Dialog Box April 2007

31 Mar, 2007 By: Cadalyst Staff

Readers have their say.

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3D in AutoCAD
I read "History ... Or Not?", Mike Hudspeth's article on history and nonhistory, with a mixture of dismay and amusement.

Dismay because I think it very badly misleads readers about the 3D modeling capabilities of AutoCAD. Amusement derived from Mr. Hudspeth's comment, "... But when was the last time you heard of people using it for that?"

I have been working in 3D solids -- in AutoCAD -- for the last eight years, and so have hundreds of thousands of us. True, that the latest versions of AutoCAD are better at it than the older version, but nonetheless, there are literally millions of 3D solid models being drawn and edited in AutoCAD as I write this. All anyone needs to do is browse the AutoCAD user group forums and look at some of the images being posted to find strikingly beautiful and dramatic 3D images of everything from buildings to complex machinery.

In my humble opinion, it is a myth, partially propagated by Autodesk, that one cannot work in 3D in AutoCAD. And maybe, just maybe, your magazine could help dispel that myth by soliciting images from your readers who would, as I did, be amused by Mr. Hudspeth's gratuitous remark.

—Robert B. Price, C.Mfg.E.

Mike Hudspeth Responds
Thank you for taking your time to respond to my article. I'm glad for the feedback.

I did not intend to offend. My comments were based on many, many conversations with people who use AutoCAD in industry. However, I haven't spoken to every user. I'm sure there are those out there who use AutoCAD for 3D modeling (and more power to them) but based on my experience and the experiences of those I've interviewed, they are in the minority. Autodesk itself concentrates its 3D solids modeling on its other, newer applications (Mechanical Desktop, Architectural Desktop and Inventor), so I think my comments remain valid. I know it is possible to do 3D in AutoCAD. (I never said otherwise.) I also know it's possible to produce technical drawings in Microsoft Word. (One of my previous bosses insisted on it.) But I think ultimately the real crux of the matter is that AutoCAD is and always has been primarily intended to be a 2D drafting package. It can do more, but that's what it was made to be. In support of my opinion, look at the sales of AutoCAD LT. It outsells its bigger sibling by a good amount. What's the main difference between the two? LT doesn't do 3D.

I hope you are more amused than dismayed. I have to admit to being somewhat amused myself because the article wasn't even about whether or not one can do 3D in AutoCAD! I would be tickled pink to see readers send in images of AutoCAD 3D models.

I'll plan to write a future MCAD Modeling column on the topic of using AutoCAD for 3D design. Readers, send your 3D design story, as well as a design or two, to me at Include your comments on this subject -- I love that kind of feedback! Bring on the discussion!

Robert Price Responds
It is true that historically AutoCAD was a 2D program, but not any longer, and I am a strong advocate that its public persona needs to change. Because Autodesk won't do it, the trade publications should at least recognize it.

I will most certainly agree that the majority of AutoCAD users work in the 2D world, but there are still a very large number of people who use it daily to work in the 3D world. I would guess the number would be at least 15% of the users, and if the installed base is five million, then 750,000 people are working in 3D in AutoCAD. And they do not have a forum specifically targeted to their needs. That group has been largely ignored by Autodesk until the release of AutoCAD 2007, which incorporated a very large number of new features specifically intended to enhance the 3D capabilities of good ol' plain vanilla AutoCAD. And Autodesk doesn't advertise those capabilities because it doesn't want to cut into sales of Inventor. But it also doesn't want people to buy programs such as TurboCAD either, so it added the 3D stuff.

Do not misunderstand me, I know and the rest of us know that AutoCAD is not a fully parametric system. But for complex machine design, tooling, automation systems, architecture and structures, it works just fine. And it is a very cost-effective way to work in 3D without the high cost of initial purchase and the high annual renewal cost of Inventor.

I would really like to see Cadalyst run an article about the 3D capabilities of AutoCAD 2007/2008 and solicit readers to send in some of their creations. I suspect the response would be startling. Thanks again for the chance to talk about this.

Inventor Tips and Tools?
Do you have a tips and tools newsletter for Autodesk Inventor? I currently receive the AutoCAD version.

—Kevin Frankenberg, machine designer
Melton Machine and Control Company, Washington, Missouri

Editors Respond
We don't have a newsletter dedicated to Autodesk Inventor tips, but occasionally we do run Inventor tips in Cadalyst Tips & Tools Weekly. We welcome tips for all CAD-related software and publish them once they pass review. You might like to check out Cadalyst's new Tech Forum: MCAD, a discussion forum for the MCAD community that includes a variety of subforums, including one dedicated to Inventor.

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

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