Don’t let the title of this article lead you to the conclusion that I am cheating on my wife but I must confess that that is how it feels while I take steps to investigate ‘other’ CAD software.
In 2002 I had my first encounter with CAD software. I had been in the process of illustrating an Origami book and required some kind of program to help me with the illustrations. I had tried the drawing tools in MS Word and other such software but they were lacking and would not meet my drawing needs. Therefore, I started to look around for an alternative and my search took me to the local Staples store. I located two programs that looked promising, something called AutoCAD Lite (or something along that line) and something called TurboCAD Standard 2D/3D. Both were around the same price, TurboCAD being a bit cheaper, both looked like what I was after, so I purchased TurboCAD since it was cheaper. I figured that if I got it home and it wasn’t what I wanted I would lose the least amount of money this way.
To my great surprise TurboCAD was exactly what I needed and I was able to create all eight hundred or so illustrations for my Origami book in good time. The illustrations were all 2D so figuring out how to draw them was not too much of a challenge. As I progressed I quickly got hooked on TurboCAD and I began to fall in love with it – “dancing in the road” kind of love. I quickly moved on to re-illustrating another book I had written about the human condition that utilized mandala drawings I had made using colored pencils. Although there was more of a mechanical quality to the mandalas made in TurboCAD the essence was there and, to my great delight, there were no smudges that can be common to those who used non-digital formats. Think about using a drawing board to create blueprints and the mess that can be encountered there!
As I continued to work with TurboCAD I decided to foray into 3D. This was not as easy as working in 2D and much to my frustration there was very little in the way of training materials. Not being the kind of person to be stifled by frustration I drove on to become more familiar with the process of 3D modeling. Fortunately TurboCAD had, and still has, a remarkable group of users that frequent the TurboCAD User Forum. They helped a lot by answering all my incessant questions and I came to grips with 3D modelling fairly quickly. As much as I liked TurboCAD Standard I was finding it limiting. It did not have all the functions that the Pro version did and the components it produced could not be as refined as those created with the Pro version. The Pro version was a bit out of my price range at the time (only a few hundred dollars, but money was tight) and to my great surprise one of my TurboCAD friends sent me a copy since he had two and only required one. Using the Pro version just enhanced the love affair I was having with TurboCAD. It was like I had died and gone to heaven, to use an old phrase.
Not long after I began to feel comfortable with TurboCAD I started to write comprehensive full project tutorials and posting them for free on the user forum. After a time a couple of the friends I had made on the forum suggested that I start to sell the tutorials since they could see the amount of effort that went into creating them. The time was ripe and I decided to pay heed to their suggestion and Textual Creations was born in 2004. I continued to write new tutorials and make them available on my website shopping page. To date, I have written 106 comprehensive tutorials with a total page count of around 28000. Income, although not enough to be my sole income, was always sufficient to make me want to continue. Eventually I was asked by the developers of TurboCAD to join the beta testing team and I gladly accepted that role. It added more work to my plate but it was fun to be in on the ground floor to see what was coming in future builds and to know how to gear my upcoming tutorials.
As I created more and more models and renders and added them to my website galleries I began to have more and more people contact me for private TurboCAD training, for requests to use my renders in various places and to assist with design projects. Over time I developed a number of long time business relationships and spent much time creating models, drawings and renderings for various industries – including knock-down bed manufacturing, tradeshow booth visuals, retail environment advertising and new product development in the glass door industry. Between my long-time clients and my tutorial writing I was one busy man – sitting back occasionally to ponder my good fortune and to marvel at how the path before me unfolded. I think back fondly to my TurboCAD friends whose encouragement made this journey a reality.
Along the way, I was required to learn SolidWorks. TurboCAD was not suitable for the new product development I was doing with the glass door manufacturer so we needed to change. Don’t get me wrong, TurboCAD was and still is, a very good general CAD program and I will still select it above all else for certain things – like tradeshow booth and retail environment 3D visuals, but not for anything where parametric capabilities are the way to go (like mechanical design).
