Archive for the ‘3D Modeling’ Category

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

Sunday, 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

Wednesday, 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!

 

A History of CAD Innovators

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

History often points to one or two people who took risks to innovate and bring about change – in a way that often ripples through several generations. This holds true in design and computing.

A Brief History of Design

Prior to the mid-20th century, any industry that required designs relied on draftsmen, designers, and engineers doing calculations and drawings by hand. These industries included shipbuilding, aerospace, automotive, medical, architecture, engineering, even movies and theatre. The process was a long, tedious road involving ideation, prototyping, creation, and scaling – though often not so cleanly and clearly.

The Development of Computing and Design

As computing developed in the mid-20th century, companies and research institutions began experimenting with the fields of design and engineering. After all, engineers and mathematicians have used machines for calculations since the 1800s. Soon, the idea of drafting on computers took hold, and by the early 1960s, the industry was talking about computer-aided design (CAD) and subsets including electronic design automation (EDA), mechanical design automation (MDA), computer-aided drafting (using software to create a technical drawing), and computer-aided geometric design (CAGD).

CAD software has innumerable uses, but its purposes, though broad, are vital in the world of design – so much so that they have become defaults in design. The purposes of CAD are to:

  • enhance a design’s quality
  • increase the designer’s productivity
  • improve design communication (appearance and vital information, such as materials, processes, dimensions, tolerances, etc.)
  • create a database for manufacturing

Over a generation, from the 1960s to the 1990s, computing systems evolved rapidly. In the 1960s, computers were huge, outsize machines that only major companies like General Motors, Ford, or Lockheed could afford.  A commercial CAD software system called Digigraphics debuted, but its cost of $500,000 per unit was severely prohibitive.

The Father of CAD/CAM

The 1960s saw many large industrial corporations exploring with in-house design programs and languages. Dr. Patrick J. Hanratty is vital to the shift in CAD that made it a worldwide standard. But let’s start with his first accomplishment.

In 1957, Hanratty was employed by General Electric. Having already earned his PhD from the University of California, Irvine, he was a programmer for the industrial giant. That year he wrote PRONTO – an early numerical control programming language that was the basis for computer-aided manufacturing (CAM).

Within a few years, Hanratty moved to General Motors Research Laboratories, where he helped write and develop Design Automated by Computer (DAC), the company’s proprietary, in-house CAD software.

(Simultaneously, other designers were working on computer-aided design variants. The most famous early version, Sketchpad, was developed by Dr. Ivan Sutherland at MIT. Sketchpad allowed the designer to draw with a light pen on the computer’s monitor, literally creating computer graphics.)

In the early 1970s, CAD systems were limited to industrial computers that had private languages that used algorithms to create two-dimensional design. Hanratty founded M&S Computing, a consulting firm, 1971. The company’s goal was to support user design interfaces in the language of the application, instead of in programming terminology. To that point, CAD systems were proprietary, meaning there was no standard.

M&S Consulting soon developed a program called ADAM, short for Automated Drafting and Machining. ADAM became the basis for many CAD programs that the company sold to about a dozen start-up companies. Today, industry analysts estimate that 70-90 percent of current commercial drafting software can trace roots back to Hanratty’s ADAM program.

Thanks to his major contributions to the worlds of CAD and CAM, before the two systems were fully integrated, Hanratty became known as the father of CAD/CAM.

Making CAD Accessible

As the cost and size of technology shrunk, more companies could use advanced technologies. By the early 1980s, CAD software systems were running on 16-bit microcomputers (with 512 Kb of memory and under 300 Mb disk storage), totaling about $125,000 per unit. As such, CAD had become a decently accepted part of design innovation for industrial companies.

But its cost was still generally prohibitive to consumers who were looking to engage with the software as a hobby.

In 1982, a group of 16 people in California pooled together just under $60,000. John Walker, a young programmer, had spearheaded this effort with one major goal: to create a CAD program that would cost no more than $1,000.

Walker founded the company Autodesk, and his team of 16 released the first version of AutoCAD.

[CAD personal set-up, circa 1995. Image Source]

Today, AutoCAD is one of the bigger names in CAD, though its price can still be prohibitive to hobbyists and professional consumers familiar with the technology. Thanks to many innovators and companies, several more affordable, full-service CAD options are available, perfect for the at-home user (hint hint: PunchCAD).

As technology often goes, computing has become more economical and efficient, so computers can do more. This is true of CAD – with every iteration, CAD can do more. Importantly, it has become more accessible to users. We know this firsthand with our own line of CAD products and the future looks awfully bright for CAD users of all stripes.