Can anyone recommend a good CAD package?

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I'm goning to climb on that pile. Not only does CAD have a horific learning curve, but it's also not like riding a bicucle.
Over the last decade or so I have taken a couple of stabs at CAD. When I put the addition on my house I felt I *had* to do tak the plunge because I wanted to be able to hand the zoning guy and prospective contractors something which would be as unambiguous as possible.
The package that I ended up using was specifically taylored to house design. I was happy with the wire frame elevations and the fairly detailed top-down "blueprint" the I got, but it took me 40 hours to get there. I' happy that I did it in that context, but it's back to graph paper for me in the woodshoop.
IMHO there are 2 type of woodworkers that use CAD: CAD pros that are wooddorkers on the side, and wooddorkers who just enjoy playing with complicated programs.
Do you want to print plans, or help you visualize a project?
-Steve

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As I just wrote in another response, I'm just looking for an easy way to draw "3D looking objects" like boards. I'm NOT looking for the ability to rotate the objects in three dimensions and stuff like that.
In Coreldraw and Powerpoint, I can draw a board, but to make it look like a board, I have to draw a rectangle, then draw another rectangle and stretch it and tilt it, and then a third ... and after getting everything tilted in various dimensions, group it so I can move it around.
To make another board of other dimensions, it's starting from stratch again.
Jack
C & S wrote:

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Hi Jack,
mywebaccts (at) PLUGcomcast.net wrote:

There's a multiplatform program called Canvas that might work for you. I use it for some of my woodworking layout. It's not CAD but it's pretty sweet....

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CAD is a lot like word processing in the following respect. Once you have learned one word processing program well and understand what to expect from a word processing package, then learning a new and better one is easy. Until then, you will find paper and pencil easier. Same thing with CAD. If you can't communicate well in writing, can't spell, and/or can't type you'll find word processing slow going. Same thing with CAD, if you haven't first learned basic drawing/drafting. A good year of fairly regular use of most features of a good word processing or CAD package is a reasonable expectation to gain proficiency. Works best if you approach it as a fun game.
I'm surprised that no one has mentioned solid modeling CAD software. I retired a few years ago from large-company engineering where wireframe CAD has long since given way to solid modeling CAD, which is much easier (as distinct from easy) to use. It's definitely much easier to visualize the resulting design. Most of the packages being discussed on this rec.woodworking thread are the old wireframe CAD. One good reason home users haven't heard about solid modeling has been cost, which used to run several $10K's per user and was used on UNIX terminals. More recently, several software vendors have brought out PC versions which run very well, given an adequate graphic card (same as required for some games). Professional versions of these CAD packages still typically cost $500-$2000 but a couple of the vendors have offered 'express' versions of the same or similar package for free download to schools and home users in the hope that more widespread familiarity will lead to future sales to the future employers of these users.
For example, I have been using for several years Pro/Desktop Express from PTC, the publishers of Pro/Engineer, http://www.ptc.com /. It was a free download (now discontinued), was not a 'trial' version and was not significantly crippled. It is full featured, even does lofting (as in sculptured boat hull shapes) and does most everything I want for home use, including assemblies, file saves, and export of *.jpg files for show and tell. I'll post a file of my design of a tablesaw extension router installation on alt.binaries.pictures.woodworking. Even commercial use was permitted; some European users designed entire industrial plants with it.
Currently another software publisher is offering a similar free solid modeling package called Alibre Design Express http://www.alibre.com/xpress /. There are limitations, limited number of parts in an assembly (front, back, two sides and bottom parts could make up a drawer or it could be modeled as one part if joinery details aren't needed), maybe no or limited photovisual rendering, etc. But it's free and relatively easy to learn with the online tutorials and company monitored user group (no company support).
Disclaimer: no personal connection; just a happy benefactor.
David Merrill

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I concur fully, unless and until proficiency with the CAD package exceeds that with paper and pencil or for very preliminary brainstorming. Truly proficient CAD designers (I'm not one but I've worked with many) mostly leave paper and pencil to the latter or not at all.

It is possible that you perceive such things at a higher artistic level than many of us hobbyists :-) Personally, I'm pretty happy with the visualization provided by the current state of the art in solid modeling software.

Customer presentation is another matter entirely. My observations are directed mainly at the home hobbies with nobody to please but him/herself.

Not feeling especially pressed for time in retirement and enjoying the process of design at least as much as that of fabrication, I can only note that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Also a CAD package neither knows nor cares whether its user is designing a spaceship, a chest of drawers or a child's toy; it just concentrates on keeping those lines and component shapes where the designer put them.

