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RS Components free 3D CAD package

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Tony Payn20/09/2013 10:34:36
10 forum posts

RS Components are providing a free 3D CAD suite based on SpaceClaim professional software. www.designspark.com

Thet also have a free PCB design package too, based on EasyPC.

Russell Eberhardt21/09/2013 07:56:31
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2726 forum posts
86 photos

The 3D CAD doesn't look to be much better than Sketchup to me although I haven't tried it, having access to something better.

Thought I'd have a look at the PCB design software for a little project I have. First problem was activating it. Why do they, like Draftsight, make you jump through hoops before you can use free software?

OK, having activated it, I designed a very simple board as a test - all quite straightforward. Next I exported a DXF file with the idea of using my cnc mill to rout out the tracks. I tried loading it into DXF2GCODE to convert it and the program told me the file was broken. Then tried loading it into Draftsight and that too told me it was a bad file. So I'm not too impressed. It might be OK if you are working from Gerber files or printing on film for photo-etching but I haven't tried that.

Russell.

IanT21/09/2013 08:41:26
1945 forum posts
194 photos

Many years ago i got a "free" version of TurboCAd (v4) with one of the computer mags. Struggled with it at first before I relalised how important it was to use the correct 'snap' modes (after I finally read the manual - duh!). A few years ago I purchased v15 DeLuxe from Amazon for about £15.00 (the current version was v17 at the time).

I've read a number of people who don't like TC but often wondered if they had actually read the manual (or done the free tutorial provided). I think you need to invest some time in the more advanced products and I am now fairly fluent in TC 2D. When (if) I need to go to 3D then I'm pretty sure TC will be more than sufficient for my needs. Perhaps more importantly, I view TC as being a "mainstream" product (probably one of the more successful ones after AutoCAD) - so I'm reasonably sure it will be around for a while and get further developed over time. There is also a large user base.

There are lot's of 'Freebie' products out there which seem to come and go. My view is that it probably makes good sense to focus on just one (good one) and invest the time to learn to use it well. Once you've done this, you will be unlikely to want to move to another product.

So my advice is to choose your CAD system (or any other significant s/w) carefully, learn to use it properly and then stick with it.

Regards,

IanT

littlerick21/09/2013 09:34:21
36 forum posts

Software nowadays is as complex as the engineering side of things. I find the best software for anything usually takes a little time to learn.

Whatever software you use, give it some time and learn with basics as you would a new machine. For a budget option try some of the "shareware" titles... Shareware tends to be better written and tends to work off small fee's or donations.

Some have limitations that may not even affect what you want to do and can be used freely.

Watch out when looking for "free software" as a lot of sites are just trying to put dodgy software on your puter..... Go through general shareware sites as they tend to have normal reviews of software by people who use them.

Rick

Stub Mandrel21/09/2013 10:21:10
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4311 forum posts
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I use the free version of Eagle for PCB design. It has the same sort of steep learning curve as most CAD programmes. It is idosyncratic (belying its DOS origins, I suspect) but as a limited version (only on the area you can have for terminals - which means you can run tracks outside this area) of professional software it does do everything properly. I have made many boards using it.

I agree about watching download sites. Two days ago we tried to install Kodu from Microsoft for my daughter, but it wion't install. My wife tried a version froma download site and we had to stop it installing a 'free registry checker (limited trial version)' a free 'search assistant toolbar' and a 'free' program that helpfully sends you advertising relevant to your searches. It then proceeded to download the same file from Microsoft that we already had.

Neil

Russell Eberhardt21/09/2013 10:27:34
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2726 forum posts
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If you are looking for free 2D CAD you can't do better than Draftsight. It is produced by Solidworks so has the backing of a very professional company and is virtually a clone of Autocad of a few years ago. It's available for Windows, Mac, and Linux as a free download.

Russell.

Russell Eberhardt21/09/2013 10:31:42
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2726 forum posts
86 photos
Posted by Stub Mandrel on 21/09/2013 10:21:10:

I agree about watching download sites. Two days ago we tried to install Kodu from Microsoft for my daughter, but it wion't install. My wife tried a version froma download site and we had to stop it installing a 'free registry checker (limited trial version)' a free 'search assistant toolbar' and a 'free' program that helpfully sends you advertising relevant to your searches. It then proceeded to download the same file from Microsoft that we already had.

I know the problem well. That's one reason I have changed to Linuxsmiley

Russell.

