I've done some extensive searching over a period of a few days but I
haven't found something simple and straightforward to use. What would
be nice is a piece of software to double-check my calculations with.
I spent a lot of time planning what I'd need to build a set of shelves
with 3 shelves, 4 feet long. It would be super to have a piece of
software where I could input all the piees of wood, then have a 3D
image that I could then put together to check the 2D calculations,
ideally one that would allow me to move the pieces around to fit. In
other words, a tool that is visually like putting together the actual
pieces of wood.
Is there anything available to do this? What would people here
recommend. A lot of the CAD programs seem too so much more than this
simple need. Yet I haven't found a woodworking one that does this, so
I suggest learning to draw mechanical drawings and then learning to use a
piece of CAD software. I have been using CAD software and Optimization
software since 1986 and do no know of any software that will do what you
want to do as you describe it.
Decent CAD programs let you put in specific lengths and will let you add
dimensions that can also verify that your entries were correct.
At this stage in the software industry (AI in it's infancy) you're asking
for two opposite things. Easy and complex.
Easy - There are many 3D home design, cabinet design and woodturning
design software packages available.
Complex - Full blown CAD or solid modeling.
When companies use a complex package they have a dedicated person to do
the work. It takes years to become an expert in CAD or solid modeling.
Generally the skills and expertise involved are considered "higher" than
the "crew" who assembles the designed components.
At previously stated on this forum, one of the better free beginner
packages is sketchup.
Intuitive drawing, can be modified by changing measurements, objects can
be built by drawing or by input of dimensions. Shared modeling resources
to get you started. Imports CAD drawings from major manufacturers,
windows, doors, cabinets, appliances, etc.. Imports CAD drawings and
solid models from high end packages. Exports to CAD and solid model
packages. Exports to CAM applications. Has texture skinning to view paint
and finish choices. Many other features. Nothing else free has as much
power. Most professional designers will be using a higher end package
like Autocad or Solidworks, among many others available, these are just
the most advertised. Or a shop will be using a dedicated package for
their industry, from simple cabinetry to finite analysis, kinetic
simulation or fluid flow dynamics.
Some dedicated packages provide cut lists, integrate with job costing,
sub-contractor management and accounting packages.
High-end CAM packages integrate with inventory, material ordering, shop
timekeeping and communicate directly with machinery to produce product,
NC panel saws, CNC routers, NC paint and finish sprayers and drying ovens.
Others here can recommend commercial packages but I would highly
recommend becoming familiar and productive with sketchup before spending
any money on another package. Most of the skills will be transferable and
most packages will be "more difficult" to use, albeit with a potentially
restricted feature set dedicated to a more specific design segment.
Since the majority of the world is still using commercial Operating
systems, win or mac, I didn't put forth the open source alternatives.
Some of the best CAD, CAM, Kinetic, FEA, etc. tools are available for
free in open source software. However, all these tools expect you to be
pre-schooled or expert in their field of operation and run on Linux or
BSD based systems.
If your need is strictly cabinetry, there are a number of commercial
cabinet making packages available that may suit your taste. Most are in
the $1000+ range. I couldn't see justifying any commercial software until
you have a shop waiting for design work. This means at least four workers
on the floor. Or you have already elevated yourself to a price point to
justify the expense of software, hardware and education to become
productive in the application, singles pieces selling for >$1000.
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