MCAD Tech News (#356)

23 Jan, 2014 By: Cadalyst Staff

Viewpoint: TurboCAD through the Years

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.

By Roland Aldridge

TurboCAD 3 was a gift from one of my partners when I joined Advanced Micro Instruments back in 1995. I installed it on a tiny Pentium 133 Hitachi laptop with a postage stamp–sized screen and began making drawings.

My company, Advanced Micro Instruments, was started to make oxygen analyzers in competition with Teledyne Analytical Instruments. Some might think that a start-up with no money and a me-too product going up against an established major company would be a recipe for failure, and in the pre-PC days they would have been quite right. But the world was changing, and products like IMSI/Design's TurboCAD made — and are continuing to make — all the difference.

Nowadays, a couple of guys in a garage with a PC, TurboCAD, ExpressPCB, and the CCS C compiler can compete on equal ground with any of the old-line companies. (And on the Internet, no one can see your garage.) I believe TurboCAD and programs like it are going to spur huge changes in the world economy as these affordable, yet powerful technologies level the playing field between small businesses and corporate giants. It's just a matter of time.

Let me explain. A giant company has colossal overhead, which it balances with its economies of scale. I know of one company where the rule of thumb was that you needed to make 80% gross profit to make your numbers — that is, the parts cost of whatever was sold could be no more than 20% of the selling price. Overhead was 65%, leaving a 15% net profit, which was OK, if not stellar.

As a guy in a garage, you turn these numbers around. Your overhead is closer to 20%, so you can afford to make the product with twice the parts cost and still beat the giant company on price. And because you care enough to do whatever it takes, and you don't go home at 5 o'clock, you provide better service and a better product to boot. After a while customers notice, but it takes quite a long time for the dinosaur companies of the world to pay any attention, and by then it's too late — their customers have become your customers. Read more »

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Roland Aldridge is an owner of Advanced Micro Instruments.

Circles and Lines: Eleven Efficiency Boosters for AutoCAD

High-profile features are nice, but these subtle improvements will really enhance your productivity.

By Lynn Allen

The big, shiny new AutoCAD 2014 features may get all the attention, but you and I know that it's often the more subtle enhancements that turn out to be the most valuable. Remove just one step from a process you do all the time, and you'll notice an instant bump in productivity. In this edition of "Circles and Lines," I'll cover some of the less flashy, but still valuable new features inside AutoCAD 2014.

  1. Draw arcs clockwise. For as long as I can remember, AutoCAD has preferred to draw arcs counterclockwise. That was the way of the world — and we all just dealt with it! In AutoCAD 2014, changing the direction of an arc is as easy as holding down the Control key.


  2. Fillet an open polyline. Have you ever tried to fillet an open polyline to itself? It was impossible — until now! AutoCAD 2014 is more than happy to let you do this, the end result being a single closed polyline.


  3. Nicely numbered layers. AutoCAD has also learned to count! You'll find that numbered layer names are now listed in their natural order, such as 1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 21, and 25, as opposed to listing them as 1, 10, 2, 21, 25, 4, and 5. And if you're wondering whether there is a system variable to control this feature (for those of you who've already succumbed to AutoCAD's inability to count), I'm afraid not. Maybe that will come in the next release.

Read more »

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Cadalyst Contributing Editor Lynn Allen is an Autodesk Technical Evangelist. She has written Cadalyst's "Circles and Lines" column since 1993 and is the creator of Cadalyst's popular AutoCAD video tips.


Mark Your Calendar: MCAD Events

SolidWorks World 2014
January 26–29, 2014
San Diego, California
This user event will feature presentations from customers who have been using the new SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual in production environments since June 2013. Read more »

AeroDef Manufacturing Summit and Exposition 2014
February 25–27, 2014
Long Beach, California
This SME event, dedicated solely to aerospace and defense manufacturing, will feature an Additive Manufacturing/3D Printing Resource Center where attendees can explore applications made possible by the technology. Read more »

SPAR International
April 14–17, 2014
Colorado Springs, Colorado
The 11th annual SPAR International conference will focus on using the newest 3D technologies to drive efficiency, reduce timelines, save money, improve safety, and mitigate risk. 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

CAD Manager's Toolbox: Try FreeCommander, the Free File Manager
This alternative to the standard Windows File Manager features a dual-panel display. Read more »

The Peer-to-Peer CAD Manager, Part 2
To improve your relationship with your CAD users, become a reliable resource for technical solutions and interdepartmental collaboration. Read more »

Autodesk University 2013, Part 3: Autodesk Shores Up BIM Offerings
Company highlights acquisitions, other efforts to bridge gaps in building and civil engineering workflows. Read more »

AutoCAD's Valuable Oops Command
The Oops command has been in AutoCAD since the very beginning — but few users know how to take advantage of it. Join Autodesk Evangelist Lynn Allen as she shows you just when the Oops command can come in really handy! Watch the video »

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

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AutoCAD Tips!

Lynn Allen

Autodesk Technical Evangelist Lynn Allen guides you through a different AutoCAD feature in every edition of her popular "Circles and Lines" tutorial series. For even more AutoCAD how-to, check out Lynn's quick tips in the Cadalyst Video Gallery. Subscribe to Cadalyst's free Tips & Tools Weekly e-newsletter and we'll notify you every time a new video tip is published. All exclusively from Cadalyst!
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