CAD programs

Fellow Orchidians… I am interested in hearing from the many of you
who have been working with CAD programs. I have been interested in
purchasing a program for over a year now, and have done a bit of
research into several competing programs. Each seems to have its own
benefits (and flaws).

Which program offers the most creative flexibility? I know that’s a
tough question, but all the programs I looked at would allow you to
quickly model basic ring designs. How difficult would it be to
create a brooch for a freeform opal? What about modeling a twig, an
animal, or a face? What about textures?

What about plotting the tool path? 3-D rendering is nice, but how do
you get the most accurate and detailed model? How do you minimize,
or eliminate, the tool marks left from the milling operation? Do
most of you send a CAD file out to have the model machined, or do
you do it in-house?

My end use for this will be to create one-of-a-kind pieces, so the
requirements may be different for a small volume user compared to a
mass manufacturer. Or are they?

I’ve already talked to many of the program developers, and their
sales agents. I’d really like to hear from those of us who have been
using these programs long enough to explain the pros and cons.

Doug Zaruba

Although this is not in direct response to your questions, you may
be interested in a description of our homemade CAD-CAM system we have
been using for the last 5 years.

The designing is done with any of the painting programs that are
available, with Colorit-4 being used the most. The X and Y axis are
controled by the the graphic drawn, with the Y axis being rotation.
The size of the graphic on the screen controls the resolution and we
can choose whatever distance each pixel represents for each axis
(typically 1 to 3 thousanths of an inch). The Z axis is controlled by
using different colors for various parts (heights) of the graphic.
The contours of each color can be varied in both the X and Y
direction. This gives us almost complete control over the Z axis.
Some of the other features we have developed include the ability to
generate crossections to scale in either X or Y direction with tool
thickness taken into account, and the forming of templates to design
within. Mechanicaly, The spindle that holds the wax is a modified 5C
collet. We feed the wax tube through it. By rotating the cutter
spindle 90 degrees we can make a wax model blank to whatever size we
wish. We’ve also made an attachment to cut flat pieces as well as

Five machines have been built so far and we plan to start a sixth
one next spring. One of the five is set up to make printed circuit
boards with the others doing jewelry, and one of those machines will
soon be modified to machine metal ring blanks.

We have approached the computer jewelry design problem from a
different point of view than some of the other systems that are out
there. The learning curve is short, an hour or two will get people
started. Of course the more you do the better you get at it. We have
found it does’nt save us any time but it does allow us to design
shapes we could only dream about in the past. It has revolutionized
our store and the way we do commissions for our customers.

Although we do not intend to make this commercially available, I do
hope my description of our system will encourage other people to
explore CAD-CAM. John

Rhino, that’s the CAD softwear most affordable and user friendly.
Check out their web site and also check out Gemvisions - Matrix,
which is an overlay for Rhino with specific needs for the jewelry
industry. What ever Martix can do, Rhino can do plus more. If you
purchase Matrix you get 4 days of training, if you purchase Rhino
you get the program, good luck unless you have prior CAD experience
or a good friend that has time to teach you. It is a rather complex

Not much you can’t do with Rhino given time and experience, no
different than making jewelry, you can’t learn it over night. Good
luck Barry DiNola

Hi Barry, You said "What ever Martix can do, Rhino can do plus more"
Uh, I think you got that backwards? Matrix IS Rhino, so it can do
everything that Rhino can do plus all the builders, rendering tool
scripts, environment scripts, auto weight calculations, pre-built
cutters, stone and head libraries, etc which are NOT native to Rhino


wow… 2 cad/cam posters in one day dear Doug Zaruba and Pricilla
in Bra zil I’m currently enrolled in a course called ‘cad/cam for
jewelry’ at the Rhode Island School of Design our class uses
primarily 2 programs corel draw and artcam (model master
software)… the corel draw is pret ty damn basic and that is a
benefit actually it has most of the things yo u need and not a lot of
stuff that you don’t need… plus its very cheap (around us$100)
I feel like creative flexibility comes with pretty muc h any package
once you’ve mastered it enough to make it do what you want it to…
Sure a lot of the students first projects looked just like some thing
designed and made by a robot many times this semester I felt just
like a robot as the class was so foreign and different from
traditional bench work [I still prefer a number 2 half round file to any old cad/cam file] but now we have sort of gotten the hang of
things and designs are beginning to look real and natural… for
the freeform opal setting one can use a 3-d scanner on the stone and
import the exact shape… I re ally like the ability to do reverse
offset on the back of pieces… it ho llows out the backsides and
really makes for large and light… it is r eally something to set
the tolerances at .005mm no need to worry about m inimizing tool
marks there ain’t none at least not to the naked eye… one
problem all of us seemed to have a first was the disorientation of
designing at 4000% enlargement some of our well thought out
textures co uld only be seem under a microscope I love the ability
to throw in lette rforms (bazillions of fonts and sizes) and bezels
at the push of a button over and over another exactly identical
5.3mm bezel just push the botto m one more time… Any specific
questions just give me a holler… the pr ofessor is quite
knowledgeable. sounds fun but it really does take hard w ork and the
scope of only one semester is enough to only get a small tast e of
the subject. Their is so much more to learn. Tomorrow is my final
crit in the class. Today got all my stones set and now I’ve got to
get b ack to some polishing and just some last minute patina
touchups. Take care Mark Kaplan @mark_kaplan

Doug, A few years ago, I started studying AutoCAD with the thought in
mind of using those drawings for rendering and machining. That never
really happened. Becoming proficient in AutoCAD was more than I had
time for, even after three semesters of it. It has proven to be a
good thing for layout work, but I never really went any further.