Back when I first learned to use CROSSROADS CAD, we had an instructor come into our engineering department for a day's instruction. After he bored us all to death with the philosophies and generalities of CAD I sat him down and insisted he show me how to draw the kind of objects that interested me at the time, starting from a naked centerline. I learned more in that half hour than in the rest of the day.
Currently, I think the basics are covered pretty well (except for the furniture, gunstock, astronomy telescope, violin, hang glider or whatever maker slant) in the online tutorials that come with the free CAD packages that I've identified. If it makes you feel any better, an aerospace engineer may get a new $50,000/seat CAD or analysis package dropped in his/her lap with no manuals, tutorials or training whatsoever and is expected to learn it as they work and start being productive almost immediately. That said, I agree that such a tailored manual could be a boon for the woodworker if only the technology would hold still long enough to get it written and published before it is obsolete. Perhaps a magazine article?

See for examples: http://www.prodesktop.net/cgi-bin/dcforum3/dcboard.cgi , http://www.alibre.com/xpress/forum /
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<snip>

I had the same thought regarding solid modeling vs. CAD. However, IMHO, if one thinks the learning curve is high for AutoCAD, Pro/E is even higher. I downloaded the free trial when it was available and found it to be extremely non-intuitive. I used a solid modeling package several years ago from Aries Technologies (now part of MSC, I believe). That experience plus about 15 years of AutoCAD experience did not seem to help. Heck, maybe it hurts because I have a pre-conceived notion of how it should work.
For visualization of 3D models, I've found SketchUp to be handy.
todd
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On Mon, 05 Sep 2005 18:25:13 GMT, "David Merrill"

I mentioned that I currently work on AutoDesk Inventor 10, which is a solid modeling program, and is bundled with AutoDesk Mechanical Desktop.
At $5000.00 it is a bit dear for most home users. There is a student edition, available via either yearly subscription or as a permanent installation.
I would agree that these programs are better for visualization of the project than a wireframe program but my advice to the OP still stands: use paper for initial planning and mockups to tune the design.
I think that it is still difficult to judge the visual weight of the components on a piece on paper, even if you can skin it and light it and spin it like a top.
We have a number of guys at work who can do photorealistic renderings but we still have to produce full boat samples for customer approval, because apparent look and feel are qualitatively different from actual look and feel.
Were I a hobbiest, with a limited amount of time to devote to my pursuit of choice, I would not choose to spend a good deal of that time learning a program that can design spaceships, when all I needed was something that showed me the relationship of a few, mostly rectilinear items.
An interesting publishing opportunity would be the production of a text that would teach those subsets of program functionality that would provide an aid to woodworking design.
Most texts are more general in their approach and spend too much time on functions which will not be used in a typical woodworking project.
I've shown a number of builder friends how to use TurboCad (which, in my experience, beginning with V.3, gives the best bang for the buck) at a simple level. Basically, I show them how to draw rectangles and join them together to make traditional 2D elevations, plans and sections.
This can be done in less than an hour - but I've never seen a book that told you how to do that.
I'd like to second CW's point about the TurboCad Forum as a resource. They have a very active and knowledgeable community of users, who seem to be able to maintain focus on helping other users solve drawing problems, without a lot of the usual BS.
Tom Watson - WoodDorker tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (email) http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1/ (website)
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I downloaded the trial version of Sketchup today, and after watching portions of the tutorials was able to render an end table I am working on for a client in about 30 minutes. I am sure that it has some short comings compared to some of the more expensive CAD programs available, but if what you are interested in is a better rendering of a plan it works great. I am planning based on this fooling around to start using it in addition to my hand drawn images for the next couple rounds of client interactions. Based on my first impressions I might set down the pencil entirely before too long.
Andrew
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While I've never used it for woodworking because I pull out my old high school T-square for that, I have used Visio to design data centers before. You can do quite a bit with Visio with walls, flooring and plumbing and then define your own elements. It also has layering capabilities so you can peel off layers to make other things visible. I did some things with it to put in fiber cabling and cable trays which were all not native to the product.
I think it would work with woodworking but it has no 3-D capability that I know about. Generally, when I got to that point, it was something for the engineers to do and put it in a CAD system - which was nice as Visio allowed me to export to a CAD format.
FWIW....
"mywebaccts (at) PLUGcomcast.net" <"mywebaccts (at) PLUGcomcast.net"> wrote in message

