I've been using SketchUp (Pro) for several years now and am feeling at the end of the road with it, largely because of the following:
-poor modeling of 3D curves and surfaces
-poor exportability for CAM
-not really very precise
I've been using it on a Mac, and have various plug ins downloaded, but I've been finding it a source of frustration more often than not, and I'm very clear that it is time to move on to something better.
At this time I'm looking at buying a new computer, moving to a PC specifically configured for CAD, with great graphics card, loads of RAM, 30" monitor, etc. The problem is with choosing software.
There are so many choices out there it is friggin' bewildering! I want a software that can handle curved surfaces well, and export well-rendered 3D models, as well as conventional 2D plan and elevation views, so I can communicate effectively with my clients. I do like the intuitive nature of Sketchup being able to push and pull surfaces around.
Sometimes, not every job, I want to have parts made by a CAM subcontractor, and that is where I need to be able to export 3D models that is useful to those vendors. I have no plans in the immediate future to do my own CAM in-house.
I build custom woodwork exclusively, always with solid wood. I build few projects per year, and there are no production runs. I generally do not use 'off the shelf' anything. So, software configured for cabinets and conventional sheetgood manufacture is not what I'm looking for. I want something I can prototype and explore design in a flexible manner. I am a 1-man shop so there is no issue with being able to communicate with people on the shop floor. I do the drawing and I do the fabrication.
I do a certain amount of somewhat complicated developed drawing (ie., descriptive geometry). Besides furniture, I also tackle architectural work, though I am not a millwork shop. So, custom staircases, libraries, timber outbuildings and structures, and so forth are all areas of interest to which I would apply CAD.
I normally detail all of the joinery connections in my CAD drawings, and generally all of that joinery is fairly custom as well.
So far, I've looked at Rhino, Solidworks, Autocad Inventor, and Top Solid. When I say 'look at' I mean I've watched demonstration videos on Youtube. So, I only have a superficial understanding.
Solidworks is $5000, which is harder to justify given I am a 1-person shop and all, but it is not out of the question if the advantages are worth it. Rhino is a good deal at $1000, but I am wondering what I am missing with a $4000 difference in price compared to Solidworks. And I'm aware that some CAD programs like Catia are a good deal more expensive as well, however $20,000+ for software is out of the question for me.
I know that with any one of these software packages, there will be a lengthy learning curve and struggle ahead, and I don't want to waste hours of my time to gain proficiency, as I have with SketchUp, only to find that I have picked the wrong software.
Can anyone point me in the right direction, taking into account the sort of work I generally do? Your help would be appreciated.
I check both sites out. Applied Design Intelligence is a configurator built around Autodesk's Inventor, which is fine. Some pages on their site didn't work, which doesn't inspire me to think they are super well organized. I think their ideas about a standardized design process, ability to limit stock sizes, etc. are fine but not quite what i am looking for. Autodesk Inventor is also about $8000, which is more than I'd like to pay.
Space Claim seems more directly aimed at engineering firms. CAD for engineering is a slightly different kettle of fish than CAD for design and CAM. It also suffers from being less common a product than others on the market, and thus learning resources, like online video, user-generated plug-ins, training support, etc., are likely to be reduced compared to what is available for software like Rhino or Solidworks.
Appreciate the leads though.
One feature that is appealing to me is parametric modeling, where a change made in one component of an assembly is automatically rippled on down through the other associated parts. I've had mistakes crop up in the past in SU where the tenon on a piece was altered but I overlooked also modifying the mortise to suit, and later made a part in error based on the semi-modified drawing. It would be nice to know that if I tweak some minor aspect of a design that I won't have to remember to chase down every potential ramification of that change in other parts of the drawing. So, parametric modeling is something I am looking for in the new software package. Solidworks has that feature. Rhino does not natively have it, but there is an available plug in to give it that functionality.
We use solidworks. Our cam software, alphacam, has a plugin for it so the solid models go right in and I can apply tool paths right to the surfaces. You can also generate an awesome set of intelligent shop drawings. We do very complex items in 5 axis and it works great.
thanks for your detailed reply. I do appreciate the value of parametric modeling, and was unaware it might be a disadvantage on a detail level- unclear though, why that might be true. Care to elaborate?
I think your conclusions about what might be important in software for my business are correct. I'll look into eCabinets a bit more. Someone today also mentioned Geomagic CAd, and that seems a bit similar to Rhino except with built-in parametric modeling.
