We are constantly reminded that you get what you pay for, and thereís no such thing as a free lunch. (Any other clichťs come to mind?) So, when I met recently with the folks from Allied Electronics, RS Components, and SpaceClaim (yes, the room was crowded), I had those two adages in mind as they presented their ďfreeĒ CAD tool.
(Note that full-blown free tools are rare in the industry. Other vendors might offer a ďpay as you goĒ or a limited version of a tool for free. But this tool comes from a different type of source -- a distributor rather than a tool developer.)
Interestingly, RS and Allied arenít new to the free tool game. A few years back, they came out with DesignSpark PCB, which is circuit-design software that can be used for schematic capture, PCB board design and layout, and generating manufacturing files. So, I shouldnít have been skeptical, but itís my nature.
On top of that, what did a pair of distributors know about creating design software? Well, thatís where SpaceClaim comes in. They actually know a lot about the topic. SpaceClaim specializes in 3D modeling software, and the two distributors specialize in, what else, distributing products (and now software) to design engineers. Sounds like a great combination, and from early indicators, itís just that.
Dubbed DesignSpark Mechanical, the tool can produce detailed dimensioned worksheets, quickly make amendments and additions to a design, and employ intuitive gesture-based modeling. According to RS and Allied, DesignSpark Mechanical, which is available in multiple languages, overcomes two key barriers for designers. The first is obvious -- itís free. The second is its simplicity. It has a pretty short learning curve, as I found out after playing with it for a short time. Through a partnership with TraceParts, users gain access to millions of models from the companyís online CAD portal.
Clearly, if you want to do complex designs and connect to other complex tools, this isnít the tool for you. But itís certainly worth a look. The price is right.
Speaking of cool and useful tools, have you checked out Design News Direct, the online directory of products and suppliers? Developed internally by the folks at Design News, the directory contains listings of more than 3,000 vendors in the design engineering community. Itís filled with product information, whitepapers, videos, and so on. And itís all easily searchable. If youíre in the sourcing stage of a design, check out Design News Direct.