Cadalyst Labs Review: VX CAD/CAM v11

31 Aug, 2005 By: Don LaCourse

Hybrid surface/solids modeler integrates CAM

VX CAD/CAM is one of the best lesser-known applications on the market today. It's a hybrid modeler built on third-generation proprietary kernel technology. VX CAD/CAM supports advanced surface and solid modeling with optional integrated mold and die and CAM modules. Being a hybrid application means that users can model using surfaces or solids and combine the two data types in assemblies, layouts and CAM plans.

vx cad/cam v11
vx cad/cam v11

I've reviewed VX CAD/CAM before, starting when the product had been on the market only a year. It has certainly come a long way since then, and virtually all of my complaints in earlier reviews have been addressed. Let's take a closer look and see how v11 measures up.

Revitalized Interface

VX has chosen this version to revitalize the user interface. This redesign addresses a long-standing complaint I've had with the product—input dialogs were always scattered about on the screen and getting in the way. It sounds trivial, but those who spend 8–10 hours a day working with an application will understand this concern.

With v11, VX has followed the lead of other midrange CAD applications by creating an input manager (called the VX Data Manager) that's always located vertically along the left side of the screen. It displays tabs for the history and Assembly, Layer, View and Input Managers (figure 1). You can move it manually like other drag-and-drop interface components. Those who like the old interface can enable it using the configuration form.

Figure 1. VX CAD/CAM v11's redesigned interface includes a new data manager (far left) that combines the History, Assembly, Layer and View managers into one tab-deck design.
Figure 1. VX CAD/CAM v11's redesigned interface includes a new data manager (far left) that combines the History, Assembly, Layer and View managers into one tab-deck design.

Also enhanced in v11 is the deck of tool tabs located along the right (or on top as shown in Figure 1). Previously, each tool menu had to be turned on from the View Menu or displayed side by side, taking up more precious screen space. The tab deck makes each tool tab easily accessible while eliminating the need to display multiple tool tabs at the same time. This tab deck is a welcome enhancement.

Advanced Modeling Tools

VX CAD/CAM has always sported a strong suite of advanced surface and solid modelling tools. Version 11 builds on this legacy with many new enhancements. The Loft with Drive Curves tool now connects the first and last profiles to create a smooth "closed" lofted surface through multiple profiles.

FOR AutoCad users
FOR AutoCad users

TrueType text fonts are now supported in sketch or drawing mode. A new Wrap Curves on Face command (figure 2) wraps wire-frame sketch curves onto any surface. For example, you can wrap sketch geometry of a logo onto a curved surface. The Post-draft command is now easier to use and can draft about the ghost edge of a fillet, which is then recomputed to tangentially blend with the new drafted faces. A new Network of Ribs command lets users define a large collection of ribs by drawing only a single center line for each rib. The command automatically performs the Boolean operations required to add and fully draft the ribs into the model.

Figure 2. In addition to support for TrueType fonts, VX CAD/CAM v11 includes a new Wrap Curves on Face function that takes any sketch geometry (inclulding TrueType text) and wraps it onto a surface.
Figure 2. In addition to support for TrueType fonts, VX CAD/CAM v11 includes a new Wrap Curves on Face function that takes any sketch geometry (inclulding TrueType text) and wraps it onto a surface.

A new Simplify Shape command works with both native and imported model geometry. The tool can remove entire features and automatically close the holes left in the remaining faces. A predefined library of material face attributes enables users to quickly display models with a more-authentic appearance without any special settings or lighting.

VX CAD/CAM contains an impressive depth of modeling command options compared with some other midrange products. These options can make the application appear overly complicated to users new to the application and especially those new to solid modeling. The company has made good strides in making recent versions more user friendly while at the same time adding new functionality. However, the depth of functionality requires a certain amount of experimentation to achieve desired results.

Advanced Surface Analysis Tools

New surface analysis tools include a contour stripe display mode that offers a range of options to deliver meaningful results. Another new tool lets you analyze a surface based on a radius of curvature range. Portions of the surface that meet these criteria are highlighted. A handy tool for CAM users is the new Show All Fillets between 2 Values command that's integrated into a redesigned surface analysis interface. It analyzes surfaces for the radius of curvature between the two values and displays them.

CAM Enhancements

VX is a CAD and CAM solution. Both are integrated into the same VX kernel technology. Though you can purchase each separately, my reviews have convinced me that they are most cost effective when working in tandem. A new 5-axis milling operation called the 5x Iso-cut now accepts drive surfaces as the guide surfaces. Each drive surface guides the tool axis to follow its surface normals. The resulting tool path moves along the iso-lines of the surface. The VX QuickMilling module features an extensive list of enhancements. The Rest Material detection algorithm has been rewritten and improved. More efficient patterns for Offset2D paths are now calculated. For zigzag paths, a new algorithm switches to a mixed behavior that creates offset 2D paths for large cutting regions and employs a wave propagation technique for the remainder of the regions to be machined. This reduces full-width cuts and delivers a more uniform cusp height.

Version 11 introduces multiple synchronization levels for roughing and Z-level operations in response to numerous customer requests, the company reports. Further optimization of tool path linking occurs through new curved optimized and elastic band linking options.

For all area clearance tool paths, full-width cuts are automatically detected. Also, when milling around bosses is complete, a finishing step is started immediately without retracting the tool. When many features are present, this minimizes overall machine activity.

Bottom Line

VX CAD/CAM is a good midrange MCAD application that offers excellent advanced surface modeling capability. However, with competitors like SolidWorks, Solid Edge and thinkdesign making great strides in this area, the ball is in VX's court to continue developing niche functionality that caters to its user base and separates it from the rest of the pack.

Don LaCourse has spent the last 27 years working with and writing about CAD/CAM operations. He is a Cadalyst contributing editor and editor of 3DCADTips (, a Web site that offers thousands of tips and tutorials for many CAD applications.