The reason that parametric is a nuisance at the part level is that it constrains parts to be a certain way e.g. perpendicular, parallel, coincident, etc. This is ok but it really is not important. But when you go to change or rearrange or alter an assembly this can and does cause problems as it breaks the constraints which then have to be resolved.
IMO it is not important that the parts be constrained in the first place. If you use Autocad in 3d the parts are not constrained and there is rarely a problem.
Truthfully I have not used Solidworks in 5 or 6 years and even then it was SW 2002. But if you wanted to rearrange or copy the assemblies it could be a major PIA. IOW the liabilities of parametric out weigh the benefits on a parts level.
Guys will often taunt how they made a Inventor or SW homemade program but none of them really become main stream. The reason is that software is measured in man years of development. Unless you want to change professions and become a code writer, I would stick to what is going to help you get to your goals the fastest.
Your head is spinning because you do not have a map or compass to navigate by. And everyone is pitching their products. The map or compass is your goal. Be your own adviser and be true to your goals. BTW does that necessary mean the cheapest?
Here's a low-budget plan that will get you rolling with solid modeling, plus excellent print and visualization options.
Start with MoI3d (that's an uppercase i), a stripped down but very capable NURBS modeling program written by an early Rhino developer. It will output everything you need to work with CAM packages, other solid modeling platforms and SketchUP.
The export to SketchUp will let you take advantage of Layout, and if you add CorelDRAW (deals to be found on Ebay), you can produce some high-quality pdf prints that include images and artwork while keeping the file size nicely optimized.
SketchUp will also serve as a host for the Maxwell Render plugin. Free, or the licensed version (recommended), Maxwell puts top-of-the-line rendering capability in your toolbox. If you really get into this aspect, you'll eventually need comprehensive UV layout and texture tools. 3D-Coat would fill that requirement nicely.
Total cost for this combination could be under a grand and you wouldn't have to leave any of it, or the techniques you develop, behind if you move up to a full-on engineering program.
With all due respect, I could not resist correcting your statement about Cabinet Pro not supporting custom cabinets. I made the crazy cabinet below in about 5 minutes. It has drawers with different drawer guides, different doors with separate overlaps & different hinges, horizontal doors and vertical doors, fixed shelves, adjustable shelves, & pullouts, vertical slots, shelves of different depths, and a curved top......AND all under a SINGLE faceframe. The beauty of this wacko-looking cabinet is that it is totally finished for pricing, cutlisting, and CNC output with all machining already figured out AND all parts having their labels carved directly on the CNC router!
Now, you HAVE to admit that's a custom cabinet, right? I hope you agree because Cabinet Pro specializes in custom cabinetry and we've done a lot of work since 1986 to meet the needs of the CUSTOM cabinet maker. But of course, our degree of customization is not endless....
THEREFORE... I think Chris's requirements would better be served with something like woodCAD/CAM, sold by Roger Shaw & Associates. You would be able to draw just about anything you wanted Chris. You should talk to Shawn Maberry at RSA. He's a good man and has a product you might be able to use. I don't know their prices, but you can find that out when you talk to him. Their website is given below.
Well Don, can the cabinet below be judged to be custom? (smile)
No, I do not believe Cabinet Pro would work for Chris either. My only point is whether the cabinets below can be considered to be custom.
I suppose it depends upon one's definition of the word, "custom". To my knowledge, there are not many programs out there that can build the cabinet below in 5-10 minutes, assigning an angle to each end stile, altering each end to be angled or curved, and altering each door & drawer, each face frame width, each dwr guide, each hinge, each part dimension, etc., to one's CUSTOM needs... and THEN immediately generate ACCURATE bids, cut lists, & CNC output.
In business we need to also consider TIME. Even if we have a program that can do just about all that we need, but it takes a ridiculous amount of time to accomplish it, then using that program is not cost effective. Whether a program is "custom" or "not custom" is not a black or white issue....it is an issue defined by grey scales. And for those grey scales to be considered worthwhile, we need to factor in the element of TIME required to accomplish a given task. But design is only ONE area that needs to be considered when thinking in terms of efficient use of business time. We are always looking for ways to make the manufacturing process FASTER and more EFFICIENT. For example, although Cabinet Pro has always produced something as simple as cabinet and part labels, we found it would be more efficient for some shops not to have to deal with part labels. So we implemented the ability for Cabinet Pro to CARVE the label directly into the part during CNC machining. A drawing program is one thing Don....but the manufacturing end is a totally different animal where a lot more than design needs to be considered.
