CAD-to-Production Options

Some insights into the ever-changing world of drafting and machining software integration as of Spring, 2007. October 3, 2007

I am a one man custom cabinet shop and am in need of software that I can use to design my cabinets, see renderings, make a cut list and be able to modify the way I build my cabinets to fit the cut list. I have read up on ecabinets, KCDW, Cabinet Vision and need some further clarification. Also, no one has said anything about 20/20 manufacturing. Is this even a good option?

Forum Responses
(CAD Forum)
From contributor P:
Learn e-cabinets - it's the free brother of Cabinetvision, which is very expensive. Buy more tools, or take your family on a vacation. We use C'vision and it's deep, takes a lot of setup, a lot of learning. Ecabinets is probably about the same.

From contributor M:
I personally own and use CV Solid Manufacturing. Any good, accurate software program is going to have a steep learning curve and CV does, just like KCDW, etc. I would stay away from 20/20 anything. Ecabinets is an option, but isn't nearly the program, in my opinion. The key to any program is what you put into it, meaning time.

From contributor H:
If you go the 20/20 CAD route and want to go to CNC, you will have to buy Smartlister. Then if you buy Smartlister, you probably won't use 20/20 CAD. In order to use Smartlister, you will need a full version of ACAD. So... if you buy 20/20 CAD, do not get the OEM version. Smartlister is really designed to do the custom stuff that no other software handles. You can do quite a bit with it. Just keep in mind that everyone has a different understanding of custom. KCDW, Cabnetware, Cabinet Vision and Ecab can all do quite a bit very fast once you know how to use them. It really comes down to what you really need and then what the best choice is. Only you can answer that.

My suggestion is to find existing customers of each product. Use their referrals and save some time. Try to get shops in your area, within a 200 mile radius if you can. Call them first and make sure they do work similar to you. Then visit each one and watch them detail a job.

On the other hand, you can do what most of us have already done. Buy everything, learn everything, and then make a choice what you want to continue with.

From contributor W:
I own CV and I also use e-cabinets. If all you plan on doing is standard boxes, you might as well use e-cabinets. Both programs claim to be able to do custom stuff, but it's a constant battle in frustration to overcome the restrictions. So if it's custom you need, be prepared to mortgage your home and kids, and lock yourself in a room for a few decades to set up one of the custom programs out there, or buy a cheap CAD program like Turbocad to do drawings, and Excel to do cut lists. Then you can use e-cabinets to do your standard boxes.

This is the approach I use. My only other comment is that CV will allow you to export your drawings in DXF format to a CAD program where you can merge them with custom products like range hoods. e-cabinets will never have this capability.

From contributor R:
Try Designer Plus. It was written by and for a 1 man custom shop. It has a steep learning curve, but is CAD based so it can draw anything. The demo is free with no questions and the price is more than fair.

From contributor W:
Contributor R, this looks like it would be a great program if it were updated. Small shops wouldn't mind paying up to $5000.00 for a program if it filled their needs. The problem with the more expensive programs is not only the initial price, but also the yearly upgrades, and the price for additional stations. The investment in training and setup would be fine if you knew it worked in the end.

From contributor R:
The high priced programs may be updated, but can they do any more for the extra money? I have 31 years as a 1-man shop; I only need drawing to sell high-ticket jobs, flexibility being the name of the game. I only do 1 or 2 big jobs a year and have had repeat customers wait for more than a year for me to get to them. This island drawing (1 of 4 options) helped sell a $28,000 job that took several months to complete; I didnít need any drawings during that time, so why update or pay maintenance fees? Generally I can spend a week detailing and selling a job which will keep me busy for 6 months.

20 years ago I couldnít justify spending $5,000 for software and chose to continue doing 3D drawing by hand, but I did justify twice that kind of outlay for the widebelt sander. The sander saves me weeks every year; at best the program would have saved a day or 2 on every bid. If I were a volume business, things might have been different.

By the way, a large part of the radius section of the island was built with antique hand tools. Just cause itís old, donít make it bad.

