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Sep 30, 2011, 08:21 PM
A posse ad esse

Newbie Looking for Advice

In the past years, I gained a working knowledge of ESRI software used for mapping and statistical analysis-problem solving in my work. Now, I am retired and have the time to learn a CAD type program.

My main areas of interest are scratch building scale models from old plans, and what I would like to be able to do is use old PDF plans and convert them to DWG or other appropriate file types and clean them up and test for parts fit.

Where do I start? What software would you recommend that is affordable and capable. I would rather save until I can afford a good software than throw money away on a low cost product that won't do what I need later on. The other consideration is the learning curve involved for the particular software. While I am retired and have more time on my hands than I would if I were working full time, don't want to spend excessive amounts of time trying to learn a software.

If any of you could share some experience and knowledge with me on where and what I should start with, I will be greatful.
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Oct 01, 2011, 01:46 PM
Claus at Area 52
clausxpf's Avatar
you should look at my works in the Rhino software and my friend is upgrating it for g-codes direct.
means that i design in Rhino and can convert it to G-code files direct and open it in my other computer that runs the cnc cutter
it is hard to do it mutch simpler.
look up my works here!
Oct 01, 2011, 08:06 PM
Registered User
Dear Rabbit,

Yeah, Rhino is good. It works like AutoCAD, which has a steep learning curve. You may have to extract pictures from the PDF and convert them to Bitmap or raster TIFF in order to align them in Rhino.

Oct 02, 2011, 05:43 AM
Registered User
dpot's Avatar
It is all about what you are going to use it for.

Rhino 4 with rhino cam I use it for most of my mould and 3D models stuff canopy cowls wheel spats cockpits and so on.

AutoCAD 2010 I prefer using 2006 I use them for all my plans and iso FIG drawings and construion drawings in .dxf format to rhino for 3D models and .dxf to kcam for cnc routing 2D layouts of parts.

Compuofil3D for my more complicated build up rib wings.

Visual mill I used before I had rhino cam but can be quicker than rhino cam on bigger jobs on my old computer all cnc 3D routing.

All the above are more than adequate for the job I use them for now.
But I am lucky my old job gives my axis all the software that would be very expensive for me to buy.

Not expensive software and adequate for the job easy to use but no 3D.

Devcadcam pro similar to AutoCAD but with intergraded cam software.

Devfuzcam fusalarg design software it imports .dxf plans that you have to trace the outlines of your fuz and then creates all the parts you will need and much more.

Devfuzfoam as devfuz but out puts to a 4 axis cnc foam cuter all the parts to construct foam fuselages.

Profilipro2 all you need to design and cut wings foam or rib.

Mach3 used for controlling my cnc router and foam cuter

Kcam controlling cnc router 2D
Last edited by dpot; Oct 02, 2011 at 05:57 AM.
Oct 02, 2011, 04:41 PM
Registered User
Originally Posted by daddyrabbit1954 View Post
... don't want to spend excessive amounts of time trying to learn a software..
Lots of folks here have been in your shoes. Another important criterion, especially if you are just starting out, is how much learning resource material is available, either through the cad vendor or aftermarket sources. Does the software have active user forums where you can post questions & learn from others? Are there how-to books or instructional DVD's available? Are there lots of users from other disciplines you can learn from directly or indirectly? People often focus on the software cost only, but these resources will dramatically increase your proficiency & learning enjoyment. The opposite is also true, low resources will leave you to figure things out for yourself that takes time & energy. On one end of the spectrum is low cost (or even free) 2D software with maybe a simple pdf manual & few active users. On the other end is a high cost, big-boy commercial modeling package with tons of aftermarket resources. And of course, these cost money too.

My recommendation, like others here, is check out Rhino. Maybe you won’t end up buying it in the end, but at least you can use it as a good first approximation to compare its bang for buck capabilities against others cad options. Type ‘rhino’ in this forum & allow yourself about 3 days of reading time! As you get a feel for what others have accomplished & compare this effort to your personal objectives, things should start to gel. The website is

IMO, don’t underestimate the power of 3D. It takes extended learning beyond 2D but the payoff is tremendous. Rhino is an excellent 3D modeler on 2 counts: commands (ease of use & power) & file format (the CAM people can elaborate on). 3D will help you model typical necessary airplane surfaces like wings, fuselages, cowls etc. From there you have options: slice it up into 2D type structure, or export the 3D file to have the surface made. You can also start with 2D sections & outlines and work this up to 3D surfaces & solids. Im just saying 2D (only) is more difficult/time consuming. Know that you can also draw a quick & dirty 2D part in Rhino using the same familiar commands & dont extrude it to 3D if you dont require it.