But getting back to Chris' needs, Cabinet Pro will NOT shape each part into any shape imaginable. And Cabinet Pro will not perform according to Chris' needs. So in those areas its "customizability" are definitely limited. But then again, ALL programs are limited in one way or another. I would agree with you that Cabinet Pro would NOT be a good fit for Chris. But I would disagree with you in the area of what is and what is not "custom." (Unfortunately, too many programs have thrown that word around to the point it has become cheapened and almost meaningless. Perhaps that is where you are coming from.)
But our differences are great Don.... they are one of the things that keeps life interesting. Thank you for your input.
I work with a lot of different programs, but these are always in the mix. Here's a sample from a recent project. As a one-man shop doing mostly custom work, I don't think you need software telling you what to build. Keep it on the creative side and hone your modeling skills.
That's a really nice job you did! It looks really good. Did your drawing automatically produce the bid, cutlist, CNC output, and inventory adjustment? Your finished product looks like you are a gifted craftsman.
A response to your question would be inappropriate for this forum. But I am interested in which program you use? I am assuming it is MV.
could you elaborate a bit further on the differences/similarities between Rhino and MOI? MOI is described as a 'stripped down' sort of Rhino, and I note it also has the push/pull function for solid modeling like SU - so i'm looking at it more closely. A friend of mine also mentioned MOI as something he uses, again, as one software among several in a cluster.
I’m not knowledgeable enough to make a full comparison, and both have had substantial upgrades in the most recent releases … MoI only a few weeks ago. I’ve spent most of my time in Rhino V5 experimenting with Grasshopper and T-Splines. Grasshopper is free and has a very active community of developers doing amazing stuff. Autodesk says they’ll continue to support T-Splines, but I’m going to wait and see on that one.
The 2 things MoI does for my workflow that Rhino does not are: 1. Import ACIS models, and 2. Export very controlled mesh surfaces. I’m a long-time AutoCAD user and ACIS is a clean, reliable exchange format. Well-structured polygon meshes are the basic ingredient for good texture-mapping and rendering.
Other than that, calling it a stripped down Rhino sounds fair to me … actually one more thing, MoI will export SKP to older SU versions and Rhino, only the latest. I happen to prefer SU v6. There are some new features in MoI that appear to be real innovations that I haven‘t tried yet … and it’s uncluttered UI is a pleasure to work in.
Rhino is clearly a more comprehensive toolkit and very much improved with v5. Here’s an impressive feat. I recently imported a 1.6gb STEP file and it actually worked … could barely move it and broke it up into groups to work on it, but it saved the day on that project.
In an era of overcooked and too expensive software packages, both are excellent choices.
I remember the MV Reception desk. At that time it was on all their advertising. I drew that desk in eCabinets just to show it could be done.
I have been able to draw just about anything I want using eCabinets. The Table below was something I drew from another one of these discussions about software abilities. I think the original design was done in Sketchup. The neat thing is that from my drawing our Thermwood can cut all the parts and even model the edge profiles.
The theater drawing below was done in eCabinets to be able to look at sight lines for the installation of curtains in a small theater. Pretty versatile for a free cabinet design software.
Chris, I had a cad operator introduced Vectorworks to me 6 years ago. It is a powerful program that does 3d and renderings, but it has a steep learning curve for me. If you already do 3d drawing it should be fairly easy to learn. The advantage is drawing in 3d and exporting the necessary dxf files for export into Alphacam then on to our CNC.
I have not used or heard much about it. The research you're doing, though, regarding general features and user experience, will definitely help you get the most out of trial versions. Sounds like that's your next step. Then you can pepper the appropriate user base with specific questions.
We do quite a few small commercial jobs and have been able to get by with eCabs drawings. They probably wouldn't fly on larger projects.
The time for "Average: kitchen depends more on how much designing is needed and how complex that design is. It also depends on how detailed the presentation must be. We have an extensive library of cabinets to work with so creating the room in eCabinets is fairly simple once the design is completed. Just copying a kitchen off a set of plans usually takes 1 to 3 hours.
Another benefit is that we have all of our material and labor costs incorporated into the libraries so when a room is done we have very accurate costs to work from. This took some time to get set up but is well worth it.
I had the free version of Alibre software when it first came out. It looked promising for the type work you want to do but I didn't play with it enough to know for sure.
