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Fully-constrained parametric CAD options - similar to Solvespace, Alibre?

Just outta curiosity, Sparky, why are you looking for a program like this ? Most people bitch and moan if they are forced to use a totally-parametric, plan-before-you-model CAD program. I like Pro/E (no one else here uses it ?) but you do have to spend a lot more thought planning what you're doing. Everything depends on what went before, which most people don't like.

Thanks for the replies.

I'm a tinkerer and I am badly in need of a creative outlet. CAD is the best way for me to get my ideas out. A lot of what I need to do involves modeling complex structural, architectural and systemic elements accurately for use in Blender scenes, laying out my ideas for metalworking projects concisely in a way that will update procedurally as I make changes & improvements, solving complex or obscure geometric relationships quickly, etc.

The ability to export an entire assembly as individual .STL part files with correct X/Y/Z orientation and spatial positions is important for me. (Exporting from the 'Z' up CAD standard to the 'Z' depth cinema standard and having it scaled in inches accurately with all parts where they should be in relation to each other.)

Being able to fully customize the mouse and keyboard interface to be consistent with Blender's controls is also very important. E.g: shift + middle to pan here, shift + middle to orbit there... turntable orbit here, trackball orbit there... orbit around cursor depth here, orbit around selection there... what a pain in the ass. Consistency is key for my own sanity. Switching between Blender and e.g. F360 is like being forced to learn how to steer a bicycle backwards... and then immediately trying to un-learn it again when I go back to Blender.

Step by step parametric operations just make the most sense in my head. I'm used to working with my hands, which means I'm used to doing things step by step. Start by cutting the length of stock you need, then weld another piece on to it at this angle & position, drill a hole exactly here, and so on. Surface modeling doesn't to it for me - way too arbitrary. Direct modeling doesn't permit the degree of control that I need. I often have two or three dimensions in my head that I know I have to work with and I need the software to solve for the rest. Direct modeling largely requires you to figure out (and maintain) those kinds of complex geometric relations yourself. With parametric I can just e.g. tell the software to always keep that hole there centered halfway through the thickness of a particular cross-section and one fifth along it's length. I don't have to calculate it's exact position manually, and any subsequent changes I make to the cross-section will automatically propagate to the hole and every other relative dimension at play. Or modeling a flight of stairs; when later the rise or run changes slightly after correcting an error - if done properly, the software will handle all of the tedious recalculations for every single step and all of the structural steel - along with crunching 90% of the numbers automatically for me in the first place.


I'll take a look at some of the options you guys have listed. I'm not against spending more than $1,000 for a piece of software that I can keep with me forever if it does me a lot of good - but for $4,000 it had damn well better knock my socks off, you know? That's two years' worth of groceries. Or a used Bridgeport. Or an NC700. Or a desktop CNC. You name it. That's a lot of dough that I can no longer use for anything else.

I don't appreciate the insinuations being made by some here that I'm trying to be a cheap-ass by budgeting my toy fund in proportion to the degree of gratitude I anticipate in return for my investment. How happy is a $700 CAD suite going to make me? How happy is a $4,000 one? $30,000? Where is the point of diminishing returns? And how does one make the conclusion that being fiscally responsible in my own way equates to ignorance or disrespect towards the developers of pricier software?

Anyhow, back on track.

I'll just put it out there that I'm not a huge fan of Siemens. The quality of their products and service is far from great in my personal experience. I could go into detail but I won't. However I thought I saw a page on their website about a hobbyist version of NX or something for free. I'll have to look into that some more.

Maybe I'll reach out to the Solidworks guys and see what they might be willing to work out for some kind of non-commercial license. I'll take a look at T-FLEX and Oneshape too. Download some demos, etc.
 
What's "Blender" ?
I thought it was a Fred Waring product.
No, it's a 3d modeling program that was originally meant for animation. It's very different from most CAD programs. In fact, it's pretty different from most other programs, so I fear that Mr Sparky will never be happy with any other program, since nothing resembles Blender very much. It's a 50-50 bet that Ton was listening to the Airplane when he designed the thing. Go ask Alice, when she's ten feet tall ...

btw, NX is not a Siemens product. It's the shotgun wedding of I-DEAS and Unigraphics, which they later purchased. The world is going to hell in a handbasket :(
 
Yeah, Blender is weird. That's open source for you.

Blender is to art as FreeCAD is to CAD. But it's gotten a lot better since 2.80.

