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DesignSpark Mechanical - CAD for non-CAD Users

Connector Geek
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DesignSpark was created nearly 11 years ago, and since its launch, its purpose has always been to help make engineers’ jobs easier. Whether providing impartial product reviews or award-winning design tools, DesignSpark has always worked to be the engineer’s best friend. This was the thought process when, just over 2 years later, DesignSpark Mechanical was introduced to bring 3D Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software to non-CAD users.

DesignSpark Mechanical in action

Removing Barriers

There have always been barriers to the adoption of CAD, the first of which is complexity. For many years, the most capable 3D CAD tools have used parametric modelling. This means that the elements of a 3D design are created by rules that define their parameters. While this provides highly advanced and detailed models, the process takes time to learn. For engineers who do not use 3D CAD often, the skills needed may have to be re-learned for every new design.

This is closely related to the second barrier – cost. Not only do these complex tools incur a high cost for the purchase of a license, but it is also necessary to invest heavily in the training of the CAD operators. This is perfectly acceptable for medium or large companies that can afford a dedicated CAD department. However, for the occasional user, the cost of software licenses, training, and dedicated staff is prohibitive.

This is the problem that DesignSpark Mechanical (DSM) was introduced to solve. DSM uses direct rather than parametric modelling. Direct modelling enables the user to manipulate the model on-screen as if it was a digital lump of clay. The model can be stretched, combined or cut with the move of a mouse, making the design process intuitive and immediate. And if the result is not as desired, a quick click of the back button undoes the process, returning the model to its former shape.

By providing the tool for free, DesignSpark has opened up the possibility of using 3D design to engineers who previously could not have afforded the cost of a parametric tool or the time needed for training. It has also provided a tool that can be used by non-engineering professionals. Here are a few ways that non-CAD users can benefit from the power of direct modelling.

Concept Design

Production of a new design is an expensive process. Whether moulded, machined or stamped, the physical manufacture of a device requires dedicated tooling and equipment. The cost of changing the production is huge. By the time a new design starts rolling off the production line, a huge investment has been made in design time, tooling, infrastructure, and raw materials. If these later need modification, the cost implications can be enormous.

It could be said that production starts as soon as the CAD operator starts creating a design in 3D. We’ve already looked at the cost of employing these dedicated technicians, which is compounded by the inflexibility of traditional parametric modelling.

A tool like DSM can be used in the initial stages of concept creation, especially to refine the design before the CAD department becomes involved. By using such a tool, many of the initial stages of the design process can be completed before a mouse is applied to pixels on a screen by a dedicated CAD operator. This saves time and money and ensures that the final result is closer to the original concept.

Collaboration and Communication

This is one of the powerful elements of a direct modelling 3D tool like DSM. As the tool can be downloaded for free by as many users as necessary, it allows collaborative design. Users from many departments within the company, and even the end customer themselves, can use DSM as a common platform that enables easy communication.

For example, a sales executive talks to a customer who wants a particular solution for their next design. The sales executive, who is not a dedicated CAD user, can nevertheless use DSM to create an initial concept which is then sent to the customer for review.

Collaboration and Communication with DesignSpark Mechanical

DSM makes collaboration easy

The customer likes the concept, but there are elements that need to be changed to finalise the design. The customer can amend the model and send it back for discussion. This iterative design process can continue, with input from other interested parties such as the production department, for as long as necessary. The request for a formal design is made to the CAD department only when everyone is satisfied that the concept is complete.

In this way, DSM is not just a design solution, it is also a communication tool. Partners and customers can all share in the understanding of a concept, even if they are not traditional CAD users.

Rapid Prototyping

The world of 3D printing has advanced rapidly over the last decade. Once considered little more than a hobby or confined to the maker community, 3D printing has become a staple part of modern engineering design. The ability to create models rapidly, try them in real life and re-design quickly has revolutionised how mechanical prototyping is conducted.

DesignSpark Mechanical allows non-CAD users to take advantage of the power of 3-D printing, as it produces the STL file output required by the latest 3D printers. The cost of the 3D printers has dropped considerably whilst their capability has improved, giving almost everyone the chance to have a prototyping station on their desk.

The Tool for You

Now in its fifth version, DesignSpark Mechanical offers a fantastic combination of direct modelling with advanced design features that allow complex designs to be created without requiring a significant investment in software. Its ease of use makes it accessible to occasional and non-CAD users, and its cost-free model makes it hugely powerful as a collaborative communication tool for engineers. From concept design to final production DSM is the ideal tool you need to help bring your ideas to life.

Download the latest version of DesignSpark Mechanical here, and start designing today.

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Connector Geek is Dave in real life. After three decades in the industry, Dave still likes talking about connectors almost as much as being a Dad to his two kids. He still loves Lego too. And guitars.

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