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

Or just buy Rhinocerous or Maya or Power Animator
I'm a huge fan of Rhino, but it's not fundamentally parametric. The Grasshopper addon/plugin/full-on-app is heavily used for parametric designs with Rhino. However, typical parametric designs in Grasshopper are more like architectural studies than mechanical assemblies. You can almost certainly use Rhino+Grasshopper for mechanical CAD, but the combo will absolutely be "highly quirky" by conventional CAD standards, and you'll be working on the fringe of the (rather large) Grasshopper community.
 
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.

Yes, that is most likely the primary driver for synchronous modelling, just that that is not the environment that I work in.

Maybe something has changed since I used it (I was using NX 10 IIRC so quite a bit out of date now) but NX wasn't really done with fully defined sketches, it just auto-dim'd everything not explicitly defined. Which I liked.

On that subject, the sketcher in SW is FUCKING AWFUL compared to the one in NX and is another big reason that I'm so pissed off with SW.

No mouse gestures for polyline modes, retarded auto-constraints that constantly apply tangency or perpendicularity to some remote geometry that has no relation to what you've just drawn, such that I end up just turning auto constraints off and adding them all manually after I've sketched out the profile - which costs TIME. Clunky autoscaling of dimensions when you zoom, clunky "smart" dimensioning, HORRIBLE constraints clutter, entities that can arbitrarily be unconstrained (how about a POINT that is not fully constrained because it doesn't technically have locked ROTATION - WTF SW?), sketch patterns that don't constrain unless you manually add constraints (circular sketch patterns in SW are REALLY DANGEROUS to use unless you are aware that they are not fully constrained by default and can be moved around without additional constraints - which is why most teaching materials preach using feature patterns instead of sketch patterns, which is a horrible workaround IMO.

I could go on for pages about that shit, but that's probably enough.
 
aybe something has changed since I used it (I was using NX 10 IIRC so quite a bit out of date now) but NX wasn't really done with fully defined sketches, it just auto-dim'd everything not explicitly defined. Which I liked.

On that subject, the sketcher in SW is FUCKING AWFUL compared to the one in NX and is another big reason that I'm so pissed off with SW.

NX introduced a new sketcher a little over a year ago that no longer requires sketches to be fully defined. It does the bulk of dimensioning and constraints behind the scenes for you. You only override or make explicit the critical dimensions of a sketch, NX figures everything else out. Interestingly; it does all of this on-the-fly so every time you edit a sketch, it re-solves it from the ground up, so it works on imported sketches as well.

It is a little hard to describe, but I can say that sketching time has been cut by 1/3rd to 1/2 for me, and everything is more robust. It does take some time to break old habits and mind meld with it, but once you do? Every other CAD sketcher feels archaic. Mind you, NX made me fell that way about SolidWorks a long time ago, so it is just yet another nail in the coffin.

Siemens Debuts NX with New Adaptive, Selection-Aware Sketch Solver - SolidSmack
 
NX introduced a new sketcher a little over a year ago that no longer requires sketches to be fully defined. It does the bulk of dimensioning and constraints behind the scenes for you. You only override or make explicit the critical dimensions of a sketch, NX figures everything else out. Interestingly; it does all of this on-the-fly so every time you edit a sketch, it re-solves it from the ground up, so it works on imported sketches as well.

It is a little hard to describe, but I can say that sketching time has been cut by 1/3rd to 1/2 for me, and everything is more robust. It does take some time to break old habits and mind meld with it, but once you do? Every other CAD sketcher feels archaic. Mind you, NX made me fell that way about SolidWorks a long time ago, so it is just yet another nail in the coffin.

Siemens Debuts NX with New Adaptive, Selection-Aware Sketch Solver - SolidSmack

Our reaction to the new sketcher has been pretty much the opposite. So much so that even after our engineers gave it a couple of months to try to work out they ended up doing what I did and just disable it and use the old one, now we are afraid to update lest we lose the ability to keep it off.

