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User Rank
bobjengr   10/10/2013 5:13:51 PM
I have had the very same problem with CAD software--time to become familiar is burdensome and definitely takes away from projects having deadlines and clients screaming about those deadlines.  Solid Works was my software of choice.  I attended a "get acquainted" seminar lasting about five (5) hours and it helped to the point that I thought I could maneuver on my own.    Was I ever incorrect about this one.   I ended up "biting the bullet" and contracting with a gentleman who had time and experience using the software.  If you really want a mind-blowing experience, try learning COMSOL and bring a lunch.

Happy CADder
User Rank
Try it!
Happy CADder   10/4/2013 5:31:35 AM
As an ex-Pro E user I can fully identify with several of the comments already posted. The learning curve with that type of package is a genuine hurdle, along with cost, to aquisition and hence also to optimum effectiveness. In addition, the parametric, history based model structure makes it challenging to update models during or after initial design.

DesignSpark Mechanical is configured to overcome these challenges and does it very well indeed! It IS quick and easy to learn! It IS quick and easy to update models (because it is a direct modelling package)! It is FREE, for ever, to anyone!

My suggestion is that if you're not sure, download it and give it an hour of your time. In that short time (if my experience is anything to go by) you'll be hooked! I'd dearly love to hear from the sceptics who have commented once they have actually tried the software and see if they have the same negative view. 

This new software will, I believe, allow wider access to CAD, not just in companies who haven't used CAD before but within established CAD equipped businesses where people involved in the design process will be able to access CAD and hence contribute where previously the cost of extra seats and the learning demands have prohibited this.

Watch this space!

Ralphy Boy
User Rank
Something I've Been Looking For
Ralphy Boy   10/3/2013 4:28:50 PM
I've tried a few free CAD programs on my home pc but have never been satisfied; SolidWorks is just too versatile and I use that at work (spoiled I guess). But now I'll be trying this one because the reviews look good.

This release could actually turn into a nice money maker for Allied and friends...

From the DesignSpark Mechanical web site...

"Keep track of your BOM and get an instant quotation from RS and Allied"

Even if they only get 10% of the users orders that they otherwise wouldn't have... it's an interesting investment scheme. 

User Rank
no easy - obvious path forward
Thinking_J   10/2/2013 7:11:56 PM
I am similar in experience to others commenting.. Learned early Autocad products (v1.3-v12) , then schematic / pcb CAD programs from numerous players.. then 3D CAD products.

Because I work in several different engineering areas - I had to decide and focus on what I needed and where I could best guess the industries were going. And just as important, what my customers and employers were going to be using.

Cost of tools can be high.. but nothing compared to cost to create a career's worth of component libraries, legacy designs (design re-use) and the pain (lost hours) of learning a new user interface!

Free?.. not an issue... ( red herring / a distraction from the real costs)


William K.
User Rank
Climbin that learning curve
William K.   10/2/2013 5:46:49 PM
I am inclined to agree with Cadcoke about the learning curve. I learned Autocad at one employer, (version 8), moved on to another company that had Autocad (Version 10), and they upgraded several times. Those upgrades were not so bad because a lot of my work was drawing circuits whaic are not hard in 2D. Plus I had the detailer who went to classes to ask when I got stumped.

Then I worked for another company that had both Autocad (V12) and also Pro-Engineer, which seems to be primarily 3D.It was so very different that just opening a drwing and finding a view to print was a real ordeal. The problem is that it is so very different, not that I think that there is anything wrong with Pro-E, just that the entire process and all of the commands are totally different. Sort of like learning to swim after 20 years of only walking, everything is different.

Now with some free software, is it really "no-strings" free? because I have had samples of some very wonderful software that were free for a while, but after that one would have to purchase the program to access the design that had been done with the free code. I have no problems with that concept except that ithe deal needs to be truthfully described from the beginning, such as "here is a 30 day sample to show you how wonderful our product is, and we know that you will buyit by then so that you can finish your project." 

And that free circuit board program that produces files that only one company can use to make circuit boards from. That one is good!

User Rank
Re: A very nice alternative
cadcoke5   10/2/2013 3:35:22 PM
I am currently looking at low-cost CAD programs to recommend to a friend's company. But, it take so much time to evaluate a program, it is difficult to make such a decision with confidence.

The smarter a program is, the more time it takes to figgure out what it is thinking.  Without that understanding, you tend to get into fights with the software, and flounder abou,t trying to think of a way to get the software to do something. Poor manuals are certainly part of the problem.

And while many "easy to learn" software really will get you started working on basic things fairly quickly, it will take years to learn all the in's and out's of a system.  After that, an update will upset the applecart, and you must spend many hours to discover the new set of bugs introduced by the update. I think the fact that the CAD vendors have gone into subscriptions as a business model, proves that the updates are just not worth the cost of the update, nor the internal costs. Otherwise, the upgrade fees would gladly be paid by the customers.

Unfortunately, once you spend a few years learning about and investing your CAD data into a program, you are pretty much locked into it.   Changing to a new CAD system will be far more expensive than the CAD program itself.  The idea of only owning a non-transferable license for an expensive CAD prgoram has been upheld by US courts, so your investment can't even be sold to help cover the cost of buying a different program. They work hard to lock you in.

Personally I would rather pay for better quality CAD software, but the $5,000 + subscription costs is certainly hard to justify. It was entertaining to see how Autodesk would respond when competetors released free DWG editors.  I wonder how the new generation of free 3D CAD programs will affect the market.

User Rank
Re: A very nice alternative
Tool_maker   10/2/2013 1:28:16 PM
  I will take your word for that as I just gave up and admitted defeat. In addition the newest version of Windows will not allow my old version of AutoCad to run. I am trying to nurse this thing through until I retire. When our IT guy came by and said he was there to upgrade my computer I told him I would hit him with his laptop and to please remove himself from my office.

User Rank
Re: A very nice alternative
Turbineman   10/2/2013 1:10:15 PM
I feel your pain Tool_Maker.  I've been using PTC's ProEngineer (now Creo) for 20 years now.  Back then the learning curve to full production was about 18 months to 2 years.  I suspect it's still close to that.  The trouble with most 3D CAD softwares out there is that every time a new version comes out, there's a new learning curve (Now where did that command go?).

User Rank
Re: A very nice alternative
Tool_maker   10/2/2013 12:55:07 PM
  What intrigues me most is the author said, "Short learning curve." I have used 2d AutoCad for years and when we made the shift to a 3d modeler, Solidworks was our first choice. After beating my head against the software for a week or so, I was so far behind that I gave up and continued to work in 2d so I could catch up with the continuing work that was piling up. I tried several times to just shove everything aside and by hook or crook I was going to learn how to use Solidworks, but each time had to abort the effort so I could get my work done.

  I gave up and confess that Solidworks brought me to my knees. Next we tried the latest version of AutoCad, which included inventor. While I was able to get my brain around this a little easier, I was still far less productive than when I went back to my old version of 2d AutoCad.

  I suspect that for me "short learning curve" would be as elusive as the authors "free lunch".

Charles Murray
User Rank
Design News Direct
Charles Murray   10/1/2013 6:01:26 PM
Yes, I have checked out Design News Direct, Rich. Amazingly comprehensive.


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