AEC Tech News (#317)

16 Aug, 2012 By: Cadalyst Staff

Low-Cost CAD — Can a $500 Product Go the Distance?

We put five budget-friendly tools through their paces to see which could be winning options for professional use.

By Robert Green and Nancy Spurling Johnson

The end of the '80s brought an end to big hair, shoulder pads — and $20,000 mainframe CAD software. Fortunately for all of us, today's hairstyles and CAD prices are more down to earth. Whether your CAD budget is $7,500, zero, or anywhere in between, you won't pull your hair out finding viable professional options.

CAD options in the lower end of the price range are particularly interesting. Many, in fact, offer features and functionality that seem to rival that of Autodesk's AutoCAD for thousands of dollars less. The question is, Can these products go the distance in a professional environment? Can they support workflows that involve clients and partners that use AutoCAD? Are they sophisticated enough to be easy to learn and use productively? We at Cadalyst Labs decided to find out by evaluating five options in the $500 price range.

The Low-Cost CAD Market

Before we get to the product evaluation, let's take a higher-level look at the low-cost CAD market. At least 50 products are available worldwide that range in price from free to approximately $2,000 — easily rivaling the number of CAD-specific products that exist in the higher price range.

Bob Mayer, COO at IMSI/Design, developer of the popular line of TurboCAD software, said the retail market for low-cost CAD hasn't changed fundamentally in recent years. Long Nguyen, U.S. distributor, said, "The market has started to accept more low-cost CAD solutions recently. As low-cost CAD becomes more ubiquitous, companies will specialize and innovate in different fields. As a result, we will see CAD solutions which are specific to many different realms of manufacturing, architecture, motion simulation, and engineering."

Franco Folini has a unique perspective on the range of CAD software available today, from the most affordable to the most complex and expensive options. He is president and cofounder of Novedge, the largest online reseller of CAD, 3D, and graphics software — more than 6,000 products, to be specific. "I believe there are plenty of professional situations where $500 software will solve your problems," he said. "We get calls from people who want to design a swimming pool, a wedding ring, furniture. ... Entry-level software is perfect for professionals working with basic geometry." Read more »

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Robert Green performs CAD programming and consulting throughout the United States and Canada. Nancy Spurling Johnson is editor-in-chief of Cadalyst.


Newforma Strives to Make PIM More Widely Accessible

The project information management (PIM) provider acquires new software and developer resources to support its expansion to cloud-based and mobile platforms.

By Cadalyst Staff

Newforma, which provides project information managment (PIM) software for the AEC industry, is acquiring Attolist, developer of the AEC-Sync software package. Newforma's addition of AEC-Sync supports its goal of providing AEC professionals with the range of technology platforms for optimal project delivery, including cloud-based and mobile platforms.

"The AEC-Sync web-based construction collaboration solution complements our existing enterprise products and aligns with our strategy to offer customers both on-premise and cloud-based project information management solutions," said Newforma CEO Ian Howell.

In related news, Newforma recently licensed the VEO platform from M-SIX, in order to integrate the cloud-based model collaboration capabilities with its own PIM software. According to Newforma, VEO's use of cloud technology provides the scalable processing power and accessibility to stream the model views necessary for PIM/BIM (building information modeling) integration and model coordination across dispersed project teams. Newforma has also added a new web and mobile development team, tasked with adapting the company's web and mobile products for tablets and smartphones.

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Cyrena Respini-Irwin is Cadalyst's senior editor.


Mark Your Calendar: AEC Events


ArchitTrek — Project Management Made Easy
August 22, 2012
11 a.m. PT
This free webinar will examine ArchitTrek Project Management — Option for 1 Project 100 Users, a cloud-based project management solution for the AEC Industry. Read more »

Nugget 2012
September 17–18, 2012
Fort Worth, Texas
Speakers at Nugget 2012, Newforma's annual user conference, will present best practices for PIM (project information management) and participate in panel discussions. Read more »

Fall BIMForum
October 10–11, 2012
Tacoma, Washington
With the theme of Facilities Management, this fall's BIMForum will explore the state of the industry and what the future holds for BIM (building information modeling) and facilities management. Read more »

For a complete list of CAD meetings, conferences, training sessions, and more, check out our calendar of events on Are you hosting an event that you would like to include in our calendar? Submit details at least two weeks in advance to


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About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

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