“In case the 40 minute video was too…40 minutes…for you” was the announcement on the Alibre Forums when Max published the 11 page pdf file with the major features in Alibre v12. This little taste of what the future holds is, of course, freshly on the heals of the still active $99 Alibre Design Standard offer. If you find yourself with more time on your hands, you can also take a look at the v12 Readme file, also published to the Forums by Max. It’s 23 pages of upgrade goodness.
Tentatively scheduled for release in September (as projected by speculation from yours truly), now is a good time to take a closer look at a few of the changes in v12 and see how they may affect you. Users of other MCAD products will probably notice having these abilities for a while. I think v12 is taking another big step towards closing the gap between “$99 software” and $5000 software. (Note: Images taken from the v12 release notes.
The text tool is a 3D text tool typically used for embossing lettering on molded parts. It has other uses as well, such as to define cutting paths for engraving. Needless to say, it is a much desired and welcome addition to Alibre Design.
Color by Feature
I remember my first experience with a color-by-feature modeling environment. It was on SDRC I-deas Master Series program and oh how I hated it. Nothing like making your well-engineered and mathematically defined design look cartoony. Well, too bad for me, it’s not available in Alibre Design, too. Why? Because of high user demand.
I really can’t complain about new feature, though. And this one is no different. Man users requested this and it’s great that they got it. In the meantime, it’s optional, so I won’t have to use it unless I need to… And I have experienced times of need. One in particular comes when making screen captures for presentations. Having the ability to “highlight” the feature in question on a static presentation is worth 1000 words. So thank you, Alibre, for listening to your customers.
Box Selection Methods
Many people say bad things about AutoCAD. I have voiced my opinion of the 2D CAD tool many times, not all of them positive, but that many years of development has given AutoCAD some very intuitive ways of dealing with 2D geometry. As a matter of fact, they should be considered industry standard, even for 3D apps because of how much 2D sketching is done. Take, for example, selecting sketch elements. When box selecting elements, if the box goes right, the geometry inclusive of the box gets selected. If the box goes left, the geometry inclusive and intersecting with the box gets selected. Intuitive, easy, and very productive. All I can say about this one is that it’s about time.
With so much time spent in the 2D environment, any sketch enhancement is a productivity booster. One in particular that I deeply miss from other MCAD packages is Degree of Freedom (DoF) indicators. Alibre Design has always had a status bar stating the number of DoF remaining, but no visual clue in the sketch as to which elements were not fully constrained. Any good modeler knows that a robust sketch is a fully defined sketch.
The first method is by a Degree of Freedom Callout. With this option on, Alibre Design shows which elements do not have a magnitude defined, and only a magnitude. It does not display location DoF.
The second method is by Degree of Freedom Color Coding. This is the feature I’m more familiar with, and will have turned on. Fully defined sketch elements are black; partially defined are yellow; and undefined are red. The only problem I had with this one in beta is that the undefined red color was the same red color as the selection highlight color. I couldn’t tell if my selection was active or no for undefined elements. Hopefully this will be adjusted by release and be easier for color blind CAD users also.
Real Time Dimensioning
Just like it says, as you create elements, not only are geometric constraints automatically added, but magnitude dimensions are also. Of course, these don’t take into consideration robust modeling practices or design intent, but at least it’s a starting point. I haven’t played with this feature in beta enough to comment more, but I do like the way Solid Edge implemented theirs. If I enter a number (diameter for a circle, length of a line) while creating an element, then the dimension appears. If I just sketch-and-drag an approximate size, the dimension is not placed.
Converting Between Reference Figures and Modeling Figures
This, too, is for the sketch environment. I should, and finally can, toggle a line or other geometric element between a solid line or a reference line. Bravo Alibre, it’s about time this mundane task became easier.
Mirror Over Axis (Sketching)
You are probably wondering what this is and why this a big deal. Prior to v12, in order to mirror sketch elements, a reference line to mirror about had to be defined prior to mirroring. Not a big hassle, but definitely not efficient and one of my pet peeves is having to have all the geometry built ahead of time before a feature will work. Why not prompt the user to create the geometry in context of the feature? That to me is more intuitive — if it’s created, let me select it; if it’s not, let me create it. This is one step towards that goal. If the model has an existing axis created, a 3D axis existing outside of the sketch, it can now be used as a mirror line. Intuitively obvious and a long time coming. There is still more work to be done on this front – to better utilize existing geometry across all feature definitions, but at least progress is being made and the models should be more robust because of it.
That’s it for the sketching enhancements in v12 (plus the color by feature). In another post, I hope to expand a bit on some of the other modeling and drafting improvements. Each one worthwhile in respect to improving user efficiency and productivity.
(My apologies for the formatting. WordPress apparently thinks it is smarter than I am when it comes to usage of white space.)