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Thread: what CAD program do you recommend

  1. #1

    what CAD program do you recommend

    `Hi Everyone, I'm new to this forum and looking for some advice. I'm an experienced woodworker and furniture maker but have never delved into to the world of CAD. I'm thinking of taking the plunge and am curious as to the pro and cons of various programs. Which are relatively easy to learn but still give the user professional options? Cost is obviously a consideration. Are all CAD programs compatible with CNC's or do those use totally different programs? I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

    Thanks,
    Mark

  2. #2
    Typically a CAD program will export to a DXF, and one can then do CAM using that.

    Draftsight is the typical recommendation for 2D CAD --- for folks who like AutoCAD and want to work like to it.

    Lots of other options --- SketchUp is often suggested, and if you can work w/in its licensing options or are willing to pay for it, there're some cool tutorials and interesting options for woodworking. Autodesk Fusion 360 is the new kid on the block squeezing the oxygen out of everything else by way of its being free for hobbyists and startups earning less than $100,000/yr.

    For commercial options, I think Moment of Inspiration is one of the best ones --- it was intended for use with a graphics tablet, so quite nice for drawing / free-form expressiveness.

    There are a number of free / opensource options (which is what I'm more familiar w/) beyond Draftsight and Siemens Free 2D --- OpenSCAD (programming to make 3D shapes), FreeCAD (traditional 3D CAD but free/opensource), BRL-CAD (hardcore 3D CAD as funded by the U.S. Army), Inkscape (SVG drawing tool which is supported by some CAM tools), LibreCAD (free traditional 2D CAD), NASA's OpenVSP (Vehicle Sketch Pad) is supposed to be suited to general use, Cenon is a CAD app which has made the transition to opensource Mac OS X/Linux (GNUstep) vector drawing app, and Wedge is a free 3D tool in the Microsoft App Store. List of all these and more on the Shapeoko wiki.

    The big thing is the tool having the ability to export to a file format which you can find a suitable CAM tool for --- typical options are DXF as noted above, SVG (new kid on the block, this is mostly used by opensource apps), and STL (3D-specific file).

  3. #3
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    I use free Sketchup and a plugin with it that enables me to print full-sized templates of parts. My printer is a cheapie and does 8-1/2 x 11 size prints, but the plugin accounts for that and prints indexing marks on the partials so I can string them together.

    The only time I am printing part templates is when there are curves. I use spray adhesive and stick the paper templates on the stock blanks, then shape with a bandsaw or jigsaw.

    For me, there's really no need to make dimensioned drawings. Sketchup gives me every dimension I need, right in the shop, using the laptop. Who needs paper?

    I attached a couple images of the model I did for a project completed just last week. Not the guitar. The wall case.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by Gene Davis; 02-27-2017 at 12:52 AM.

  4. #4
    The best software for you is going to be highly dependent upon the nature of your work and what you want it to do. Sketchup can do a lot, but is tough for complex 3d surfaces. Rhino is great for 2d or 3d work and can open files from many other applications - CAM can be integrated with plug-ins, but it can get expensive. SolidWorks, Inventor and other parametric modelers are used for engineering models and have add-ons for CAM. Aspire is great for sign and relief carving type work with design and CAM integrated in the single application. Fusion 360 is pretty powerful with integrated design and CAM and fairly intuitive to learn. AutoDesk CEO Carl Bass led several years of "gateway app" development is now on his way out and hedge fund managers are taking a more active role in operations, so the future of Fusion360 being free for hobbiests is a huge ? IMO.