From contributor A:
As a one man operation, I think you should stay away from 2020CAD, as it is not designed for somebody to use casually; it is quite complicated and powerful. The comment from another poster that if you have 2020CAD you will need Smartlister is just wrong. We output 2020CAD models to our CNC each day and use the data that is attached to each part to generate reports and BOM and labels. This is the true power of 2020 3D shapes over ACAD 3D shapes.

A better option for the casual user might be 2020Design For Manufacturing (2020DFM). We use 2020Design for catalog style cabinet sales and renderings and it is quite good and efficient at that. For a few hundred dollars more you can purchase 2020Designs "custom catalogs" which will allow you to create a nearly endless variety of cabinet shapes. 2020 DFM uses these custom shapes, made more unique to your operation by incorporating your most common methods and materials. 2020DFM generates layouts, renderings, and manufacturing reports such as BOM, etc. As a 2020Design user, I think you might find this software coupled with the DFM to be a viable way to go.

From contributor H:
Perhaps I was wrong. I have heard from many sources that 2020 did not go to CNC and that is why they bought Virtual Systems. They wanted the ABC CAM package to link with 2020.

In an MV design thread, this was posted not long ago:
"I was at a customerís site recently and I found out that 20/20 still does not link with Virtual Systems and I believe they purchased that software about two years ago."

I understand I am incorrect and thank you for correcting me. Can you please share your process in detail so that we all understand it. It may be a great solution for you, but without specifics, we cannot determine if you are locked into one CAM software and whether that CAM software is usable to other shops, setup time involved, whether or not the part must be parametrically created to have the CNC output, etc. Please understand that there were a few different people here saying that Mastercam's atp was working and when we looked into it, the only ones that responded said it did not work. None of the posters that said it did could or would back up their claims. I appreciate your understanding and any effort you put into clarifying your post.

From contributor A:
I am the owner of a 20 man architectural woodworking shop. When we purchased a Homag BOF 711 router in spring of 2004, the router came with Woodwop 5.0 and Woodwop's dxf converter software, Bpp5 Pro. At least we could make part programs at the machine and translate AutoCAD files. I soon grew very fond of the Bpp5 Pro software because it let me control layer naming and the resulting Woodwop output. It was extremely flexible and powerful; it took some time to perfect, but it was worth it. What this didn't do was create the holy grail of software scenarios. To be able to draft, create submittal drawings, and produce from a single drawing.

I want to say up front that I am not a shill for 2020 technologies, but it appears I have more firsthand knowledge of the company and its various products than most on this forum. They have many products. Nearly all the products have "2020" at the start of the product name. This has caused rather a lot of confusion, as people often confuse the fact that they have a dozen or more products available. Their oldest and most profitable software is 2020DESIGN, used primarily for kitchen cabinet catalog type sales presentations (renderings and elevations, etc.) and pricing. Everybody (100,000+ seats worldwide) from Home Depot to the ultra high end kitchen/bath dealer is using 2020DESIGN.

2020Technologies went public several years ago and starting buying up existing software companies. One product they bought was SPIWOOD, a French AutoCAD based software. They improved Spiwood and have renamed it 2020CAD and linked it to a database program called RFM (Reports for Manufacturing). It currently runs as an overlay to AutoCAD 2004 and scheduled to eventually run on AutoCAD 2007. It can be used for static drafting and it has a few nice features built in to help with that. It is best used as a 3D solid modeler driven by formulas. Each model's part is designed to be given a unique name and can be given default materials, colors, textures, manufacturing codes, pricing by sf, pricing by operation, and frankly, it is capable of much more than we are using it for. All this data is either part of the component or is linked to the component via MSSQL relational database.

