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Free software brings 3D CAD to non-experts

18 September, 2013

DesignSpark Mechanical uses a technique known as “direct modelling”, which is very different from traditional feature- or parametric-based 3D CAD software. Four simple gestures – pull, move, fill and combine – which can be learned in minutes, allow real-time editing and instant feedback, making it possible for users to create geometries and explore ideas and product concepts in 3D. The software also uses familiar Windows keyboard shortcuts such as cut/paste, undo/redo, making it intuitive for new users.

DesignSpark Mechanical can be used to draw 3D extruded, revolved, and swept geometries without leaving a 2D cross-section. It can scale from simple shapes through to complex blends and surfaces, and hints can be added for thin walls, and mirrored, concentric, rounded, and chamfered geometries. It can also turn parts into assemblies, or vice versa. There is no unnecessary mode switching – the same tools can be used to edit assemblies, parts and drawing views, as well as for 3D mark-ups.

The software can also be used to create early concept designs alongside 3D CAD tools that are already in use. It can remove bottlenecks in the design process by allowing changes and additions in seconds, rather than having to wait for the CAD department to rework the design using the traditional 3D tools.

Another function provides Bill-of-Materials (BOM) quotes rapidly via the RS and Allied Web sites. This makes product costing a simple part of the design process from first concepts through to eventual production.

The tool can also import circuit layout files in IDF format from any PCB design tool, including the DesignSpark PCB software.

RS and Allied says that the new software will create solid models without the complexity of traditional “feature-based” CAD which builds designs from smaller, interdependent parts. In this traditional approach, when an engineer changes one feature of a design, all connecting features are changed with a ripple effect across the whole design. This approach is not suitable for every task.

DesignSpark Mechanical, which runs on PCs, can now be downloaded from Support and tutorials are available through the DesignSpark community of more than 250,000 engineers at the same site.

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