Our main product line has many constraints that do not function in the new sketcher and require tedious work arounds to make work, such as used to be able to constrain a point to a curve, now have to double dimension it to constrain it. We also use a great deal of expressions in our sketches which is off by default and you can't make it on by default.
 
Our main product line has many constraints that do not function in the new sketcher and require tedious work arounds to make work, such as used to be able to constrain a point to a curve, now have to double dimension it to constrain it. We also use a great deal of expressions in our sketches which is off by default and you can't make it on by default.

The expressions problem is one I understand; part of the mission with the new Sketch architecture is to minimize links to other geometry so the system is overall more robust, but it would be frustrating for folks who are bigly expression dependent in their sketches. Having said that, I suspect you shouldn't fear upgrading too much as I think they are likely to keep the old sketcher in the system for a few years, just off by default.

Curious; have you all engaged the NX team about your issues? Siemens can be an inscrutable company, but the factory NX forums have proven to be very useful as most of the NX team follows along. If you post detailed issues (screen video captures help), you'll often get pinged from PM level folks who are responsible for the bit of the system you are having issues with.
 
Curious; have you all engaged the NX team about your issues? Siemens can be an inscrutable company, but the factory NX forums have proven to be very useful as most of the NX team follows along. If you post detailed issues (screen video captures help), you'll often get pinged from PM level folks who are responsible for the bit of the system you are having issues with.

One of our engineers engaged with the partner company who we are to go through for anything Siemens related and most of his responses to our concerns boiled down to "It is what it is." and "Well this is just the direction they are going."

I don't know if any of the others in my group make use of the NX forums, however I have been unable to use them for a few months now due to a log in error I get every time I attempt to log in. I have sent multiple messages to their community support email with no response.
 
I don't know if any of the others in my group make use of the NX forums, however I have been unable to use them for a few months now due to a log in error I get every time I attempt to log in. I have sent multiple messages to their community support email with no response.

Where do we send the trophy for living up to your screen name the best this month?
 
Yes, that is most likely the primary driver for synchronous modelling, just that that is not the environment that I work in.

Maybe something has changed since I used it (I was using NX 10 IIRC so quite a bit out of date now) but NX wasn't really done with fully defined sketches, it just auto-dim'd everything not explicitly defined. Which I liked.

On that subject, the sketcher in SW is FUCKING AWFUL compared to the one in NX and is another big reason that I'm so pissed off with SW.

No mouse gestures for polyline modes, retarded auto-constraints that constantly apply tangency or perpendicularity to some remote geometry that has no relation to what you've just drawn, such that I end up just turning auto constraints off and adding them all manually after I've sketched out the profile - which costs TIME. Clunky autoscaling of dimensions when you zoom, clunky "smart" dimensioning, HORRIBLE constraints clutter, entities that can arbitrarily be unconstrained (how about a POINT that is not fully constrained because it doesn't technically have locked ROTATION - WTF SW?), sketch patterns that don't constrain unless you manually add constraints (circular sketch patterns in SW are REALLY DANGEROUS to use unless you are aware that they are not fully constrained by default and can be moved around without additional constraints - which is why most teaching materials preach using feature patterns instead of sketch patterns, which is a horrible workaround IMO.

I could go on for pages about that shit, but that's probably enough.

You might be interested to demo T-FLEX. It probably doesn't compare overall to NX, but it does sketching in a novel way. Sketching involves drawing construction lines first, then drawing lines between node intersections and along the construction lines. When sketching this way, it is impossible for a sketch to not be fully constrained.

You can also draw completely unconstrained sketches if you wish and recently they've added the more traditional style of sketching where you draw lines then apply constraints and dimensions afterward. You can mix and match methods as you like. I purchased my license before they added that feature though and find I prefer the first method of drawing the construction lines first. I'm not aware of any other CAD sketchers that operate this way.

 
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?

