TurboCAD Professional V11-Solid Modeling for AEC and MCAD.31 May, 2005 By: Steven S. Ross
Solid Modeling for AEC and MCAD
IMSI's new TurboCAD Professional 11 is more evolutionary than revolutionary—it continues a consolidation of the 2D and 3D tools that started several years ago. But as with many recent CAD software revisions, the sum may be worth more than the parts for many users. The biggest changes are on the mechanical design side and in publishing architectural and mechanical work (figure 1).
Modeling ToolsMechanical design folks will find a host of useful improvements. This version incorporates the latest ACIS solid modeling engine, revision 14, jumping up from ACIS 11. The new ACIS engine is supposed to be faster, although for typical components the speedup is minor.
Figure 1. TurboCAD user Julian Thomas designed this motorcycle shock absorber
The big change is that the models are easier to twist and otherwise deform—a NURBS feature that debuted in a previous version of TurboCAD is easier to use. I had no trouble importing other solids into TurboCAD, except when I deliberately tried to import an imperfectly joined compound shape. The system is supposed to be able to handle self-healing import of IGES and SAT files, but I encountered a problem importing an IGES file. The file was slightly corrupted around an inclusion, but MicroStation and TurboCAD handled it okay. And the new AutoCAD file came in fine. This leads me to believe it could be an ACIS problem.
TurboCAD Professional v11
The Region Extrude feature lets users create complex 3D shapes by sweeping 2D surfaces, and the extruded shapes are easy to edit. As with earlier versions, users can edit, rotate and delete an individual facet on an ACIS solid. The new Imprint command extrudes out or into a solid along a path with totally automatic Boolean join or subtract. Sheet-metal designers will like two new smoothing options, bend and crimp.
2D ConstraintsIf a user modifies one part and the change has to cascade through the design, a revised 2D constraint engine from D-Cubed readily handles the situation. Users can set priority levels so a change to one part affects other parts minimally or to a greater extent. For really big changes, an incremental evaluation option confirms that constraint changes are made (figure 2). This is quite a feature for a CAD program that costs well under $1,000. Another nice touch is TurboCAD's gear contour creator.
Figure 2 . In the Constraints menu, the Auto Constraint setting didnt slow the system with a five-part chain. Theres an incremental option, and the 3D model view shows up in the background.
Constraints are one of the few editing tools that must be used in 2D. As with v10, most tools can be used interchangeably in 2D or 3D, even on rendered images. The 2D objects added in 3D view are inserted on the work plane. The part tree is also improved—it now tracks an object's history and extrusions, and makes it easier to edit parts profiles.
Architectural ToolsDesigners handling big projects, especially in the architectural realm, will like the improved xref import and export, the improved ability to handle parametric symbols and better roof openings options. As with previous versions, it's a joy to start with a structure and add a roof by choosing the Roof tool and clicking on the structure in 3D view—pushing, pressing and playing around until the outline is what is needed. Just press <ESC> to delete and start over. Version 10 had already improved the tools for turning lines into walls, hidden-line removal and self-healing wall cuts.
Import and ExportSymbol imports are easy, both in 2D and 3D. Users can undo imports only in the order in which they are brought into the drawing (latest first), or they can select an object and delete it at will.
The Insert | File command can be used for importing, but most imports and exports are done with the Extract To and Extract From commands in the File menu, as well as the Save As command. Users can also open multiple files and copy between them and drag images or symbols from Internet Explorer and from an open file in another OLE-compatible program. Only text and other TurboCAD objects are editable when they are brought into TurboCAD that way. Trying to edit other OLE objects invokes the program they were created in originally.
TurboCAD has always offered good file import, and its 28 filters have been upgraded to include AutoCAD 2005 DWG and DXF. Among the file formats we routinely test on TurboCAD are DGN, DCD, 3DS, IGES, STL and STEP. The Extract From command in the File menu lets users specify parts of a file to import specific layers and blocks. An SDK (software developer's kit) and Visual Basic macro recorder comes with the professional version of TurboCAD (figure 3).
Figure 3. File converter is an example of an add-on built using the TurboCAD SDK.
On the file output side, TurboCAD has always been flexible. For instance, users can publish to HTML, MTX and JPEG. Bills of materials and other lists are available in Microsoft Access format. Version 11 brings some incremental upgrades. There's better QuickTime VR support, bit-mapped gradient fills (the brush editing tool is similar to Adobe Illustrator's), SVG output and a four-way diametric view option—four new views of the drawing area at once (figure 4).
TurboCAD Professional in a Nutshell
Hidden details such as rebar can be output in place on the drawing as semitransparent but linked to a balloon that shows the detail separately. The LightWorks 7.4 rendering engine is about the same as in previous Turbo-CAD versions.
Figure 4. Users can generate as many paper views as needed, and the four-view is created automatically.
By the time you read this a free patch, v11.1, will be available on the company Web site. It includes an output to PDF to export wire frames of a model. The resulting PDF contains all the layers in the original CAD file.
Program DetailsTurboCAD is fast. Even on my slowest machine, an 800MHz Pentium III with 512MB of RAM, only 3D symbol import was slow. Minimum system requirements for the program are a Pentium II with 128MB RAM set at 1024X768 running Windows 2000/XP.
Figure 5. Help is context sensitive when invoked from a dialog box. It offers basic information, but the tutorials are terrific. TurboCAD also includes good setup wizards.
I've always been a bit annoyed at the TurboCAD menu structure, which tries to be all things to all people. But that's me. The fact is that the menu structures of most CAD programs have grown. In TurboCAD, for instance, rendering is started from the Camera command in the View menu. Symbols show up in the Symbol Libraries area under Options (to create new libraries, for instance) and are accessed via the Insert menu (figure 6).
Figure 6. TurboCAD offers comprehensive symbols libraries (U.S., British and ISO included) for architectural, mechanical and general design work.
The Bring to Front and Bring to Back commands in the Format menu don't work if objects are on different layers and the layers have different order values. The Line | Perpendicular command in the Insert menu draws a line from a line. To start a line that snaps to another line at 90°, use a keyboard entry. Users can make a double line a wall, but the Wall tool is much easier to use. Curve control points stay with the objects they define, so using a tool such as Split or Trim on a curve can massively alter its shape.
Physical properties of ACIS 3D objects (moment of inertia and so forth) are not listed automatically—find them under the Physical Metrics icon. This is a trick many CAD programs use to keep a program's speed up.
Though some of these quirks might be a bit disconcerting, at the end of the day, most of them don't matter. Users can group toolbars and palettes in any way they want. It's also easy to create simple macros to get all the information needed with one mouse click. Highly Recommended.
Steve Ross has been reviewing CAD software since 1985.