MCAD Tech News (#331)

22 Aug, 2012 By: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Labs Report: 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.


IMAGINiT Tricks Tutorial: Use Part Design View Representations in Autodesk Inventor

Part representations can help you with assembly constraints and model documentation.

By Mark Flayler

When modeling parts and building design intent from the bottom up, it is often necessary to reference certain criteria from the part model for use in assembly constraint creation as well as documentation of a model. Introduced in Autodesk Inventor 2012 and enhanced in the 2013 version, part design view representations aid these processes in many ways.

Taken from the idea of assembly view representations, part representations exist in the Model Browser and can include elements such as sketch visibility, work plane visibility, color, and solid body visibility (in Inventor 2013). Here we will take a look at general assembly usage of the view representation, as well as multibody part modeling documentation.

Part Design View Creation

To create a new design view, we start the same way as we do in an assembly: Right-click on the View node in the Model Browser and select New. Once it's created, give it a better name than View1. Read more »

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Mark Flayler is a senior applications expert in IMAGINiT Technologies' Manufacturing Solutions division.

Mark Your Calendar: MCAD Events


Creating Knowledge Workers for the Greener Product Marketplace
August 28, 2012
2 p.m. ET
This webcast, by Sustainable Minds, will demonstrate how educators from various disciplines are teaching greener product innovation. Read more »

2012 Molding Innovation Day
September 4–5, 2012
Lowell, Massachusetts
Moldex3D and the University of Massachusetts-Lowell will host this technical seminar about the latest innovative technologies in green concepts. Read more »

NAFEMS North America Conference 2012
September 11–12, 2012
Washington, D.C.
NAFEMS is a not-for-profit organization that promotes best practices and fosters education and awareness in the engineering analysis community. This year's conference will include more than 50 presentations, three dedicated panel sessions, and seven training sessions for those involved in analysis and simulation. 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


AMD's Accelerated Processing Unit: Will It Make Your New CAD Hardware More Affordable?
It's about time. After a hiatus from its role as a viable alternative to Intel for workstation-class CPUs, AMD is back. Read the CADspeed blog post »

Master Your Workspaces
Do you have a saved workspace of your favorite user interface setup? Well, you should! In this video from Cadalyst and Lynn Allen, you'll learn the ins and outs of organizing your workspaces. Watch the video »

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. Read the blog post »

NVIDIA Offers Heavy-Duty Parallel Processing in Upgraded Maximus Platform
The visualization and analysis platform for workstation users has been redesigned with new GPU architecture. Read more »

Does Social Media Belong in CAD Applications?
It's time for a reality check. Social media has its place — but that place is not in your users' CAD software. Read more »

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

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