A CAD Dinosaur’s Journey, Part 9: Hatching, Layers, and More, Oh My!

March 24, 2015 Leave a comment

Editor’s Note: Welcome to Cadalyst’s blog series by Patrick Hughes, A CAD Dinosaur’s Journey into Modern Times.” In this three-month series, Hughes chronicles his transition from AutoCAD R14 to v2015 and from an outdated PC to a state-of-the-art professional workstation. Follow along and enjoy!

Hatching, Layers, and MoreIt has been quite a while since I’ve done actual work in AutoCAD Release 14. In fact, since I jumped into 2015, I haven’t looked back. For this article I wanted to grab a few screen shots to compare and contrast the two versions. As I opened Release 14, it struck me how quickly it started, but that’s about the only thing I miss. I can live with a longer startup because I’ll typically start AutoCAD and leave it open all day.

Hatch Updates

In Release 14 when you type BHATCH at the command prompt, the following dialog box appears. Once you make your selections and picks, you click on the Preview Hatch button to see the changes.

In the Boundary Hatch dialog box in AutoCAD Release 14, you make your selections and then press Preview to see how it all looks.

In the Boundary Hatch dialog box in AutoCAD Release 14, you make your selections and then press Preview to see how it all looks.

In AutoCAD 2015 when you enter the command, the Ribbon switches to the Hatch Creation tab where you can easily access all of your settings (you can also set HPDLGMODE to 1 to display a dialog box). As you make changes, updates dynamically appear as you make them so there is no need to go back and forth to preview your changes. Rawrrr! This is a definite improvement.

In AutoCAD 2015, updates are made to your hatch patterns as you choose them in the Ribbon (or dialog box).

In AutoCAD 2015, updates are made to your hatch patterns as you choose them in the Ribbon (or dialog box).

But wait, there’s more. In Release 14, once you create your hatch, if and when your underlying geometry changes (you just know it will), you must rebuild your hatch almost from scratch.

So, you think you’re going to grip edit a Release 14 hatch? Nope. Think again, Little Dino.

You cannot grip edit a hatch in AutoCAD Release 14.

You cannot grip edit a hatch in AutoCAD Release 14.

But in AutoCAD 2015, you can.

But in AutoCAD 2015, you can.

What about in an AutoCAD 2015 hatch? Yes, in AutoCAD 2015, you can zoom in to see fine details that can be easily updated by grip editing. Usually hatching updates as you go in AutoCAD 2015, although in this example below, it didn’t. I’ll need to dig deeper to figure out why.

autocad-dinosaur-part9_05

For some reason this hatch didn’t update as I stretched some geometry in AutoCAD 2015 — I’ll need to dig a little deeper to figure out why.

In general, I like that for some modifications I don’t need to recreate the whole hatch. Granted, there may be times when recreating the hatch is the easiest solution if numerous changes are needed.

Oh, before I forget (remember my walnut-sized brain), I also much prefer the more defined solid-filled grips in AutoCAD 2015.

Layer Upon Layer

Layer management has also gone through a great transformation. As I’ve mentioned, I try to keep things simple, but simplicity does have its limitations. In the past, I’ve performed most of my layer operations through the dialog box (or home grown AutoLISP routines) rather than the menu drop down. Here’s the simple Release 14 Layer dialog box:

Release 14's Layer dialog box is fairly simple.

Release 14’s Layer dialog box is fairly simple.

I’ve grown accustomed to keeping the AutoCAD 2015 Layer Properties Manager on screen at all times. It makes quick work out of making adjustments to my layers. Unlike the Release 14 Layers dialog box, AutoCAD 2015 lets you to resize the window.

AutoCAD 2015's Layer Properties dialog box makes it easy to adjust layers.

AutoCAD 2015’s Layer Properties dialog box makes it easy to adjust layers.

