I am always struggling to make things easier when creating models. This week I am experimenting – I have remapped my “~” key to be a decimal point. This way I don’t always have to move my left hand off the keyboard when entering dimensions. So far it has been pretty helpful. (The silly label you see is only for this pic)
I use the SharpKeys program to change the mapping – which has been pretty handy over the years, since I like to use an Apple keyboard on a Windows machine AND I use the incredible SYNERGY software to allow me to control both mac & pc with same keyboard/mouse.
UPDATE 10/27/16: This hack began to be unreliable – causing lots of erratic keyboard behavior, so I abandoned the attempt. Instead I bought a wireless numeric keypad to put on the left side of my keyboard, which is a much better long term solution.
Many CAD packages I’ve worked with seem to approach 3D models from a geometric approach – simply mapping the geometric shape of objects within space. In my mind these are the Swiss Army Knives of CAD – they do 2D, 3D, etc. Then you have software like Rhino (which I have little experience with) which takes a more rigorous mathematical approach to modeling called NURBS to generate shapes in three dimensions – but these shapes are still not solid but are shells which have no material properties. Solidworks, by contrast, is a solid modeling tool – all operations are done on fully realized 3D models of solid objects which behave like real materials. It uses similar mathematical tools to generate curves but implicit in everything is material – everything you create is from real stuff. Add to that is that all parts relate to each other parametrically – there are mathematical relationships between shapes & objects – be they dimension based (length = 2x diameter) or constraint based (keeping things parallel, for example).
As someone who takes creative ideas from others & makes them real, I love Solidworks – I first got introduced to the software by designing some architectural elements for Gratz Industries a few years ago, and life has never been the same. I use it on nearly every project these days, and I’m beginning to do nothing but Solidworks modeling for some clients.
When you start making big assemblies, or even medium sized ones (like the stairs I designed for Gratz) the incredible capabilities of the software can become pitfalls – you can really waste quite a bit of time if you are not aware of all the features. So I’ve been working through some of the tutorials over at cadjunkie to try to hone my skills. I’m really impressed with the video content over there – there’s a lot of free tutorials, and their “premium” package is priced quite reasonably ($19/month). Also, since they are Industrial Designers, they cover a lot of the different software packages that ID uses and helps the user determine which software is best in different situations. AND – they are helpful at sorting out cross-platform issues, like cross platform importing/exporting etc which can be tricky & time consuming.
Check it out!