2.7x and earlier was just plain f*cked. Now it's got much more standardized default controls, a less stupid interface and it's beginning to have VR support. Still heavily reliant on keyboard shortcuts but it's progress. It's starting to have some semblance of sanity. Nowadays with a headset and two controllers a guy can just reach out and manipulate things directly without the 3D-2D barrier or the need for a 3D mouse. Obviously not intended nor suitable for the 8-hour professional or precision work outside of 3D sculpting, but really helpful for home-gamers like me who are used to working with their hands. Plus it's just plain cool standing inside of your own idea taken form.

Blender is strictly a VFX program - one of the core design decisions the devs made was that it was *not* under any circumstances going to have CAD capabilities. Hence my predicament. Hell, for the longest time it didn't even have unit support. Everything was quantified in abstract "blender units". Pissed me off to no end.

At the end of the day, CAD software can't do art, and art software can't do CAD. So I'm stuck trying to bridge two worlds to do what I need to do. You don't build staircases with a paint brush, nor do you paint them with a tape measure. It is what it is and I have to make the best of it. Not to mention I still need CAD for normal 'sane-person' CAD purposes like designing my machining & fabrication projects and making shop drawings.

When push comes to shove, once I find something I actually like I'll just buy whatever it is I need and be done with it. But it's getting to that point that really just plain sucks. So... your recommendations are appreciated.
 
Yeah, Blender is weird. That's open source for you.
Close, but no cigar :) It was Ton's own vision of what an animation program should be, then it was freeware on Irix, then it was going to be commercial but never made it, then he released the code instead of just throwing it in the dumpster. Nice Ton. More peple should do that.

Blender is to art as FreeCAD is to CAD. But it's gotten a lot better since 2.80.
Pfffft ! Doesn't run on Irix anymore, boo hiss. Stupid open sores :(

Anyway, you might try this and see if you like it ... a lot of the cosmetics you can change, don't have to have the browser in the middle of your work screen, can put the icons anywhere you want and choose which ones to reveal, make your own menus, set fonts and font sizes, all that stuff. But here's the modeling basics

http://bdml.stanford.edu/twiki/pub/Manufacturing/ProETutorial/ProE_Wildfire_2_Tutorial-2006.pdf

Nowadays with a headset and two controllers a guy can just reach out and manipulate things directly without the 3D-2D barrier or the need for a 3D mouse.
Quit snivelling and get a space mouse. You need one. Best thing since sliced bread, really. They are wonderful. Skip the damn buttons if you don't use them but get the basic moouse. I like the older ones with the ball.

At the end of the day, CAD software can't do art, and art software can't do CAD.
Well put. Totally different approaches. But Blender, jeeze.

When push comes to shove, once I find something I actually like I'll just buy whatever it is I need and be done with it.
There was a BlenderCAD, by the way. It was a long time ago but you might be able t work the code into the newest. Maybe.

Or just buy Rhinocerous or Maya or Power Animator :)

Ayam is a free knockoff of Maya, maybe try that for fun, too.
 
I'll just put it out there that I'm not a huge fan of Siemens. The quality of their products and service is far from great in my personal experience. I could go into detail but I won't. However I thought I saw a page on their website about a hobbyist version of NX or something for free. I'll have to look into that some more.

Maybe I'll reach out to the Solidworks guys and see what they might be willing to work out for some kind of non-commercial license. I'll take a look at T-FLEX and Oneshape too. Download some demos, etc.

Siemens is a huge entity, and you can't compare their electrical/power gen products (which I assume you are talking about) to their design products. Different divisions, practically different companies. There is no hobbyist version of NX, but there is a "community" edition of SolidEdge that you can download. It will do everything you need it to do.

Note that most cad systems these days come with some form of scene building and rendering facility, Keyshot for Solid Edge, Solidworks Visualise(ize :rolleyes5:) etc. which would possibly diminish your dependence on Blender to some degree if not entirely.

Of them all, Solidworks is likely the easiest and quickest to get productive with. It's the reason it's so popular, but also the reason I have grown to hate it. Too much flexibility is hidden from the operator in the name of simplicity. Until I used NX I never appreciated how much flexibility is exposed by a vector-oriented workflow, and how restrictive and clumsy the planar-oriented workflow (that Solidworks and its derivatives employ) is in contrast.
 