More New To This Dinosaur

Oh my! Here’s something new. Transparency — this is handy whenever viewing in Conceptual, my new favorite fancy view style. I noticed under Object Properties (which I also keep on screen) that objects have transparency as well. Normally I set this to BYLAYER, but it’s good to be able to adjust each object independently. Within the Content Manager there is easy access to filtering capabilities which I’ve yet to put to use. I generally use my trusty old AutoLISP routines for filtering, but I can see where I can make good use of these tools, especially when dealing with sub-assemblies.

The Laywalk command (dialog box) has been around since Release 2007, but it’s a new tool to me. This useful tool dynamically displays layers as you select them either individually or as multiples. I’ve used it a number of times and the only drawback with it is that the dialog box must be closed to work with displayed objects. There are numerous new layer tools — I will delve more into them and report back to you once I learn more.

Rawrrr!

In closing, as I work with AutoCAD 2015, I find that I’m able to keep things as simple as I like. However, there are times that when it’s important to make a more professional-looking drawing and it’s good to know I can easily I can do so.

When I first learned to draft on the drawing board as a wee T-Rex, I learned to use lineweights to make the drawing “pop.” Over the years working only on CAD, I’ve let those drafting techniques lapse. It’s time for me to ratchet things up and make my drawings a bit prettier (says the ugliest dinosaur in the room).

_________________

About the author: Patrick Hughes, machine designer and owner of Engineered Design Solutions in Rockford, Illinois, has worked with AutoCAD since 1991. He has developed a number of AutoLISP and other software solutions to automate his workflow and increase productivity, including the commercially available time tracking program, CadTempo.

Expert Interview with Art Whitton of myCADsite on Continual Education for CAD users

March 21, 2015 Leave a comment

Continual education for CAD usersEducation isn’t like it used to be, where you would graduate, grab a piece of paper, and dance into a new career. With technology and industries constantly evolving and being updated, education is an ongoing process.

This is true of every technological industry, but especially so for CAD users, with new versions frequently being released. A CAD engineer’s education is never done.

Art Whitton started myCADsite with new CAD users in mind, but it is useful for engineers in every stage of their career. He took a moment to tell us about the beginning of this free tutorial site, the best ways to learn CAD, and some exciting prospects on the horizon.

Can you introduce us to myCadsite? When did you get started? What made you want to start your own business?

myCADsite.com is an AutoCAD tutorial site aimed at new users. It started out when I began a job at a design school and found that they had no lesson plans or other material for me to work with, so I had to write my own. I just started writing one or two a week as needed, and soon I had about twenty lessons on my hands. This was also the time when I was starting to teach myself website design, about 1999.

In the early stages, it wasn’t a business. myCADsite was just a series of tutorials that people might have trouble finding online. It was actually good for getting some job offers, since I had my resume posted on the site.

Over the years, it has evolved to become one of the most popular sites to learn AutoCAD for free. I’ve expanded on the original lessons, added videos and updated the material as new versions of AutoCAD are released. I now have 55 tutorials and 59 videos that will take a user from the very basics of drawing a line to 3D modeling and rendering.

My goal has always been to try to teach the most common tools that drafters will use in their daily tasks. I also try to teach so that each lesson is a natural progression from the previous one.

Who is your main audience, and what are some ways that you fill their particular needs?

My main audience is new users of AutoCAD. These might be students in a related field who need to learn AutoCAD to supplement their skill set, or older people who have hand-drafted for years and need to learn the software. I also hear from a lot of people that just want to learn a new skill to help their chances to get a job and move their career forward.

myCADsite helps people by providing a free course with quality material. Anyone with Internet access can download a demo version of AutoCAD and start the course. My goal is to keep the course free to help the people who can’t afford to go to school to learn the program. I also don’t require registration so that there are no barriers to keep someone from starting the course.

It’s very satisfying to hear from people all over the world who have taken the initiative to learn the software and started a new career path.

I also allow public schools to use the material freely and have licensed the tutorials to several colleges.

Here are some comments about the site.

What are some things you’d say for people learning CAD for the first time? Would you recommend going into this line of work?

I get a lot of emails from people who “want to learn CAD.” Some have very specific reasons; others just feel it’s something they should know. My most common advice is to take it slow and learn the basics thoroughly. Then go back and review them – and then practice them some more.

