Efficiency with CAD Software

      Making time with CAD in a cabinet business requires matching your software tools to your company's needs. October 15, 2009

I am currently taking an intro AutoCAD class at a community college and want to know the most efficient way to use it to make detailed shop and presentation drawings. I want to get part sizes that I can export to a panel optimizer program I use. Do you draw a front view and extrude it to the back? I'm a one-man-shop with no interest in CNC right now.

Forum Responses
(CAD Forum)
From contributor B:
The most efficient way depends on the skill and experience of the user. The quickest way to build experience is by working closely with a more experienced user. If you're a beginner then I'd suggest proceeding cautiously with 3D. While 3D gives you a lot of information, it can also eat time at an alarming rate.

From contributor G:
I think you'd be better off investing in cabinet software that produces the 3D and cutlists by creating the front elevations.

From the original questioner:
I've tried KCDW, and while it has a lot of power, I can't get the level of detail that I want. I think AutoCAD is the only thing that's going to work for me, because I get into so much totally custom work.

From contributor G:
I would suggest doing as we do and using AutoCAD to do front and side presentations so you can sell the detail while using KCDW to crank out the flat panel parts. I agree with contributor B, I think you'll waste a huge amount of time doing the full 3D detail in AutoCAD if you're a beginner.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the suggestions. My cad teacher at the college is helping me out to draft cabinets in 3D. We're just not sure about the most efficient way to do it. If someone is using AutoCAD please tell me how you're doing it. If it's a combination of AutoCAD and KCDW, that's good to know.

From contributor R:
Look at routercad.com. It is cad based with a new rendering package that is awesome. It allows you to custom design your project and get the info you need.

From contributor B:
I've been using various CAD systems to create both 3D and 2D drawings since the seventies. Just because you can draw in 3D, doesn't mean you always should. Efficiency will come with experience. Until you can draw in 3D at a competitive price, you're just not ready. More importantly, how are your drafting skills? Have you done any isometrics? The drawing content is much more important than how it was created.

From contributor J:
To produce readable and consistent drawings, you'll need to create a standard drawing template with some basic setups such as layer, drawing unit and precision, snap and print page, and etc. Of course, the layout of the drawing is also important. If you are doing custom works, 2D drawing seems to be suitable for you.

From contributor M:
To the original questioner: please describe what it is about your business's cabinet work that makes it "so totally custom" that cabinet software won't work for you. Good cabinet-specific software such as KCDw and eCabinets can handle just about anything, and I mean anything, you can throw at it.

From contributor G:
I think you should re-read contributor B's post to see how insightful it really is. Just because you can do something in a program doesn't always mean you should. Sometimes there is a much faster way of doing it. This is a hard lesson for me to absorb particularly.

From contributor M:
I can use 3D CAD to draw anything I want to build, and if things get too wild, like things with compound curvatures, I can model it using ProEngineer or SolidEdge. Packages like the moldmaking shops use to do the tooling for the molded dashboard assembly that covers the front of the passenger compartment in your van.

For cabinetry I use cab-specific software, the kind that spits out cut lists, interfaces with CNC, produces elevation drawings, and material lists for purchasing. As you well know if you have experienced KCDw or any of the cabinet-specific packages, you are not really "drawing in 3D" with software like that, but instead using the dialog boxes and features to define the parameters of construction. Parametric modeling software is far different from 3D CAD. Please tell us what is so custom about the nature of your cabinetry that it cannot be handled with anything other than 3D CAD. Go into some detail.

From contributor B:
I've worked for companies that bankrupted themselves trying to do everything in 3D. The bottom line is this, in this economy if you're not competitive you're doomed. You’re going into a tough market. Build your skills but always play to your strengths.

From contributor K:
You have long way to go. Learn AutoCAD. It is industry standard and the most versatile software program. The answer to your question is no you do not draw the front and extrude it back, and it is little more complicated than that. I will agree with contributor B and recommend that you do not even look at 3D until you know the program very well. It will take years to master it; there is no fast way to learn unless you are a genius. College itself is not enough. Get the books and get the latest version of AutoCAD and spend lots of time learning it. Leave alone those parametric programs, for now. They will not make your life easier; you need to be CAD proficient to make good use of them.

From contributor M:
I agree with about 3D modeling, and how it is not the end-all be-all for doing everything. A whole lot of stuff got designed and made well before 3D modeling software came along. That said, there are some cabinet packages out there that can greatly improve throughput and lower costs for small-scale cabinetmakers, no matter how unique they think their business is. By small scale, I mean those with between 1 and 3 workers, including the owner.

The problem with this software stuff is that some cabinet makers can learn and use it, and some cannot. It takes a particular kind of mindset to undertake all the work of learning a package thoroughly. Beyond the basics, you need to be software savvy enough to be able to figure out all the workarounds to be able to do exactly as you want.

From contributor T:
Contributor B and M - I was just curious as to which programs (or systems) you were drawing in back in the 70's?

From contributor D:
To contributor T: the points of pins where gripping high grade rubber if ones fixture detailing expertise was in use then.

From contributor T:
To contributor D: I hate to appear dense, but what the heck does that mean?

From contributor D:
That all millwork businesses produced submittals, graphic presentations, and work orders at a pens, pencil, and points work station.

From contributor M:
It was CADAM, TS, and done in a dark room. I ran my first program, a project assignment for a class titled "numerical methods," on a Univac 1107. My roommate was a grad student, and I used his run card to avoid the long undergrad wait for my printout in the queue. He went out to SRI and joined the team that developed mouse technology.

From contributor T:
I guess I'll "date" myself. I started in CAD in '83. Not as a student, either! I designed injection molds in an early 3D system from Calma (acquired by GE) using Data General S140 processors and a Winchester platter style hard drive. I think the cartridge was 10 or more 12" diameter disks that held a total of 40 megs. We had a black and white alpha numeric screen to input the data, all driven on a large tablet, and a Mitsubishi color monitor for the graphics. It was all in a spooky clamshell enclosure in a very dark room. I thought it was "cool." I remember somebody asking us to test something called Autocad. I forget, but it was a low number.

From contributor B:
Here goes: seven years manual drafting before CAD, Calma DDM, Computer Vision, Sci-Cards, PCad, EE Designer, MassTech, Or-Cad, AutoCad 10-2009, and at least three more that have slipped my mind.

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