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!
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.
So, you’ve spent some time in ViaCAD Pro or Shark modeling the perfect 3D project. You’ve subdivided your objects, given them a finished look, and now are using our 3D printing tools to make your design come to life. The video below takes you from the construction of a 3D spoon, which you can read about here, to exporting it and getting it 3D printed using a great online 3D printing service called Shapeways.
Before getting your project printed there are a couple really cool PunchCAD features that will help you visualize your 3D models.
First, let’s talk about the ‘model to sheet’ tool. If you watch the video at the 4:50 mark, you’ll see the finished 3D model of a spoon as well as the ‘model to sheet’ tool being used to get exact dimensions of the spoon to be shared via a printable PDF. This useful tool can create sheets to be emailed for review as well, which is seen in the video.
Quick Tip: PunchCAD files are interoperable, so if you need to edit the file further you can use software, like the video does with Adobe Illustrator, that interacts with PDF files to make the changes you need.
Second, the video then shows how you can go one step further with rendering your 3D object. Using the ‘photo render’ tool that can be found in the window tab at the top of the program, the spoon’s color and material can be altered (you can visualize the spoon as metal, mirror, plastic, glass, and wood).
Once you’ve finished creating your model using our CAD software and want to create physical prototype or finished object it’s easy to use Shapeways to get it 3D printed. As you can see in the video, you can export your model as an STL file (what’s an STL file?) and upload that file onto the Shapeways website. After a short period, Shapeways will analyze your model and give you pricing options for various materials. Once you’ve chosen your material, Shapeways will do the rest.
Pro Tip: When 3D printing using an expensive material, we recommend giving yourself the time to first print out a cheaper prototype to further refine your design. The ability to reference a physical object while making last minute adjustments will save you a lot of trouble (and money) moving forward.