In the classroom, I saw so many students rush through the first assignments and then start forgetting some of the very basic tools later on. Once users have a solid foundation, it usually sticks with them and makes learning the other topics much easier. I’ll also remind them that they need to focus on speed and accuracy, since no employer wants a slow, mistake-prone CAD user.

When people ask what their job prospects are like, I try to be as honest and blunt as I can. I tell them what I was told back when I was learning at BCIT: “AutoCAD is just a tool.” Most of my instructors repeated this. So I’ll ask people what their background is and how it could be applied to design. I let them know that kids are learning how to use AutoCAD in high school now, so it’s not always a matter of just “learning CAD.” There’s a lot of competition out there.

What about people who have been using CAD software for a while – what are some reasons for them to continue their education? How can the training they receive on myCADsite help their career?

I’ve worked with people that have used CAD for years and find that some them use the same techniques they used when they first learned the software. I’ll go in and review a new version of AutoCAD when it comes out and see what benefits it has for my workflow. One of the things that first interested me in CAD was that there would always be something new to learn.

I hear from a lot of experienced users who have visited myCADsite to brush up on their skills or see what’s new. If they’ve been away from the software for a while, they can quickly get back up to speed and possibly learn some new tools along the way.

Anything that makes a CAD user more productive is good for that person and their employer.

Can you give a brief overview on what you go over in one of your courses? What are the assignments like?

A typical tutorial will start with an overview of what will be taught, and then explains the process step-by-step so that the user can follow along easily. After that, there may be an exercise or two that uses the tools shown in the lesson. Finally, a video is available to visually show how the command or tool works. At the end of the tutorial, the student can take a short four-question quiz to see if they understand the topic.

Not everyone learns the same way, so the explanation, the step-by-step overview and the video can all appeal to different types of students.

Most of the exercises are simple drawings that the student should be able to complete in a short amount of time. By the time students finish the first level, they know most of the common drawing and editing commands. Level Two takes them in a different direction and makes them draw a floor plan. This takes their focus from learning how the tools work to how to apply the tools properly.

With writing the website and designing the CAD courses, you must be very aware of what’s going on in the industry. Have you noticed any developments that are particularly exciting?

I will look around at some articles and still subscribe to a couple of CAD newsletters, but I find that my interest in CAD is making sure that my website’s content is still correct and up to date.

Do you or any of your students use a CAD workstation? If so, which one are you using?

Not really. My last full-time CAD job was drawing as-built survey on location. I usually had an older Dell laptop to work with and it got the job done.

I’ll get emails from students asking what kind of computer they should use, and I’ll usually advise them to try the one they have. Then I’ll send them a link to AutoCAD’s system requirements as a guideline. For many students starting out, the assignments and drawings are small files, so a powerful workstation isn’t needed right away.

Do you have any advice on some specifications to look for if someone is looking to invest in one for the first time?

I’ll usually give people the same advice: “Get the best you can afford.” With RAM and storage space so cheap these days, it’s almost a sin to have a low-end computer. For the past 20 years, I’ve bought bare bones kits and put them together and swapped out parts as they’ve needed upgrades. It’s a great way to learn how they work, and you get the most bang for your buck.

There was a blog post a while back on myCADsite about Harvard scientists using CAD software to make a 3D Rendering of a DNA-RNA molecule. What are some other innovative uses you’ve seen of CAD software being used? What are some other industries that are starting to adopt the software?

When I started working in the industry, I was a little disappointed that all of the cool, cutting-edge things I had learned (this was 1997), like data extraction and 3D modeling, weren’t being used in the jobs that I was getting. I know that’s still the case in many workplaces these days, but for simple designs you just need an accurate 2D drawing.

I see the world adapting to 3D printing, and I think that is an area will explode in the next 10 years. Reading about how NASA emailed a wrench to the International Space Station was exciting news to me.

