Integrated 2D and 3D CAD solutions keep automatic suppliers running smoothly

October 30, 2020

Sponsored by: DraftSight

A design engineer and CAD manager shares his company’s experience with the switch from AutoCAD to DraftSight.

Tom Harvey is a senior design engineer and CAD manager at Penda, a Tier 1 supplier to companies such as GM, Ford and Honda – “basically every OEM truck maker out there,” Harvey said. Penda uses heavy-gauge thermoforming technology to manufacture protective coatings for truck bodies and wheel arches, which must be precisely engineered for each model of truck. This means that the Penda team must work closely with its clients: “We are integrated almost at the direct employee level,” noted Harvey.

An example of a Penda truck bed liner.

Penda and TriEnda, a sister division within Kruger Family Industries, rely on a combination of 2D and 3D design applications in their daily workflows. AutoCAD “had been in both places for many years,” reported Harvey – perhaps as long as two decades on Penda’s side. Even after teams embraced 3D workflows and implemented SolidWorks as their primary design tool, AutoCAD remained in a supporting role, he explained.

TriEnda began researching alternatives to AutoCAD shortly after implementing SolidWorks in the early 2000s. But Penda stayed with AutoCAD until 2017, when an Autodesk reseller informed Penda that there would be an increase. annual costs by 20% over the next several years, due to the inevitable transition from a perpetual license to a subscription license. At that time, the company was already paying $ 2,500 per year for four active licenses of AutoCAD. “The economy [of staying with AutoCAD] just didn’t make sense, ”Harvey said.

In total, his company spends around $ 80,000 per year on annual CAD license renewals, so there is always pressure from senior management to find ways to reduce those costs, he explained.

Dive Into DraftSight

Harvey started by exploring the free version of DraftSight and found the keyboard shortcuts, interface, and overall experience to be very similar to what he was used to in AutoCAD. (Note that DraftSight phased out the free version in 2019, but 30-day free trials are available.) “The functionality was 90-100% there, so it was a very smooth transition,” he said. he called back. “It didn’t take long to blow the tires on it.

In a diverse market for 2D CAD application offerings, Harvey chose DraftSight because it interfaces well with SolidWorks. Also, having a well-established company like Dassault Systèmes to support the solution was reassuring. “Some of the smaller ones appear and then disappear,” he observed.

After testing it himself, Harvey deployed DraftSight to a larger group of users, who were able to make the new program their own without training. Most of them had experience with AutoCAD, in school if not in the workplace, which prepared them well to use DraftSight quickly, according to Harvey. “The interface was a very simple jump [from one program to the other], and the controls work the same, ”he said.

The only catch that occurred was issues with the periodic reactivation required to use the free version, recalls Harvey: “Once we got everyone on the network license, those things are gone – everything is handled in background. Today, the company is using a pack of five DraftSight Enterprise licenses, which costs them $ 1,500 per year, reported Harvey.

Integrated 2D and 3D CAD solutions enable automatic suppliers to operate

Penda also produces floor protectors for public transport vans.

Essential support tasks

Harvey noted that his team hasn’t customized their DraftSight environment much, so he can’t comment on how easy LISP routines or other programs are to make changes. “It’s strictly about exporting and writing applications for us, so DraftSight was a great fit for us; it opens all the DWG / DXF files we need.

When opening AutoCAD files in DraftSight, Harvey did not encounter any issues with fragmentation, font failure, or other issues that required a “massage” to get things straight. “It just opens,” he said. “Otherwise, it would have pushed me back into Autodesk’s arms very quickly!”

In addition to opening legacy files, the Penda team relies on DraftSight to export layout views from SolidWorks. “It gives the customer a 2D view without all the intelligence [of the original 3D file]Harvey explained. In the TriEnda group, designers use DraftSight internally for wood pallet and custom sheet designs – “flatter things where the benefits of 3D CAD aren’t really there, and the 2D environment is faster. “

“It just works”

Today, there are more than ten DraftSight users in the Penda and TriEnda teams, and maintaining the software requires little effort from the CAD manager. “At this point it’s just running – it’s not something I have to touch regularly,” Harvey said. “[The IT department] love it too, because it doesn’t generate help desk calls.

After several years of use, Harvey hasn’t noticed that functions are slower in DraftSight than AutoCAD; nor did he see that users need workarounds to accomplish their tasks. “I didn’t find the downside,” he said.

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