I didn't read all of this thread, but this was my opinion as well. I've tried the free stuff, after using Pro level stuff for years (MCAM, Pro-E, NX, Inventor, et etc) and that shit is free, or low cost for a reason. I get OP just wants something to "play" with, as do I, but my solution is just to stay after hours at work and use the good stuff. If that's not an option for OP.... well you get what you pay for.
 
You might be interested to demo T-FLEX. It probably doesn't compare overall to NX, but it does sketching in a novel way. Sketching involves drawing construction lines first, then drawing lines between node intersections and along the construction lines. When sketching this way, it is impossible for a sketch to not be fully constrained.

You can also draw completely unconstrained sketches if you wish and recently they've added the more traditional style of sketching where you draw lines then apply constraints and dimensions afterward. You can mix and match methods as you like. I purchased my license before they added that feature though and find I prefer the first method of drawing the construction lines first. I'm not aware of any other CAD sketchers that operate this way.


I really can't see how that is any different from how I drive Inventor now.....
 
Another platform that you might consider is ZW, although it is a little higher in price than your target. True it is based in China, but the last I knew, all of the techy stuff was done in Florida. It used to be US based and was originally known as VX. VX Acquired by ZWSoft; VX CAD/CAM Becomes ZW3D - Digital Engineering 24/7

If memory serves, it was originally written as Samsung's propietary cad/cam software, and later taken on the open market. The guys at VX were pretty bright, even writing their own Kernel.

My shop designed and built complicated plastic injection molds and did a lot of automation stuff, using this software for all design and machining.

Nice thing about this is that you can start out simple and add modules. If things haven't changed, you should be able to download the full version and run it for a month for free
 
I really can't see how that is any different from how I drive Inventor now.....

I've tried a lot of 3D CAD programs, but never Inventor.. though the videos I've seen of it make it look like it works like any other modern 3D CAD system where you draw lines then add constraints/dimensions to them. Of course, they all can make use of construction lines as well, but those are drawn the same way. What makes T-FLEX novel to me is the way they generate the construction lines. You start by placing a datum then rather than drawing construction lines with a start and end point, you click the line or point you want to reference then place the construction line relative to it. In most cases, the type of relation is inferred automatically by your reference selections.

Does Inventor work this way too?
 
I've tried a lot of 3D CAD programs, but never Inventor.. though the videos I've seen of it make it look like it works like any other modern 3D CAD system where you draw lines then add constraints/dimensions to them. Of course, they all can make use of construction lines as well, but those are drawn the same way. What makes T-FLEX novel to me is the way they generate the construction lines. You start by placing a datum then rather than drawing construction lines with a start and end point, you click the line or point you want to reference then place the construction line relative to it. In most cases, the type of relation is inferred automatically by your reference selections.

Does Inventor work this way too?

Uhm...I'm not sure.

99% of the time, I open a sketch, and immediately project the main planes in as construction lines. (dashed)

I work from there.

Also, I frequently make a part with say, a bolt circle.
I will construct the mating part, and then mate them in an assembly.

I then edit the second part, in the context of the assembly, and in a sketch, xfer
those holes from the first part.

Thereby making it easier when (not if) the customer wants them changed.
 
Yes, that is most likely the primary driver for synchronous modelling, just that that is not the environment that I work in.

Maybe something has changed since I used it (I was using NX 10 IIRC so quite a bit out of date now) but NX wasn't really done with fully defined sketches, it just auto-dim'd everything not explicitly defined. Which I liked.

On that subject, the sketcher in SW is FUCKING AWFUL compared to the one in NX and is another big reason that I'm so pissed off with SW.

No mouse gestures for polyline modes, retarded auto-constraints that constantly apply tangency or perpendicularity to some remote geometry that has no relation to what you've just drawn, such that I end up just turning auto constraints off and adding them all manually after I've sketched out the profile - which costs TIME. Clunky autoscaling of dimensions when you zoom, clunky "smart" dimensioning, HORRIBLE constraints clutter, entities that can arbitrarily be unconstrained (how about a POINT that is not fully constrained because it doesn't technically have locked ROTATION - WTF SW?), sketch patterns that don't constrain unless you manually add constraints (circular sketch patterns in SW are REALLY DANGEROUS to use unless you are aware that they are not fully constrained by default and can be moved around without additional constraints - which is why most teaching materials preach using feature patterns instead of sketch patterns, which is a horrible workaround IMO.

