Woodworking is a specific discipline in the world of CAD, special due to the nature of production more than the nature of the development phase.
For great woodworking CAD software, there are a number of options available.
One of the best woodworking CAD software is Shapr3D. It’s extremely easy to pick up and use, works on Windows, iPad, and Mac AND you can use it’s visualization feature to view your designs in their intended location.
There’s SketchUp which has a lot of material for furniture design. SolidWorks is another good option and has a range of functionality and options which take you on a lengthier learning curve.
So let’s dive in and look at the options for woodworking CAD software.
Shapr3D started out as CAD for iPad, but is now available for all desktop operating systems as well. However, this legacy is something that should be a huge selling point for any woodworking professionals.
You’ll be able to design your projects wherever you are (the workshop, on a train, or just having coffee) without the need for the internet and then finalize them on the computer if you need to. Their extremely intuitive UI even makes the design process feel natural and easy for beginners and experts alike.
You can then easily visualize your project in-situ using Augmented Reality and export in your preferred file format if you need to CNC.
Overall, an extremely versatile option, that provides a huge value for money return.
Woodwork for Inventor
Autodesk Inventor has gathered much hype and rightfully so. Hence it was likely to see a woodworking extension to its already gigantic platform of discipline-specific technology. This makes it one of the best woodworking CAD software products.
Automated routines, auditing mechanisms and Inventor’s simpler scripting module are just a few handsome benefits if your already have Autodesk or Inventor “friendly”. The look of the interface and the attention to the mundane but detailed (e.g. board-edge detection and generation) aspects make it much easier to use. With materials ranging from Solid wood, Board, Laminated board, Multilayer board, Rod, Desktop, Veneer/film, Edge banding and Paint it is hard to end up with a material not found in its library. Automatic generation of tenons, mortises and automatic calculation of blank part sizes that vary with texture direction and additional overlaps adds to the effort that has made this software so popular. A variety of cutting printer brands and templates are available with a very flexible cutting optimization program. The capability of generating a CNC program fills that last hurdle from generating a 3D model to the finished product. A BOM generator comes included along with other features you can expect from a 20 year old firm.
On the whole, a great piece of software, though unfortunately very pricey.
A CAD/CAM package for wood, stone and metal based design and manufacturing. Alphacam’s website states “productivity, reliability and flexibility” for its customers and the software package (Router for woodworking) is all that. The Router is fine tuned for woodworking as opposed to the products for metal and stone. The Router has its own design module for CNC programming to accommodate the average user as well as take on the industry de facto methods of production making it stand out for its ease of use. It expands it abilities further by incorporating features including but not limited to aggregate support, planar machining, 3D routing and even nesting ends up offering your business enhanced productivity and additional flexibility. Modules for 3D engraving and case-specific support (e.g. door-hinge construction) are included too so that you don’t have to look anywhere else for your wood working projects.
Now here is a free software with state of the art feature set and industrial grade functionality. The 3-axis milling is very precise based on a revamped visual engine. Engravings, signature design (V-carving), constant cusp machining, indexed 5 Axis and simultaneous 5 Axis machining and parallel finishing aid brand-integrated designs and manufacturing. The extensive capabilities of the package allow it to become part of a range of softwares such as AutoCAD, SolidWorks and Rhino to name a few. Options such as conversion of 2D images into 3D models using ART module just adds to the already well designed free wood working software. Training and support is generally available with more features for the licensed customers. MecSoft, the parent company, has a host of other technologies meant for 3D CAD/CAM operations, collaborations and extendability.
Rhino 5 is what you call prime. Uninhibited modelling allows casting out any kind of shape you might require, accurate and precise calculations of the tiniest detail and logging all such meta-data are some features to start of with why its a good software. The requirement for top-notch hardware does not exist here nor is there an outrageous fee, while writing to and reading from a list of formats, those used by SolidWorks and AutoCAD amongst others. Drafting, print optimization and printing, rendering have their specific modules, dedicated and highly effective while not the least hogging of a 2.0 Ghz Dual core processor. The scripting engine is also available based on VB and usable with ActiveX controls.
Sketchup has been around for a while and under its Google directorship has managed to become an industry standard from every student to freelance designer and illustrator. That’s not where the possibilities end with SketchUp, with extensions and add-ons you can render, animate, export and everything in between. But on its own, the SketchUp interface is easy and user friendly with all the nitty gritty details hidden in menus. From every aspect, SketchUp has an intuitive user interface with the most common tools in sight and a light-weight drawing canvas that allows SketchUp to run smooth on any 1 Ghz processor. As for the woodworking it self is concerned, SketchUp has a whole community dedicated to it with the online warehouse hosting a massive collection of developed models and resource material. Amongst other things, SketchUp offers templates with measuring standards(metric/standard i.e. feet & inches or cm & m) predefined for easy usage, with two dedicated to woodworkers no matter what the scale of the project.
Woodworking CAD Considerations
When it comes to using a CAD software for woodworking, they aren’t created equal, and each person will have their different preferences.
Mostly, you’ll need to consider what you’re comfortable with. It’s not useful to have CAD software that you can’t use if you’re planning to use it day-to-day. Alternatively, it’s not good to have one that is easy to use but doesn’t fulfill all of your needs.
Another thing to think about is 2D vs 3D. Are you going to create 2D designs, illustrations and renders for which any vector-dependent drawing software would do or are you looking to have the models in 3D format to be able to visualize your product or to machine with a wood router.
Lastly, you should consider your whole process flow. How will it work with your projects? Optimizing the whole process from design to final is something that all professionals should be doing.
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