CAD - your recommendations

Britannicus

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Apr 26, 2016
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Hi -

I've been advised to get myself a 3d CAD package so I can design components - I downloaded FreeCAD as a start and I have to say it's not exactly user friendly

do people have a preferred product that is simple, runs on windows 10 and doesn't cost a fortune ?
 

Phil Burman

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Mar 8, 2014
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You don't need 3D CAD to design components, you only need 2D, unless you want to do 3D CNC machining. However 3D will allow you to visualise what the component or assembled components will look like, nice to have but there are a couple of down sides, it is more expensive and it has a much stepper learning curve. Unless you are designing complicated assemblies 3D just produces pretty pictures, the drawing you will need when making the components are dimensioned 2D.

Just something you may not have considered.

Phil
 
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Allan Wolff

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I have seen some pretty amazing things done with Google's Sketchup. Never quite got the hang of it (or any other 3D CAD package) so I still use 2D Draftsight, which is very similar to Autocad. Both are free.
Every CAD package I have used has thousands of commands and takes many hours before I feel productive.
 

dandydude

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Nov 30, 2014
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Hi -

I've been advised to get myself a 3d CAD package so I can design components - I downloaded FreeCAD as a start and I have to say it's not exactly user friendly

do people have a preferred product that is simple, runs on windows 10 and doesn't cost a fortune ?

Hello,

I use 'Draftsight'. It is free for use on Mac as well as windows platforms. It is very similar to Autocad.
Here's a link.

CAD Software Free Download | DRAFTSIGHT™ - Dassault Systèmes®

Regards
Dandydude
 

Paul Madden

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Apr 24, 2017
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You don't need 3D CAD to design components, you only need 2D, unless you want to do 3D CNC machining. However 3D will allow you to visualise what the component or assembled components will look like, nice to have but there are a couple of down sides, it is more expensive and it has a much stepper learning curve. Unless you are designing complicated assemblies 3D just produces pretty pictures, the drawing you will need when making the components are dimensioned 2D.

Just something you may not have considered.

Phil
I agree with you Phil. I also have been rethinking my needs and have determined that probably a decent 2D program is all you need for all but the most complicated mechanisms which require visualization or proof-of-concept. When you are making the components, you typically require information that traditional third plan view and orthographic view technical drawings provide. Most likely a good 2D program will be sufficient. I'm also looking for a 2D program instead of 3D, so thanks for everyone's input. I will check out the different programs mentioned on this thread.

Best wishes,

Paul.
 

scootermcrad

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Mar 1, 2016
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I agree with the others in saying that there are options in free 2D CAD software if you don't HAVE to have 3D. 3D is tough one. If you want to actually MAKE parts from your files (CNC, waterjet, laser, 3D print, etc.), you'll need a package that can output a DXF, STL, STEP, or Parasolid file. As a long time user of SolidWorks I've always found it to be one of the more intuitive 3D packages on the market. But there there's the cost. It's one of the lower cost products, but still a bit beyond the hobbyist's budget and their financing SUCKS. There's rumors that they may be starting a "pay as you need" license, similar to what Adobe does now. We'll see. BUT! If you can swing it, SolidWorks is easy to use and very powerful.

SketchUp has some great advantages as well, but I'm not fluent in it, so I can't comment.

I've been told that AutoDesk has a good 3D package that's intuitive, but I don't know much about it or how the prices are.

Unfortunately the free 3D CAD packages are going to a pain in the bum to use.
 

jeastwood

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Feb 2, 2008
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I agree with the others in saying that there are options in free 2D CAD software if you don't HAVE to have 3D. 3D is tough one. If you want to actually MAKE parts from your files (CNC, waterjet, laser, 3D print, etc.), you'll need a package that can output a DXF, STL, STEP, or Parasolid file. As a long time user of SolidWorks I've always found it to be one of the more intuitive 3D packages on the market. But there there's the cost. It's one of the lower cost products, but still a bit beyond the hobbyist's budget and their financing SUCKS. There's rumors that they may be starting a "pay as you need" license, similar to what Adobe does now. We'll see. BUT! If you can swing it, SolidWorks is easy to use and very powerful.

SketchUp has some great advantages as well, but I'm not fluent in it, so I can't comment.

I've been told that AutoDesk has a good 3D package that's intuitive, but I don't know much about it or how the prices are.

Unfortunately the free 3D CAD packages are going to a pain in the bum to use.
I have been using AutoDesk's Fusion 360 for drawing parts for 3D printing for about a year, and have found it quite usable and able to do everything I need. My tool chain for printing on my Prusa I3 Mk2 is:
1) draw the part using Funsion 360.
2) Export the part as an STL file.
3) Import the STl file into Slic3r, which is an application that converts the STL file into movement and extruder commands for the printer.
4) Write the Slic3r output to an SD card, load it into the printer, and print.

I am not a professional drafter/designer, but have used several CAD tools over the years, including Solidworks. I agree that Solidworks is pretty much the sine qua non of 3D drawing, but I won't pay the money they want. Fusion 360 is essentially free (they talk about a 60 day free trial, but when you navigate the download dialogs there is an option to say "I'm an
entrepreneur" and you get it for free.)

