Drafting Program Add-Ons for Dimensional Data Output

Three-dimensional AutoCAD by itself won't supply dimensional data, but other programs are able to extract and output that for purposes of production. October 12, 2007

Anybody out there just using plain old AutoCAD to do their work in full 3D without the add-on packages like MV, CV, etc? I'm just curious to find out opinions on keeping it simple. I have heard and seen the advantages/disadvantages of the add-on programs, but I am faced with the need to step up our department's 3D knowledge level, and would appreciate any suggestions and/or past experiences with going from 2D to 3D.

Forum Responses
(CAD Forum)
From contributor Y:
Well, you can use AutoCAD to draw in 3D. Especially since AutoCAD07 release, the 3D capabilities are very advanced. You can draw anything and render it with good results. But you mentioned "to use it for production." All the 3D solids in plain (vanilla) AutoCAD have no intelligence, so with no help from an add-on program, you cannot get any data from your drawing other than the visual information. Hope this make sense.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the quick reply. I agree with you 100% about the models not having any intelligence and without an add-on, that is all you get. But I am curious to know if anyone out there is actually using AutoCAD this way and how they go about it. I know it may not be the most efficient or the most productive method since you can't get CNC code or any of the bom data directly out, but who is using it this way?

From contributor D:
Someone please explain what the add-ons "MV or CV" are abbreviations for and what they do. I use Acad 2007 for drawings and have exported those 3d drawings and toolpathed for router, but I haven't heard of the CV or MV that original post refers to.

From contributor P:
The add-ons that I know of for AutoCAD are Pattern Systems, Microvellum, and Smartlister from millister.com. PS and MV are quite expensive - they are more than a license for AutoCAD. They have lots of add-on modules which will cost even more money. Smartlister is the least expensive of these 3. It requires you to draw in 3d and is able to give you info on the materials. You need to see what all these do, and which one fits the company budget and what you want out of it.

We use AutoCAD for 2d layout and submittal drawings only. Then we move to CabinetVision for CNC, panel saw and cutlists. We rarely, almost never, do renderings. The product has already been sold to the client by the architect/designer; we are just interpreting their creation.

We have started to use Sketchup for some 3d details of difficult to visualize details, as a way of communicating that with the architect, designer, client. This is proving to have some useful benefit.

From contributor S:
I'm using plain AutoCAD 3D without any add-on. All those add-ons are good; they have the ability to analyze your drawing and automate the process. But I noticed that when it gets to complicated custom jobs, MV, CV, KCDW (and I can keep listing those programs) are not able to go further than a certain point of complication. They all have limitations. I'm successfully using AutoCAD 2007 to do my jobs, and then extracting all the parts for CNC machining. It is much easier in 3D, maybe not so quick like MV does it, but I don't think that MV is able to draw those jobs. (Nothing against MV.) I know many MV users are going to join this thread now and they are all going to yell at me. But I like plain AutoCAD; it gives me more freedom to manipulate, and I do not have to deal with parametric data entry. If you think this way, MV just gives you back what you entered; it just records it and returns it to you upon request.

From contributor G:
You know what's interesting, I just found out ACAD 2008 has a bi-directional link to Excel (much like MV from what I understand), so in theory, you could get some information out of the 3d drawings. But... what's your time worth? For the fussing around trying to reinvent the wheel, you could probably buy MV. I think people often forget that the software is just a tool - a means to an end, not the end itself.

From contributor B:
For what it's worth, the company I work for uses 3-d AutoCAD blocks to draw our elevations. Since we have a pre-defined catalog of products we sell from (somewhere around 17,000 and still counting/adding), we have given our blocks an attribute of the model number. We then export this as a .csv file and import it into our quoting program where we assign materials, hardware, edgeband requirements, etc. Since these are catalog items when they are imported, they have a price assigned to them based on that and we can provide a total cost to the job if it becomes one.

Upon becoming one, we export that data to a .csv file that we import into QuickCam and produce the parts and pieces along with the CNC data, etc. that gets run through CadCode to produce the necessary data to manufacture this order.

Since QuickCam is based in Excel, it is very easy to produce the templates to make our product line. It's so flexible that we can make our product on a panel saw/p2p, router/hbore machine, etc. without any CNC problems due to drilling/routing depths or diameter changes to the tools used. In fact, this system allows us to have any company in the world produce our products because CadCode links to most or all of the CNC's in the market today. And, because I created the templates to produce this stuff, I control all the variables for the entire process, which may or may not include tool types, whether or not you automate the horizontal drilling, door hinge boring, etc.

From contributor K:
You should really look into SmartLister. It will get you what you're looking for without the big learning curve.