Software For Detailed Shop Drawings


From original questioner:

For those larger cabinetmakers or architectural millwork companies that have the volume, budget and expectations of having to produce extensive and detailed shop drawings for every project, what software or software combination do you use?

We draw in 3D using Autocad. We then use a separate parametric cabinet design program to create the geometry for our casework which is then processed through another piece of software which creates the G-code for our CNC equipment. I like the system we have, but still need to make a change based upon moral principle.

From contributor St

Since you already have the hard word done in 3D AutoCAD why dont you use smartlister ( its free ) and then look at enroute with is atp add on ?

From contributor Jo

We have Smartlister (bought it before it was free) but there's some functionality in the 64 bit version of AutoCAD that my draftsman likes and Smartlister isn't 64 bit. We don't find the functions within Smartlister to be that advantageous to our drawing process. If we do end up using Smartlister for something, it would be to produce individual part drawings of everything that is not a cabinet box (fillers, endpanels, columns, etc). Currently, I do this by hand and then have my draftsman check the parts against the drawing. Believe it or not, we find this process to be a bit quicker, and it spreads out the workload.

I also do all of the order entry for individual cabinet boxes, which my draftsman also checks against the drawings. In theory, we would have an all-encompassing piece of software that would integrate all of this, but the system we have now has worked well enough that all I'm looking to do right now is replace the parametric box building portion of the process.

I might point out that we tried the all encompassing approach (spent $30,000 towards it) but found the lack of a parametric box making function to be to big a hurdle to overcome. That suite of software sits on the shelf waiting for that company or a third party to develop that feature.

From contributor Pa

Your story does not add up.

Since SL will extract your parts there is very little checking needed.

Additionally I find it hard to believe that any functionality offered by the 64 bit would trump being able to export a cut list, being able to stretch or shrink in 3d, create sections that are always accurate and consistent, better ability to visualize the finished product, being able to export a part to cnc without the parametric nuisance.

From contributor Jo


I agree that creating shop drawings using parametrics is cumbersome. But that is not what I said. I said I'm using parametrics to build cabinet boxes outside of the drawing process. Building boxes most efficiently is done using parametrics.

Smartlister's benefits are basically the ability to stretch, and the ability to measure and label solids. I don't use those things.

Building boxes efficiently is best done using parametrics.

From contributor Do

$30,000? Good god, does it come with a Honda Civic?

From contributor Pa


I don't get it, it still doesn't make sense. What am I missing?

From contributor Jo

What don't you get, that building boxes with Smartlister is not as efficient as with a parametric program? It's not.

That the stretch command doesn't really save that much time? It doesn't

That creating a 3D drawing that will be later used to create work orders for each individual part (fillers, endpanels, columns) requires that my draftsman build the parts exactly correct with the correct materials and the correct number of pieces joined in exactly the correct fashion lest his part pages be uterly worthless, when in fact the most important part of every job is getting the initial shop drawings out as fast as possible...that my decision to not have him do that has not been thought out clearly?

We all do things differently. In this case the decision is based upon available resources and time line requirements. If they don't make sense to you, it's because our respective companies are operating under different parameters.

Furthermore, from time to time I use freelance draftsman to create the shop drawings. They might use Solidworks or Sketchup or Alibre or Rhino, it doesn't matter to me. Their job is to create the drawings fast. Then it becomes my job to use their drawings to create the data that will feed the shop. This is done by separating the manufacturing software from the shop drawing software.

And this means I need a really good parametric casework program, which brings me back to my original question.

If anyone understands the process I just described and therefore understands what I need, are there any recommendations?

From contributor Da

John D.,

Please give Pat some space, he didn't understand what you were trying to say.

Your first posts were harder to understand than they should normally be. You have a system that others don't use and it takes some time explaining it to others. Time you didn't take because you were feeling upset and probably rushed.

You mentioned "ethics" then SmartLister. Your comment can come off as if you are talking about SmartLister.

Honestly, I don't even know/remember who you are.

The bottom line is the parametrics are easy to code. Super easy in fact.

While parametrics may be a great way to push out submittals and bids, it is not ideal altogether. There would be another issue after this one is resolved. And another, and another. There is a root solution that I agreed to code and was paid for. When my head is clear I will finish it. Now if you and 10 other shops want to drop 30K in my lap right now, I can have it for all of you in few weeks by using outside coders. I can't handle this stress in my life at this time. Just just how it is. I know what needs to be done and can instruct others to do it, but my memory, at the depth for coding to be child's play, is not accessible at this time.

Even i was coded, would it be in AutoCAD? Then we would all still have to deal with the "ethics" of Autodesk and Microsoft, to put it very lightly. I really don't want to help people to get controlled by others and quality open source modelers are not readily available for free to code on.

