Mark J

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Does anyone have much experience with Solidworks?  A friend of mine suggested the product to me when I was lamenting that neither Sketchup nor Fusion360 were doing quite what I wanted.  Solidworks looks a little daunting and there doesn't appear to be a free option as far as I can see at their website.  Is it hard or easy to learn and use?  Any trial opportunity you know of?

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Sorry, no real experience aith solidworks. It appears to be along the lines of Fusion 360, but more mature and probably more advanced.

If you want a free way to dip your toes into the parametric modeling world, I can recommend FreeCAD as a very powerful tool. And it is,

If you are migrating from Sketchup, be prepared for the learning curve. Sketchup is a video game compared to full parametric modeling. You really have to think ahead to achieve the best result.

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I don’t know your situation, but if you qualify for the student/faculty edition it is only $150 per year. 

I had a chance to play with it a bit years ago, but didn’t have a chance to really see all it was capable of. If you are trying to find something better for your bowls, I’m not sure any software can handle those designs! :o

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Can’t comment on Solidworks but I’ve gone from Sketchup to Onshape and in the last few weeks started to try Fusion 360. 

Onshape is a great free online program that has similar features to Fusion but in a stripped down way. I think Fusion is the way to go for me. Just got to spend the time to learn it. The drawings I’ve seen on on Fusion look realistic and quite complex. 

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10 hours ago, Llama said:

What do you want it to do that it's not doing?

I turn forms like these...


...and I would like to model them before I settle on a final design.  This drawing was done in Sketchup, but takes a lot of labor. 
I create a 2D cross section of the side wall. 
"Follow me" this into a 3D shape. 
I then create a 3D squared block to represent the wood and superimpose the two models in exact alignment.  
The two models are joined with "intersect faces".
Now I laboriously remove every line segment that is not part of both models.  

This takes a solid day of work.  

I am looking for a process that is easier and faster so that I can readily try small changes to the idea.  Also Sketchup cannot draw a true curve, only polygons so I am left with lines and facets on the drawing which are distracting.  This also means that instead of a single curved segment to remove I may have to delete 10 smaller straight segments.  

Fusion 360 does not seem to have an equivalent to the "intersect faces" function, hence my friend suggested Solidworks, but that price is too steep.  

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5 hours ago, Mark J said:

I turn forms like these...

I agree with Chestnut. Looks like a revolve with some combine features would get you there.

Another way would be to use construction planes and form the swooping layers on each, then combine with the triangular pieces. You could make the whole thing use parameters so you could very quickly change the shape and feel of the design quite easily. The use of parameters would also allow you to create the base shape then size it to your workpiece.

Another way would be a combination of the above methods and using the shell tool for removed material. You can change this on the fly as well. I usually create a parameter for shell to see what different thicknesses will look like.

Possibly another way is to use the mesh model feature. I have very little experience with it, but it looks like you could really come up with some cool designs using that method.

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@Chestnut and @Llama have it right. And I woukd encourage you to at least give FreeCAD a try, it does all of that and is truly free to use. No 'trial period', no 'Educational license', no fees. I know I'm starting to sound like a sales rep, but frankly, I'm just really impressed with the program.

Did I mention, it's free?  :D

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12 hours ago, Mark J said:


@wtnhighlander any good training videos or books on how to use FreeCAD?  Does it run on Windows 7?

Tons of video on YT. Pay attention to version numbers, as there are noticable differences. Don't be disturbed by the low release numbers, it's been under development for almost 20 years.

Yes, it runs on Win7, and is pretty light on resources. I use it on a 5 year -old amd laptop with only 4 GB of ram.

Even if you switch to another application later, the concepts you learn will apply.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I just gotta say that I am finding FreeCAD and Fusion 360 difficult to learn.  I've been working on FreeCAD these last several days using written material from the FreeCAD site and a video tutorial for v0.14 (currently it's v0.18).  I am nowhere.  After a great deal of effort I managed to make two solid objects and superimpose them, but as soon as I try the Boolean operations the whole thing disappears.  Undo, try again, try something else, same result... poof.  Finally the thing disappeared and no amount of undo would bring it back.  So I hit the little red x in the top right corner.  I am frustrated.  

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@Mark J your frustration is understandable. I suggest searching youtube for video tutorials on freecad than are more closely matched to the version you are using. There are significant differences between 0.14 and 0.18.

I must admit that while FreeCad is good at making parts, creating multi-part assemblies still frustrates me.

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