Tony Payn21/09/2013 18:35:01
10 forum posts

Russell, regarding routing PCBs and CAD, I think you will probably need to do some processing on the output file from just about any CAD package. There's a company producing dedicated PCB routing tools (LPKF at www.kpkf.com) and we bought one of those machines at work. Very good is was too. I remember that the PCB file in gerber format had first to be translated by the software provided with the machine. This worked out tool paths to remove copper in the most efficient way, using large tools for big areas and small tools for fine pitch parts. It calculated how far it needed to be from the track according to tool width etc. Perhaps your setup does the same. The motor in that machine span at some ridiculous speed - I think it was something like 26,000 rpm which was necessary to get a decent cut. And the cutters wore out quite quickly, due more to the glass in the laminate than to the copper.

As for the comments on free software made by several, I quite agree. I was one of the first to sign up for Alibre. When they launched, it was called something else (X-CAD, I think) and if you we're one of the first 10,000 to register, you got some enhancements in the free package. It came with a promise of 'for life', if I remember correctly. Then they cut it down to almost useless unless you pay for the hobby version. I don't use it anymore.

The 3D software offered by RS Components looks very capable and comprehensive. I've only tried it for a few hours but so far I'd say it's as featured as Alibre. It could well be based on Sketchup but is definitely an engineering package. One of the reasons I'm prepared to invest time in it, is because RS are behind it. Their goal is to provide software free and I don't imagine they would suddenly change that policy, in the same way that Alibre did.

The commercial version at www.spaceclaim.com is probably a bit more capable than the free one but if it is like the PCB package, new features should be added fairly regularly.

John Stevenson21/09/2013 18:52:42
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For life means nothing,

I have had paid for programs fail because they won't run on anything past XP

Still running one CNC on a DOS box with ISA slot inside.

David Jupp21/09/2013 20:01:16
806 forum posts
17 photos

I won't comment on this particular package, as I haven't tried it.

Interesting from my perspective is that

1. RS obviously believes it will deliver some value to their customers (or they wouldn't offer it). The quid pro quo is that the associated tools integrate with RS ordering system.

2. I wonder if other companies might start to offer 3D CAD either free or at minimal cost - if this does establish a trend, I can see that there is a segment of the market which could go this way. These free packages typically omit most import/export capability - but that doesn't matter to everyone.

Will it end up openeing new users eyes to advantages of 3D CAD (some who then move on to 'full packages' ), or will it end up hitting sales of those 'full packages' as the free option is 'good enough'?

Edited By David Jupp on 21/09/2013 20:01:55

Edited By David Jupp on 21/09/2013 20:02:46

Edited By David Jupp on 21/09/2013 20:03:04

Stub Mandrel21/09/2013 20:15:13
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4311 forum posts
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> I have had paid for programs fail because they won't run on anything past XP

I guess you have already tried compatability mode? I got my ancient version of corel to behave under Vista that way.

Neil

Ron Colvin21/09/2013 22:24:49
79 forum posts
6 photos

DesignSpark Mechanical (The R S Components free Cad program) will not run on a virtual machine. A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to try out SpaceClaim free for 30 days, but could not get it to work with my computers setup (Windows 7 running on VirtualBox).

John Stevenson21/09/2013 22:45:15
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Moderator
5068 forum posts
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Posted by David Jupp on 21/09/2013 20:01:16:

Will it end up openeing new users eyes to advantages of 3D CAD (some who then move on to 'full packages' ), or will it end up hitting sales of those 'full packages' as the free option is 'good enough'?

David,

I don't think it will make a lot of difference, possibly more of the former as they see the advantages and not so much of the later as these people are 'playing' for want of a better term and and wouldn't commit to the time and expense of a full program.

Iain Campbell14/10/2014 13:41:20
14 forum posts
18 photos

I've used plenty of CAD packages in my time, mainly for electronics (the day job!), ranging from the free to the insanely expensive.

The trade off between price and performance is my prime consideration and so far, I have to say DesignSpark is the one for me. For electronics, the price-performance beats everything else - some packages are better but aren't worth the extra cost, you know?

For mechanical, again DesignSpark is the one I go to. However, if the open source community behind FreeCAD sort out the limitations, bugs, and gaps in it's feature list, I might be persuaded to move back to that instead. It reminds me a lot of SolidWorks and could be extremely powerful once it's fully featured.

Iain

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