Cabinet Drafting Programs

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Comparing top cabinet-shop CAD applications. June 28, 2005

I am looking at purchasing some drawing software. I have been comparing Cabinet Vision and Microvellum. I know what the costs are, as I have had both reps in for demos. How bad are the learning curves on either? Will CV run an eclipse to CNC? (I had heard no.) Which has better presentation software?

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(CAD Forum)
Bill, at Woodcraft West, in San Fernando, Ca. helped CV establish their original CNC setup. He has a few routers/P2P and beam saws. He told me a few years ago they stopped listening to him toward the end when the ball got rolling and if they had made a few more "small" changes it would have been much better. You may want to call him for an up to date scoop, as he uses it all the time. I had the same experience with them not listening to my suggestions in other areas. I have heard and read several times that MV does listen well and adds those changes.

For the most part, both programs can be learned fairly well in about 2 days, but the average user will spend weeks or months and not be extremely proficient for a year or 2.
I have heard a few times in the last few months from people calling me that MV was having problems going to their machines and they were trying to work it out. Of course, this could all be user error, the machine, the software or a combination of all, some or any of the above.

I have seen it on more than one occasion where the input data is correct, the output g code is correct, but the machine controller doesn’t process it properly. Sometimes they will cut the part, but print a label from a different but identical part. Except for the differences in the parts label, it is the same, but you may have 18 labels that all say cabinet 14, 33 that say cabinet 3 and so on. It can be a bit of work sorting it out later. This particular problem was completely the fault of the controller of the machine… but should the optimizing software have tried to give the controller info it could not handle? Should they have been aware of this issue?

You have to take it all with a grain of salt. If the company is giving you good service, then you can expect that it is something they have not encountered yet, so work with them best you can. There is no magic to any of this. It is all hard work, trial and error and communication.

You may want to learn AutoCAD in addition to MV. If MV can't do it, then at least you have the generic AutoCAD to fall back on. That is always a plus, because nothing handles everything. With CV, your main option is whiteout and a pencil. If you have drawing talent, this option is not as bad as it sounds. I have seen several shops embellish the CV drawings very, very nicely!

Production work is not handled as gracefully by packaged software in general, as they tend to generate excessive paperwork, as compared to what a hand drafter will do. An example would be Alike and Reverse columns on a one page cut sheet with the unit numbers in the proper columns. This is the one page that bench wants and needs and could easily be for 60+ cabinets alone. I offered to explain this concept to CV and help them move into real production drawing systems years ago. I was going to charge them to help them, but they were not interested. There is more, such as scribe, rough top, wall(W), finished(F), butt-to-cabinet(B) markers for the cut sheet. Currently you get an "F" for finished end and maybe a "W" for wall, but there is a third situation which is butting to another cabinet. Not all shops make their cabinets the same and many production ones require these three differences. This is something that software companies just do not understand. It is not enough information, so get out the pencil and add notes to the cut sheets.

Of course, real custom stuff is time consuming to create in either package. They both can be tweaked pretty hard.

I actually like CV. It has come a long way since the old DOS days. I was much, much faster with it than the current build, but the old one had cut list errors and some other issues also. It was nice, because everything was a keyboard shortcut and I could knock out some very impressive custom stuff in a few hours.

Both products, including what I sell, require that you build you own libraries to get the most out of them. You should call people that run this stuff and talk on the phone. No one really wants to say anything negative on a forum and talking is a fast communication. You will get more information in a shorter time.

We recently purchased Microvellum, and so far I am happy with the software and the service behind it. In my experience, the major differences between CV and MV are related to what you are trying to produce in your shop. We produce custom everything. While some of our work can be built from a library, many times it's the few cabinets that don't fit. It is my understanding from several users that it is very difficult in CV.

Microvellum's major advantage, to me, is that it works within AutoCad and is flexible enough to handle all my drawings. And, if I want to combine a cutlist from the library with one totally manually entered, MV allows me to do that.

To me, the decision should come down to what you do. If you do basic cabinetry that doesn't require a great deal of custom detailing, CV would be the choice. If you are truly custom, then MV is the choice. MV does not currently have presentation, but version 6 (which is due out any day), does. I saw a demo at IWF, and it looked nice, but very slow.

Concerning learning curves, we are in the middle of it and plan on taking some training soon. Our philosophy was to get the basic concepts down, then take training on the advanced features.

I will also say that MV's support has been exceptional. They have answered every question the same day we ask it. They are also very open to suggestions and improvements. I'm impressed with their company, and their product. Hopefully, it stays that way!