Viewing Options in PunchCAD Design Software

June 13th, 2017

Experience Level: Beginner

Efficiency is the name of the game and when you get to know the tools that help you view your work in different ways, your productivity will grow by leaps and bounds. In this article we’ll walk through some of the ways you can view and interact with your 2D and 3D CAD designs within the different PunchCAD programs.

The first thing that we suggest familiarizing yourself with is the ‘view’ tab at the top of your PunchCAD software screen.

To start exploring here, we want to open an example that we can reference. To find examples, click ‘File’ from the top menu bar and then select ‘Open Examples’. For this exercise we’re going to be using the example file ‘knot.vc3, but you can use whatever file you would like. ‘knot.vc3’ can be located by clicking on ‘3D Print Files’, selecting ‘Knots’, and then by selecting the first presented option.

Once you’ve opened this example, go into the ‘View’ tab on the menu and select ‘View the Plane’. Your 3D model should look like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We recommend really going through each of the options under the view tab to see how they impact the design, and which type of view you personally enjoy the most. One of the main reasons to do this is, when you’ve figured out several views that you find to be the most useful, you might want to add a keyboard shortcut so you can access that view easily and quickly to streamline your design process.

To access your keyboard shortcuts, simply click on ‘Short Cuts’ under the ‘File’ tab. In the image below you can see we’ve selected ‘View’ in the ‘Category’ section, and in the ‘Command’ section to the right you can see each view option you might want to assign.

When you’ve decided on a command you want to have a shortcut for, simply add the keystroke you want to use for the shortcut, and then click ‘Assign Key’ on the right side of the Short Cut Manager.

When you are in your project, all you have to do to access the shortcut is press and hold shift while you select your command key.

Another feature that’s useful to familiar yourself with as you make 3D CAD designs with our software is the Dynamic menu – where you can choose between ‘Dynamic Pan’, ‘Dynamic Zoom’, and ‘Dynamic Rotate’.

 

 

 

 

What makes each of these tools so unique and helpful is they allow you to interact with your designs intuitively and freely. The dynamic tools let you grab hold of your designs, move and rotate them, and zoom in and out.

The Knot example is a perfect design to test these different tools out – as the differences between sides are so obvious, and you will quickly discover how you prefer to manipulate your designs so they can be viewed and worked on effectively.

Taking a little time to practice the dynamic tools and the view commands will save you a lot of time with your designs in the future, and is a great first step to mastering your skills with CAD software.

Online Tools To Learn The Fundamentals, Applications, And Theories Of CAD

May 21st, 2017

If you’re approaching CAD for the first time, perhaps you’re a self-starter who simply digs right into the software, starts playing around, and a few iterations later, you’ve designed something.

There are also people who feel overwhelmed by the power of CAD. Designing something from scratch can feel frustrating or overwhelming, no matter how simple or complicated it is. For those who feel that way – you’re not alone!

Design and computer-aided design are skills that professionals spend years mastering, and if you’re an at-home hobbyist, you may think ‘Why bother?’

No matter which camp you fall into to, the good news is that many CAD software programs are designed to be easy to use and intuitive. We really believe that the only overwhelming part of computer-aided design is simply the sheer number of things you can do with it. Once you understand how all those tools relate, CAD makes a lot more sense.

We believe it is important for everyone to have some theoretical foundation of design before jumping into any CAD software. With you in mind, we’ve put together our favorite online spots for getting a good understanding of the concepts that are at work in CAD software.

Getting started

Let’s start with the basics.

Remember that computer-aided design is based on a cross-section of real world disciplines, including drafting, engineering, architecture, and more. You certainly don’t need to be an expert in any of these fields, but knowing just a tiny bit about them can really help wrap your head around all the options your CAD software provides – we promise.

While you could simply google “learning CAD”, you’ll most likely wind up with software-specific directions on how to build a shape.

For this article, however, we’re recommending resources from world-class research and learning institutions so you can understand the concepts that computer-aided design is based on.

Whether you’re designing a large-scale architecture project or a simple mechanical game to 3D print, you’ll want to have a basic understanding of the following fields:

Engineering. Taking the long view, engineering is applying math and science (and sometimes economical or practical knowledge) to build or innovate structures, tools, processes, and more. In design, engineering is often broken down into sub-sections, such as civil engineering, materials or chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and more. As the purpose of engineering is to find a solution to a problem, you can apply engineering theories to anything you’re building – in CAD or otherwise.