. Until I used NX I never appreciated how much flexibility is exposed by a vector-oriented workflow, and how restrictive and clumsy the planar-oriented workflow (that Solidworks and its derivatives employ) is in contrast.
Can you expand on those a little? That's a new definition to me. :dunce:
 
Can you expand on those a little? That's a new definition to me. :dunce:

Effectively, everything in NX is fundamentally defined as along or around a vector, and it gives you MANY tools to define that vector.

In solidworks, everything is fundamentally defined as normal to a plane, and you only have a few tools to define the plane, so you end up doing all kinds of cumbersome workarounds with sketches defining planes to get the same result.

NX of course provides planes, but they are another tool in the box, as opposed to being the only tool in the box.

It's why so many SW users struggle with 3D sketches more than any other function, since the whole concept of a 3D sketch completely contradicts the fundamental methodology.
 
For an example...doo you mean you start a sketch on a plane (lets say an "x")
and when you doo your extrude of that sketch, you can specify it to follow along
a vector, not perpendicular to that plane ?
 
For an example...doo you mean you start a sketch on a plane (lets say an "x")
and when you doo your extrude of that sketch, you can specify it to follow along
a vector, not perpendicular to that plane ?

You can also draw a spline and have it follow that spline, then later if you want you can manipulate the spline to have the model change to match.
 
For an example...doo you mean you start a sketch on a plane (lets say an "x")
and when you doo your extrude of that sketch, you can specify it to follow along
a vector, not perpendicular to that plane ?

By default a planar sketch will be extruded normal to that plane in NX, although you can override it.

It's more how you define the plane in the first place. There are just many more methods available. The default method for many operations is "Inferred" which means it tries to figure out what you are trying to do based on what you've selected and it's extremely good getting it right. In SW you have to be absolutely explicit and that takes time. In NX when you want to define a place you are presented with the Plane Constructor dialog, which opens with "Inferred" selected by default and nine times out of ten that's good to go. Select anything on your model and it will try and turn your selection into a plane. If you need to more specific you have a list of about a dozen different methods of constructing the plane. If you need to create a new coordinate system to build your plane around you can do that right there in the plane constructor dialogue box, and it too will open with "Inferred" as the default option and try and automatically create a csys based on whatever you click on on your model, otherwise it too has a huge list of explicit methods available.

I have never had to make a sketch to define geometry to use to construct a plane in NX, and that is a frequent thing in SW.
 
Alibre Design Professional fits the bill. I think most of your Alibre complaints are from the Atom neutered version, I have no problem renaming files in mine, Alibre Design V22, or your other complaints. I have a 3d mouse, but I actually don't use it for this program, regular mouse does it well for me and I don't have complaints. I pay the maintenance fee for my single seat and find they actually issue out reasonable updates that fix problems. Couple of problems I've had they've been quick to respond and offer suggestions.

They should do 30-day trials too for you to try. Don't think you'll find anything else like it with a perpetual license that doesn't require an internet connection in the price range.
 
Yes to the spacepilot or 3-d mouse.

The simple "hockey puck" one does me just fine.


With it, you can fly.....
 
I don't appreciate the insinuations being made by some here that I'm trying to be a cheap-ass by budgeting my toy fund in proportion to the degree of gratitude I anticipate in return for my investment.

You come on here with very detailed and fussy opinions about CAD software, but you also totally don't want to pay for any of it because this is a hobby. The hobby grade stuff isn't up to your standards. The industry's gold leader in Minimum Viable Product at the lowest price is SolidWorks, and that is not in your budget. You're doing hobby work, but Fusion isn't a go because Autodesk. My gods... you even have an opinion about Siemens, even though NX is sort of head and shoulders above literally everyone else when it comes to... CAD designed for fussy, opinionated CAD nerds.

So all this, and you're shocked that people might be insuinuating that you're being a classic Choosing Begggar?
 
By default a planar sketch will be extruded normal to that plane in NX, although you can override it.

It's more how you define the plane in the first place. There are just many more methods available. The default method for many operations is "Inferred" which means it tries to figure out what you are trying to do based on what you've selected and it's extremely good getting it right. In SW you have to be absolutely explicit and that takes time. In NX when you want to define a place you are presented with the Plane Constructor dialog, which opens with "Inferred" selected by default and nine times out of ten that's good to go. Select anything on your model and it will try and turn your selection into a plane. If you need to more specific you have a list of about a dozen different methods of constructing the plane. If you need to create a new coordinate system to build your plane around you can do that right there in the plane constructor dialogue box, and it too will open with "Inferred" as the default option and try and automatically create a csys based on whatever you click on on your model, otherwise it too has a huge list of explicit methods available.