I could go on for pages about that shit, but that's probably enough.

What version/year of solidworks? I'm not a huge fan, but smart dim's work fine for me... but I mostly use it in 2d, not creating planes and such to create models..
 
What version/year of solidworks? I'm not a huge fan, but smart dim's work fine for me... but I mostly use it in 2d, not creating planes and such to create models..

2020, haven't installed 21 yet.

I don't like how the smart dimensioning is finicky about switching modes (length or position for example) depending on where the cursor is and I don't like having to hold the shift key to dimension the edge of a circle.

I like how it is more explicit in NX, like circle dimensioning is centre or edge depending on whether the cursor is inside or outside of the circle, and the geometry changes colour to indicate which.

I also REALLY hate how it is slightly laggy even on very fast hardware, so if you are dimensioning very quickly you inevitably hit the wrong geometry at some point, and if you hit ctrl-z it doesn't just cancel the dimension you are currently placing, but the one you placed previously, but if you hit esc to cancel the incorrectly placed dimension it exits the dimensioning tool altogether.

SW really is just poorly conceived badly implemented garbage tier software.
 
2020 SW really is just poorly conceived badly implemented garbage tier software.

I don't have a rebuttal argument to offer here, just a comment. SW is the only CAD software I've used extensively, and my comment is this: it's still much easier than doing all this work with a t-square and some pencils.
 
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.

I design ans machine what I consider art pieces using Cadkey/Surfcam/NX. So not sure what you mean.

I couldn't do a Picasso in CAD, but then again Picasso couldn't make a highly contoured part with paint brushes and a canvas.

Your not going to find exactly what you want in a CAD software, you'll need to make some compromises, and be more realistic about your capabilities, and the capabilities of the software.

Surface modeling doesn't to it for me - way too arbitrary.

The surface models I get from aerospace companies are exact models of the exterior of an aircraft. Depending on how you make a surface it can be an exact representation of what you intended to create, without it being remotely arbitary.

I make surfaces in NX for art pieces that start off with a point array. I then create parametric splines thru the points. Then I create a surface using the splines. I then start moving individual points, the surface then changes with the change in the spline driven by moving a point. That's very arbitary. I keep moving points until i get the shape I'm looking for. About the only constraint I have is whether i like the shape, and whether it works with the stock that's lying around.
 
Picture1.jpgIMG_0923.jpgIMG_0925.jpg

On the left side the surface is constructed thru splines created thru points. Moving just one point will change the whole surface. the right side is the geometry of the part that got made. Multiple parts were made that had different toolpaths. Some varied from .01" stepover and .0002" surface tolerance with a 1/2' ball endmill , to .20" stepover and .025" surface tolerance with a 1/2" ball end mill.

Fortuantly customers prefer the very coarsely machined parts over the finely finished part. I did make some pieces that were polished to a mirror finish, too much work, and too hard to maintain the finish
 
I haven't looked at this thread in a while, but I've been playing around with Siemens Solid Edge: Community Edition a little bit and so far it checks all my boxes. Smooth, responsive, intuitive, fully-featured - and at no cost for non-commercial users.

Hobbyists and Makers | CAD Software | Solid Edge

The only restrictions I see that have been placed on the non-commercial license are that all shop drawings will be watermarked and commercial versions of the software will be unable to open non-commercial project files. It's pretty darn generous on Siemens' part.

The prompt window and the detailed tool-tips that you can enable at first start-up are extremely helpful for diving into the software and experimenting with it quickly. The tips are concise and easy to understand. The help browser is pretty good too.

I'll have to find more time to play with it in greater depth, but for now I just wanted to point it out for anyone else in the same boat. I think it comes with Keyshot 9 too for rendering.
 








 
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