The Great CAD Conversion In Progress

I finally found a deal on a real CAD system from Alibre Design and jumped on it (are you interested? it’s still on sale for $200 until the end of January). I’d tried this software in the past. Like all CAD systems, there is a learning curve to get over before it becomes natural to work with – I’m still climbing. It turns out that a good way to move up that curve is to convert an existing design, and I happen to have one handy to work on 🙂

You’ll see more reasons to like this new software in the results I share on the Project 40 design as I go along, but the first one I want to show off is something I didn’t know existed – PDF files that allow you to manipulate a 3D model. Personally, this wowed me the first time I saw it (I know, I know, I’m easily impressed).   What that means is that the great fun we have turning the model this way and that when I show the current design in the docent meetings, you can now have on your own screen. Your standard Adobe Reader software is all you need.
This link opens the PDF of the partially converted Project 40 design:
Project 40 Telescope Assembly

When you open the file, and you mouse over the image, you are invited to “Click to activate…” and when you do, a small toolbar appears:

The icons on the tool bar, from left to right:

  • Let you choose how your mouse will manipulate the model or expand the 3D menu
  • Choose a view (if I selected more than one view, which I didn’t for this one)
  • Toggle the model tree on or off (the little outline icon)
  • Toggle between perspective and orthographic (don’t worry, you don’t really need this one)
  • Change the way the model is rendered (lots of interesting choices to try)
  • Change the way the model is lighted
  • Change the color of the background

But before you mess with the menus,  just click and drag with one button, same with two buttons and roll the mouse wheel and see what you can do. This is addictive – you can pan, zoom and rotate the model in 3D so that you can get a clear understanding of the way the model works in space.

As the model conversion continues, with more and more parts visible (including the observatory floor and walls), you will find the clutter making it difficult to look more closely at any one of the parts. When that happens, just click the Toggle Model Tree icon and a new side menu appears with an expandable outline tool.  At each level of the outline, there is a check box. When the check box is checked, that part or subassembly is visible. When it’s unchecked, it’s hidden. Try the exercise of unchecking everything except one of the Rocker Bogey Assemblies so you can rotate, pan and zoom on that part of the model by itself.

We got a lot done with the other software that I’ve been using, but I could never afford it and have been using an evaluation copy all this time. This offer from Alibre was too good to pass up – it’s their least capable offering and when I become completely addicted to it, they know I’ll sign up for upgrades to get the other features. But for now, Project 40 can be completely modeled with this software, and we’re on our way there.


3 comments so far

  1. mark on

    George – Is this Windows only ? … I can’t get it working in Preview on the Mac…….

    • George Loyer on

      I didn’t test with a Mac, is there a copy of adobe for a mac?

      Sent from my iPhone

    • George Loyer on

      I did a little more research and found that any version of Adobe Reader later than 8.0 supports the 3D toolbar (news to me!), and there IS a Mac version. Here’s a link with actual documentation (what a concept!) of how it works:
      Adobe Docs on 3D Toolbar Feature of 8.0

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