I am starting to lean towards Geomagic Design. I incorporates MOI for complex surface modeling, is fully parametric, and is a little less than half the price of Solidworks with most of its capabilities, as far as I can gather at this point.
unsure why you are linking, in your last comment, a video comparing pit stop times in the 1950's to today, but to each their own. Perhaps you need to focus more on your business instead of frivolous YouTube videos?
To address some of your other comments, while I have done the 'starving artist' routine well in the past - some would say I was unfairly overlooked in the academy award's nomination process - things are going quite well of late. Could I be maximizing my profit margin a bit more? I'm sure I could.
I guess it's probably best if you leave it up to me to decide how much starving I want to do, and how much hard-nosed, 'do I make a buck out of this?' thinking I might want to engage in.
Anyone looking at my work could find a thousand ways to do it quicker and cheaper and far less fussily, but my clients appear willing to indulge my artistic tendencies to at least a certain extent.
I do realize that learning software is likely to be an unending pursuit, and I guess if I were to be more rational about it I would pay someone else to draw stuff, but:
I really believe that the connection between the intellectual/conceptual process and the building process is extremely valuable one, and how on earth could someone design without the same familiarity with materials and joining techniques that I bring to the table?
While I do not intend to draw 'full time' as you put it, the dichotomy is not such a simple one. In the early stages of a project I may indeed be drawing all day long, day after day, and week after week. It's cheaper to work it out in the drawing than in the fabrication, at least that is what I have found.
One time I drew for three months for a project that never happened. Client pulled out. From a dollars and cents perspective, it would seem to have been a big mistake, however I learned a HUGE amount through those drawing explorations. While the episode is not something I wish to repeat, the learning was invaluable to me.
If we only play it safe, looking only at what sort of profit we may garner in the short term from each potential project, I would say we also sometimes lose out in other ways. Obviously, if we have no sense for business then we are unlikely to stay in business - very true of course.
To me, to build from a perspective of integrity to my path as an artisan trumps concerns about starving, at least most of the time, and that in turn has helped me deepen my understanding of the work and that seems to have helped me to gain work I might not have otherwise. There's a risk of course, but nothing risked, nothing gained.
I enjoyed the Pit Stop Video but after thinking about it for a while I don't think I have enough information to decide if I would like to be Prior or Latter. I guess the big question is which group won their race. That would be the team I would want to be part of as they were able to reach their objective using the technology of their day.
If both teams lost it wouldn't matter which one I would choose as they would both need improvement. I am sure the Priors were the top in their field for that time, ditto for the Latters. The speed of each pit crew probably matches the speed of the cars racing around the track.
If both teams won then I would probably go with the priors because they were able to change two tires, refuel, clean the windshield and give the driver a drink of water in their allotted time with only seven guys. The Latters took twenty one guys just for a four tire change. :)
While i thought the comparison was interesting, it is a zero sum game. If some of the pit crews at Melbourne 2013 were working at the speed of the 1950's crew, then obviously they would be at a huge disadvantage. If all the pit crews at Melbourne 2013 are more or less just as fast as one another, then the situation is really no different in effect than 1950. A pit stop means a delay for any team. Technical improvements by one team giving them an advantage are quickly emulated by other teams wishing to continue to compete at the same kind of race, and thus are relatively short-lived.
you can do anything with SU pro, you can write dynamic components, it can help you to explore your work with math, and develop short cut of formulas to repeat mass quantity. those expensive softwares does it easier because somebody else write those formulas.
you can tranfer SU file to other cheap cad program the export to CAM.
this may be at odds with your apparent techno-utopianism, but the US standard of living hasn't gone up much in the last 40 years despite massive amounts of technological innovation and change. The median wage, when adjusted for inflation, has essentially stagnated since about 1970. It seems that most of the gains in the economy over that time have gone disproportionately to the top 1% - or more particularly, top 0.1% - of income earners. All the technological innovation in the world, and yet socio-political factors play a rather large role in things like standards of living.
Your other piece about value being objective instead of subjective seems tangential to the subject. People want/don't want all sort of things for their money, including gambling the lot of it away in Vegas, or collecting thousands of beanie baby dolls, so I don't see the usefulness in making such broad generalizations. Perhaps you personally value getting the most for your dollar, so let's just leave it at that.
"Ironic how someone will ask a question and then say no that's not right as I already know the answer. "
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