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by Deano

Computer Aided Design

I make many 3D models on the PC using CAD for either time-killing fun, to check the fitment of a component before ordering online (see Projects); or for exporting into .stl file format for sending to ‘slicing’ software and finally into to ‘g-code’. The language that a 3D printer can understand and follow for turning your ideas (however crazy / ill-advised) into tangible objects.

One of my better ill-advised ideas was a mount for my phone for it to be connected to my Air Rifle for evidence of just how close I was to actually being able to hit something.

Man-splainin’ CAD

There are, for the purposes of this information, two main types of 3D modelling: Parametric and Direct Modelling. The latter uses geometric shapes with specific dimensions (squares, circles, rhombus… etc.) to construct an accurately sized digital representation of a given item/design. While Direct Modelling is used almost exclusively for modelling like you would in clay; by interacting with the surfaces directly and manipulating their wireframe. Most CG Animated movies are made in this fashion.
Today, consumers demand more than just function from a product. They want products that look beautiful. In the past, creating the flowing, complex surfaces, which help people identify with a product, took a lot of time and effort.

To create this complex geometry in Parametric Modelling, multiple sketch entities had to be linked together, to form and guide a surface along a desired path. But, with Direct Modelling, simple geometries now can be pushed, pulled, and twisted to create any shape imaginable. Because creating complex geometry is becoming much easier, it’s allowing design teams to quickly a greater range of designs for each product.
Although today, more and more Parametric Modelling suites offer the capabilities for both types of modelling. One for the accuracy and repeatability of geometric shapes and the ability to accurately measure tolerances and interference; while utilising Direct Modelling for creating those lovely fluid shapes that are pretty to look at or to improve ergonomics.

Autodesk Inventor

During my time in college, we were afforded the use of some extortionately priced, industry standard CAD software made by Autodesk called Inventor, at that time it was version 10.1, but as with all long-standing and frequently updated software packages, they’ve now adopted the stance of using the current year; or inexplicably: the following year. 2013, 2014, 2015… so on and so forth. Currently this software is at version 2017 and as we’ve just arrived in 2017 I imagine that version 2018 is looming ever closer.

This is pointless rhetoric anyway, as I can no longer afford to use such expensive software for what is essentially a time-passing hobby. Regardless of how excellent it is.

3D Systems: Cubify Design

3D Systems are themselves not just a 3D CAD software developer, they also design, produce and sell 3D printers from consumer desktop variants all the way up to 250kg “we need a divorce” priced, industry specific ones. I’m not in the business of selling their stock for them though and this isn’t a sponsored article, so I’ll stop there.

Their 3D CAD software comes in a few flavours:

  1. Basic Direct Modelling in “Sculpt”
  2. Basic Parametric Modelling in “Invent”
  3. Advanced Parametric Modelling in “Cubify Design”
  4. Industry Grade dual-modelling in “Geomagic Design”

The first three are very much consumer grade (and priced) suites of software; sold to compliment their line of Desktop 3D Printers that they sell to the unwashed masses; where “Geomagic Design” is as loftily priced and capable as the Autodesk competitor.

My interest lies with number 3 in the list. It’s capable enough to create complex geometry in much the same way that Inventor handles things. It even shares an eerily similar User Interface/layout too; but then again so do Samsung and Apple and the courts are out on that one.

It’s missing a few features here and there, mostly “nice-to-haves” and some of the tools can be remarkably fussy to use(adding a tangent plane for example); but for a retail price of $140 (at the time of writing) and a 30-Day no questions asked trial to kick things off; it’s kinda hard to complain.
So I didn’t! This is the software I use regularly to create.It is perfectly capable for my needs.

3DSystems’ website is truly awful. Jarring layout changes, massive colour scheme shifts and good luck finding what you’re looking for any time this year without going round in a huge circle.

The big one is that this seems to be stuck in 2014. Not one single update, patch or new feature has been released for it in over 3 whole years. Either it is like the Great White Shark: evolutionarily perfect… or they’ve stopped developing it. You decide.
Happily for you, with regards to the shambolic website, I’ve done the leg-work here. You can download the trial software by Clicking Here (I’m not affiliated in any way to 3DSytems, just a handy link…)

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