2D Drafting / General-Purpose CAD

To Catch More Design Ideas, Siemens PLM Software Crafts a Tool Anyone Can Use

17 Sep, 2015 By: Cyrena Respini-Irwin

The new Catchbook app makes dimensionally accurate sketching accessible — and affordable — for CAD users and nonprofessionals alike.


In the early stages of the design process, when forms are just starting to take shape and various concepts are jostling for attention, many people reach for whatever’s at hand — an art program, PowerPoint, even the proverbial napkin — to sketch out their ideas. At this stage, a full-on 3D CAD package may be too much tool for the job, slowing down rapid-fire brainstorms and excluding team members who lack CAD expertise.

The non-CAD alternatives, however, pose their own problems, and no one likes wasting time on effort duplication. “You don’t want to create a drawing, then have to recreate it in CAD,” noted Paul Brown, senior marketing director at Siemens PLM Software. “You want to get people’s ideas and then be able to do things with them.”

In recent years, an increasing number of software tools have been developed to improve on these options. They’re typically simpler than standard CAD solutions, but better equipped for design tasks than office productivity software — or napkins. (For more information, see “Cadalyst Labs Report: Conceptual Design Software Tools.”

This fall, Siemens PLM Software will add to those growing ranks with Catchbook, a 2D sketching app for Windows-, Android-, and iOS-based smartphones and tablets. Users can create and annotate drawings; import and trace over photographs; and share their work with collaborators. 

Catchbook, unlike art-focused sketching apps, also supports accurate dimensions that are preserved when the data is moved into a CAD program. “The key thing that we bring to everything is that underneath [the surface of Catchbook] are engines that drive proper geometry and relationships,” Brown explained. “That was the gap that we saw, that’s the missing link: size and scale.”


When geometry is edited, Catchbook updates dimensions automatically in real time. Image courtesy of Siemens PLM Software.


Pages, Lines, and Threads

In Catchbook, all the drawings and photographs for a project are stored as a series of “pages” within a “binder.” There’s no limit on the number of pages that can be organized into a binder, or on the number of binders a user can have. To control which parts of a project are shared with others, users can opt to make a PDF of the entire binder or just selected pages. In addition to PDF, data can be exported to standard formats including JPEG, PNG, SVG, and DXF, so users can move their work into Solid Edge, NX, or other CAD solutions when it comes time for detailed design.

To start a drawing, users can sketch freehand or trace over an imported photo; the software then converts those scribbles into linework that can be manipulated and annotated as desired. When the user draws an off-kilter circle or wobbly line — easy to do when you’re working with a stylus or fingertip — Catchbook can automatically straighten everything up.


Catchbook’s Drawing Recognition functionality converts freehand sketches into precise curves and geometry. Image courtesy of Siemens PLM Software.

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