For a new project, we populate a new drawing with models, adjust the variables, and then use the built-in cam feature which takes each unique component and creates a layered dxf. We use the Woodwop default layering output. Output for abc-cam is also included (2020 bought VSI, who makes abc-cam, a little over 12 months ago). One strong feature that 2020technologies is using is to give the user more control than most other software companies. For example, the dxfout cam module has an interface which allows the user to determine the exact layering names generated by each drafting function. It adds some complexity but it also adds flexibility. We currently use the dxfs and their part and group names to generate labels and Woodwop mpr files. We nest through Stiles Enest software. Another way to extract data from a drawing is to export a .csv file which includes all the data that is part of the relational database. A third way to take data out is to use Crystal reports (2020 offered to customize 3 reports as you would like to see them as part of the base package) and extract data from the relational database as well. Like most software companies, 2020 has caused us a fair amount of frustration counterbalanced by copious amounts of saved time and accuracy. Am I glad we chose the path we are on? I would have preferred the holy grai" of software, but I didn't find it. This solution is viable, improving, flexible, and powerful. It was not easy, but it is getting easier as each month goes by.

Prior to purchasing I seriously looked at 8 different software packages, but I wouldn't want to make a major purchase like this from web posting opinions. I encourage everyone to test drive the software they plan on betting their company's future on. Thankfully there are now many solutions out there. Try them out and remember to push the software vendors for full solutions.

From contributor H:
Very nice response. Thank you. Woodwop does not allow for the ramping in of a router bit through a dxf file, global variable, or layer name. Does 2020cad have the ability to create the layered dxf files for just about any cam software that can batch import dxf's? Does it do 2 sided parts? Pass out horizontal boring? Does it have sequenced operations passed out to the dxf? Like doing multiple passes for a deep cut through hard material or detailed edges such as a molding that require many different passes with different bits? Is the process to get the dxf's out based on you having to click on faces and edges ahead of them and actually applying the toolpaths in 2020 and then having it extract what you told it later, or is it figuring it out for you automatically bases on you supplying a few basic variables like material name and your inventory of available tools? The reason I ask this is that it is very time consuming to add every toolpath.

From contributor A:
1) We can ramp in Woodwop from a dxf by utilizing Bpp5 Pro . We can also ramp by using the Enest software.
2) The cam/dxf export function has a user controlled interface, very flexible. I couldn't say if it would export to every cam software.
3) Yes, it will create a component-a and a component-b file. I have never stopped to figure out which face of a part becomes the "a" face.
4) Apparently yes to horizontal boring. We have not tested it yet, but it is supported.
5) Sequencing and step routing for us is accomplished through the Bpp5 software rules we generate and not through the dxf.
6) I don't understand your 6th question.
7) The only obvious function that is not currently supported is recognition of pocketing cuts. We can achieve this by applying a tool to a tool path.

From contributor H:
Thanks. For the ramping in, I guess you are saying that you must edit each toolpath by hand in Bpp5 after the dxf's are imported.

I find it pretty interesting that it does not do pockets. A rabbet on the back edge of a board that is 1" x 1/2" deep would require pocketing if your tool were 1/2" or smaller.

From what I gather the 2020cad is not doing very much. The Bpp5 is where all the functionally is. It would deal with the dxf's the same way as if they came from anywhere. It is a shame that 2020 is not passing out more information. That would save you quite a bit of time. On the magnitude of 100X or better. Woodwop has a great user interface. I think its only downfall is its dxf import engine. There are other cam packages that will do quite a bit more with dxf imports, so that you do not have to edit the parts by hand. Thanks again. You have been very informative.

From contributor A:
1) Parts are not being edited by hand and they have proper lead ins. Lead ins are controlled at the dxf translator and/or nesting stage, automatically.
2) A rabbet is not a pocket, but could be one if you felt you had to go that route. We would probably use a properly sized tool in a single pass. If you wanted to slow your machine down, I guess you could use 2 passes with a smaller bit. This work would be done parametrically inside 2020CAD via the tooling interface. All information passes automatically to the dxf. 2020 has told me the current problem with true pockets will be resolved in a future update. Mind you, their current solution is relatively painless. Remember the program is parametric, you only have to program a pocket once and keep reusing it.
3) Your third paragraph is so full of mistakes that I don't know where to start. It reminds of a slogan I once saw, "Don't confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up!"