For an upcoming project I’ve spent significant time working on a 3D product model. I had to start from scratch, as I had never really used CAD before. A lot of people will recommend newer, better solutions such as SolidWorks for 3D modeling. But CAD works out much better for beginners and startups since it is way more affordable. Seriously… it is about 1/40th the cost of SolidWorks per license. So I started with CAD for this first project of mine at WukiLabs. I learnt quite a few things while working on this project. Sharing some key lessons here for others who might be attempting 3D modeling.
Here is my list of useful tips for people beginning with CAD, especially for 3D modeling:
First, go through a video tutorial
Getting hands on with 3D modeling directly can be really a lot of effort and no output. Even if you think you have figured it out somewhat, its better to go through a good tutorial. I prefer videos to text tutorials as sometimes the obvious is not stated and for beginners, nothing is obvious.
Watching video tutorials clarifies some of the little things we might otehrwise miss.
I’ve found a perfect series by Brooke Godfrey. She has plenty of tutorials, all well delivered. This will save you from the low quality, slow and confusing tutorials one finds online, many with broken English and accents that can be difficult to understand.
Second, always, always use construction lines!
It’s very difficult to create a precise geometric 3D shape. For that, youdefinitely need to use construction lines. Making a separate layer for construction lines is a good way to work about it. It’s becomes so much like geometry we did at school.
An important point is that you should never delete construction lines.
When you use most functions to create a 3D object from 2D shape, it’s impossible to go back to 2D if you want to modify the object. Instead you can easily adjust the original construction lines and re-create a 3D object.
Next, save files with version numbers
When working with a big project that takes days, it becomes very difficult to keep a track of files that were significant or had significant changes.
It’s always better to start off with naming your files in versions. E.g. Projectx_v0.01a.
You can argue that it can be sorted by date but not every newer file will be what you wanted. I’ve found myself going back a couple of versions back to import some unmodified object that was modified later. This would not be so easy if I had not stored version numbers.
Remember not to have a late-realization of actual size
During my time designing, I designed one component that I thought would be about 2cm thick and it turned out be just 7.5mm. So I had to back calculate and make changes accordingly, else it would have not worked in real world.
On CAD, it’s easy to forget how small or large the object you are creating will actually be.
It’s good to take out 1:1 printouts before deciding the size and comparing these prints with everyday things around you to feel how large or small it will be with respect to these items.
Design for a 3D print
It’s very easy to make a model that looks fantastic but it may not always be feasible to fabricate or print. There are a lot of considerations from design to product.
Remember that most 3D printers have a precision of 50-200 microns.
Use this information to build your model accordingly and not wonder if the print will eventually come out right. Also printers can print only up to 15 degrees without support structure. So you sometimes need to weave that into the design as well depending on printer and slicing software.
These are just a few things I feel everyone should know before getting started. It is somewhat like stating the obvious because obvious as they are , they can easily be missed but are vert important.
Will write more as I move further into prototyping and 3D printing. Watch this space for updates.
By the way, am now building our very own 3D printer as we speak!
If you found this post useful, leave a comment below. Would love to know more about your plans for or experience with 3D modeling using CAD.