    -kg
    Kevin Groenke


  5. #5
    Definitely agree with the need to match what you want to do with the appropriate tool --- CAD/CAM surveys are far more meaningful / useful when they include the industry of the users.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Groenke View Post
    AutoDesk CEO Carl Bass led several years of "gateway app" development is now on his way out and hedge fund managers are taking a more active role in operations, so the future of Fusion360 being free for hobbiests is a huge ?
    Managed to miss that, but found this article which seems somewhat reassuring:

    http://www.engineering.com/DesignSof...-Now-What.aspx

  6. #6
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    Can you describe Autodesk Fusion 360 a little more? Is it more like a traditional CAD program or more like Sketchup? Does it work well for woodworking designs? Hard to learn if you don't have regular CAD training? I use SketchUp but find the whole printing thing with the free version difficult to deal with and, for my hobby, I'm reluctant to spend the required fee for Sketchup Pro (although I don't know why since I've spent a lot more than that on tools over the years).

  7. Fusion 360 is kind of like a traditional CAD program that was written for top down design. Everything basically starts in assembly mode and you have to create components before you create a part. Separating features into parts after is a a nightmare so forethought and understanding is critical if you want to reuse parts in multiple designs. If everything is project based than Fusion 360 is nice because you don't have to worry about creating parts separately from the assembly. F360 doesn't have a number of critical features from an Engineering perspective though. I can't reference driven dimensions in relations/equations which really limits the complexity/extent that you can make a design parametric. It also doesn't seem to play very nice trying to mix features from different design modes (like t-spline surfaces vs standard 3D modeling features). But it is free for almost everyone so it is becoming pretty much the standard for hobbyist 3d design. OnShape is more intuitive from a traditional background and Vectary is a cool free subdivision modeling web app.

    I created some cabinet parts in Sketchup but I found it to be really unintuitive coming from an engineering background. Sketchup is designed to create visual models more than for manufacturing in my opinion. I probably never learned how to use Sketchup properly though as many others seem to create nice models with it. If you are into 3D printing it is the most likely to create broken models that don't print well too.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steven Taitinger View Post
    I created some cabinet parts in Sketchup but I found it to be really unintuitive coming from an engineering background. Sketchup is designed to create visual models more than for manufacturing in my opinion. I probably never learned how to use Sketchup properly though as many others seem to create nice models with it.
    That's probably most of it. I find it very good for creating plans and patterns and such.

    Quote Originally Posted by Steven Taitinger View Post
    If you are into 3D printing it is the most likely to create broken models that don't print well too.
    That's not a good characterization. It's not SketchUp that's to blame for that. It would be the user. There is a large number of SketchUp users who are using it for 3D printing without any problems. It is well suited for that application.

  9. #9
    One of the best features of SketchUp is the ability to leverage the Components window to organize and catalog parts. Once you get the hang of that you rarely have to model anything from scratch. SketchUp gives you the best of both worlds; you can store commonly used parts or standard cabinets in a library and drag them into a new model, giving you the advantages of a parametric modeling program without giving up the ability to make one oddball cabinet or design something custom. When I do corporate training in using SketchUp, organizing libraries is a huge part of the class. Most folks are amazed at how powerful and versatile SketchUp can be.

    Bob Lang

  10. #10
    I've been pretty happy with Rhino3D. Picked it up in grad school as an affordable CAD program (very good academic pricing imo). Stayed with it after school and use it at work. Coworker uses iron cad. It's more powerful in some regards, but not as easy to use and costs a ton more.

  11. #11
    mark- all of the programs listed, have a large learning curve. for me, i prefer the 2d approach for wood working. with 3d, you have to "make" the wood before you design a part. with 2d, all your parts (basically) are flat, like you've layed them on your bench. i've been doing autocad for about 23 years and understand it. for me, when i design something for my wood making, i want it functional and to me, is autocad (or draftsight). i can dimension parts down to 1/256" and get angles to beyond the 1000's of a degree.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by richard b miller View Post
    with 3d, you have to "make" the wood before you design a part.
    That's one way to work in 3D but not required and not the most efficient.

    2D is great when you are making two dimensional objects. Pretty much everything I make in the shop is three dimensional, I see objects as 3D in real life and prefer to design things in 3D. The nice thing is folks can do as they please.