From contributor Jo

Would it be fair to say it like this?

AutoCAD is responsible for creating the drawing.

Smartlister is responsible for extracting the information contained within the drawing.

Smartlister has a stretch command that some find helpful, but other than that Smartlister does not help you draw.

The speed with which we generate initial shop drawings far outweighs the manufacturing information that may or may not be contained within the solids, therefore Smartlister is less important to me than the drafting program that creates the drawings (whatever that may be) and less important to me than the casework program that will be used to feed the CNC machines.

I say this with all due respect to Smartlister, this post was never supposed to be about Smartlister.


From contributor Da


Now you are doing the same thing as Pat. lol

No, SmartLister was never about drawing.

Seriously. ACAD's API is for drawing. Most of the stuff I work with is extrapolated and derived due to the ACAD kernel being encrypted, so that such flexibility is reserved for ACAD alone. The code has been available to stretch 3D multiple solids for how long? They still haven't added it on their own. If you really need something to automate drawing for you in ACAD all you need to do is hire an experienced developer and hand him the formulas as an example of what you want and ask for something you plug these into that A: Automates the drawing of certain shapes, and B: Places those shapes, with similar formulas. You can use pretty much anything to store your formulas. 30K will go far. Should take about 3 months to do it. Maybe try one of the coders over at CADFX or theswamp? They know their stuff!!!

By comparison, the cost of the ARZ to measure the 3D solids, regardless of orientation and symmetry, cost me about 500K when all was said and done. Then others come along and try to knock off what I spent a fortune on and give it away for free or close to it. Sketchup's ruby script for cutlisting (fixed by me) for free, two developers that post here have put up new code to stretch 3D solids for like 50 bucks, and Cimtech's solid processing code that I have heard of. All based on trying to copy the functionality that I paid for to get done the very first time.

You can do it yourself if you want. I am about to start a new job within the next few days. If you want to toss a few bucks my way I can write you a few functions in VBA (that are not too involved) and give the code to you to finish and modify. That's about all I can do for you at this time.

From contributor Do

It's hard to say what software John should use as he didn't mention his current setup, I'm guessing it might me smicrosmellum though, based on price alone and that he's using Autocad, I don't believe CabVis is that much last time I checked, could be wrong.

David, I don't think he was referring to smartlister when he made the moral principle comment, I think there's just been a miscommunication by all parties in this thread.

I don't think he meant to put down smartlister in any way, he was just stating it wasn't an ideal solution for his current workflow.

John, it might be worth looking into Mozaik, the price is right anyhow and might be good enough for what you're doing. I use Ecabinet systems but it only runs on Thermwood and isn't useful for shop drawings. Works great for creating parametric cabinets though.

For shop drawings it might just be faster to draw in 2-d with dynamic block libraries and use another software for creating the cabinets.

Usually I just import the architects pdf drawings, convert to dxf and change whatever needs changed instead of redrawing everything when you're given such short lead times and working on a tight schedule and a shoestring budget.

From contributor Da


You mentioned that you use AutoCad and draw in 3d, yet another software to create you geometry for machining and yet another piece of software to generate g-code.

What is that the software to create geometry needed for machining is added to the parts. This information is probably not included in your 3d AutoCad drawing. If it is not in the AutoCad drawing, no product, whether it be Smartlister or another, is going to proved and accurate part drawing if the information is not included in the 3d part.

Personally I use Smartlister, and have for some time. It works very well for custom products. From Smartlister I get a cutlist, (including material, size, grain, edging and more), part drawings for machining. My product is drawn in 3d and I use the tools in Autocad and Smartlister to create my drawings for approval and shop drawings.

That said, if I was building a product which is parametric there are better options such as Inventor or Solidworks with some add-on software.

From contributor Pa


I also use Smartlister. I used to use Solidworks and argued with Dave all the time about Smartlister until I tried it I would have a hard time using SW anymore.

There are 2 types of parametrics one is global such as MV or CV the other is on a parts level like SW or Inventor. If you torture the software enough you can get them to behave in a global manner but IMO way more trouble than it is worth.

One offs require that you get the parts out as quickly as possible with accuracy. Which means parametrics are superfluous. Smartlister is good at this.

But for the other MV and CV are the way to go.

From contributor Ji

Greetings John,
Don't most CNC makers have either parametric cabinet design or part design software integrated into their machines? Perhaps this may be a way to go.
All the best,

From contributor Ur

John D.,
You're simple question got garbled in this thread. Yes, a simple parametric cabinet program is ideal for your design workflow. I use AutoCAD, KCD, and MasterCAM. For basic cabinet jobs, all I use is KCD and MasterCAM. For more complex work, I start in AutoCAD to get things roughed out. I will go straight from AutoCAD to MasterCAM for curved counters, etc. But for any boxes, I'll use KCDW.

