Recommendations for best CAD programs suitable for clock construction

Discussion in 'Clock Construction' started by Paul Madden, Apr 29, 2017.

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  1. Paul Madden

    Paul Madden Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Apr 24, 2017
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    Hello everyone, I have just recently joined the NAWCC, and this is my very first post on this forum.

    I am just starting out in clock construction, and my goal in future is to construct skeleton clocks in traditional materials such as brass and steel. My primary interest is in skeleton table clocks, with fusee and power maintaining devices, etc.

    My question to forum members is; Can any of you recommend a specific CAD program which is well suited for clock construction?

    I would like to be able to produce scale drawings for the purpose of producing paper templates, make renderings and simulations, etc, however, I do not necessarily require a program capable of creating tool pathing, as my intention is to machine all the components using a lathe and vertical mill, etc (no CNC).

    Ideally, I would like the possibility of creating cycloidal tooth profiles that match commercially available gear cutters for teeth and pinions (perhaps some CAD programs even provide this feature?)

    From what I have seen from different web articles, Autodesk Fusion 360, Autodesk Inventor, Rhino for Mac, Medusa 4 Personal, KeyCreator 3D and TurboCad Professional V6, appear to be suitable for designing mechanical clocks, however, I do not know enough about CAD to be able to determine which program is best suited.

    Can anyone give me their recommendations, and if you have personal experience with several CAD programs, but have a preference for one program over the others, would you be kind enough to share your reasons?

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated, as this is a completely new field for me.

    Best wishes, Paul.
     
  2. John MacArthur

    John MacArthur Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Welcome Paul -- I started out using AutoCad 25 or so years ago, and upgraded a few times over the years. However, I switched to Rhino about 5 years ago, and like it very much. There's a pretty steep learning curve with either, as they are both very powerful programs. I switched because the upgrade would have been prohibitive when I changed to a 64 bit computer, and my old program wouldn't load. Since then, ACad has changed to the subscription program (Fusion 360), which isn't as big a one-time bite.

    I'm completely happy with Rhino - the user interface is much better than at least the old AutoCad. Either one will make your life a lot easier in fabrication, even if you don't go the CAM and CNC route, and will be worth the effort to learn CAD. There are probably some others who will recommend entry-level programs, which would probably be entirely sufficient for your purposes, as well as being cheaper or free.

    Many years ago, a programmer friend wrote a script to generate true epicycloidal curves in ACad. This was an interesting exercise, but never made much difference at the magnifier-and-file level. I probably have it around somewhere.

    John MacArthur
     
  3. Paul Madden

    Paul Madden Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Apr 24, 2017
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    Dear John,

    Thank you so much for your input. Its very useful to receive advice from people who have hands-on experience.

    As I have no CAD experience whatsoever, any program will be a learning process for me. I am wondering if there is not an entry-level program that exists which could get me started, and makes transitioning to a more powerful program a little easier. (I have heard some programs offer both 2D and 3D, which is perhaps intended for this reason?)

    Thanks for providing a comparison between between the AutoCad and Rhino programs. I really appreciate it John.

    Best wishes, Paul.
     
  4. John MacArthur

    John MacArthur Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Maybe someone else will step in - I'm sure there are some simpler ones out there.

    Johnny
     
  5. Allan Wolff

    Allan Wolff Super Moderator
    NAWCC Member

    Mar 17, 2005
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    Paul,
    Most CAD software will have a pretty steep learning curve because they have a huge number of commands and it takes some practice to become proficient.
    I currently use Draftsight. It uses the same commands as Autocad and will load or create Autocad files. You can download it HERE for free. You will need to register it once each year to keep it active, but that only requires you to provide an email address. They also have quite a few tutorials on Youtube to get you started.

    See this thread or this thread for more information on drawing cycloidal wheels.
    Allan
     
  6. Paul Madden

    Paul Madden Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Apr 24, 2017
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    Dear Allan,

    Many thanks for your recommendation. I will definitely research this program further. Also, thanks for directing me to the thread on cycloidal wheels.

    Best wishes,

    Paul.
     
