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Old Feb 23, 2013, 07:14 PM
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Anybody using Adobe Illustrator?

Hi guys. I've started to dabble in scratchbuilding. So far everything I've done has been drawn freehand or on graph paper, but it's time I got with some CAD. The goal would be to have my 2D design sent out for laser cutting. 3D might be cool someday, but I better work my way up the 2D learning curve first.

I've spent a couple hours here and there mucking about with DevCad and DesignCad. Price is reasonable but I don't want to spend a lot of time mastering a limited, proprietary application and user interface. Rhino, AutoCad and Solidworks are out of my range, dollar-wise.

I happen to own Adobe CS2 suite (from when I was deep into photography) and wondering if anybody's using Illustrator as a 2D CAD program. Its Export menu includes DXF and DWG format options, so that's promising.
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Old Feb 23, 2013, 11:01 PM
Jim C Patrick
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Adobe Illustrator is a fine program, but at $600 is beyond the price range or outside consideration by most of the folks who want to 'do CAD'. Compared to traditional CAD it is better suited for aero design, more geared toward smooth streamlining. Mark Miller of Isthmus Models uses Illustrator for his plans, including the Mirage, Mini Bird of Time, Duet, and Zephyr II.
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Originally Posted by Mark Miller View Post
Adobe Illustrator is a vector drawing program. You can save raster drawings out of it but in it's native form it's all vector.

I do ALL my drawings in Adobe Illustrator with a plug in called CadTools. It gives some nice CAD like tools that Illustrator does not have. I export the drawings to be laser cut as a DWG file and send it to my laser cutter. You of course have to have the correct line colors and weights specific to your cutters requirements.

Before I got the Cadtools plug in I still used Illustrator to do CAD work and it does it well if you know what you are doing. in it's stock form it has some features that most CAD packages do not have and make life easy.

On the plan side I save the plan as a PDF and send it to my local Reporgraphics place to be printed. What I like with Illustrator is that you can do the accurate CAD stuff for the laser cutter and also do good looking plans. A regular CAd package's plans seem kind of sterile to my eye while Illustrator seems to have more artistic drawing tools. . .
As he points out, Illustrator makes formatted plans better and easier than CAD. The $300 Cadtools plugin is nice, but isn't needed. Used or older versions of Illustrator can be found for a lower price, and other commercial RC aero-model designers use Corels's CorelDraw, a lower-priced alternative to Illustrator. Serif DrawPlus is another lower priced alternative as well.

Drawing programs are great for model airplane, making simple drawings easier and faster than CAD. Laser files can be exported as DWG/DXF. It's only when you get into multiple connected pages, with many layers, then traditional CAD comes into its own.
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Old Feb 24, 2013, 07:05 AM
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Thanks for that response, JC. I just needed some assurance that I wasn't going too far out on a limb. It would be silly to buy Illustrator as a CAD tool, but in this case it was something I already own, along with the reference manuals, etc.

Illustrator has extensive layer support, so no worries there. It also has a "blend path" feature that might be very helpful.
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Old Feb 24, 2013, 11:00 AM
Jim C Patrick
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No problem. I see post after post asking about transitioning from paper-and-pencil to CAD, and I know that most folks will give up after reading and following those recommendations. If you had asked about starting a commercial project —a very different proposition— the answer would have been different. But for a person who wants to design a few models for their own use, play around with variations, or make their own files to have laser-cut; then most CAD programs are not the best or easiest path.

Drawing programs are simply a more intuitive step from paper to computer. They are more limited than most CAD or 3D modeling programs, but most people don't need (or want to spend time learning) the advanced capabilities that more complex programs have. CAD has its place and a draftsman going from vellum to computer is probably better off learning a full-fledged CAD. But the average RC hobbyist —especially those who want to spend their time building or flying— is better off with simpler, easier, and more direct programs like Illustrator, Corel, DrawPlus, or even Inkscape.
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