I love to see how 3D models are used in medical science. 3D printing of body parts and prosthetics will become more commonplace and bring costs down. It’s a very exciting time for science, and seeing how CAD can be implemented will surprise us all.

And it all begins with Tutorial 1-1 and learning the X-Y coordinate system. ;)

For more updates from myCADsite, like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

Categories: AutoCAD Tags:

Expert Interview with Pam Broviak on CAD and Public Works Departments

March 18, 2015 1 comment

Like plenty of other job sectors today, public works departments are being challenged to deliver a wider range of services faster and more efficiently with fewer available dollars and staff, says Pam Broviak, manager of Public Works Group, a portal for public works professionals. “This is why we are most interested in headlines and issues related to anything that offers potential to help us perform within these parameters,” she adds.

These include innovations like driverless vehicles; tools that allow them to better capture, analyze and maintain data and information such as GIS/CAD/LIDAR and other 3D technologies; and hardware that leverages these tools such as headsets and smart screens, phones, and tablets and even smart construction equipment.

Broviak recently checked in with Cadalyst to share more about the technology her audience is most excited about, as well as developments they hope to see in CAD in the coming years. Here’s what she had to say:

Tell us about Public Works Group.

Public Works Group was launched in February 2007 as an online resource for public works professionals because we had started to realize online tools and technology in our field had advanced significantly in a very short amount of time. And we knew this was only the beginning. Today, we face continued and rapid change while still trying to catch up with an aging infrastructure and keep up with a new and dynamic workforce. So we wanted to find a way to explore these tools and help ourselves and others keep up with the changes. And we wanted to figure out how all of this fits into everything else we do.

By creating a group and offering online resources, we were able to begin documenting what we found and offer this information to others in our field. Our focus over the last eight years has been on 3D technologies, social media, e-learning and online education, interactions with and support of industry vendors, and promotion and support of industry organizations and communities.

Who should be following your site?

Primarily anyone working in the engineering and public works field or who work in government or delivery of any public service, including those who are interested in or whose work is related to these fields. Also, people who are interested in 3D technology and social media and who want to learn how to leverage these tools to enhance the delivery of information and services.

What technological innovations do you think your readers are most excited about these days?

While I would again mention the innovations above and specifically point out those in the following list, I would also add that while these might be exciting, we are part of a very conservative field that at times can be slow to change. So most professionals are very cautious about getting too excited about any of these and are not ready to embrace them just yet.

  • The Google car
  • Google Streetview and Google Earth (these have been around a while but are still viewed in the industry as new and amazingly helpful innovations we regularly use and for which we are very thankful to have. One of the biggest reasons they are so beneficial is because they are free to use and save us a lot of time.)
  • Oculus Rift and other headsets
  • Smart phones/tablets and the availability of apps
  • Smart boards
  • Collaborative tools such as Dropbox and Doodle, and even Google apps and other cloud applications
  • GIS, LIDAR, and other spatial technologies and the open data movement
  • 3D printing on a large and small scale
  • 3D Design and Modeling/Visualizations and automated machine guidance (This is a federal initiative, so there are many resources/info on this topic here.)

How is Public Works Group using CAD today?

The Public Works Group is primarily using CAD to develop online resources to use in 3D or virtual settings and in our educational offerings and courses.

What do you think is the future for how public works departments use CAD?

As engineers and public works professionals, we are most familiar right now with CAD and prefer to develop in that environment. So for preparing plans and traditional deliverables, we will most likely continue to work in that environment for some time.

However, as the other tools mentioned above advance, there could be a turning point as we face an increasing need to integrate our plans and designs with those tools. If CAD companies begin to realize the need to and benefit of integrating their technology with these tools, the use of CAD could increase significantly because it would open up new and more advanced uses of the software. But at least one CAD company has indicated to me they are not interested in pursuing this use of their software. So if that is the case, we will eventually end up only being able to use CAD software from companies that have built this integration into their product, or we will have to look to other tools that are usually not thought of in the industry as traditional CAD such as Blender; or do what some companies are doing now and use yet another software service to produce programs to take CAD plans and translate them into something that can be used by these other tools.

