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Posts posted by CreativeConners

  1. Yeah, it's really great. I was looking into financing a purchase of SW before stumbling into Alibre. It performs as advertised at about 20% of the cost of SW & Inventor.

    The support is quite good as well. My first weekend of using the software I had an issue and posted a question to their user forum. I got a phone call 1 hour later from one of the engineer's who saw my post. He called from home, on a Saturday. I was stunned!

    Alibre, like other MCAD packages, does require quite a bit of computer muscle to run well (fast processor, 1 Gig of RAM, fast video card, etc.) so I wouldn't run it with VPC. Like you, I really enjoy my Mac, and now it runs quite nicely right next to my Athlon PC [smile] For me, it was worth $500 of computer to be able to run the software.

    Best of luck!

  2. If you have any further interest in Alibre, you can check out their forum:


    If you are looking for just a 2d package to augment CU, VW Mech may be a good option. But for a parameteric 3d MCAD application, probably best to look elsewhere.

    FWIW, I have been using VW since it was MiniCAD 5 and still use it for 2d-only work.

    I felt compelled to say something nice about VW on their board [smile]

  3. In regards to tolerancing, yes Alibre does allow you specify tolerance during model construction (or you can add during the drawing phase as well). As you say, this is more convenient than trying to remember all of the design criteria as you are laying out 2d drawings days/weeks later.

    Alibre, like SW, views everything in the part/assembly paradigm. Every distinct object is a part with a name, part #, and other fabrication information. Two or more parts can be aligned and constrained in an assembly, and sub-assemblies can be aligned and constrained in another assembly. This makes project management very fluid and concise. Because the software requires you to build individual parts, a BOM can be created instantly for any assembly.

    All geometry is parametric and can be edited at any time. For example, I designed an electrical enclosure for the motion controllers that we build. The enclosure is a two-part sheet metal enclosure with a bunch of cut-outs & PEM fasteners for mounting the internal components. After constructing the prototype, I felt that the enclosures should be a little bigger to allow for easier wiring during assembly. To make the change, all I had to do is edit one dimension in the geometry history for the base of the enclosure. Based on that change all the cover of the case automatically adjusted, and all of the components shifted as needed updating hole placements, etc. All of the 2d shop drawings were automatically updated, making the whole process take about 10 minutes. Similar experience when adjusting some of our electric winch designs, very smooth.

    I should note that though you build distinct parts, the parts can be inter-related. For instance, a mounting plate can derive its hole pattern from the mating pillow block, etc. I found that even though the work flow was different from Vectorworks, I was able to be productive in a couple of days.

  4. No, it is not similar to SW, SE, Inventor, or Alibre. It doesn't handle assemblies particularly well. It's 3d functionality and constraint system are seriously limited when compared to other MCAD packages.

    What VW Mechanical does really well is 2d drawing. It has boatloads of parametric symbols that can speed up 2d drawing time.

    As I began modeling more of my machines in 3d I was becoming frustrated with VW because the 3d snapping is limited, and 3d constraints don't exist. (i.e. you can't constrain a 3d gear to a 3d shaft, in fact just trying to line them up in 3d requires several workaround steps) I decided to add another software package and purchased Alibre Design. After demoing all of the big mid-range packages (SW, SE, & Inventor) I found that Alibre had all of the functionality I needed at about 20% of the price. I have been REALLY happy using the software. I've designed several new machines and sheet metal enclosures over the last couple of months and the process has been great. Working in a truly 3d parametric environment has saved me tons of time (especially when revising designs).

    Here are the features that are particularly useful in other MCAD packages and absent from VW Mechanical:

    -3d constraints

    -Geometry that can be derived from other parts and automatically update. (i.e. a shaft should stick out .250" from the end of two bearings, regardless how far apart the bearings are)

    -Exploded views that are derived from an assembly, and dynamically linked

    -Mechanical simulation of linkages


    -Part history tree where features can be removed/re-ordered

    -Dynamically generated 2d drawings that are linked to the 3d model (VW's viewports do achieve this partially)

    -Sheet metal parts that can be unfolded into a flat pattern, automatically accounting for bend allowances

    -Smart features like bolt circles that can be updated either manually or derived from mating parts

    -Threaded 3d holes, and 3d holes whose callouts are automatically generated in a 2d drawing

    -Fast, interactive shaded 3d views with clear visual cues. This is one that sounds silly, but I was stunned to see how productive it was to constantly work on a well-shaded model that updates as fast as I can spin my mouse. Also, having the software detect edges or faces and highlight them in a bright color is much more responsive than the eight square selection handles that VW uses. Again, sounds petty but it really helps speed up modeling time.

    Those are the missing features that spring to mind, I'm sure there's more...

    I still use VW when I have to bang out a 2d drawing that doesn't require 3d, because it's 2d tools are really elegant. However, I would imagine that Vellum is probably an excellent drawing program as well. If you are looking for a good 3D mechanical CAD package, I honestly can't recommend VWM when compared to SW, SE, Inventor, or Alibre.