  7. karlmansson

    karlmansson Registered User

    Apr 20, 2013
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    I've found Solidworks to be both intuitive and very useful. It even features physics simulations allowing you to run a Clock and check for clearances and impulse angles.
     
  8. Paul Madden

    Paul Madden Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Apr 24, 2017
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    Hi Karl,

    I have also read several positive reviews on Solidworks. I can imagine the possibility of making physical simulations, as many CAD programs do, is one of the primary advantages of CAD over traditional drawing.

    Thanks for taking the time to give your input, I really appreciate it.

    Best wishes in the meantime Karl,

    Paul.
     
  9. scootermcrad

    scootermcrad Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Mar 1, 2016
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    Hi Paul,

    I'm also new to this clock construction thing and I'm currently starting with a restoration of a tower clock that is missing several pieces from the escapement side of the movement. I will be modeling the clock AND the missing pieces in CAD.

    As a long time CAD user (AutoCAD, NX, Catia, and SolidWorks), I use SolidWorks on a daily basis and have since 2003. It is VERY intuitive and easy to understand how to do basic design tasks, creating parts and assemblies, and kicking out a usable format for CNC, laser cutting, or simply making yourself a 2-pattern for cutting wheels by hand or for reference. The assembly features in the software are incredibly easy to use so you can build up your clock(s) and "mate" components so that wheels/gears can mesh and parts can interface with each other to check clearances and overall design intent. In my opinion, the learning curve isn't bad at all. Basic tutorials get you a long way and you can be up and running in no time, with some focused exercises. There are some great books available through Amazon as well.

    The down side is, it's a little spendy, relative to other CAD packages, but still very doable for an entry level company or personal business. If it's something you plan to use on a regular basis, I would certainly recommend it. I actually just requested a quote for my own personal license and the "Standard" package starts out under $4k. My resource currently has the "Premium" license (this has enough mechanical assembly tools to make your head spin) for $4K OFF! Which puts it just under $6k with the maintenance contract. Again, I know these prices are high compared to some of the AutoDesk stuff, but this software is really a great tool for anyone that design any kind of assembly with mechanical parts.

    This is just my experience, I'm passing along. There may be many other options for you. Good luck and have fun! Make sure to post your work as you go! :)

    Scott
     
  10. Paul Madden

    Paul Madden Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Apr 24, 2017
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    Hi Scott,

    Thank for sharing your thoughts on Solidworks. It sounds like not only do you have a lot of experience with CAD, but also a very positive one with Solidworks. According to what you describe, it certainly appears to tick a lot of boxes and even ones I hadn't been considering.

    I'm some ways off getting started on my first project, but I'm enjoying researching everything at this stage. I really appreciate this forum, and how much people are willing to share.

    Thanks again for your valuable insight Scott, and likewise, I hope you will post comments and photos on what you are doing from time to time (I'm curious to see the work on the tower clock!)

    Paul.
     
  11. scootermcrad

    scootermcrad Registered User
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    Mar 1, 2016
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    North Carolina
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    Paul,

    Glad to help!

    I'm going to wager to guess that SolidWorks has probably come to be one of the most universal and affordable professional 3D CAD packages available. It has it's downfalls like every package, but for what it is it's pretty hard to beat. The pros FAR outweigh the cons. Also, file formats are compatible with pretty much every other CAD software out there by saving solid model files as STEP, IGES, Parasolid, DXF, or many others. There are many add-on packages that I'm looking into that would be beneficial to clock/watch construction.

    Feel free to reach out to me anytime with questions. I'm glad to help with any questions you might have.

    Here is the clock I'm working on...
    http://mb.nawcc.org/showthread.php?131752-Tower-Clock-Restoration-Unfolding-and-New-Guy

    I'm a newbie also...
     
  12. Paul Madden

    Paul Madden Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Apr 24, 2017
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    Hi Scott,

    Wow, that is a wonderful project and truly worthwhile. It would be so nice to bring this back to life. Good luck! (Also, if I have any more specific questions, I will send you a personal message). Thanks again for your advice Scott.

    Paul.
     
  13. scootermcrad

    scootermcrad Registered User
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    Mar 1, 2016
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    Mechanical Engineer
    North Carolina
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    Thanks and glad to help!

    Scott
     
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