What do you think are the must-haves for CAD workstations for those in public works?

Multiple monitors, wireless hardware such as a keyboard and mouse, a computer set up to meet and sustain high-end graphics and CPU demands (as a side note, the most deficient item I’ve seen on this is having a power supply that can’t keep up), and a network designed to deliver, archive, and back up files and software.

What do you think are the biggest frustrations that those in public works have with their current CAD workstations?

  • Single monitors – some organizations do not allow multiple monitors, which can greatly reduce production and performance
  • Not having input on hardware specifications – many organizations do not consult the users before purchasing hardware, so many workstations cannot deliver the graphics and meet the CPU demands. This results in greatly reducing production because the user has to wait a significant amount of time for graphics to load when using CAD or GIS
  • Not taking into account speed of broadband services when working through a network that is located off-site – this also greatly reduces speed of performance
  • Not having an efficient backup and archiving system designed for easy access to users who need to share the files – this can take up a lot of staff time when files cannot easily be found and retrieved or shared

Connect with Pam Broviak on Twitter and LinkedIn.

A CAD Dinosaur’s Journey, Part 8: Something Old, Something New

March 17, 2015 1 comment

Editor’s Note: Welcome to Cadalyst’s blog series by Patrick Hughes, A CAD Dinosaur’s Journey into Modern Times.” In this three-month series, Hughes chronicles his transition from AutoCAD R14 to v2015 and from an outdated PC to a state-of-the-art professional workstation. Follow along and enjoy!

Dynamic UCS, Dynamic Input, and Dynamic Blocks At some point, the AutoCAD programmers decided to add dynamic functionality to some AutoCAD features. Dynamic UCS, Dynamic Input, and Dynamic Blocks to name a few! When you typed in DYN at the command prompt, you’d see 13 system variables appear! You would think that the word dynamic would appeal to this dino and, to be honest, it does have a nice ring to it.

While I’m trying to like how these features work, I am struggling with dynamic UCS. I’m still trying to understand how it affects some of my customizations. For instance, one function restricts movement to a specific axis. If I want to move objects only in the Y-axis from picked points, it’s supposed to only move on the Y-axis. Sometimes things go wacky and the objects move unexpectedly and the value that is echoed back to the command line shows X or Z values. Perhaps there are other factors, such as Osnaps affecting it. I suppose that I’ll eventually figure it out, but for now I’ll just think of it as a ghost in the machine.

Lost, But Not Forgotten

An old friend of mine is the Blipmode command. As it is now in AutoCAD 2015, it’s a zombie command — it exists, but it’s not as easy to just turn it on. I dug around and discovered that I could redefine it in my ACADDOC.LSP by adding (command “redefine” “blipmode”) to get it working again. I use the little blips as a visual confirmation for pick points, often as a clue to where on the screen I picked for a selection window. If I mistakenly selected a location, I know not to select the same spot again. Now AutoCAD displays a colored window as you begin your selection, blue for contained selection, green for crossing, and a new cool colored Poly Drag mode. Along with enabling selection preview, these can make it easier to select objects. The blips do still come in handy to see that I correctly picked the endpoint of a line or the quadrant of a circle, etc.

 

T (that’s me) loves blips — they can make it easier to select objects.

T (that’s me) loves blips — they can make it easier to select objects.

Another old friend is the Aerial View command. Not many users were familiar with this little tool and I suspect that’s why it was discontinued. Like Blipmode, you can redefine it, but when I did, the viewer did not display the screen graphics in the viewer window. On the other hand, now that I’ve gotten used to AutoCAD 2015, I don’t miss it like I thought I would. Believe it or not, Release 14 did not let you zoom in and out with the mouse wheel. For the most part, that’s how I’m now navigating large drawings. In fact, you should see how muscular my stubby dino finger is.

Side note: Did you notice that the Explode ribbon icon with a stick of dynamite has been replaced with an image of a broken apart cube. Really? Bring back the dynamite image!

