Product Design

TurboCAD through the Years

23 Jan, 2014 By: Roland Aldridge

Viewpoint: The release of the software’s 20th version inspires a longtime user and beta tester to reflect on its development — and its role in the success of his business.


TurboCAD was ideal for this. When version 4 came along, I could make a hole by subtracting a 3D cylinder from a 3D solid. I soon realized that if I wanted to be able to edit my models, I needed to make two copies of everything — one for doing the Boolean subtractions and the other so I could move or change elements, then redo the whole thing after I'd deleted the assembly.

The truly neat feature of modeling in CAD back then was that I could experiment with the positioning of the passages and screw holes without spending a fortune on machining. I found I could illustrate how the sample passages worked by subtracting the finished block from a solid block — only the holes were left! It became easy to see which elements were running into each other (figures 2 and 3).

Figure 2. This image — the negative, as it were, of two blocks stuck together — shows the holes of one mating with the similar holes of the other. Screws hold them together.
Figure 2. This image — the negative, as it were, of two blocks stuck together — shows the holes of one mating with the similar holes of the other. Screws hold them together.
Figure 3. Various views of the negative of the oxygen analyzer block. To generate these views, I put the negative into a glass copy of the main block and rendered the whole thing.
Figure 3. Various views of the negative of the oxygen analyzer block. To generate these views, I put the negative into a glass copy of the main block and rendered the whole thing.

Growing with the Software

Around this time I was asked to become a beta tester for TurboCAD, so I've been able to use each version as it came out. Occasionally the software wiped out drawings and introduced bugs — such are the hazards of beta testing — but along the way I've used it to develop a whole series of analyzers, all using this basic idea of machining rather than assembling. I also use TurboCAD to make all the other drawings it takes to manufacture such a device: the sheet metal, the assemblies (figure 4), and the illustrations.

Figure 4. A typical assembly drawing, made in TurboCAD 16 or so. All the widgets are modeled in 3D, and the screws are probably taken from vendors' ACIS models, though I may have made some myself. (Everything here is rendered in hidden line; I did that for printing this example as a PDF.) The flat piece at bottom center, labeled with "AMI," is a printed piece of plastic with built-in electronic switches, drawn in Corel Draw, turned into a JPG image, and applied to the surface of a sheet. It was a real pain to get the drawing scale and positioning right.
Figure 4. A typical assembly drawing, made in TurboCAD 16 or so. All the widgets are modeled in 3D, and the screws are probably taken from vendors' ACIS models, though I may have made some myself. (Everything here is rendered in hidden line; I did that for printing this example as a PDF.) The flat piece at bottom center, labeled with "AMI," is a printed piece of plastic with built-in electronic switches, drawn in Corel Draw, turned into a JPG image, and applied to the surface of a sheet. It was a real pain to get the drawing scale and positioning right.

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About the Author: Roland Aldridge

Roland Aldridge

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