Stress analysis capabilities within Autodesk Inventor allow users to predict how a design will work under real-world conditions before building it. Mini Toolbars bring context-sensitive options directly into the modeling interface, and they will adapt to both the current operation and the current selection.
@Greg: There have definitely been improvements in terms of ease of use around CAD software. I think the vendors were beat on for years because of the arcane nature of how to navigate a CAD program. As users got more accustomed to the way business applications worked with graphical user interfaces and wizards and tool bars, they expected the same from their CAD tools.
From my perspective, the biggest breakthrough has also been ease of use improvements over the years. CAD packages now seem so much more intuitive and easier to use than the versions I learned on in the 90's. I think this also helps productivity by making it easier for everyone to use these packages.
There have been a flurry of mobile apps in the so-called CAD arena--most around simple viewing and markup. I don't think we'll ever see a full-function CAD tool on a mobile platform (Android or Apple), but I think we'll start to see peeled back layers of functionality that make sense in the mobile paradigme for the way engineers work--what they need access to in the field, etc. I think this will be a big area for development next year.
Does the new age of functionality extend to portable CAD? I know there are lots of iPad apps. Wondering about Android tablets, as well as whether any worthwhile CAD functionality can be extended downward to smartphone (iPhone) platforms.
Wow! Thanks. I don't know how I missed that! They must not have shown it at MacWorld... I will definitely download the free version. The under $900 version is competitive with VectorWorks, but after having used VW for close to 25 years, it would probably be difficult to change to any other CAD software.
I hear you on Mac front. I've been an avid Mac user since 1999 and will never go back. Autodesk just came out with their Mac version. Here's our story on it. Also, I wouldn't be surprised to see SolidWorks come out with something Mac supported--if not a specific Mac version of the CAD program, then a cloud offering that could run on Macs. They actually showed something like that at a recent user event.
VectorWorks started out as MiniCAD on the Mac around 1985 or 1986, and I started using it around 1988. It is now in both Mac and PC versions. I'm currently using the 2009 version. I skipped the 2010 update, and the early 2011 version didn't work well with some of my previous files, so I didn't buy that either. The 2012 version is either available now or will be soon. I hope to upgrade...
VectorWorks is apparently more widely known in architecture and landscaping, but I use the machine design version. It does all the 3D stuff, including walkthroughs and flyarounds, but I've never found the time to learn them. I'm still working almost exclusively in 2D. I design individual parts and metal fabrication machines of medium complexity (<100 parts), mostly related to honeycomb and other thin metal parts for aerospace.
There are several low-end CAD products for the Mac, but I was not aware that AutoCAD had come out with a Mac version. I will look into it, but the others in our company use SolidWorks and MasterCAM, so I probably won't change, unless SolidWorks comes out with a Mac version.
The only other engineering-related software I commonly use is Numbers (the Apple equivalent of Excel), and Excel itself. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, but since the majority of the people I work with use PCs, I use Excel more than Numbers.
The standard Mac calculator does everything I need in that area.
I'm old enough that I probably won't learn FEA, unless it becomes a standard part of the CAD software within a couple of years...
I like the (so far) freedom from viruses and other malware on the Mac with OSX. The last time I dealt with a virus on a Mac was 1998, in OS9. Although I have a copy of Windows for the Mac, I accidentally erased my hard drive almost two years ago, and have gotten along just fine without it, so never bothered to re-install it.
ipad2 has gyros as well as accelerometer. Pan, tilt and zoom can be accomplished by rotating and moving the tablet. Come to think of it that idea can be patented if it has not already been thought of :)
Speaking of interface, one thing I have not seen much of is 3D as in real 3D and not perspective rendering. Nvidia has a graphics card for games that allow for 3D glass. Have not invested the money to see if it works on CAD software. It should. They are all the same 3D data going into the graphics card.
If you watch experianced CAD users, you will see them constantly rotating the object back and forth. They do that to get a feel for depth. Is similar to why birds move their heads back and forth when they walk to get depth since they only have one eye on each side.
My wife who is an engineering manager, and not into detail CAD work hate it when engineers rotate the object back and forth all the time. She thinks they are trying to hide something from her. Had to tell her is to get a feel for depth.
On the screen, you know height and width. However, you need to know depth at the same time to see if you can fit that great idea in the part. Being able to tell height, width and depth will let you see quickly if there is enough space to put another bolt, crank or some other super gizmo in the design. Having a better feel for how much space you have will improve productivity because you can come up with better ideas faster.