"One Perfect Part at a Time"

BobCAD-CAM First Test

BobCAD Logo I went through the full set of the supplied BobCAD-CAM V24 drawing tutorials and even though I am not a novice at this 2D and 3D CAD drawing stuff, I feel it is worth the time spent. The temptation is to cut corners and just dive right in. With any software this comprehensive it is best to follow the rules at first. There are many ways to skin a (Bob) cat they say, but it is best to make the first try with someone leading the way.

I am comfortable with the drawing (CAD) part in BobCAD-CAM. Yes, past experience helps a lot and any kind of previous CAD experience will be an asset. I am very pleased how complete this tool is for drawing.

The total user interface customization that is available is as awesome as it is daunting. I don’t suggest rearranging tool menus and so forth until you settle into a comfortable work style. Just wait until you want to make it a bit more convenient to your work habits. Definitely you can have it your way.

I thought I would miss the 4 view display I have in Rhino, but after working a short while in BobCAD-CAM, I didn’t even think of it. By the way, I will refer to Rhino occasionally here, not as a recommended alternative but as my basis of comparison. Rhino is a great 3D CAD and graphics program that I know how to use. You have to buy an additional add-on product to do any CAM with it. Actually BobCAD-CAM is very happy to import Rhino files.

The switching between various windowed axis views works fairly well but I did occasionally notice a few missed quick clicks when changing view, especially going into the rotate view. It could be my impatience with the redraw time.

There are many preset “views” available at the touch of a key when drawing.  Then I discovered I could not only switch views but open multiple views on one screen, just like Rhino, so nothing lost. I just hadn’t picked up on that at first. Edit in one view and all views are updated.

So many features just in the CAD part of BobCAD-CAM are available I can hardly do it justice when writing a first look review such as this. Let me just say, I don’t think any normal CAD/CAM user will find anything missing from what is available here on the drawing side. I am referring to making CAD drawings suitable for CAM. Artists may desire more rendering than I have yet discovered but if that is true, the deluxe rendering is usually an add-in with most other products to keep the initial cost down. (It is true for Rhino for example.) I think of it as just extra cost and overhead if not required.

The expected layering, color selection, line ends, dimensioning (if desired), exact sizing, drawing rotation, panning, ad infinitum is just all there. When I first started drawing a 3D part I wanted to make sure I could just grab the object I was drawing and turn it around. Yep, it’s in there (rotation) in one axis (at a time) but I had to learn how to rotate around a line that is there or draw one (temporary). Complex 3D is not for the timid computer artist.

One other command I had a bit of a problem using in 3D is the “Translate” function. It is a super handy feature that lets the user select a component in the drawing and move it around or copy it or use it like a 3D rubber stamp. It is a very powerful and critical tool in 3D drawing. However I had one heck of a time drag positioning a part in 3D space. It just doesn’t work as it should. Getting it perfect in the top view would make it drop out in the side view. I haven’t tried it with both windows open so that may be a fix. I solved my problem by entering the coordinates rather than dragging into position. I definitely need to spend more time on the 3D CAD features.

Another quirk I found is that BobCAD-CAM does not let me do 2D and 2.5D machining if I have drawn the part I want to make in 3D. I could only get pocketing to work from a 2D drawing. I could not find a way to render a 2D view from the 3D drawing I had made (See the pictures) of the keyer weight. All I wanted to do was cut the through slot. So I ended up making a second 2d drawing of just the end.

I worked with the 3D CAM – Z level rough and finish in the 3D drawing with no success with this part. It could be that since the slot had no bottom (a through cut) Z level didn’t know how to handle the path depth. (No issue with 2D paths as depth is a manual setting.) More CAM experience will stop me from this guessing.

The lesson for (me) now is to not do more drawing than necessary to make the part. The 3D was really not needed for this part except for display and the fact I wanted something ultra simple to try out BobCAD-CAM in all modes.

Even with my minor issues I think I am satisfied in saying I would not need to look for any better 3D or 2D CAD drawing system than is provided in BobCAD-Cam.  If my goal was to have a good CAD program to generate CNC code this will do it. There is a period of learning required. But that is necessary in any good (feature rich) drawing program. It’s not as intuitive as Google Sketch or graphic rich in rendering as Rhino, but it will import those files for use in CAD.

I intend to spend a lot more time with the software in the tool path generation process (CAM) and may find some of my minor CAD issues are just from being low on the learning curve. I will post any more pertinent information as I gain experience. There are just so many great features buried in the details. If you have any experience in CAD/CAM/CNC you know how many details there are to try out and evaluate! Next post will be about the CAM features.

From this first look I see no reason not to give this software “buy it” recommendation. I do suggest that you pay attention to the BobCAD-CAM website and probably other distributors as I have seen occasional substantial discounts from the $2495 V24 list price.

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