Architecture. While architecture is technically a subset of engineering, it is often treated as a separate field that focuses on structure and materials. Whatever you’re designing in CAD, understanding architectural theories will smooth out your learning curve.

Drafting. When you hear drafting in terms of CAD, it’s not about a football draft or a first draft. Design drafting refers to the process of creating a technical drawing (blueprints, instructions for a 3D printer, etc.)

While we strive to recommend free and affordable resources, some do require a payment or a free “audit” version of the material. Do what makes sense for your skills and wallet.

Once you’re experimenting in your CAD software, take advantage of YouTube tutorials from CAD enthusiasts to learn specific tricks and tools. We also offer our very own video tutorials.

Without further ado, here are our favorite places to get a crash course in each field or deep-dive into more advanced topics. Browse for just the right amount of information you need – no need to take the full class to understand any basics.

Coursera

Coursera offers courses from world-class learning institutions, especially on topics related to 21st century learning. For CAD beginners, we love the following classes:

Coursera provides a variety of free and full-paying classes, so check with each class. Often, classes that do require a subscription offer an option to simply ‘audit’, or view for free, a portion of the class content. We think this is the way to go to get your feet wet.

MIT

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is basically the world-leader in engineering, so expect heavier topics. The school offers a lot of free content that will provide anything from basics to graduate-level topics in the following fields: Architecture, Materials Science and Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Mathematics, and more.

Lynda.com

Lynda is a learning resource from LinkedIn, everyone’s favorite professional network, so you can expert high-quality courses from industry-leading professionals. The breadth of this collection is incredible, so simply search for a term and browse the videos – some are a few minutes long, and others up to hours.

Lynda offers a free 10-day trial before requiring a paid subscription, but check with your local library – many provide free access to Lynda for any library-card holders.

Udemy

This is a good place to start applying your knowledge to your CAD designs. We like Udemy because you only pay for the class that you want, and with prices that average $20-30, we think it’s a steal. Our favorites include Architectural Drafting Simplified and Mechanical Engineering & Drafting: Sketch to Success, which focuses on 2D CAD drawings.

Happy designing!

5 Questions with Tim Olson, Founder

May 17th, 2017

Tim Olson is the founder and developer of the ViaCAD and Shark line of CAD design products. Tim founded CADSoft Solutions in 1994 and created the first version of ViaCAD. Tim’s company, Evolution Software, currently supports and develops the ViaCAD and Shark products in partnership with Encore Software.

1. What was your inspiration for creating ViaCAD and Shark?

We wanted to create a system that was powerful enough for a CAD expert but usable and affordable to a CAD beginner.

2.  What were your goals with the most recent release?

Our goal was to improve productivity, quality, and user experience. This was accomplished by addressing issues in the areas of usability, 2D design & drafting, 3D design, interoperability, visualization, and performance.

3. What’s the biggest surprise or reward from creating the software?

Growing up I was inspired by the Apollo missions and wanted to work for NASA. I ultimately turned down a job at NASA to work for Lockheed’s Advanced Design team responsible for developing a CAD system for next generation air vehicles. I was thrilled when an early version of PunchCAD was used for the conceptual design of SpaceShipOne, the first private space vehicle in history. I find great reward in seeing how others use the software.

4.  Where do you see CAD software and 3D design going in the future?

Usability, performance, and reliability are continued evolutionary areas of CAD.  Revolutionary areas in CAD could involve merging CAD with AI and VR.  My daughter recently interned with IBM, working on the Watson AI project. It stunned me with how far “assisted” technology has come. Likewise, my grade school son was introduced to VR at a local university and bubbled with excitement on how intuitive 3D becomes within a virtual environment. Imagine having an expert engineer assisting our ideas, tested within a virtual environment. The next generation of CAD could break down existing barriers and serve as a catalyst for innovation.

5. What is a piece of advice you’d like to impart on an aspiring designer?

Many of the old barriers to CAD are gone. Download a trial of a low-cost 3D CAD system and start exploring. Join a user forum for help and advice. I find people in forums extremely helpful and knowledgeable especially for beginners.  Once you get up to speed, create a simple part and have a physical part made from a 3D printer bureau. There is nothing more rewarding than going from a concept to holding a physical model!