A couple of months ago, my wife bought me a three day class in Rhino
3D. What a relief! This is more friendly and I am now sending unique
designs to machines for my model making. I’ll swear by Rhino. I still
have a whole lot to learn, but am now convinced that I will move away
from doing everything by hand. Stereolithography is giving me
tolerences better than 2/1000 of an inch and the thermal jet produces
wax models to within 6/10,000 of an inch. Look out Herff Jones!
Toolpaths? What toolpaths? Furthermore there are new technologies
becoming available that build up alloy models.

BTW. I am too cheap to buy Matrix. I am also convinced that I will
soon enough build my own library and be richer having better learned
the software.

Hi all at Orchid, I don’t know how I missed the question on CAD
programs but heres my 2 cents. I use ArtCam and the ModelMaters mill.
They are the best as far as I can see. ArtCam can’t render like
Matrinx. But Matrix I understand can’t set up tool paths (I might be
wrong) But I can tell you ArtCam is coming out with a jewelery
version and its great. I think all Cad/Cam programs have a tough
learning curve. I have been using ArtCam and ModelMaster for 3 years
and I can still call and ask for help.


Rhino is the engine that makes Matrix run, but it (Matrix) does not
have all the tools that Rhino has. Yes it has the builders, but
that’s nothing that Rhino can’t do once you learn how and depending
on your level CAD and the geometry of the item you’re working,
depends on what tools you need to get the job done, Rhino has them
all. Again Matrix is very, very good, ( I do own it) but if you’re
at all CAD literate, you don’t need to spend $5000.00, buy Rhino for
about $1500.00, nice savings. Jon DiNola


I have been leaning toward purchasing Rhino, with Flamingo and
Visual Mill. I am NOT CAD literate, and need to learn from the
bottom up. I know that Rhino supplies a manual and training CD, and
they have both on-line support and 3 day training classes.

Matrix has those wonderful builders, and it would be nice to have an
entire library of design components to pull from (like gemstones). I
know I can build this stuff myself in Rhino, but how long will it
take? If time is money, is it cheaper to pay the $5000 to Gemvision
to do this work for me? And how long will it take to learn how to
run Matrix, after I learn Rhino? I’m told it is a complicated

Thanks, Doug


I'd say that a year is enough research, maybe lots of knowledge but

no skills gained. These tools are very very complex, and using them
is the only way to learn. There will always be more sophisticated
programs tomorrow, but a greater appreciation of them is based on an
understanding of their roots.

I don't want to reminisces about some of my previous software

tools, currently I’m using Rhino and StlWorks to mill wax. Rhino is a
very capable 3D modeler, creative flexibility depends more upon your
skills with the program than its limitations. The learning curve is
rather formidable and long but with work your collection of skills
will grow. Faces are probably one of the more difficult objects to
model, but I doubt that there are very many programs yet with a
‘FACE’ button. Textures can be approached as fine details on your

I use StlWork to generate raster type tool paths from .stl models.

It works well, no surprises; probably around mid range for this type
of program in capabilities vs price. Minimizing tool marks is a
combination of making small cuts and understanding the cutting
geometry; on some models using a rotary 4th axis will give better
access for milling. Sometimes the machined wax is just a starting
point for hand work…

Jeff Demand

Poser generates nice figures and faces for around 350.00US and is
available from David

Hi Bruce, I had similar frustrations before I turned to Rhino a few
years ago, just like you I’m a real happy matrix user these days,
primarily becuase of the speed offered by Matrix What takes me two
hours in Rhino I can do in two minutes in Matrix Around my place,
time is money I paid for my Matrix in about 2 1/2 months, and the
program just keeps getting better and better


Hi Jon,

You said "but it (Matrix) does not have all the tools that Rhino
has " 

Sorry, I have to challenge that statement, as it is incorrect Matrix
does, in fact, include the entire Rhino capability set, and adds
much of its owna whole lot of its own, actually I say again, ONE of
the advantages of Matrix over straight Rhino is the fact that Matrix
includes many, many scripts for quick and easy building and
alteration of processes like channel settings, signet ring building,
class ring building, fancy prong, head and bezel building, etc Why
spe nd two hours building a model in Rhino when it can be done in
Matrix in a couple of minutes?


Hi Can somebody send me, the Matrix web page please thanks in advance

Humberto from Colombia

I stated a few days ago that Rhino can do everything that Matrix can
do and that Rhino is less expensive, THAT’S ALL I MEANT, I was not by
any means knocking Matrix. Matrix is BY FAR much easier to use and is
much more use r friendly than Rhino. Matrix has its automatic
builders, its stones, pearl s, heads and profile library that takes a
lot of the guess work out of working and developing these items on
your own. Anyone considering purchasing CAD for jewelry designing,
rendering or manufacturing, I have to say that Matrix is the way to
go as far as I’m concerned. Sorry, again, if that I say earlier was
interpreted by some. Jon Barry DiNola