There is no magic bullet to simply import a pdf or jpeg/tiff picture & 'convert it' to a useable plan. Inevitably you will import an image as a background layer & draw 'on top' with fresh geometry using your modeler. I think most all cad software will import the image, the issue is more about the cad commands & capabilities.

Re cost, I’ve seen people buy a $100 2D package, learn it, outgrow it & then have to re-learn the same commands in the software they wished they bought to begin with. (Or worse yet, expensive 2D software that offers little more features). Only you can judge what is expensive & what your time is worth. Rhino has good company stability & support. I think its ~$995. You can get education discounts if you qualify, or download a free trial. It also offers many useful plug-in / sidekick programs (check out T-Splines for example). Some will argue that adding a bunch of aftermarket programs approaches the industrial 2-3K$ modelers like Solidworks, but you probably won’t have to cross that bridge for some time. Hope this helps, good luck.
Last edited by ptxman; Oct 02, 2011 at 04:47 PM.
Oct 03, 2011, 09:29 AM
Registered User
rcav8r2's Avatar
Taking a slightly different approach... depends on what you want the final output (so to speak) to be. Then work backwards for the best tools to use.

If you are only interested in printing a set of plans to build from, or maybe get the parts laser cut/machine cut, then a 2D CAD program should be all that you need. I've been using AutoCAD for a while now, and for my purposes it has been just fine. It is a bit cumbersome to print from if you don't have a plotter, and it is easy enough to trace an imported image, but scaling can be a bit of a pain. Also the price is a bit steep. I would "check out" a key from work to use it. It was an extra "copy", but every now and then I would have to check it back in if they needed the copy when one of the engineers was traveling.
I also dabbled with Inventor and Sketchup. Not in the same league as Rhino, or Solid works, but it was 3D modeling. For my use I saw no benefit. I am only interested in generating plans to build from and to create flat parts for my CNC machine.

For the past year or so I have been using DevCAD. ( It is free to try, the purchase price isn't steep, and the support is excelent. Although very similar to AutoCAD, it does have some quirks, but all in all I am very happy with it.

It is VERY easy to scale the image you are importing to trace over and even has a snap to raster feature. That is the elements you are drawing will snap to the raster lines. How well this works depends on the quality of the image you are tracing. Presently I'm working on a plane based off of a tiny 3View I got from the internet. The raster quality is rather poor, so I ended up turning off the snap to raster as the courser would hunt. On cleaner raster images it works really well.
It also has a nice tile printing feature that works rather well. I have access to a plotter at work, but still use the tile printing feature when I need something printed quickly at midnight, or on the weekends.

I also purchased DevFuse, but have yet to use it for real so to speak, but have messed around with it. So far it really looks promising, and will be using it on the project I am working on presently.

If your interested in milling out molds and such then yes one of the 3D modeling packages would be the way to go.
Oct 03, 2011, 11:28 AM
Registered User

CAD program

DraftSight is free and works like autocad.
Unfortunately you can't use PDF's as an image, the later versions of Autocad will.
If you can convert your PDF's to a image format, use DraftSight.
Import and trace/scale as required.
Oct 03, 2011, 04:22 PM
A posse ad esse

Wow - Thanks!

Thanks so much to all you fellows. You have all given me a lot to think about and I hope I can get just half as proficient at this as you guys are. I'll be dropping by again with more questions perhaps, but will try not to be a pest.

Oct 03, 2011, 05:55 PM
Suspended Account
I use Design CAD 3Dmax and found it to
very easy and it will work with outher Cad programs out their. I have use it to draw the parts out and
then use surfcam to write programs to cut on CNC. It's the best software for the money. Don't waste your money on expensive Autocad or other Cad without lookig at Design CAD 3d MAX

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