CAD Software

Aibohphobia

aka James
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Feb 22, 2015
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3D CAD software packages

Alibre: Formerly Geomagic Design
Pros:
Cons:

Price: $2000 ($400/yr maintenance, optional?)​

Ansys SpaceClaim: SketchUp on steroids
Pros: Easy to use direct modeler, native import/export of SketchUp files
Cons: Not commonly used in the industry, very limited parametric options

Price: ~$3200 (including $800 1-year maintenance fee, optional after first year)

Note: There is a free version of SC called DesignSpark Mechanical but it's missing the sheet metal tools and has limited export options.​

Autodesk Fusion 360:
Pros: Easy to use, with hybrid parametric and direct modeling. Works on Mac
Cons: Only stores files in the cloud, sheet metal module not finished (yet)

Price: Free for startups making less than $100,000/yr (or equivalent), students, and hobbyists​

Autodesk Inventor: Autodesks's primary 3D mechanical design software
Pros: Integration with other Autodesk products
Cons: Poor backwards compatibility and support

Price: $235/mo or $1890/yr​

BricsCAD:
Pros:
Cons:

Price: ~$2000 including import/export add-on (not including maintenance)​

Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks: De facto industry standard parametric modeler
Pros: Everyone uses it
Cons: Expensive, limited direct modeling

Price: ~$4000 (not including optional $1500 annual maintenance fee)​

FreeCAD: Open-source parametric modeler
Pros: Multi-platform, including Linux
Cons: Sheet metal is a WIP

Base price: Free (duh)​

IronCAD:
Pros:
Cons:

Price: $4000?​

Onshape: Promising modern CAD system from former SW crew
Pros: Browser-based so it works on anything with a web modern browser
Cons: Browser-based so it doesn't work without internet

Price: Free for non-commercial use, with public documents only. Pro plan is $125/mo.​

Protocase Designer: Enclosure designer from Protocase
Pros: Built-in instant price quoting, multi-platform
Cons: Limited capability compared to full CAD programs, limited export options (for now)

Price: Free​

PTC Creo:
Pros:
Cons:

Price:​

Siemens Solid Edge: Powerful hybrid modeler
Pros: Uses flexible hybrid parametric/direct modeling, available as monthly subscription
Cons: Website is terrible, can't easily do mitered corner flanges for some reason

Price: $230/mo. $4000 for perpetual license?​


Trimble SketchUp: Everyone's favorite free 3D modeling program
Pros: Easy to use, lots of readily available computer part 3D models available
Cons: Not a solid modeler, very limited export capabilities, no sheet metal tools built-in

Price: Free ($700 for Pro version)​

ZW3D:
Pros:
Cons:

Price:​

Price is for the cheapest version of the software that includes sheet metal functionality.

I think this covers all the main packages that aren't crazy expensive (NX, CATIA, etc.), but please leave any suggestions below. Feedback on any of these in the context of SFF case design would be greatly appreciated as well!


2D CAD software packages

Mentioned for completeness but not recommended except for simple acrylic panels and the like.
 
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Aibohphobia

aka James
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That looks like it's just for 3d printing though, only export option (at least going off the website) is STL. It is cheap though, one thing I've ran into looking at CAD systems is they're all stupidly expensive.

I also don't see a sheet metal version, link?
 
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4RTEX

Trash Compacter
Feb 24, 2015
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It's weird that I actually tested it and not tried the exports. You can try it for free. It's much like SolidWorks.
 

Aibohphobia

aka James
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I may check it out then, haven't really looked at SolidWorks yet since it's so expensive.

What have you been using to design FPS-CASE1?
 

4RTEX

Trash Compacter
Feb 24, 2015
51
11
A bit of Solidworks and mostly Radan Sheet Metal Package. I have free access at work to these. Radan is more like CAD/CAM software.
 

inflated_waffles

Cable Smoosher
Feb 24, 2015
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I know it's probably not the best choice out there, but I've been tinkering around with Blender in my spare time.

Is there something that I'm missing as to why it's not on the list? I've only recently started to learn it.
 

Aibohphobia

aka James
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Blender is a polygonal modeler as opposed to a proper CAD program which are all solid modelers.

Simply put, polygonal modeling is like papercraft, the geometry is all created using vertexes and surfaces, they're "hollow". While solid modeling is like it sounds, everything is treated as solid objects which is important, because it represents how things are physically.

SketchUp is not a solid modeler but it's on the list because there are lots of pre-made computer part models available and since it started as an architectural program it models everything with dimensions, while Blender (last I checked, haven't used it in years) is dimensionless.

The biggest problem with using SketchUp, Blender, or other similar programs is when it comes time for manufacturing, most CAD programs can not easily import the model, so it has to be recreated from scratch, adding time and cost (if you're paying a draftsman to do it).
 

Aibohphobia

aka James
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Awesome! Maybe you can help me decide.

I've been using SketchUp off and on since 2006 so I'm pretty ingrained in the direct modeling mindset so I've really been liking Spaceclaim. However, pretty much every shop I've run into uses SolidWorks and there's a huge ecosystem of 3rd party tools that only integrate with it.