I like KCDW. It won't do much beyond basic cabinets, and doesn't allow for the customization you'd get with CV or MV, but all I need it for is basic cabinetry. I can't vouch for them, but I think CabinetPro is another good option along those lines. I chose KCDW because I can output DXF's to MasterCAM and use the ATP function there.

This isn't a complicated decision. Just buy one of the basic cabinet programs and move on.

From contributor Pa

It doesn't sound like the $30k software on your shelf is MV. Parametric box making is pretty much the basic functionality of MV. Without knowing where you are located, it's hard to direct the right people to you. It seems that if you're already drawing in AutoCAD and in 3D, you would take to Microvellum pretty quickly. I'd be happy to discuss your situation with you.

From contributor Jo

Thanks to everyone for their advice. I will stick with the older version of what I had before I decided to upgrade to a more current version, which then set off a series of events that has left me even more disillusioned with the software industry than before.

We are all powerless. None of us have the resources to fight legally, nor can we take advantage of market capitalism because we have nowhere that we can communicate freely with each other.

From contributor De

I am not quite sure what you mean. It seems to me that we are actually entering a new age in software where we have more choices than ever before and lately it looks like more and more software companies are offering rental programs or pay as you go for their design software which was unheard of even a few years ago.

The bigger companies who cater to commercial applications probably have little incentive to do this but for those geared towards residential cabinet design I think it is going to be better for the consumer in the long run. As long as the small companies don't get bought up and shut down by the big guns just to eliminate the competition that is.

From contributor Jo

I mean there's more to software than just the software. The software I have is terrific for what I need it to do. So good in fact I haven't upgraded or needed tech support for 10 years. If not for a computer crash inspiring me to upgrade, I most certainly would not have.

The upgraded software seems decent, very similar and probably worth the couple grand. Too bad I won't get to use it. Too bad I won't become an advocate for their product through word of mouth and on the web singing its praises. Too bad they won't hear any honest and open feedback from their customers and potential customers on how to improve their product and service because they censor this forum and their own. If I had an upset customer, I would want them to call me, wouldn't you? How else can we all improve? For that though, I would need to be willing to answer the phone. Or I would need to provide a venue to hear customer feedback. Some of you will get a chance to read this before it is pulled. Did I really say anything controversial? Is this conversation really that scary? What if we were comparing the quality of Onsrud vs. Whiteside vs. Vortex? Is that allowed? If not here, then where?

From contributor Al

This website has a history of deleting comments that are negative to its advertisers. That is no secret. As a capitalist, it is hard for me to blame the administration of this site for censoring content that may affect their revenue stream, but as a (former) Woodweb CAD forum contributor, I am distraught when valid criticism of CAD software is censored because they advertise on this site. That said, and in all fairness to Carl, many of the posts (but not all) that have been deleted have been inflammatory or contained personal or unsubstantiated attacks, which is certainly unprofessional. At the end of the day, it is Carl's site, and he can do whatever he likes. But we can all vote with our use of this site. Advertisers will pay attention to this! This censorship is one reason why I rarely contribute any more. I have over 20 years experience in CAD software for this industry, and much to contribute, that is not being contributed.

John, you have not said anything controversial (IMO), because you did not mention the software company by name. Had you done that, your post would most likely have been deleted. I did read (and remember) your initial post before it was deleted, and I can guess with reasonable certainty to whom you refer.

I urge Woodweb to allow valid controversy, particularly regarding CAD software, to remain unedited and uncensored as that will push these companies to produce a better product to serve the industry, and we will all benefit, and we will ALL make more money.

I also urge all users here to think twice before posting their "rant" about software company "X". Your negative experience (or mine….and I have had my share) does not necessarily mean the software, or its support is not good, but just that you had a bad experience. Others will benefit from that experience, and the software producers should listen to that criticism, and respond to market demands.

My biggest gripe, and the biggest reason why I do not post here much anymore, is the antiquated format of this forum. SMF, (or any similar forum format) would allow users to edit their posts, allow better search functionality, and generally provide a much more robust forum atmosphere. [I mean, c'mon, why am I always reduced to 'contributor A' when I search the knowledge base?] The argument of "cost to upgrade" to a modern forum format is moot. I know several forum administrators who have done this at minimal cost.

Carl, the contributors here at Woodbweb deserve better.

From contributor Ca

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From contributor Da

Liberty, *FREE SPEECH*, is an ethical and moral principal based on the real world understanding of the importance of others.