I also like F360 because it is only semi-cloud based; you can use it off-line and save your drawings to your local storage. It does want to connect to the internet every two weeks. I have used TurboCAD for several years, but I find F360 MUCH more intuitive, and it has many capabilities TC does not. It is parametric, like Solidworks, and the history feature is very nice: you can move a slider back in time, which looks like you are undoing changes you have made, adjust the size of something in the past, then run the slider forward and see the change applied/incorporated into the subsequent drawing steps. In other words, if you made a part of the drawing too small, you can change your mind, say "make it so", and the mistake never happened. Pretty cool.

Hope this helps

Jeff E.
 

scootermcrad

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I have been using AutoDesk's Fusion 360 for drawing parts for 3D printing for about a year, and have found it quite usable and able to do everything I need. My tool chain for printing on my Prusa I3 Mk2 is:
1) draw the part using Funsion 360.
2) Export the part as an STL file.
3) Import the STl file into Slic3r, which is an application that converts the STL file into movement and extruder commands for the printer.
4) Write the Slic3r output to an SD card, load it into the printer, and print.

I am not a professional drafter/designer, but have used several CAD tools over the years, including Solidworks. I agree that Solidworks is pretty much the sine qua non of 3D drawing, but I won't pay the money they want. Fusion 360 is essentially free (they talk about a 60 day free trial, but when you navigate the download dialogs there is an option to say "I'm an
entrepreneur" and you get it for free.)

I also like F360 because it is only semi-cloud based; you can use it off-line and save your drawings to your local storage. It does want to connect to the internet every two weeks. I have used TurboCAD for several years, but I find F360 MUCH more intuitive, and it has many capabilities TC does not. It is parametric, like Solidworks, and the history feature is very nice: you can move a slider back in time, which looks like you are undoing changes you have made, adjust the size of something in the past, then run the slider forward and see the change applied/incorporated into the subsequent drawing steps. In other words, if you made a part of the drawing too small, you can change your mind, say "make it so", and the mistake never happened. Pretty cool.

Hope this helps

Jeff E.
Interesting about the Fusion 360! Thanks for the info!

And I certainly agree! SolidWorks wants a lot for their software, for the "small guy" anyway. I'm struggling with that right now.
 

Phil Burman

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Mar 8, 2014
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Just something to consider before you make the leap.

I downloaded the free copy of Fusion 360 but being a big sceptic i asked myself why is such a comprehensive CAD/CAM package being distributed for free. One possibility I came up with is that the vendor is seeking to substantially increase their user base, then when it reaches the magic number and the users have invested significant time and effort in learning the software the vendor starts to charge a monthly fee for its' continue used. If it was intended to be free for ever and a day why does the software need regular connection to the internet to maintain its' functionality.

Phil
 
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sharukh

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Oct 10, 2011
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Just something to consider before you make the leap.

I downloaded the free copy of Fusion 360 but being a big sceptic i asked myself why is such a comprehensive CAD/CAM package being distributed for free. One possibility I came up with is that the vendor is seeking to substantially increase their user base, then when it reaches the magic number and the users have invested significant time and effort in learning the software the vendor starts to charge a monthly fee for its' continue used. If it was intended to be free for ever and a day why does the software need regular connection to the internet to maintain its' functionality.

Phil
Yes, it is a 30 day free trial and it is prominently mentioned on the website. They do have a consideration for "startups" and "hobbyists" where the free trial works for 1 year.

At least you are getting enough time to try it out and decide if you want to plonk down the cash.

Sharukh.
 

jeastwood

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Feb 2, 2008
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Just something to consider before you make the leap.

I downloaded the free copy of Fusion 360 but being a big sceptic i asked myself why is such a comprehensive CAD/CAM package being distributed for free. One possibility I came up with is that the vendor is seeking to substantially increase their user base, then when it reaches the magic number and the users have invested significant time and effort in learning the software the vendor starts to charge a monthly fee for its' continue used. If it was intended to be free for ever and a day why does the software need regular connection to the internet to maintain its' functionality.

Phil
You could well be correct; your concerns are reasonable. For me, I have gotten a lot of use out of F360 after a pretty brief learning time. They can't take away the STL files and gcode files I have saved locally, so I can import the former into another CAD tool if the evil day ever arrives, and still print the gcode files I have now. If they start charging more than I want to pay, there are plenty of other tools, but I will get the benefit of F360 while it lasts. For a new user, the risk (of wasting your time learning a tool that will be taken away) is greater , but how much more is very difficult to know. There seems to be a pretty large F360 community, so that may lessen the odds of Autodesk doing something dumb.

Regards,

Jeff E.
 

Phil Burman

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There seems to be a pretty large F360 community, so that may lessen the odds of Autodesk doing something dumb.

Regards,

Jeff E.
Yes but if that large user base is paying nothing then the income is zero, where's the upside for Autodesk? Start charging $10 dollars a month, maybe you lose 90% of your user base but now you have regular income. The larger the user base the greater the probability Autodesk will look to make money from it.

Phil
 

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