22 Jul 2024


RS adds paid-for modules to its free 3D CAD software

RS Components has expanded its free DesignSpark Mechanical 3D design software by launching two optional paid-for modules that add the ability to export designs in standard file formats, and enhance the package’s drawing capabilities.

Since DesignSpark Mechanical 3D was launched in September 2013, it has attracted more than 160,000 users around the world. Many of them are people who had not used 3D CAD packages before. The main use of the package is for prototyping.

RS conducted a survey of its users and found that the biggest group are electronic design engineers (23%), followed by other design engineers (14%) and mechanical engineers (12%). A further 12% reported that they were using the package personally.

The survey also revealed that 8% of users were prepared to pay to add extra functions to the free software, and 46% said that they might be prepared to pay.

On this basis, RS has worked with the software developer, SpaceClaim, to develop a pair of modules that extend the capabilities of the free package.

The first new module supports the import, modification and export of industry-standard STEP and IGES file formats, allowing DesignSpark data to be exchanged with CAD tools such as SolidWorks, Catia, ProEngineer and AutoCad. The Exchange module will allow engineers to integrate DesignSpark Mechanical into product development projects spread across various software platforms. Companies will be able to pass designs to their mechanical departments or outside contractors for final design creation and manufacturing, and will not need to invest in expensive 3D CAD licences or training.

The second new module – called DesignSpark Mechanical Drawing – adds SpaceClaim’s Associative Drawing environment, which allows designs to be changed, and geometries to be created and modified, from within drawing views. Detailed dimensioned drawings can be created, allowing designers to move beyond concept development and 3D printing of prototypes, to final manufacturing. The drawing environment also provides a familiar workspace for those used to working in 2D. The drawings support annotations, including geometric dimensioning and tolerances, notes and leaders, to JIS, ISO, and ANSI standards.

Each new package will cost $795, but they can be bought together for $995. Users will need to buy a maintenance package for the add-ons to work with future versions of DesignSpark Mechanical.

RS stresses that the core 3D software will remain free to all users and that it will continue to provide support, new versions and updates for the foreseeable future. RS sees DesignSpark Mechanical as a key element in providing engineers with tools that allow them to develop prototypes rapidly at the concept design stage. For example, the software’s STL-output format allows the direct export of designs to 3D printers.

“The advanced capabilities of the essential and free version of DesignSpark Mechanical will meet the 3D design requirements of the large majority of users,” says Glenn Jarrett, RS’ global head of product marketing. “However, these two premium modules will further enhance the tool and offer more functionality to highly advanced users at a very competitive price, and enable them to create a seamless concept-to-production workflow.”

Version 2 of the DesignSpark Mechanical 3D software, released in December 2014, added several features that had been requested by DesignSpark users, including a simpler user interface and access to a 3D catalogue allowing thousands of 3D models from leading component manufacturers to be inserted rapidly.