New Awesome Tools

So, enough reminiscing of old dead things, what’s new that’s exciting to this old Dinosaur? For one, the right-click menu that pops up when you select an object. My number one favorite tool is the ability to hide objects (Isolate / Hide Objects) which initiates the Hideobjects command (introduced in AutoCAD 2011). Or, you can select to isolate selected objects. If I need to see hidden objects again, it’s just another right click away. Additionally, there are commands that are available from the menu; a list of recently used commands and input, clipboard functions, filters, properties, a powerful integrated calculator. I find the calculator especially useful.

One of my favorite new tools is the menu that comes up when you right-click on an object.

One of my favorite new tools is the menu that comes up when you right-click on an object.

This little brain of mine gets so easily distracted! I was talking about all things dynamic and I planned on talking about another new-to-me AutoCAD feature, dynamic blocks, and how I plan to put them to use. Alas, my time is running out for now, so I must leave that subject for another date.

Rawrrr!

In closing, old habits can be hard to break away from. Although some may still hold value, I continue to be surprised at how much more efficient the new environment can be. In the past, I’ve always thought that customization was key to delivering greater efficiency, but I’m discovering that AutoCAD 2015 has many of the tools I need right at my fingertips — just the ticket someone with tiny arms!

_________________

About the author: Patrick Hughes, machine designer and owner of Engineered Design Solutions in Rockford, Illinois, has worked with AutoCAD since 1991. He has developed a number of AutoLISP and other software solutions to automate his workflow and increase productivity, including the commercially available time tracking program, CadTempo.

A Look at Vectorworks 2015

March 15, 2015 Leave a comment

Is it CAD or BIM? Vectorworks 2015 combines enough of both to satisfy a variety of design and development needs. In all, reviewers and users have been pleased with what they’ve seen from this new product. It seems to be an improvement over previous versions in several ways (more discussion on this below), and offers some neat new features that can be helpful in a multitude of situations. Here is what you need to know before investing in this version of Vectorworks.

One of the biggest improvements in the 2015 version is 64-bit capabilities across all of the products. The product description states, “We do not consider remote login environments (such as remote desktops, terminal services, or virtual machine environments, such as Parallels and VMware) to be appropriate for regular work, so Vectorworks performance in these situations is not of primary concern to us.”

This was concerning to some users who planned to use the product in remote situations or in a cloud environment. However, numerous users have had good success operating Vectorworks 2015 with both the cloud and via remote workstations. The primary concern is connectivity and bandwidth, not any known issues with the product itself. This version is compatible with all of the common modern processors.

The interface will be familiar to most users, a sort of mash up of Photoshop, SketchUp, and MicroStation. Though it was originally designed for use on Apple computers, Vectorworks 2015 looks and acts exactly the same on Windows systems as it does on the Mac. This makes it easy for users to  switch between systems and collaborate with others who rely on different systems.

The open GL mode is becoming more common in software developed for CAD workstations, and is well received by users for its easy fly around mode, simplicity in changing viewing modes, seamless virtual walk through mode, and speed in switching between modes and features.

Users are also having fun with the Deform Tool, which allows you to bend solid geometric shapes into user-defined shapes. Though this is more practical for users like furniture designers, it’s fun to play around with.

Vectorworks 2015 also features the ability to set text style by class, which allows you to provide more consistency within the documentation. It also allows for the modification of PDF files. You can now import a PDF file and crop it. This is helpful when using only part of a PDF file as a reference, and for including a picture of the product within the design.

Rectangle Wall Mode is another significant improvement which allows you to select a type of wall and create it by simply drawing a rectangle. You can draw curtain walls automatically, without having to input vertical or horizontal mullions. Better yet, if you decide to change the design halfway through, you don’t have to begin the entire process over again.

For photorealistic renderings, users can import 3DS and SKI files, such as those found on 3D Warehouse and Turbosquid, or use images provided with Vectorworks, which are somewhat improved over previous versions and render quickly.

 

Vectorworks

The stock images are better, and version 2015 allows you to easily import more images from other sources.

