Friday, December 30, 2016

Drafting Update

It's been over two years now that I've gone from drafting in SolidWorks to drafting in AutoCAD. Wow what a transition. I was driving an automatic for three, four years and boom - I had to go back to driving a standard. Now after three years, I'm soon to be using Inventor, so back to automatic I go!


I originally learned CAD drafting in AutoCAD. After all, besides MicroStation, AutoCAD was about the only choice that existed when board drafting became the dinosaur. Back in the days of my rebelling, trying to figure out how to go to college against my parents' wishes, AutoCAD 10 was the thing to learn. The grid was always there, two dimensional, simple commands of line, circle, array - this was my introduction.

Fast forward twenty years, I still had not landed a drafting job although I'd apply for every beginner job out there I didn't have a grasp of the industry, no knowledge of how the career world worked, and no google to search and no "How Stuff Works" to get me up to speed on the lingo. The first of those two decades I was also too immature and excited and I'm sure looked quite the eager happy pup that frightened off more than one potential employer, so those years I spent in customer-oriented jobs: delivery, cook, retail.  Then the second of those decades I was too busy keeping my kids alive to care about pursuing what seemed a pipe dream, so I buried my ambition under duty.

Finally after I convinced myself the kids were independent enough, my thoughts of a career reawakened with a vengeance and I began this pursuit with new tools at my disposal. I drew up a plan of how to get from point A to point B, and tenaciously began chipping away. Nothing really went according to plan, but I still knocked chunks off that block piece by piece.

At the time, I wasn't sure if taking the cell phone repair technician job would really help in my career goals, it was sure a stretch but used my skills in reading blueprints, and I definitely wanted to break free of my typecast secretary rut. Unfortunately I soon found myself back in another secretary job, but because it was a manufacturer, I learned SolidWorks while working there! I learned to use calipers and modeled some parts while I was there.

After three years I was able to get a job as a "real drafter" using SolidWorks. And the rest is history.

Standard, Automatic, Standard, Automatic:

So the hardest part of going back to AutoCAD from SolidWorks was mastering the change from planes to UCS navigation. In the beginning I couldn't find the words to explain the difference to coworkers who had never used anything but AutoCAD. Now I see the best way to translate it is that SolidWorks (and Inventor) planes are UCS rotations.

Models in AutoCAD are still drawn with lines, circles, arcs, arrays, but AutoCAD is gimped in that it doesn't recognize intuitively that you might want to create a feature - a bump, a hole, a ridge - on the surface of a solid body. It's not parametric modeling. It's still 2D drawing, even in 3D modeling mode.

When I first started re-learning AutoCAD, I compared it to programming. It is still very much able to take command line input, and much of the skeleton is visible. Robust and powerful, yes, and some GUI features have been incorporated over the years, but that skeleton being so close the surface is far too often an obstacle to intuitive design.

There is much that has improved in twenty years, of course. We use many side plug-ins, just as SolidWorks has plug-ins so does AutoCAD. I learned about CADWorx Plant, CADWorx P&ID (both for piping design), and touched some other AutoDesk software such as Navisworks and 3DS Max, 123D Design, Meshmixer and played around with other third party tools like Inkscape and Bentley View.

There's a plethora of design software and analyzing for usage could be a full time job for a full team of professionals.I am sometimes staggered at the amount of information that has been dumped into my head over the last two years. I've drawn plans, I've modeled equipment, I've found out tips to share with others, I've traveled to a vendor's facility, I've been on the edge of project planning, and when a concept query was tossed in the air - I caught it and ran with it. I'm now in charge of building scale models, two under my belt and a third in planning.

Now we're looking at getting Inventor, so after using "presspull" and "UCSNext" for all my model building lately, getting away from the inefficient workflows of a CAD system that was built 30+ years ago and going back to parametric modeling is a relief!

I'm excited at the prospect of doing my next model with automated partitions rather than hand sketching my own wall joints based on carpentry practices. It was a nice history study, but definitely not optimum efficiency. And I'm all about logic and efficiency.

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