    Of course the MCAD package I mentioned are all PC-only, which is a drag. I ended up building a very fast Athlon64 PC for about $500 that runs Alibre very well. In the end, for me, it was still a better solution than using VW Mechanical for 3d work.

    I believe you can demo Vectorworks (without Mech). Mechanical mostly just adds a lot of parametric symbols and a BOM feature, but the 3d snapping and 2d constraints are the same. This should give you a clear picture of whether VW would bring you much advantage over your current software.

    Hope that helps, best of luck.

  5. Another option...

    Select all of the lines you drew in plan view. Select "Tool : Compose" from the menu bar. This command will compose your lines into a closed polyline. Now select "Model : Extrude" from the menu bar.

    This is faster than re-tracing with the polyline tool, it will also allow you to compose a shape that has arcs & lines making it a very flexible and useful command.

  6. FYI,

    I've started using an MCAD package called Alibre Design. Though I still prefer VW for 2d drafting, Alibre is an excellent mechanical modeling package. The 3d constraints are fabulous when compared to struggling with VW 3d snaps, not to mention fully associative BOM and 2d views. The Pro version comes with a license for VisualMill, which will output G-Code for the parts you model (after defining toolpaths). I'm itching to try out a couple of parts on my buddy's ProtoTrac, as this will REALLY help my production.

    They have a special offer currently for folks with AutoCAD LT licenses, which I happened to have from a job I did several years back. When I mentioned that I used mainly used Vectorworks, the sales rep mentioned that they had some discount offers for VW users also.

    Though I have no intention of leaving VW entirely, Alibre is certainly filling a hole for me right now.

    You can check it out at:


  7. Another feature that would be welcomed is inserting 3d parametric objects in 3d space. Currently inserting the object will automagically throw you back into 2d plan view. Since I'm often inserting the 3d object in some plane other than plan, I'd like to avoid inserting in plan, perform Rotate3d, switch to back to the appropriate view, then try to find the center of the object (like the center of the bottom of a bolt head) without having a locus to grab, and then drag it back over to the hole.

    If the 3d object snapping was more robust (see earlier post), this would not be as much of a hassle...

  8. To have it as the default standard for new drawings, select it as the standard in a blank file (or your standard template file), and then save the file as the default template. Choose File>Save As Template... to save this file as a template.

    Next time you start a new drawing, select File>New>"Use Document Template" and select the template that has your dimension standard.

  9. Let me start by saying that I've been a mostly happy user of VW since MiniCAD 5. I now use VW11.0.1 Mechanical, and I'm still mostly happy.

    However, I think an area of the program that could really use some attention is in basic 3d object manipulation. For instance, I generally design machinery in 2d. Perhaps because I still think better in traditional drafting views and can work faster in 2d when trying to develop concepts. Once most of the design is complete, I usually model the design using the 2d views as guides during the modeling process.

    One of the most time consuming aspects of the modeling process is assembling the different modeled parts in the correct orientation and position in 3d space. It becomes quickly apparent that VW 3d snapping is really lagging behind it's 2d functionality. I do, of course, use the "Snap to edge points" option of 3d snapping, which helps by allowing the smart cursor to find midpoints of edges. But, it would be great to be able to snap to the center of 3d holes. I really like all of the 3d PIO's that VW Mech gives me, but it takes more time than it should to place a sprocket on a shaft and then place the shaft inside a bearing, and then place the bearing inside a press-fit hole. Usually this requires me to change views several times and draw a bunch of 2d construction guides to find the centers of holes and shafts. Sometimes, when I remember, I do take the time to build all of the 3d objects with 3d loci built into the right places to help during the assembly process. However, the Mech PIO's don't have 3d loci built in, which means more time spent trying to place a locus in the right location then grouping the locus with the PIO, and then moving it into position.

    I've just started demo'ing Autodesk Inventor, which seems pretty good. It seems like they've adopted much of the same philosphy as VW, which is good as I never liked the AutoCAD method of working. One thing that is extremely powerful in Inventor is the snapping ability to find center on 3d faces and center on holes. I doubt I'd switch over to Inventor, as it is overkill for most of my machine design but it is enlightening to see how well it could work.

    Anyhow, what do others do? Do you work much in 3d? At what stage in your design to you begin to model? I use modeling for idiot-checking (checking myself, in other words), and trying to make sure that I don't have physical confilcts. What do purpose does 3d serve you?

  10. Jonathan,

    I understand your opinion, but for me it would be better to have a toggled preference or constraint to turn it on or off.

    I have set up a dimension style that helps reduce the risk of mis-snapping by keeping the dimensions further from the geometry and it does *help* but still makes me queasy. Having the dimension lines touch the geometry is very poor style in my opinion, so not really an option.

