Machinist Gets a CAD Education the Easy Way

‘Impeccable’ assistance from Alibre turns amateur into professional

Richardson, TX March 26, 2007 -- Canadian machinist Westley Chagnon was very familiar with reading technical drawings. For the last 35 years, he performed his trade at Crown Packaging, a Calgary can manufacturer, where he manually machined dies at extremely low tolerances. Early in his career, he worked from old hand-drawn blueprints, and in the last decade, he received his specs on CAD printouts. He had no idea, however, how to create these drawings until he began to explore the new digital world of fabrication on his own. After some early frustration in becoming CAD proficient, Chagnon finally found the path of least resistance from software and support from Alibre, Inc. Now he gets paid to make technical drawings.

Steeped in the traditions of manual milling, Chagnon at first was intimidated by the digital tools when he bought his own CNC spindle and lathe and all the related software.

“For years I wanted to learn CAD. Every time I talked to somebody about it, they made it seem like rocket science. I thought I needed to get organized about it.” In May of 2006, Chagnon made a concerted effort to learn the raw machine language of CNC, g-code, along with the essentials of computerized drafting.

“I tried out several sample programs of CAD packages. I went through two of them, printing out 500 pages of manuals, but I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. I thought ‘what a trip in futility this was going to be.’ I had bought these machines, and now I can’t run them.” For a while, Chagnon set aside his CAD frustration and ran his mill through a g-code controller, which permitted him to cut basic shapes through simple programming. “I thought maybe I don’t have to learn CAD that bad, because I can tell my machine to go up two inches and over one inch, and so forth.”

But once he wanted to do more complex parts, he realized the need for drawn schematics. “One day I had to do a part that had a contour -- one radius blending into another. I went to friends who knew g-code to try and write it, but the bottom line was that I needed to know the points of intersection. That’s when I picked up Alibre Design.”

To chart out the geometry of his design problem, Chagnon turned to another sample software he had not yet tried, Alibre Design Xpress. The free download has nearly all the parametric modeling capabilities needed to build, print, or export small assemblies.

“It was a simple question: ‘How do I draw two circles?’” recalls Chagnon. “I called tech support, and Alibre was willing to help me. They showed me a lot of ‘how-to’ examples within the program. I thought that’s pretty great, since I’m using a free piece of software.”

After technicians at Alibre showed how easy it was to model the shapes he needed, Chagnon committed fully to the application. He purchased the full version of Alibre Design and extra tutorial DVDs. “Their manuals and their training videos are excellent. I started to catch on.”

Only a few weeks later, Chagnon was talking with an old friend, Keith Campbell, owner and president of Select Energy Systems, a Calgary manufacturing firm that specializes in coiled tubing for natural gas extraction. Campbell explained that his engineering department was overloaded with projects and he needed technical drawings of a new design. Chagnon offered to help. Campbell drew him rough sketches of the mechanics he needed – a complete coiled tubing hanging system that would lock the piping in place as it attached a conventional natural gas well.

The next morning, Chagnon dropped off a full set of 2D drawings after modeling the assembly in Alibre Design the night before. Campbell was not even expecting results so soon. “I was impressed with the design and the timeline he got it done in, considering he was still learning the program,” says Campbell. “The drawings were pretty much perfect. Everything was machined to those drawings and everything fit together. It worked out extremely well.”

Campbell continues to outsource drawing work to Chagnon. In just a short time, a hobbyist who “couldn’t so much as draw a line on a computer” was able to create professional-grade drawings ready for shop fabrication. Chagnon credits his ability to so quickly excel in the technology to Alibre Design’s straightforward approach to modeling, as well as the generous assistance and instruction from the software maker.

“If I was to look for any downfalls to this software, I can’t find any,” remarks Chagnon. “The support that comes with Alibre is impeccable. Sometimes I feel like calling the guys up in support just to say, ‘hi how it going, guys? I don’t have a complaint. I don’t have a problem. I just want to say thanks for helping me when I needed it,’ because it was nothing for them to spend an hour on the phone with me.”

About Alibre
Alibre Inc. develops and markets Alibre Design™, the fastest growing parametric 3D solid modeling software for mechanical design and manufacturing. One-fifth the cost of comparable software, Alibre Design delivers quick ROI, ease-of-use, rich functionality and unique real-time support, and is enabling small and medium-sized businesses and workgroups to put 3D CAD on every engineer's desk, similar to utilities like Word or Excel. Alibre also delivers Alibre Design Xpress, the industry's only true 3D parametric modeler available free of charge. Alibre Design is available in thirteen languages and distributed worldwide. Founded in 1997, Alibre Inc. is privately funded and based in Richardson, Texas. For more information and for a free trial of Alibre Design, please visit

Lauren Koziel
Strategic Reach PR
Tel: (303) 487-7406
Email: Email Contact


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