD tool to use?
May 27, 2010 12:37AM
Sarcasm, yes.

Tune down the sarcasm several notches, please, all of you guys? It's good to get technical, it's bad to get personal. Because then we lose the technical. smoking smiley

Oh, I almost forgot. Another option that I haven't tried yet is Salome. It runs on linux and windows.

How is it for mechanical design?


-Sebastien, RepRap.org library gnome.

Remember, you're all RepRap developers (once you've joined the super-secret developer mailing list), and the wiki, RepRap.org, [reprap.org] is for everyone and everything! grinning smiley
Re: Which high-end CAD tool to use?
May 27, 2010 01:15AM
Quote
SebastienBailard
Quote
smaddox
Oh, I almost forgot. Another option that I haven't tried yet is Salome. It runs on linux and windows.
How is it for mechanical design?

I literally haven't tried it at all, so I don't know. I thought I would just throw it out there for people who have some free time to look into free alternatives (and hopefully post back with their opinion?). I've been looking for a good free (beer & speech, preferably) CAD program for Elmer FEM and eventually for RepRap (although I'm not there yet), and saw it mentioned on a forum somewhere.
Re: Which high-end CAD tool to use?
December 24, 2010 10:26PM
Salome is quite powerful indeed. Especially as it incorporates a meshing module and Pre/Postprocessing capabilities for FEM Simulation as well as a python interpreter. Maybe it would be even possible to integrate a plugin to generate gcode directly in SALOME.
It is Open source and backed by EDF and EADS, so it will probably stick around for ages.
Re: Which high-end CAD tool to use?
December 26, 2010 01:53AM
I've found eMachineShop to work well for me. Although I've only designed one part with the program, it is easy to learn, and does decent 2D drafting, and 2.5D modeling.

It also exports to .stl, .dxf, and .iges; and imports .dxf, .step, and .iges.
High end cad generally means catia or nx.
Nx us more user friendly.
Catia is more common in aerospace.

Mid range cad packages can all do pretty much the same as each other and all cost about £6k for seat and first years license. (i'm pro open source, but against piracy!).

I'd list them in power:
ProE,
SolidWorks,
Inventor,
Solidedge st3.

Edge has let itself down from st1 (v21 onwards) but especially at st3.

ProE isn't as easy on nubies as SolidWorks but is much closer to the power of catia and nx than the others.

It's all changing now with the whole rush to "direct modelling"- which Is no where near the usefulness of history based models.

Most offer a 30day trial license, and also a cut down version like creo personal edition.

Try it and find what works for you.

-Andy.
Re: Which high-end CAD tool to use?
January 27, 2011 05:06AM
SW and Pro/E are great. Also, for small design you may want to try Alibre Xpress version for free, [www.alibre.com]
Re: Which high-end CAD tool to use?
February 06, 2011 04:53AM
A CAD professional friend of mine recommended me Rhino as a replacement for Catia. Can't say how good it is, though, as it doesn't run on Wine.


Generation 7 Electronics Teacup Firmware RepRap DIY
     
Re: Which high-end CAD tool to use?
February 06, 2011 05:18PM
Rhino has an excellent reputation as an industrial design tool (freeform surfaces). For mechanical design, not so much. I'm sure you could pinch hit with it. For mechanical design, start with the $100 Alibre at the bottom, and move up through the options listed by andysuth. If you have access to educational licenses of anything above Alibre, go with that. It's what you'll be using in industry, and mastering any of those will prepare you pretty well for any of the others. Some retraining may be required, hopefully at your new employer's expense. Even Alibre will provide experience that will translate to the other commercial CAD systems.

If you anticipate needing general 2D CAD experience, look into DraftSight, a free AutoCAD work-alike from SolidWorks. 2D .dwg and .dxf files are still passed around in engineering circles, and I don't see that going away completely in the next several years.
I used a number of CAD packages while i was in college.
Wildfire (~1000 hours)
Solidworks (~400 hours)
Surfaceworks (~20 hours)
Google Sketchup (~10 hours)

I started on wildfire designing the University of Minnesota Solar Car. The team built everything in cad and i love working with wildfire.
Then my senior design team built a competition rc aircraft in solidworks. The interface is so similar a few hours in i was designing almost as quickly as i was with wildfire.
I never really got into surfaceworks or google sketchup. They both seemed kinda weak by comparison.

Now that i'm graduated i'm looking for free cad to use at home. I'm trying out a package called FreeCAD. Open source and still in development. It's a clunkier UI than Pro/E or Solidworks but it's free.

If you've got access to them, i highly recommend Pro/E and Solidworks (preference towards Pro/E for robustness, and the new add on packages in WF5 are fantastic [FEA, mechanisms etc.])
If you're doing things on the cheap, try FreeCAD. It seems to work well and can output to step format.

If you want FEA try out elmerfem (multiphysics, does quite a bit more than i expected). I just found it and it's free.
i jus dunno wat cad too should i prepare to become a design engineer...
so pls
can u ppl guide me???
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