October 10, 2015

working in 3D CAD design

This is a view of one of the new glitter house buildings showing it in Ironcad the 3D CAD program that I love to use. At this point I have finished the design of the miniature cardstock building and created all the walls out of virtual paper the thickness of the real material I will be cutting from. Here I am just getting ready to start unfolding it to make everything flat so I can create the 2D cutting files. You see that funny circle and line shape against the roof of the building? It is the special feature of this program that allows me to move an object in all kinds of directions and also do things like duplicate it, snap it against other objects, move it a defined distance or angle, etc. Its a magic tool that other CAD programs don't have. Across the top are the tools for the various functions you can do and also types of options with lots of drop down menus of choices to select from. At first its pretty confusing as this program is very much loaded with what it can achieve in the way of intricate detailed design.  For glitter house design I am only using a fraction of  the capability. Along the bottom are the ways to view the model, pick objects, etc. Of course for designing something this simple I need only a small fraction of this program's capabilities.

It does have a built in rendering engine where I can make the model look close to photo realistic. I don't bother with photo realistic rendering as my goal is not for presenting the CAD model itself to a client to show them what I have designed for them. Its fun to play with if you like being always virtual such as in a video game or for digital art but that is not my art form.

Over on the left side of the screen is a list of all the parts of my building. They can be further expanded when needed. On the right side is a catalog of shapes you can drop into the scene. There are other things in the built in catalogs as well, fasteners such as screws and bolts, color and textures. You can also create your own catalogs of parts such as objects you have designed or imported from some other place.

When I have all those walls flat I click a button and the program launches a drawing file. That next step is super easy to do, I just rotate the CAD model until it faces the right way and choose a 1:1 scale. Then that image exports as a new file in a format I can open in Corel Draw. I use Corel because both my paper cutter and the laser have plug-ins that will launch my project into the software that run the machines.

The program I design in is called Ironcad, a high end design program, not one most of you will have heard of before but having been trained in and having worked with  most of the big name CAD programs, this one is the only one of them I would ever choose to work in for my own projects. It is faster than all the competitors and also much easier to learn. Not a free program, this is professional software for serious use. However  the prices for students and educators are very reasonable. There are lots of tutorials for it on youtube created by the company as well as by users. The program does have a free 30 day trial.

Disclaimer...I am an associated dealer of Ironcad because I happen to love using it. :)