CAD Manager's Newsletter (#282)

9 May, 2012 By: Robert Green

:: Build a CAD Proving Ground

The best way to test new software is to have skilled "test pilots" put the product through its paces before deploying it to all users.

I don't have to tell you that managing CAD tools isn't easy — you already know that. You also know that CAD software is always changing, and that staying on top of that constant evolution is key to being a successful CAD manager. But you may not know the best way to implement those new releases without disrupting your current workflows.

In the next few editions of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'm going to share an approach to the implementation of CAD tools that has served me well at a number of client companies. I call this approach the "proving ground," as it helps me prove that new software will work from a technical, usability, trainability, and standards perspective. Here goes.

What Is a Proving Ground?

Military installations often have proving grounds where new technical systems such as weapons, aircraft, or electronics can be tested under controlled conditions where data can be gathered and designs can be improved. Auto companies also have proving grounds to test new vehicle innovations and hone car concepts for market. In short, a proving ground is simply a place where you can test new ideas — and improve on them — before putting them into service.

In the CAD proving ground, a forum for ironing out the kinks in new software, carefully selected users conduct detailed testing and observation. Image �
In the CAD proving ground, a forum for ironing out the kinks in new software, carefully selected users conduct detailed testing and observation. Image ©

In a CAD context, I view the proving ground as a collection of specially selected users (I like to call them test pilots) who can put new software through a controlled barrage of testing to find out what works and what doesn't before putting the software into full production mode. But it's more than a forum for crashing and fixing the software; I also use it to verify training methods and user comprehension. The CAD proving ground, therefore, is the ideal place for CAD managers to determine that both new software releases and education techniques are battle-tested and ready to implement. Read more »

:: CAD Manager's Toolbox: Enhance User Communication During Upgrades

Reaching out to users can make them feel more positive about new CAD software — and a free lunch helps, too.

This user tip about managing the upgrade process comes from Chris Askins, senior technician at Provost & Pritchard Consulting Group. I hope it inspires you to turn the challenging upgrade process into something your users can have a little fun with while they learn.

"We are conducting a full-scale upgrade to AutoCAD Civil 3D at the moment, so all the e-mail our CAD managers send to users reinforces company standards or invites users to attend a lunchtime training seminar. Sometimes these e-mails can come across as preachy or abrasive, but for good reason, as standards do matter.

"What we have done to lighten the mood is create lunchtime CAD resource meetings; we provide food and talk about the cool tricks and positive aspects of CAD for an hour. During these meetings, we spotlight a recent project that used CAD in unique ways, or proved to be an efficient way to complete a task. We give each of our five offices an opportunity to tell us their CAD status, and we ask if they are experiencing any problems. Read more »

Do you have a question or tip for the CAD Manager's Newsletter? Send it to me at; if I use it in the newsletter you'll receive a cool Cadalyst prize!

:: Resources

Vectorworks Releases Updated Guide for Lighting Designers
Nemetschek Vectorworks has released an updated training guide for users of Vectorworks software: Light Plot Deconstructed for Vectorworks Spotlight, Fourth Edition, by scenic and lighting designer Gregg Hillmar. The guide reflects functions as a companion handbook to the software, and addresses palettes, workspaces, grids and layers, plus the basics of importing files, saving views, and placing instrumentation.

:: Events

Let's Go Design: Consumer Products
May 14, 2012
2 p.m. ET
This free webinar from Fisher/Unitech will address importing a 2D drawing or sketch rendering, creating surface sweeps, inserting surfaces as reference geometry, and C2 boundary meshing. Read more »

Introduction to Vuuch
May 30, 2012
3 p.m. ET
This webinar will explain how product development teams can use Vuuch to help optimize communication and get products to market more quickly. Read more »

August 5–9, 2012
Los Angeles, California
Now in its 39th year, the SIGGRAPH conference is an international event focused on computer graphics and interactive techniques. The event, which includes a three-day commercial exhibition, is expected to draw more than 20,000 professionals involved in research, science, art, animation, gaming, interactivity, education, and the web. Read more »

Autodesk University 2012
November 27–29, 2012
Las Vegas, Nevada
Autodesk University (AU), a conference and exhibition for Autodesk product users, will bring together design and technology professionals for networking, exhibits, innovation forums, and a new curriculum of more than 800 lectures, roundtable sessions, and hands-on labs. 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

:: What's New at

Cadalyst Poll: How Much Did You Spend on Your CAD Workstation?
Do you ever wonder how much money your peers spend on their CAD systems? Simply scroll to the bottom of the Cadalyst home page and vote in the latest Cadalyst poll to find out! You can even bookmark the results page and come back later, to see how the results change as more voters weigh in.

CADspeed Blog Post:
Use of Point Clouds for Revit Modeling

Here at CADspeed, we've touted the need for CAD hardware that will get the job done. We are equally intrigued by the growing use of building information modeling (BIM) in our industry, which requires even more hardware capacity and usage power than standard CAD programs. Read more »

NCS: Common Language for CAD Users
Version 5 of the U.S. National CAD Standard is available in an online, searchable format to further streamline collaboration at every stage of a building project. Read more »

Circles and Lines Tutorial: Don't Be Shy — Try Out AutoCAD's New UI!
AutoCAD introduces plenty of reasons to move beyond that old, familiar user interface. Read more »

All-in-One CAD Tip #3: Rename Xref Layers in AutoCAD, Customize Inventor Ribbon, Update Your Resume
Discover how to improve AutoCAD file management by renaming xref files; customize your Autodesk Inventor ribbon menu; and keep your resume updated, just in case. Sponsored by the HP Z1 All-in-One Workstation, the world's first all-in-one 27" workstation. Read more »

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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