SpaceClaim is cheaper, but it's still a large chunk of money so I've been debating on which to invest in. A few months ago I tested out SpaceClaim, Solid Edge, IronCAD, Bricsys, and some other program and felt immediately at home and somewhat productive in SpaceClaim. It was by far my favorite of the ones I tried out. Plus it has native import/export of SketchUp files so that's great for pulling in all those computer models that are out there.

So I'd really like to save up and invest in a license but I'm worried that I'd be better off just sucking it up and spending $5k on SolidWorks since it's the de facto standard.

What's your experience dealing with the metal shop using SpaceClaim? Do you think the ease of use is worthwhile over the universality of SW?
 
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Lone

King of Cable Management
Lone Industries
Feb 25, 2015
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loneindustries.com
I basically had a very similar experience to you. I trialed SolidWorks and SpaceClaim at the same time (among others). I was also more productive in SpaceClaim. Price was an issue, SolidWorks being way more money, especially after SpaceClaim discounted their price further. The SpaceClaim and SolidWorks sales reps will tell you the same thing, both have their pros and cons. I don't know how SolidWorks has changed since then, but I believe it was supposed to get better direct modelling capability. SolidWorks would probably look better on a resume if that's a consideration. I would suggest trying to get some insight from SolidWorks users, and ask if they find SolidWorks easy to use and productive. I would think that once you learn it, it should be easy to use also? Would it be nice to use the software that everyone uses? Yes. Do I enjoy SpaceClaim? Yes! :) Good luck, and let us know what you find out.

I haven't had any compatibility issues. I just send a STEP file with my 2D drawings (in PDF format), and that seems to be standard practice. Even if I could provide 2D drawings in SolidWorks format, they'd still create their own internal drawings. It would save them a little time perhaps.
 
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QinX

Master of Cramming
kees
Mar 2, 2015
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I use Inventor for work and that's where I do all of my designing in.

Pros: Autodesk has been steadily improving cross program support. For example loading directly from Inventor to CFD or to 3dsmax
Versatile up to a certain point. I can do sheetmetal, tubing and cable routing all in the same assembly, though I wish for native milling support, there are add-ins but we don't use those.
graphics support is nice, Solidworks rely wants that Quadro/FirePro for it's precision. Inventor just runs better on a Geforce or Radeon card because it is completely DirectX based nowadays.
Cons: Autodesk, backwards compatibility is bad across the board and they release a new version every year so support tends to be bad.

Also in terms of comparing programs, I don't have much experience but my Dad has, he's been a CAD engineer since before CAD. He always says a good engineer can learn any program, he switched from Solid Edge to Solidworks to Inventor without any problems.
 

Aibohphobia

aka James
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Feb 22, 2015
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Thanks, I'll add that info to the OP.

Also in terms of comparing programs, I don't have much experience but my Dad has, he's been a CAD engineer since before CAD. He always says a good engineer can learn any program, he switched from Solid Edge to Solidworks to Inventor without any problems.

Very true, but CAD software is usually expensive so most of us would be stuck with whatever we initially invest in.
 

esplin2966

Cable-Tie Ninja
Mar 2, 2015
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I use AutoCAD because it's the only CAD program I know. Can't really comment on comparing it to other CAD programs, but from what I hear it's more tedious to work with than most. I have heard it's more commonly used in industry though, and that it's pretty good at drawing 2D diagrams (3 view diagrams). I can look for reviews comparing AutoCAD to other CAD programs.
 

Aibohphobia

aka James
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It's very common with architecture, civil engineering, etc. But most manufacturing shops use SolidWorks.

You're a student right? You should be able to get access to various CAD programs free or cheap.
 

esplin2966

Cable-Tie Ninja
Mar 2, 2015
169
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It's very common with architecture, civil engineering, etc. But most manufacturing shops use SolidWorks.

You're a student right? You should be able to get access to various CAD programs free or cheap.

Yeah, I don't have issues getting the software; I just don't know how to use them.
 

QinX

Master of Cramming
kees
Mar 2, 2015
541
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I've done some work with AutoCAD and to be honest. I HATE IT :p
you can't use formulas in AutoCAD, or at least I have been unable to find it.
In inventor I can type d1/d2*2 and it will calculate relative to the values of d1 and d2. in Autocad I have to go the the windows calculator everytime d1 or d2 changes -_-

What I do like in Autocad is that you can type to execute commands really fast
 

Aibohphobia

aka James
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Feb 22, 2015
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Yeah, I don't have issues getting the software; I just don't know how to use them.

I tried BricsCAD out for a few days. It's similar to Autocad from what I understand and I didn't find it that much easier to use than some of the other CAD programs I tried so I think you could get the hang of something like Inventor or SpaceClaim pretty easily.
 

Aibohphobia

aka James
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Was under NDA so I couldn't talk about it much before but Onshape is now in open Beta and anybody interested in CAD on a budget will want to take a look.

It's still new and lacking features but the base plan is free! Way it works is you can have unlimited public documents but only 5 active private documents at a time. For $100/mo you can have unlimited private documents but other than that the free version has the complete feature-set of the pro version.

It has direct modeling features but is mostly aimed at parametric (at least in the current iteration) so bit of a learning curve compared to SketchUp but if you're going to spend the time getting proficient with either I'd go with Onshape because it can export to useful formats for manufacturing.

No sheet metal functionality yet so if you have access to SolidWorks or something similar it's probably not worth switching though.
 
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