Sponsored By

CAD/CAM for the cost conscious

With an increasing number of software options available, designers can find the right system to fit requirements within a budget.Frustrated with the limitations of older CAD/CAM software, but afraid to learn another affordable system and outgrow it as well? Good news: Now there are more options for systems that allow users to add on features as needed, and free trials and training to help determine if it’s the right choice before you buy.

Kate Dixon

May 11, 2009

7 Min Read
CAD/CAM for the cost conscious

With an increasing number of software options available, designers can find the right system to fit requirements within a budget.

Frustrated with the limitations of older CAD/CAM software, but afraid to learn another affordable system and outgrow it as well? Good news: Now there are more options for systems that allow users to add on features as needed, and free trials and training to help determine if it’s the right choice before you buy.

Of course, cost isn’t always calculated in dollars and cents. The cost of a designer’s time is certainly a factor to consider, and the environmental impact of a part is something of increasing importance to customers. Here are a few software systems recently introduced to make the most of a designer’s time and budget.

Affordable and expandable

For users on a tight budget who want to start or expand their business with scalable software, VX Innovator from VX Corp. (Melbourne, FL) offers modeling and assembly tools for less than $1000. This hybrid modeler lets users work with surface and solid geometry, but has the power to create 2D layouts of parts and assemblies. With tools such as sweep and loft, basic surface editing, and imported model healing, VX Innovator supports formats like IGES, STEP, DXF, and DWG.

The release of VX 2009 in March offers what is said to be the only fully expandable CAD/CAM product on the market with a built-in 3D learning system, called Show-n-Tell. Users can start at any point and add functionality to meet growth, expanding into advanced surfacing, digital model reconstruction, mold and die design, and machining. VX 2009 introduced new interface enhancements so users have the ability to constrain lines and arcs/circles tangent to splines. New options for 2D linkages are part of the new D-Cubed 2D constraint manager in VX Sketcher. The VX Overdrive engine has the ability to handle more extreme geometry conditions, and it is even easier to add purchased parts to assemblies from the user’s normal suppliers, thanks to a direct interface to the TraceParts and CADRegister libraries.

An offer from the company called VX Evolution that started in March gives users an anonymous download of the foundation product, VX Innovator, with a free 30-day license, and the opportunity to learn the system through the software’s built-in learning system. Beginner tutorials come preloaded so users can learn and experiment at their own pace, and also can access the free online learning center to get support through anonymous live chat or Web meetings.

Free-form design options in AutoCAD 2010 allow users to push or pull edges, faces, or vertices to model complex shapes.



Reduce time and environmental impact

Time means money when it comes to utilizing a designer’s skills, so enhancements made to established CAD/CAM systems can be worth the associated costs. This spring, Autodesk 2010 (San Rafael, CA) releases started shipping to users, featuring new free-form design tools, parametric drawing, and enhanced PDF support.

New free-form design tools in AutoCAD 2010 allow users to more easily explore ideas in 3D models. PDF import and underlay, along with enhanced publishing features, now can improve two-way communication with an extended design team. Parametric drawing features keep everything aligned automatically by defining persistent relationships between objects, so parallel lines remain parallel and concentric circles remain centered. AutoCAD 2010 also now supports 3D printing, simplifying prototype creation by connecting to on-demand 3D printing services or personal 3D printers.

One of the improvements to Auto¬desk Moldflow 2010 is an energy usage indicator so designers can further decrease manufacturing energy requirements. Access to what the company says is the world’s largest plastic materials database of its kind gives designers the ability to evaluate different materials to make product design choices that meet sustainability initiatives.



At the SolidWorks World 2009 user conference in February, Dassault Systemes SolidWorks Corp. (Concord, MA) demonstrated an early version of its Sage software that details in real time the environmental impact of parts and assemblies, and the design decisions that go into them. This software, developed in collaboration with PE International (Leinfelden-Echterdingen, Germany), will be available with this fall’s release of SolidWorks 2010. An Xpress version is included with every license, with a professional version upgrade available. Both will display a dashboard that gives information on the design’s prospective carbon footprint, air and water impact, and energy consumed in manufacturing.

After an engineer creates a baseline design, other new designs can be compared to the original to see how different material, process, or design approaches impact the changes on the dashboard. The professional version also calculates a product’s impact across its environmental life cycle, including information on its energy consumption during use.

“The goal is to give designers and engineers solid, actionable information with which they can confidently make sound design decisions,” says Rick Chin, director of product and marketing innovation for DS SolidWorks. “Although everybody has heard terms like carbon footprint, nobody really knows the magnitude of their own impact in terms of carbon and beyond. We’re giving designers and engineers a snapshot of this without requiring extra work.” [email protected]


WEB EXTRA

Deserving design

Alibre (Richardson, TX) is a relatively recent entry to the 3D CAD space, founded in 1997, but with a list price of less than $2000 for the high-end package, this user-friendly software offers value for designers. A seat of Alibre Design typically costs less than a fifth the cost of a seat of well-known software like Pro/Engineer. And the Alibre Design Express 11 version released last fall is free to download, with a month trial of the Alibre Design midgrade version of the software.

In Design Express, the full associative 2D drafting design changes can be made quickly and easily, but this software doesn’t offer all the advanced manufacturing and analysis features. Though things like mold design and core and cavity split can be designed using core part and assembly design features, there aren’t specialty design modules for these specific tasks in Alibre. The software does offer photo rendering and data exchange in formats including IGES and SAT, as well as video training tutorials.

In the Alibre Premium version, a new product called Alibre Translate (which can be purchased as a separate add-on for $499) can directly import 3D CAD formats from Catia, Solid Edge 3D, Autodesk Inventor, Pro/Engineer, and Parasolid, as well as export to SolidWorks and Parasolid. A range of automated model check, stitching, and healing functions are also offered in Alibre Translate to ensure closed-manifold 3D objects, which then can be edited directly in Alibre as solid models.

This spring Alibre also announced a “buy one, give one” program, in which 101 seats of Alibre Design (retailing at $999) will be contributed to qualified and deserving candidates who would otherwise not be able to afford a license due to unemployment or other circumstances. Current customers nominate deserving individuals, and Alibre will choose recipients based on qualifications and needs. [email protected]

Sign up for the PlasticsToday NewsFeed newsletter.

You May Also Like