    It is certainly possibly to zoom in ultra-close for every dimension pick, just not effecient. For me, it would be faster/more effecient to have a constraint, or class setting, or preference that allowed dimensions to snap/not snap to each other. I hit "F" every time I need to toggle snapping to an edge, if I could hit "H" every time I need to toggle snapping to a dimension I would be very happy.

    FWIW, I've been using the application since MiniCAD 5, and and generally really like the program. I would just like to have more assistance from the software to insure that dimensions are accurate to the geometry, especially when a couple thousandth's of an inch can ruin a one of the dozens of machine parts I neeed to design in a day.


    Thanks for the support!

  11. Jim,

    Thanks for the suggestion, but I'm not sure what you mean. I've never seen a contraint that controls snapping "to" a dimension. I want the dimensions to be prohibited from snapping to each other, whilst retaining the abilty for the dimesions to snap to geometry. The constraint pallette is useful for controlling what flavor of geometry you wish to snap to (edges, surfaces, intersections, selection handles, etc.), but it does not seem to differentiate between object type (i.e. dimensions, rectangles, polygons).


    Thanks, yes it does help, but it's not as sure-fire as making dimensions unsnappable.

  12. You could use a worksheet in Vectorworks.

    From the Resources pallete click "New"

    Select "Worksheet"

    Enter the table info just as you would in Excel. To get it to appear on the drawing, select the worksheet in the Resources pallete and check the box "On Dwg".

  13. I am trying to round the edges of a moderately complex solid and the edge blend tool consistently fails. I have tried all suggested fixes from the documentation (change fillet radius, select tangential edges, selecting all edges in a vertex) without success. I had hoped to send this file to our CNC milling machine directly, however without being able to to specify proper radii at the corners, this will be impossible. Any suggestions greatly appreciated.

    VW 9.5.2 with 3dPowerPack


    PentiumIII 733

  14. 1. Under the Organize menu select "Create Report"

    2. Change "List All" combo box to "Symbols"

    3. Check the box that says "Summarize"

    4. The combo box beneath "Summarize items with same" should read "Symbol Name"

    5. Click "Options"

    6. Check "Search in symbols" (this will give you a count of all nested symbols)

    Hit OK.

    You'll get a worksheet showing a list of all symbols in one column and a count in the next column.

    If you want to place this worksheet on the drawing, select the worksheet in the Resource Palette an check the box "On Dwg".

  15. I do not miss paper space. In practice, I've found it is actually faster/easier just to select what you want to detail then copy/paste onto your detail layer (which obivously has the approriate scale). This also enables you to draft at the appropriate level of detail given your drawing scale. Makes the whole process feel more like drawing and less like scripting a program. It also makes it impossible to incorrectly dimension your drawing, which is a stunningly easy error to make in AutoCAD.


    Gareth Conner

  16. Hello All,

    Many months ago I had promised to post some Vectorscript tools I wrote for schematic capture. Well, I finally got around to whipping up a little documentation and posting it all on my iDisk.


    There's a zip called "Vectorworks Circuit Tools"

    Take a look if you're interested. The tools helped me get my project produced and hopefully can help others in their work.


  17. 2D holes:

    Draw the object you wish to have a hole.

    Draw the hole.

    Select both.

    Choose "Clip surface" from "Tools" menu.

    Delete the hole object, if you no longer need it. You'll see that the hole was cut into your base object.

    FYI, the hole must be on top of the object you wish to cut the hole into. If it isn't, (perhaps you want to draw the hole first), select the hole and choose "Send to Front" from the "Tools" menu.

    3d Holes:

    Model the object you wish to have a hole.

    Model the hole, but make it extend beyond the boundaries of the base object a little.

    Select both.

    Choose "Subtract solids" from the "Modeling" menu.

    When the dialog comes up make sure the base object is hightlighted.

    Click OK.

    A very handy feature of 3d holes is that you can edit there position/size at any time by using the "Edit Group" command from the "Organize" menu.

  18. In VW9 (and in the VW10 demo) a good number of the tools are still available through the workspace editor. In the "Tools" tab pane (inside the Workspace editor) there are headings for both "AEC" and "Architect". You should check out which tools are still packaged with the standard VW before coughing up the extra cash for Architect.

    Hope that helps.

  19. As a long-time user of Minicad/VW, I don't feel abused at all by the VW10 release. Admittedly, I had some issues with VW9 when first released. Most of these issues were related to printing so I had to print from VW8 for the first couple of weeks. Then these issues were remedied with the first patch. The productivity improvements (I can't even imagine working with out the boomerang mode anymore) in VW9 as well as the precision improvements and more robust curve handling were worth the price of the upgrade. Then NNA released the 3d power pack for free.

    Frankly, I was overjoyed to see that NNA spent this past development cycle polishing an already strong toolset. My biggest wishlist item has been, and will continue to be, more robust snapping in 3d (similar to either FormZ or AutoCAD). But, I still crank out a lot of drawings without this feature so I can wait.

    I will be upgrading my personal copy, as well as the licenses for our office, and I look forward to using version 10.

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