Archive for the ‘ViaCAD’ 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!

 

Project of the Month: A coffee cup that put all others to shame!

Monday, February 20th, 2017

You’ve had some experience doing some 3D modeling in ViaCAD and want to take your design skills to the next level. This project combines many of ViaCAD’s adaptable 3D tools to produce an impressively useful result: a coffee cup!

In the video, we see that the first step is to pull the Subdivision toolset into the work area.

 

 

This is important because the bulk of the work in creating the coffee cup will be done using these tools – having them at the ready makes the process much faster.

Bonus Tip: In the ‘View’ dropdown menu, you will see the following viewpoints – Right Side, Front, Top, Left side, Back, Bottom, Isometric, and Trimetric. This ‘Cup’ project uses a variety of views but it primarily starts in the ‘Isometric’ view and the ‘Right Side’ view.

Designing the Cup

To create the base of your coffee cup, select the center point circle tool and click the intersection of the x, y, and z axes, expanding it until the diameter reaches 3.5 inches, which can be specified in the data entry window.

 

 

 

 

Next, select the “Extrude Mesh” tool in the subdivision pallet. Making sure the circle is highlighted, select a point along the z axis that is slightly distant from the base. In the data entry window, you can change the length of your extruded mesh to however tall you want your coffee cup to be. For the sake of the video change the length to 4.5 inches.

 

 

 

 

In the same data entry window change the number of distributions around the circle from four to 15.

You should now see a cylinder with openings on each end. To close those openings, use the ‘Fill Hole’ tool, again located in the subdivision tool pallet.

 

 

 

 

With the ‘Fill Hole’ tool selected, make sure the drop down menu in the top bar says ‘close edge’ NOT ‘close all’. This will ensure that the ‘Fill Hole’ centers in the middle of the circle rather than on one of the sides. On the top and bottom of the cylinder select one of the sides and the ‘Fill Hole’ tool will do the rest.

At this point you can choose what will be the top of your coffee cup and angle it out. You can do this by selecting all the vertices on the top face and scaling them out using the gripper tool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you’re satisfied with the basic shape of your cup you can use the ‘Add Loop’ tool and the gripper to cut out the center. Focusing on the top of your cup (the end you extended using the gripper tool), select the ‘Add Loop’ tool, select a triangle at the top of the cylinder, and then select the distance from the edge which will represent the thickness of your cup. This should create a loop around the inside of the top surface of the cylinder.

Use the ‘Deep Select’ tool to select each of the triangles on the top of the cylinder – holding shift as you click each shape. With each shape selected, you can now use the gripper tool to push them into your 3D model. Hold the ‘alt’ key on mac, or the ‘ctrl’ key on PC, click the Z arrow of the gripper tool, and push it down into the cup.

In the video, the view is changed to ‘Wire Frame’ so the modeler can inspect the inside of the cup and make sure the thickness of the walls and base are even.

 

 

 

Deselect the wire frame so you can view your 3D model. You’ve finished the rough body of your coffee cup!

Smoothing it Out

In the video the model is subdivided twice to smooth out a lot of the shapes. After you subdivide your design you will see some of the edges still have some geometrical sharpness. A great trick to eliminate this, which the video goes over, is using the ‘Add Loops’ tool near the edges of the modes to smooth them out.

 

 

 

 

You can add as many loops as you feel is necessary, but we recommend loops close to the edge of the open side of the cylinder, as well as the bottom (as demonstrated in the video).

Making a Handle

To add a handle on the outside of your cup, use the ‘Add Loop’ tool on the outside of the cylinder, creating two pairs of loops – one toward the top and one toward the bottom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the ‘Deep Select’ tool click on one of the rectangles created by the ‘Add Loop’ tool. When the gripper tool appears, ‘alt’ or ‘ctrl’ click on the Z arrow and extrude the rectangle from the cylinder about an inch. Do the same with the bottom rectangle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tilt the extruded facets toward each other by 45 degrees – precisely specifying using the data entry window.

To finish the handle, use the bridge tool to connect the two extruded facets. Simply click on the first side, and then on the second and the ViaCAD will do the rest.

Bonus Tip: To eliminate any possible frustrations with the ‘Bridge Tool’, make sure you have selected ‘facet’ and not ‘edge’ in the drop down window. Doing this should make the process a breeze.

You can subdivide your mesh one more time and there you have it – your own coffee cup!

*The remainder of the video goes into tools that are only available in Shark products.