I really need your help finding 3D CAD

I’m in desperate need to a 3D modeling program that I can use to produce some fairly simple parts. Unfortunately, my web search isn’t yielding the information that I need. I’m really hoping that you folks can help me.

I’m going to be designing metal parts that will be machined. They’re small bicycle components and mainly ‘X,Y,Z’ type parts with little to no surfacing required. I’d like a solid modeling program that allows me to quickly place shapes together, and then add the proper dimensions, reproportioning the item to the final form. I believe these are called restraints?

File compatibility is important because I’ll be sharing these with my machinists and Mechanical engineer friends who run the professional programs, such a Catia and Pro-E. I’ve dabbled in Pro-E and Alias in th epast and have enough drafting experience to learn anything that’s reasonable.

I don’t have a lot of money, but I also don’t need the capabilities of the top-shelf programs. $500 would be pretty painful, and is probably my upper limit.

Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated!

Rhino is the first thing that comes to mind. But it’s around $895 or so…

If you’re going to make a viable business out of this, by that I mean you aren’t just doing this one project, you could look at payment plans for Solidworks. You wouldn’t need much more than the base package for what you are doing, and paying over time would ease some of the pain.

I’m sure the others ProE, UGS, SolidEdge, all have similar plans, and most try to work with you to get you up and running in this economy.

Just a thought, not even sure if its compatible, but have a look at the specs for google sketchup.

If it’s a simple XYZ part (2-1/2 axis) then Google Sketchup will work. You can model you part and export a DXF drawing to your machinist. I think Sketchup is $195, Sketchup Pro is $495.

If price is of a major concern and the majority of your design work is simple parts you might want to look into Alibre.

The right tools are important so I wouldn’t cheap it on tools cause you’ll waste more time and money dealing with inadequate software than you’re saving in money for the software. Invest in good software.

SolidWorks is ideal, Rhino is sufficient and much cheaper. I wouldn’t mess with the other lower end packages cause you’re going to waste time and time is money.

Student educational version of Rhino is very affordable.

If $ is an issue, definitely don’t go the solidworks route. I just got back a quote for a standard version for the following:

SolidWorks offers the ability to acquire their software with an Installment Payment plan through Heartland Credit. I have attached the quote letter and application from Heartland. This is for one license of SolidWorks Professional and Subscription Service.

1yr - $667.52/month
2yr - $407.14/month
3yr - $333.52/month

You do your math, hope this helps. Best of luck.

SketchUp is free, actually. But, you’ll need Pro to export to DXF.

Autodesk Inventor LT would be a good choice too. for accurate single part modeling that is going to be machined. also good data translators to and from all the major CAD vendors. you get some of the added features like 2D documentation too. worth checking out. Part 1: AutoCAD Inventor LT Suite - Increase Your 2D Drafting Productivity - YouTube

THANK YOU all very much for taking the time to reply. I really appreciate it!

I think I may have lucked into an older version of Solidworks. I’m sure it can do far more than I would ever hope.

Wish me luck on learning it. Thanks again.

you could also try a combination of methods like modeling in sketchup (free) and exporting the part file into blender or silo3d to get your desired output. There used to be a sticky on this site listing free software, etc. Can’t find it right now though.

I think Rhino has a free evaluation period. I’ve been registered for the last 3 versions, but it used to be something like 25 free saves before registering, so it could be worth checking out.

Failing all that, if its a simple part you could probably get a CAD jockey or engineer to do it for you for a case of beer or something, and save yourself the time, money, and aggravation.

Don’t know anyone? Try posting on craigslist for your area.