Where low-cost CAD gives better value

Tom Shelley reviews two low-cost CAD packages that offer good value for money

If 2D and isometric 3D is what you do, TurboCAD in its V16 embodiment represents a very good value purchase.

While there is no way of manipulating 3D models in space or taking measurements from them, when following the tutorial in the Professional version, it is reasonably easy for the non CAD expert to produce what is wanted. Indeed, Paul Tracey, the business development manager of UK agent Avanquest, claims one of the growing markets for this system is people buying a copy of it in order to learn how to drive a CAD system.

The big attraction in this case is the price: £30 for DesignCAD 2D; £79.99 for TurboCAD 16 deLuxe; and £995 for the Professional version, including Lightworks photorealistic rendering. One of the derivatives, for those who want to lay out offices or factories, is TurboFloorplan, which sells for £25. It is extremely easy to use and produces 3D renderings of the plans at the touch of a button.

TurboCAD's main competitors are AutoCAD for 2D/3D and AutoCAD Lite for 2D. TurboCAD is cheaper than both and many of its users say they prefer it. However, working to British Standards requires the user to set up a template, as opposed to clicking an icon. The software can be bought in stores, or downloaded over the Internet, and a full working version can be trialled free for 30 days.

For those looking for an alternative modelling package that is truly 3D and parametric, Kompas-3D V11 SP1, produced by Russian company Ascon, is a vast improvement on Version 10. It has a list price of €2700 and is also available on a 30-day free trial.

The tutorials offer a lot of contextual help and there are graphical 3D previews of all parts in assemblies. English ISO is supported and the rotation operation is now much less clunky, only reducing the assembly to blocks if it is a really large file. Functions like explode and unexplode occur instantly, even on a modest laptop and, try as we might, we were unable to crash the software.

The only problem is that support in the UK is somewhat limited. The UK is currently being supported directly from Russia , but Ascon has made it known that it is looking for another UK company interested in taking it on as an alternative to UK listed agent Sprut Technology.

To put the quality of this package in context, Siemens PLM sees V10 as a serious competitor, especially in Germany and countries to the East, where it has a lot of established users.

Tom Shelley

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