Vectorworks 2015 continues to require large amounts of memory and a fast processor to run. Users who lack a sufficiently equipped workstation have reported problems running out of memory, having to shut down the program, and even sometimes having to reboot the computer.

How Much Does It Cost and What’s in the Box?

Expect to pay just under $3,500 for Vectorworks 2015 from most outlets. The Vectorworks 2015 installation DVD, “Let’s Get Started” pamphlet, and “Getting Started” DVD come in the box. The all-inclusive product features:

• Vectorworks Architect
• Vectorworks Landmark
• Vectorworks Spotlight
• Vectorworks Machine Design

 

 

Categories: CAD Software Tags:

A CAD Dinosaur’s Journey, Part 7: Get A Grip! (Editing Solids Made Easy)

March 13, 2015 Leave a comment

Editor’s Note: Welcome to Cadalyst’s blog series by Patrick Hughes, A CAD Dinosaur’s Journey into Modern Times.” In this three-month series, Hughes chronicles his transition from AutoCAD R14 to v2015 and from an outdated PC to a state-of-the-art professional workstation. Follow along and enjoy!

AutoCAD SolidsAs you know by now I’m a dinosaur. We T-Rexes like to eat meat and I’ve been anxious to sink my teeth into the REAL meat of AutoCAD 2015. I knew there would be plenty of meaty stuff in 2015. I was right, and it’s tasty too.

Lately I’ve been gnawing on AutoCAD’s solid modeling tools and it’s been a treat. Since the early 1990’s, I’ve used AutoCAD for my machine design work using simple wireframes — I preferred to not even use polylines. After a while, I finally committed to solids and began to appreciate the benefits of doing so. I can’t say it was easy. Early versions of AutoCAD right out of the box tended to be a little cumbersome and required some nimble AutoLISP programming.

AutoCAD 2015 comes with two Workspaces for working in 3D: 3D Basics and 3D Modeling. Both 3D Workspaces present a plethora of tools on the ribbon to help you get your work done. Because there are so many new (to this crusty old beast) 3D tools, what I find especially useful are the popup Help topics with graphics that appear whenever you hover over a tool for a slightly extended amount of time (introduced in AutoCAD 2010). These pop-up tool tips are pleasing to this dino’s eyes!

The popups make it easy to learn what AutoCAD can do and they make it easy to start using these new tools.

The popups make it easy to learn what AutoCAD can do and they make it easy to start using these new tools.

One of my first discoveries when I began using AutoCAD 2015 is that I can now edit solids, for instance I can easily size or stretch a solid using grips.

The arrow grips let you stretch the solid in the given direction.  The arrow grips let you stretch the solid in the given direction.

The arrow grips let you stretch the solid in the given direction. In the case of the cylinder, you can easily resize the diameter. In AutoCAD Release 14 these operations could get tedious and often it was more efficient to reconstruct the solid.

Change is Constant

Once a solid has been unioned with other solids to form a compound solid body, these stretch grips disappear.

Once a solid has been unioned with other solids to form a compound solid body, these stretch grips disappear.

That made for a very sad dino. That is until I discovered Presspull. After issuing the Presspull command, you can select a face of the solid and stretch it further than my tiny arms will ever reach. Here’s the operation in process.

After issuing the Presspull command, you can select a face of the solid and stretch it.

Oh, but wait! There’s more! What if I need to slope one of these sides? No sweat off of these brows (wait, do dinos even have sweating brows? Hmmm….). In any case, just select Taper Faces from the ribbon, click a few times, enter an angle, and the job is done.

select Taper Faces from the ribbon, click a few times, enter an angle, and the job is done.

What’s that you say? You want to rotate that face along the sloped edge? Here you go, Start Solidedit, select Face, enter Rotate, pick the axis of rotation, and enter the rotation angle.

Start Solidedit, select Face, enter Rotate, pick the axis of rotation, and enter the rotation angle.