As life will have it, change is bound to occur and I am currently spending most of my time as a new product development engineer for the glass door company I mentioned above. Not being a ‘schooled’ engineer I have had to do a lot of learning along the way and I continually marvel at what I get to do for a living. I still work from my home office but spend a lot of time conferencing with my colleges via telephone or online meetings. It can prove to be a bit challenging not being stationed at the door plant, but we all communicate well and that makes all the difference.
My heart has always been in writing and over the years I have looked at other CAD packages that I could learn and write tutorials for. I tried get my foot in the door with Alibre which, at the time, had offered some very good pricing for their product. I started off with a single tutorial but quickly moved away from that product since I didn’t have the same relationship with the user forum and no relationship at all with the producers of the product. I did sell a few copies – but only to fellow TurboCAD users who had also been looking at Alibre for its parametric affordability. I also thought I might delve into SolidWorks tutorial writing because of its large market. In the end I decided not to pursue it because of the cost of the program and the overabundance of available tutorial material for no cost. Additionally, the company I do new product development for supplies my SolidWorks seat and although they wouldn’t mind if I used it for tutorial writing, I would not be able to afford it if I was no longer in this role with them. Lastly I had looked at MoI (Moment of Inspiration) as a possible tutorial avenue. It is a great little CAD program geared toward getting design ideas down quickly and easily. As much as I think it is a great product, it does lack drawing sheet capabilities and rendering capabilities, so is not a standalone CAD application. More an extra tool in the CAD toolbox. It is very affordable and it quite pleasing to work with.
Sadly, my TurboCAD love affair has taken a turn for the worse over the last year or so. The developers have made some big changes in the latest version, introducing a second drawing engine (RedSDK) over the last three versions and fully implementing it in the last. They have actually pulled the first drawing/render engine (LightWorks) and are selling it back to users as an add-on. As expected, this move upset the beta testers and most of the long-time users. The change has not been good. There is so little in the way of documentation and the implementation seems to be less than acceptable. Materials are unusable out of the box and it is fraught with bugs. Although I have penned three new tutorials using the new RedSDK default, it has not been a pleasurable experience. Couple this with the fact that the TurboCAD market, from my perspective, is not growing – in fact seems to be lessening over the years, my love for the product has waned significantly. I have seen many changes over the years with TurboCAD, not all of them good (usually poor implementation of new functions) but this latest change to RedSDK is like nothing else I have experienced and it makes me doubt the future of the program. It has been a very sad year for me trying to figure out what this means to me as a TurboCAD user and tutorial provider. I don’t want to jump ship but the signs are there – that a change is required.
This brings me to today. A couple of weeks ago someone mentioned Fusion 360 on the MoI user forum. I had never heard of it before and so decided to see what it was all about. To my surprise I was impressed right away with what it offered. It seems to offer the ability to model easily in a kind of a top down approach similar to what I use in use in TurboCAD combined with the parametric capabilities of SolidWorks and utilizing the cloud based approach I have come to enjoy while implementing GrabCAD Workbench in my new product design processes. It is like the developers took all the best things and ‘fused’ them together in one package. Although my introduction has been minimal so far I have not felt this kind of excitement since I first fell in love with TurboCAD. I am finding it a bit frustrating to learn a new package again, but I know that will pass as I spend more time with Fusion. I have found the Fusion user forum and it seems like a welcoming place, so that is a huge benefit. One thing that I found lacking in Fusion is in their drawing space. It is lacking many functions that will be required for full implementation into the engineer’s domain but it is my understanding that these functions are on the product development roadmap in the very near future – over the next month or two. It is always exciting to see a program that is developing in a positive manner. I look forward to working with Fusion 360. Does this mean fellow Fusion 360 users will see tutorials from me? It is too early to tell, but if the ‘love’ grows, I might just marry this new mistress and then who knows what will develop because of it.
Check out Fusion 360, you might be as surprised as I was.