  13. #13
    One of the biggest hazards for many people is the 'design' part of using CAD. I teach CAD (Solidworks) and while a parametric tool is a great road to take, it can actually stifle design. A blank screen locks many people up. I still start with sketchbooks, graph paper, post it notes and bar napkins to establish the basis for what I'm going to 'draw' in CAD. I can start in CAD with mechanical type objects (brackets, etc) but a piece of furniture I've found to be a waste of my time unless I need to export to CAM. I usually transfer my initial scribbles into a graph paper notebook and get a good basis. From there I may fire up the computer and draw some parts or a dummy assembly to determine arcs, tangents, angles and intersections but the overall design part is still a mechanical pencil. I'm sure others can sit down in front of a computer and crank it all out and spit out a cut list. I just can't work that way and have found most of my students can't either.

    For what I need, Draftsight is my go-to but admittedly it's because I learned Autocad V12 and Draftsight is very similar. I can use Solidworks, Fusion, Rhino, Inventor, Sketch-Up and a few other programs but I don't find them helpful at all from an initial design standpoint.

    This is certainly not necessarily any answers to the OP, but for anyone thinking that getting a program (any software) is going to be some mind blowing design tool, I think you're in for dissapointment in that area. Outside of doing trig for me quickly, I've found the energy put into digitizing anything I'm not doing CNC (laser, water jet, plasma as well) is a waste of my time.

    im also old and cranky much of the time so there's that.....

  14. #14
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    I've used both SketchUp and Fusion3D. Eric is correct about the blank screen - many moons ago I can recall my first experience of using CAD instead of drawing and his description is spot on. After years of working with CAD and coming back to it recently I find I can work directly on the screen so its possible to get past it - even when you're in your 60's.

    Both SketchUp and Fusion are relatively easy to learn. SketchUp has a ton of add-ons and a good model library whereas Fusion tries to be a "soup to nuts" package (and succeeds for the most part). They are different so learning one and jumping to the other is almost like starting again. Either will work for what you want to do. Fusion does have a lot of flexibility in how to get a design done - sculpting followed by detailed drawings or vice-versa or a combination. Of the two I prefer Fusion due to its completeness

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Keller View Post
    `Hi Everyone, I'm new to this forum and looking for some advice. I'm an experienced woodworker and furniture maker but have never delved into to the world of CAD. I'm thinking of taking the plunge and am curious as to the pro and cons of various programs. Which are relatively easy to learn but still give the user professional options? Cost is obviously a consideration. Are all CAD programs compatible with CNC's or do those use totally different programs? I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

    Thanks,
    Mark
    What do you define as "professional options"?

    You seem to have an interest in CNC. Most furniture work done on a cnc is 2D (or 2.5D).

    I have used AutoCad, SketchUp, CadKey, TurboCad, ProEngineer, et al over the last 30 years. These days I use CorelDraw. Like a lot of others have said they start with a sketch on a piece of paper when it comes to furniture. I do the same. I use Corel to do things like lay out mortise and tenons which I usually cut on the CNC machine. I also use it to cut dadoes because it is easy to get a good snug fit. Where the CNC really shines is cutting curved parts. No more making templates, smoothing them, roughing on a bandsaw then template routing. It is also superb at accurately drilling holes and c'bores. I built my machine, it is rack and pinion driven and will cut at up to 800 IPM, though I usually run at about 200 IPM. I made sure I designed it so I could vertically mount stiles on the front to do things like cut tenons, box joints and dovetails.

    It won't do any of those things without decent software though. I find Corel quick and easy to use. I have Vectric software to do the postprocessing for the machine. The interface is usually via EPS files but AI and DXF are also possible.

    Letting us know what your plans are will help everyone give advice. From your post I cannot tell if you are a hobbyist, starting a shop for profit or already have a woodworking business. You might want to search Frank Howarth or try this link:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNvo...KI475XsxOgrkJb

    Frank is a serious hobbyist, very serious, and this is a link to his building his own cnc machine, a large one.

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