I’m telling you, I could have fun doing this all day. Back in Release 14 days, stretching a solid involved making a copy of the solid, moving it to the desired position, and then either subtracting or unioning the copy, depending on the desired results. Tapering a face often involved setting a UCS, slicing the solid — often keeping both sides of the resulting slice (just in case you needed to stitch things back together), and deleting the side you didn’t want. I’m glad those days are over.

These tools couldn’t have come at a better time. Historically most of the machine design work I perform consists of rather simple shapes. A new job I’ve been assigned involves creating a few molded plastic parts. Now, I know what a molded plastic part is and how they’re made. I know the die requires draft angles and fillets, and the shape itself can be complex with curved surfaces and all sorts of other considerations. I’m finding AutoCAD 2015 gives me the means to create a design that while I could have eventually done in Release 14, I doubt these arms could have done it nearly as easily.

Rawrrr!

In closing, I’m discovering new design capabilities on a near daily basis. Even better, I’m able to apply them to my work as I get acquainted with them, creating parts and components in ways I haven’t previously thought of. You might say I’m becoming quite the modern dino.

_________________

About the author: Patrick Hughes, machine designer and owner of Engineered Design Solutions in Rockford, Illinois, has worked with AutoCAD since 1991. He has developed a number of AutoLISP and other software solutions to automate his workflow and increase productivity, including the commercially available time tracking program, CadTempo.

How to Catch Design Problems Quicker With Geometric DFX

March 13, 2015 Leave a comment

If DFX sounds like a new product to you, it isn’t. For some time, it has been offered as an add-on product called DFMPro, which has been integrated into a number of high-profile CAD software solutions, including SolidWorks, Creo, and NX. DFX is the stand-alone product now offered by Geometric. While DMFPro works within a specific MCAD software package, DFX works with native models and assemblies in almost all CAD software programs. The cool thing about DFX is how easy it makes finding design flaws in the early design stages, helping to eliminate engineering change orders (ECOs).

What’s Useful About DFX?

ECOs are wasteful and expensive. It is estimated that ECOs are responsible for eating up some 20 to 50 percent of the total cost of designing and producing a product, and about 30 to 50 percent of the cost of engineering and research and development capacities. Some design flaws aren’t evident until much later in the development process, such as when the product hits the production line, during product testing, or when the end customer begins to complain.

DFX helps eliminate this waste of time and resources in a simple, user-friendly way. It automatically recognizes areas of the design that need special attention, such as the placement of holes and bends, how wide ribs and slots are, and the height of bosses. DFX as a stand-alone product can help eliminate cost overruns, and speed the time to market.

DFX combines the in-house knowledge base with industry best practices and automatically applies the design rules with just a few clicks of the mouse. It is also customizable for specific industry needs, as well as particular company or user needs and preferences.

How Does DFX Work?

It isn’t necessary to be an experienced CAD designer to leverage this product. DFX requires only basic CAD software knowledge to operate, such as how to rotate, zoom, etc. It combines a number of knowledge bases, including technical documentation, data from testing and analysis on previous projects, and known ways to improve efficiency and lower costs with designs.

Once the knowledge is added to the system and the program is configured according to needs and preferences, it looks for issues that might be found in production or during product use. This includes identifying issues like mold release when manufacturing plastic parts and pieces, bending issues often seen in sheet metals, and service access problems associated with making parts. It helps users identify design flaws at the earliest possible stage of development, when these issues are quick, easy, and cheap to resolve.

DFX Compatibility

Geometric DFX works in most CAD formats, including:

• SolidWorks
• CATIA
• Creo
• Inventor
• NX
• Solid Edge

It is also compatible with most neutral formats, including:

• IGES
• STEP
• Parasolid

DFX is useful for injection molding, sheet metal, machining, castings, and assembly. A free trial of the product, as well as demos and videos, are available at the Geometric DFMPro website.

_________

For CAD users, Cadalyst is the brand of CAD information provider that offers the most complete and up-to-date information about CAD. Read up on the latest product reviews, news, information, announcements, and more today at the Cadalyst website.

 

Categories: AutoCAD, Backup System Tags: ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 42 other followers