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Which CAD/CAM software in the Microsoft environment do you use?

Posted by Hotpuppy 
Which CAD/CAM software in the Microsoft environment do you use?
January 22, 2016 07:34PM
Which CAD CAM package do you use in the Microsoft space? (before you flame see my footnote)

I am interested primarily in designing mechanical objects like the RepRap parts as a matter of fact.

I am currently toying with TinkerCAD and finding it to be cute, but very limited and cumbersome for doing advanced / specific tasks (create 1.75mm hole centered on 4.5mm column to a depth of 3mm.)

Sketchup I find difficult to use for anything other than a sketch. I have trouble with sketchup when I start doing complex or nested intersections and want detailed control or repeatability.

I have in the past used BobCAD/CAM for doing CNC machining on big machines and small machines. My big machine was a 3hp Hurco KMB1M vertical mill and my small machine was a TAIG Micro Mill running EMC with industrial controllers from FleaBay that I hacked together. Hurco was industrial servos. BobCAD worked but had a steep learning curve and a sales staff that was incessant..... think of persistence like stink on fresh dog poo in your living room... now triple the stink and that's about how persistent they were. I technically still own the license to v23, but would need to feed them more money to update to v28.

I have very specific things that I want to print that fall into 4 categories:
- Unobtanium plastic parts (parts that are no longer made that I need for a European motorcoach/bus based RV I own)
- Custom mounts for gauges and other things I design.
- Custom enclosures for circuits that I design and build based on the Arduino platform (see www.nanohawk.com for some of my projects that are all open source hardware/software - none of which are currently for sale)
- novelty items as gag gifts or things I find useful to make.

My preferred desktop OS is Windows 10 Pro with a triple head 24" display. I've got a number of reasons for this and I can run Ubuntu, but it's my secondary strength. I support a number of Windows and Linux systems professionally. It treats me well and I can administer both types of systems.

I'm willing to spend some money on software. I believe that developers should be able to eat and have nice things too. My goal is under $1,000 for software.
I realize it will take time to learn, so I'm okay with that... but I need a stable piece of software, that works.
I like to design assemblies and be able to re-use them in other places.
I do alot of "mount" work where I may design a bolt pattern and need to copy it, or a switch cutout and I need to copy it.


I looked at Blendr and it seems like it's geared more towards animation work.
I looked at Rhino and it's on my list, but it has a really convoluted license model.
I have not yet looked at Inventor... it seems out of my reach no matter how I look at it... short of stealing by lying about my educational status. I prefer not to steal. I'd love to be able to use Autodesk tools on a cost schedule similar to Adobe Cloud ($32/mo).


What else are folks using to design stuff? How does FreeCAD compare? Does it work right on Windows? I generally frown on Linux software on Windows and it used to be a recipe for endless headaches. So bad that I usually would virtualize Ubuntu instead to get what I wanted. I'm usually a CLI guy in Ubuntu... I find the X-Windows knockoff to be a struggle..... particularly because I've used the real X-Windows in Solaris, so yes Gnome and the other one are knockoffs. smiling smiley

Footnote: I appreciate that many opinions exist about Open Source vs Closed source. I'm firmly in the middle. I make my living supporting commercial software in the Microsoft arena that we supplement with Ubuntu 12.04 and 14.04 where it's appropriate on a task and system basis. In my personal life I have both kinds of systems. I run a number of applications for convenience, outcome, and other reasons. Windows 10 happens to be my choice desktop OS. I'm not interested in switching, so please hold that comment if that is your advice. On the open source side, I'm a firm believer in Open Source software and hardware. I write open source software and I design and build open source hardware. Most of what I like to work on is in the embedded systems / arduino space. I try to keep the kits I design able to be soldered and assembled by hand. I design my systems to be flexible, extensible, and tolerant. I believe in having hardware you can build, deploy, and forget. That's it's job. CAD/CAM is a tool, not a destination for me. I need something that works well, that I can use for a long time, and that I can grow in to. From a software perspective I work in Photoshop, InDesign, Premiere Elements and Premiere Pro, Corel Draw, Publisher and a bunch of custom stuff that is specific to the t-shirt/embroidery business. I owned a t-shirt company for 10 years. I do all of my PCB layout work in Eagle currently.
Re: Which CAD/CAM software in the Microsoft environment do you use?
January 22, 2016 08:05PM
Since you say an Adobe Cloud-like model for Autodesk products is good for you, have you looked at Autodesk Fusion 360? Free for hobby/non-commercial use, and a monthly or annual subscription basis is one option. It seems quite capable, but I've only toyed with the tutorials so far. I bought Alibre Pro some years back - which is now owned by 3d Systems and renamed Geomagic Design - but I've used it long enough that I'm comfortable, and that's making a switch more tedious than necessary.
Re: Which CAD/CAM software in the Microsoft environment do you use?
January 22, 2016 08:20PM
I had not seen this product. Thank you. This is exactly the feedback I was looking for. The licensing model is even pleasant as well. It allows me to learn to use it for my hobby stuff and then if I start using it for my open source hardware projects I can afford the licensing ($40/mo). How does it compare to FreeCAD?

