3D CAD Software: A 33 year journey for Jan, what was yours?1983 Whilst at
Energy Systems Limited, A Nuclear Power company the 3D CAD system used
was Prime Medusa. 2D later 3D taught. The daily routine
was to switch everything on and wait until the screen monitor warmed up,
the centre of the screen started to glow and spread out until the whole
area of the screen was glowing. The time that this took soon changed
the routine into switch everything on and go off to the coffee machine
for an early morning brew. It was soon turned into a dedicated CAD unit
and shift pattern of work was established to gain more productivity from
the expensive workstations and software licence.
3D modelling was done using 4 views on screen (say top, side and then Isometric) in each view a closed section was sketched and then in another view that sketch plane was drawn. A link line was then constructed from the sketch to the plane and onto the extruded length. If the model was complicated it got very difficult to follow all the link lines, sketches and planes. At Leicestery Polytechnic PAFEC DOGS (Drawing Office Graphics System) was used.
1990 February CADDS 4X ASD (Advanced Surface Design) NURBS was used at Lasercad Precision Models Ltd this was on a Prime Mini computer.
The SLA slice program was on a PC and the commands were issued in DOS promt line commands.
The 3D CAD software CADDS 4X commands had to be typed out and this meant that a layer structure had to organised and kept to so that sorting out all the entities in the model were understood between construction surfaces and curved entities and of the volume model. A lot of trimming had to be done.
Because we were at the forefront of technology we were able to Beta test CADDS 5 solids which brought in menu selection of commands, this was quicker once you mastered where they were. A deal was done with a Nottingham company PDG and they allowed us to use one of their McDonnell Douglas workstation and UGII Solids software.
Between Lasercad Precision Models and Formation Engineering Services Ltd (Nov 1990 and April 1991) a short time was spent at EME design (Midlands) Ltd. as a contract design draughtsman. But instead of just doing 2D Plant layout and electrical schematics I had to help the Courtaulds staff get to grips with the 3D Plant CAD model of a Jaffa cake factory before moving onto setting up a new Gloucester business in the docks area.
1991 April, Formation Engineering Services Limited was set up. The first thing to do was to quickly test software to establish the best out of the many CAD options available one that was tried was Anvil 5000 and a simple model that I chose was the G Cube that I built at Lasercad as it had several edges with corner blends a need to be shelled out. One of the corners had 3 edges that were all radii together and this was the Achilles heal for that software, so that was a very short demonstration.
Euclid from Matra Datavision did this with ease and I liked the way that the surface modules worked and it also had a solids module.
1992 was a busy time and we had a lot of enquiries to convert 2D drawings into 3D models, the best we found to do this was Pro/Engineer
1993 UNIX (Irix v4) System manager qualifications were necessary to keep track with the business of management of the network administration and CAD upgrades.
1994 Verimetrix VX was beta tested at Formation Engineering Services but also bought and used in PERA, this software was invaluable for the manipulation of the laser scanned STL file of Kevin Keegan's head. Whilst he was Fulham manager. The neck had to be shaped to fit into the torso of a robot goalkeeper.
1995 A move to PERA and bigger and more powerful Silicon Graphics workstations (Indigo2 Impact 10,000) meant quicker processing of complex models SDRC Ideas running on SG Irix also allowed faster slicing for building 25, 50 as well as the standard 100 micron layer SLA machine builds. Maestro 1.8, Quickcast 1.1 and Lightyear (on PC) were both used depending on what build style I needed in R&D work.
1992 Strim 100
1998 Euclid Styler
1998 Poser 3 allowed finger movement poses and finer resolution meshing for small scale SLA figures to be used in Theatre set designs.
2004 SolidWorks became the design office work horse.
2006 TopSolid, T-Form & T-Sim were all used for a vacuum forming EU project.
2016 Form Z Free, Sketchup, Mesh mixer and Nettfab Free have all to be fully tested running on Mac.