I have never had to make a sketch to define geometry to use to construct a plane in NX, and that is a frequent thing in SW.

Effectively, everything in NX is fundamentally defined as along or around a vector, and it gives you MANY tools to define that vector.

In solidworks, everything is fundamentally defined as normal to a plane, and you only have a few tools to define the plane, so you end up doing all kinds of cumbersome workarounds with sketches defining planes to get the same result.

NX of course provides planes, but they are another tool in the box, as opposed to being the only tool in the box.

It's why so many SW users struggle with 3D sketches more than any other function, since the whole concept of a 3D sketch completely contradicts the fundamental methodology.

You inspired me to look a bit. SE has more ways to define a plane, like by 3 points, normal to a curve, tangent, perpendicular, at angle, parallel. No Inferred option, that sounds like a level of intelligence that's not there, you have to pick a method first. Normal to a curve or tangent moves as the underlying geometry changes, like a plane normal to a swept curve would move as the swept curve changes. You can draw a line anywhere in space and make a plane normal to that line, change the line and the plane moves to suit. If SW won't do that, I can see the frustration. I tried to duplicate something in fusion that I had done in SE and had to fumble around creating sketches to create planes to create more sketches to create more planes, I thought it was my unfamiliarity with Fusion, I guess it was probably the different workflow. I don't think I've ever had to made a sketch in SE to make a plane. Coordinate systems are easy too. Once you place the origin you can rotate it around with the steering wheel. I can see why you don't like SW so much.
Do you use Synchronous much in NX? I understand it's implemented differently in NX than in SE, you don't have to switch between Ordered and Synchronous, do you?
 
You inspired me to look a bit. SE has more ways to define a plane, like by 3 points, normal to a curve, tangent, perpendicular, at angle, parallel. No Inferred option, that sounds like a level of intelligence that's not there, you have to pick a method first. Normal to a curve or tangent moves as the underlying geometry changes, like a plane normal to a swept curve would move as the swept curve changes. You can draw a line anywhere in space and make a plane normal to that line, change the line and the plane moves to suit. If SW won't do that, I can see the frustration. I tried to duplicate something in fusion that I had done in SE and had to fumble around creating sketches to create planes to create more sketches to create more planes, I thought it was my unfamiliarity with Fusion, I guess it was probably the different workflow. I don't think I've ever had to made a sketch in SE to make a plane. Coordinate systems are easy too. Once you place the origin you can rotate it around with the steering wheel. I can see why you don't like SW so much.
Do you use Synchronous much in NX? I understand it's implemented differently in NX than in SE, you don't have to switch between Ordered and Synchronous, do you?

I do use synchronous fairly frequently (it's called direct editing in SW). Interestingly it works quite similarly in NX and SW in that they are parametric features that go into the history tree and remain editable and associative, unlike SE where it's modal.

I use it mainly to prepare models for machining. It's super useful for making stock models, also for things like removing fillets to simplify programming which is a big deal for things like wrapped rotary work.

The main difference is that the synchronous tools are very robust in NX, whereas they fail frequently in SW. In particular, SW direct editing is really quite pathetic at removing fillets on even moderately complex geometry. You can spend ages fucking around with the order that you delete faces in before SW will succeed in patching the solid, whereas NX just does it with no drama.
 
I use version 9.? on an XP computer. It's done quite well for years for what I use it for. Mostly 2D shop drawings of customers parts, reverse engineered parts for customers, and in-house build fixtures and projects. I might even think about upgrading someday.

Alibre Design Professional fits the bill. I think most of your Alibre complaints are from the Atom neutered version, I have no problem renaming files in mine, Alibre Design V22, or your other complaints.
 
The main difference is that the synchronous tools are very robust in NX, whereas they fail frequently in SW. In particular, SW direct editing is really quite pathetic at removing fillets on even moderately complex geometry. You can spend ages fucking around with the order that you delete faces in before SW will succeed in patching the solid, whereas NX just does it with no drama.

NX Synchronous is almost so good that it justifies the price of admission on it's own. Machining model prep is one application, but rapidly tuning assembly fits and features is another. If you are in a fail fast iteration environment where robust modeling strategies are way too slow, Synchronous is a massive time saver. If you need to be fussy about it, you can go back and model up with the hacked synchronous edits baked in properly, but the system is so robust that unless you're trying to comply with F500 modeling standards, just leave the model messy!

NX is already done with fully defined sketches... I don't see why we need to have an anal retentive feature tree any longer.
 








 
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