There was another 3D tool I owned years ago..... when I bought my Taig I bought something that was sold through a reseller for the PC market. It was a German company. It was way way way over my head at the time, so it was shelfware that collected dust.

The TAIG was a great little machine, made by very nice people..... but it was too small to be practical for me. My Hurco was an incredible machine that had been formerly owned by Polaroid for die making. It was touchy to keep the dinosaur electronics running and I could only use it when it was cold out. It was terrifyingly powerful.

I'll eventually own another TAIG so something that can handle machining is important to me. Or subtractive machining as I call it.

I would love to own other CNC tools like a plasma cutter and router. I may leverage my Prusa i3 to help me realize those dreams. smiling smiley
Re: Which CAD/CAM software in the Microsoft environment do you use?
January 22, 2016 08:42PM
I think of Fusion as a younger cousin to Inventor - it easily covers the abilities of FreeCAD (which is itself a very good open source tool IMHO).

On the subtractive side, as I understand things, you'll still need that model Which Fusion's good at making, however I have no idea how far it goes towards producing the CAM toolpaths for milling/lathes/etc. I would be surprised if Autodesk didn't have it available at least as an additional module.
Re: Which CAD/CAM software in the Microsoft environment do you use?
January 22, 2016 09:45PM
If you don't want to make a huge investment in the learning curve, yet produce models that have fillets/chamfers, etc., I recommend DesignSpark Mechanical. Easy to learn, free, and quite powerful. It's a direct edit package, so has an intuitive UI.

If you don't mind a steeper learning curve, look at OnShape, cloud based CAD by the people who wrote Solidworks. Free, complete professional package, but you pay a minimal fee for storage on their servers. It doesn't care what OS you use- as long as you have a web browser, you can do 3D CAD because their servers do all the work.

Stay away from Sketchup. It will only frustrate you.


Son of MegaMax 3D printer: [www.instructables.com]
Ultra MegaMax Dominator 3D printer: [drmrehorst.blogspot.com]
Re: Which CAD/CAM software in the Microsoft environment do you use?
January 23, 2016 08:06AM
Onshape: $100/mo isn't exactly a minimal fee for storage. It's interesting though. Basically you can store 10 private documents and 5GB total and 100MB for private documents. No idea how realistic this is. Pro is $100/mo and unlimited.

DesignSpark Mechanical is wow.... and they do PCB stuff too. Both appear to be free.... where do they make their money? I really like the DSM interface.

Wow, I have gotten some phenomenal options in very very short order.

I'd say right now it's between DesignSpark (lead) and Fusion360. What I like about DesignSpark is the ability to use their PCB software. At a minimum I can pull in my Eagle files and use those to model enclosures. smiling smiley There is the possibility of switching to it as well. If it works as nicely as their concise demo.
Re: Which CAD/CAM software in the Microsoft environment do you use?
January 23, 2016 11:36AM
OnShape has a free option with limited storage for "private" documents and unlimited storage for "public" documents, so unless you're worried about someone else having access to your design in a "public" file, it's a good option. If you're like me and post a lot of your designs to youmagine and thingiverse, it doesn't matter if the designs are public.


Son of MegaMax 3D printer: [www.instructables.com]
Ultra MegaMax Dominator 3D printer: [drmrehorst.blogspot.com]
Re: Which CAD/CAM software in the Microsoft environment do you use?
January 23, 2016 01:43PM
I just like to have control over my designs. I do give them away most of the time... but I want to be the one that does that, not as a condition of using the software. smiling smiley

I'm leaning towards Fusion360 or DesignSpark mechanical. F360 does CAM as well and has stress testing. Autodesk has an incubator program for startups and small business where the software is free. Until you cross $100K/yr it's free. Then it's $40/mo or something silly like that.

I think DesignSpark has a clean simple interface and great compatibility with Eagle.
Re: Which CAD/CAM software in the Microsoft environment do you use?
January 23, 2016 02:15PM
I've been using DSM for 2 years and really like it. I occasionally run into something it can't do that I want to do, but not often enough to quit using it. It won't let you put text in drawings (except BOM and dimensions), and it won't do lofting, but it produces excellent quality STL files that are completely under your control (triangle sizes, etc.). I use a 3D mouse from 3dconnexion and really like that, too.


Son of MegaMax 3D printer: [www.instructables.com]
Ultra MegaMax Dominator 3D printer: [drmrehorst.blogspot.com]
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