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mywebaccts (at) PLUGcomcast.net wrote:

TurboCAD at the least if you can afford it -- professional version is much better....
http://turbocad.com /
Use professional as the benchmark when looking at other programs...
It looks to me like one of the few good ones at a low price.
See this synopsis.
http://www.woodbin.com/docs/cad.htm
-- Will R. Jewel Boxes and Wood Art http://woodwork.pmccl.com The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it. George Bernard Shaw
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"mywebaccts (at) PLUGcomcast.net" <"mywebaccts (at) PLUGcomcast.net"> wrote in message

Unlike other responders, and after many fits and starts getting over the startup hump with different products, I find that working with a simple CAD program lets me get my head around a project before I ever cut a stick, and that lets me eventually proceed with a confident purpose.
Use of one has cut back drastically on me having to 'design' my way out of a corner.
Mostly I just render simple, 2D shop drawings, with few or no perspectives. These help in generating project cutlist's, and make it much easier with dimension changes, which ends up $aving time and materials.
Of course, and as others have noted, you can do the same thing with paper, pencil, and a few drafting tools.
I use a $50 program called QuickCAD ... unfortunately, it may no longer be available, but certainly worth, IMO, trying to find a copy, or its replacement if it's in the same price range. A plus is that it will open my architect's AutoCAD drawings if the need arises.
--
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Last update: 8/29/05
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"mywebaccts (at) PLUGcomcast.net" <"mywebaccts (at) PLUGcomcast.net"> wrote:

SketchUp or Vectorworks. Both available for PC or Mac.
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"mywebaccts (at) PLUGcomcast.net" <"mywebaccts (at) PLUGcomcast.net"> wrote in message

None of those programs act like a cad program, so the experience won't be relevant, but the aptitude may apply. I suggest you get a 15 day trial of DesignCad 3D Max (www.imsisoft.com) and then go to a user supported web site (www.designcadunleashed.com) and start looking through the samples and tutorials and doing some things. This will give you an idea of whether a low end cad program will work for you. I've found the 3D modeling to be handy for "visualizing" how things fit together. It has the ability to take a 3D picture and allow you to scroll around from different angles to look at whatever you are working on. I bought my copy from a supplier on Amazon (search for designcad, then check "new and used") for $45.
I did manual drafting for extra work in high school and to help pay for my college. I still think about going back to triangles and T square for initial sketching of some projects. its still much faster for me.
Bob
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"mywebaccts (at) PLUGcomcast.net" <"mywebaccts (at) PLUGcomcast.net"> wrote in

I really like a program called CadStd (Cad Standard). The light version is FREE, and contains enough functionality to draw most objects. I used it for years before I upgraded to the pro version. The pro version includes features such as trim and intercept, as well as the ability to project the 2-d drawing to 3-d. (It's not automatic, but it's a lot easier than drawing everything over again.)
The program does have a learning curve, but once you get used to one feature it takes very little to get used to another.
It's also compatible with Autocad files, both in creating and editing them.
You can download it from http://cadstd.com
Puckdropper
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Old computers are getting to be a lost art. Here at Uncreative Labs, we
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If you are truly up to speed with Corel Draw version 11 or higher, then your transisition to CAD will not be that painful. But my question is why don't you use Corel Draw? Where does Corel Draw fail in your needs?
Corel Draw is a great vector graphic program. You should be able to sketch your project, have several layers, do line measurements, just about everything you are asking about. With basic drafting skills, you can do many, many things. But you must have the basic drafting skills.
But a vector graphic programs (as a class of software) cannot do, and were not designed to do several things: -- accurate, to scale, precision printouts. -- exchange drafting files between engineers at different companies as in sub-contracting work. -- Civil engineering projects (loads, vibration, and so forth. -- and other things that a hobby woodworker should not care about.
However, there is another very small class of software called Technical Illustration vector graphics. The only application I know about in this class is Designer (there are others.) Designer once was owned by Micrografx, but is now sold by Corel. Designer is very close to Corel Draw (as a vector graphics program) with most of the same tools and techniques. Just more emphasis on accurate placement of objects on computer screen, and less attention to color and paint brush styles. See the Corel website.
But just asking, have you run a Google on: CAD, woodworking ? I found several hits on summaries and reviews of several cross-breeds between full CAD programs and the despised "Kitchen Re-Model" programs. These cross-breeds seemed to be just for Wood Workers and many offer free download trials.
Phil
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