CAD system recommedations

I’m new to orchid, and I’m sure this has been asked before, but any
recommendations on a CAD system for someone not that good on the
computer, it would be nice to be able to do the basic design fairly
fast with the customer sitting there so they can have input and
"ownership" of their new piece, and not have me fumbling around while
they fall asleep. I realize there is a learning curve to all CADs,
any thoughts on this subject?

Thanks, Vince


what can you afford…packages run from 1000 up to 7k or so…

Unless you are extremely versed in a CAD program, it probably would
be a long, boring session for most clients. As a CAD user (ArtCAM),
I’d suggest an HB pencil or a fine tip pen and some detailed questions
when working with a client face to face. Then go to your computer and
email an image from the CAD program, if necessary. My sketching skills
are rudimentary at best, but that is not what I am selling.

I use my time with clients to find out what they want, and use an
image portfolio of my work to show details of settings, textures and
alloy colors. When we have a tentative agreement I ask for a deposit,
render details, acquire stones if necessary, and guide them along the
path to the perfect piece of jewelry.

I’ve used Matrix since it first came out many years ago. I would
take a look at Counter Sketch, I have a few friends that have bought
it and have been happy



You are asking a question a long the lines of “what kinda of car is
best” and I gurantee there will be no less than a dozen answers. I
personally use solid-works, it’s not meant to design jewelry, but for
what I do, it’s perfect!

I would suggest before you purchase any software, you look at this:

It’s 2D design software, very similar to the industry standard for
2D drawing, autocad, but it’s 100 percent free, and has great user
support, and an easy to read user manual with great starter projects,
you could start with that software in a matter of hours! If you where
to learn that software, the basic concepts will mean that you could
go to virtually any of the more expensive jeweler cad systems, and
feel right at home, or at-least have some idea what you are doing. It
also would mean that if you give CAD a shot, and you find it’s not
your cup of tea, you haven’t shelled out 1000’s of dollars.

Almost all 3D cad systems are the same, in my opinion, at least in
the basic concepts, so learning 2D, you will understand concepts like
O-snap, datum, scale.

But that’s not the say you can’t use that for jewelry. I know
several jewelers that use solid-edge 2D for jewelry, and I have used
it myself.



I have been doing this a long while and I get this question three
times a week minimum. First, if all you want to do is draw a ring to
show a potential customer, then there are several CAD systems that
will work… in fact, look more at “Modeling” software than CAD.

I would suggest Rhino, with or without Matrix, Solidworks, Artcam
Jewelsmith (my favorite) and the list can go on & on. A lower end
package will work fine for just drawings. It all depends on what
conveniences you want in the software and how far you want to go
with the design process for the customer. Wear Google out for a
little while and see what you can find.

The main thing I tell folks is to “TRY” before you buy. My favorite
saying is “CAD / CAM software is as personal as underwear”. What I
or others like and can live with, you may not like at all… so try
out several…or EVERY program you can…and if you can’t try it,
don’t buy it.

As well… be sure and have a lot of experience before deciding to
draw a ring in CAD for a customer… it is much harder when other
eyes are watching!! Someone mentioned a pencil & paper…then
sending an image of the finished model… that works perfectly. I
doubt most customers want to set through a complete modeling

Good Luck. Dan.


You can make beautiful jewelry with any of these programs; all of
them are expensive, require instruction and daily practice. The
rewards are awesome. If you would prefer software that is
specifically for jewelry with automatic tools so that you don’t have
to engineer every step or fiddle endlessly with the controls; look at
these two: Gemvision Matrix Visionumeric 3Design

Get an online demo from each then decide which you feel more
comfortable with.

Charlie O

I’ve been drawing designs for years, and with a couple art degrees
it’s right up my alley. That said, I think learning a CAD program
just to use it to illlustrate ideas for customers is taking a pretty
difficult path. It can be a long time before you’ll be able to work
with it for anything but the simplest ideas, and the programs are
expensive. I work in Rhino. It’s not as jewelry adaptive as Matrix or
some of the other more jewelry specific programs, but it’s one of the
least expensive and it is a powerful program. The learning curve is
pretty steep. You can get great DVD tutorials from Inifinite Skills,
and there are lots of free tutorials and youtube videos. But getting
back to drawing, here’s a suggestion:

First, get a copy of “Drawing on the right side of the Brain” by
Betty Edwards. This is an amazing approach to learning to draw and
you’ll get great results without the years of training like I’ve gone

Why not make your drawings large? I mean, work on a scale of a ring
being 4 or 5 inches in diameter. Then scan it and then reduce the
size and print it. It’s always easier to draw large than to scale.
You don’t have to limit yourself to colored pencils. I’ve often
worked with water colors, air brushes, even cut out elements from
magazines. When the whole collage is scanned and shrunk down and
printed, it pulls together niceley. You can even use filters in a
paint program to blend, blur, soft focus, and generally edit your
image. “Gimp” is one of the best free programs out there, and it’s
cross platform.

Finally, you’d be surprised that when you’re selling a custom design,
it’s not the image so much that sells the idea as your ability to use
minimal visual infomation to communicate the idea. Sometimes it’s
just a few lines on paper that gets the customer visualizing what you
are seeing in your minds eye. Don’t know where you can learn this,
per se, but my point is, it’s often a case of overkill to do full
color renderings, to scale,

Hi David,

I found plain Rhino, okay. Not as easy to manipulate object, and the
tools aren’t intuiative as other packages. The plugin “Rhino Gold”,
is where it shines though. The models are ready to go, which is nice.

Any 3D graphics package is capable of making jewellery models, as
long as it has .stl output. You just usually need to do a little
jiggery-pokery to get a water tight model for printing or machining.

Regards Charles A.

It’s definitely a business investment though. I was quoted greater
then $8k, which is out of my current budget.

It’s a good program, and I’ll aim to buy it when I can afford it.

Regards Charles A.

The learning curve is pretty steep. 

That’s an understatement! I’ve studied 3d modeling quite a lot over
the years, but my interest was mostly animation, until I realized I
wasn’t going to do any real work - that’s another story. It’s easy to
learn some of the concepts like lofting and extruding. It’s quite
another to use all of the tools in tandem to do useful work. I’d say
a good year of learning and practice to be any good at it. Now,
before somebody posts that they did it in three months, I’ll tell the
tale of a job that was referred to me of a certain ring with a very
organic top of a certain sort. The guy who referred it laid claim to
being a CAD expert… The job itself was destined for failure,
which it did in the end. But the emails he send me included his
drawings of the design, which looked like childish scrawlsdone on a
computer. Far, far away from anything like what was actually wanted.
CAD is digital, drafting style drawing and that’s what it excels at.
That’s why the market is flooded with square, symmetrical designs
encrusted with micro-pave, because that’s what it does well. Try to
make a flower - I don’t mean a circle with five teardrops around it,
I mean a real flower, one that looks alive and has some style and
elegance to it. It’s not that it can’t be done, it’s that it’s
really, really difficult to pull off.

I’ll just say, for myself, that I’ve used many of the programs and I
am just frustrated by the limitations of them - I want to make that
flower and it’s just WAY easier for me to just get some gold and
start bending. Instead of doing it myself and investing the $20k in
software and machinery, I just send out work that’s best done by
computer, and spend the $75 for a wax. One company I deal with has
four millers running full time…

Hi Charles:

I want to spend a 10 k (max) budget on a desk-top carving system this
year (stage 1) and if that works a 100 k (max) budget next year
(stage 2). I believe I have a marketing plan (top secret, haha)
which will make this an excellent investment.

What I am most concerned about is COST CONTROL. High tech gizmos can
bleed you dry with hidden costs. I want ZERO surprises after I pay
out the cash.

I would suggest that those interested as buyers or sellers of
CAD-CAM systems form a closed group to talk turkey. It will be too
detailed and boring and off-topic I expect for Orchid. If anyone is
interested, we can get started right away and form that closed group
of people who might be serious buyers.

I believe Charlie Omen was right when he posted “the rewards are
awesome”. But the financial punishment for failing at cost control
can totally destroy those rewards so that is the main issue. The
hidden costs are in OS, intallation, configuring, applications SW
purchase and installation and of course instruction on how to use all

We have emailed Automation Tooling Systems in Ontario to see if they
want to make a deal with us.

Since they seem to be more “factory automation” oriented, they may
not be interested. A factory of course is stage 3 if stage 1 and 2
succeed. One can only do business one step at a time.

Sto:lo have a cosmology of transformation in which the Transformer
Stone (statue) is analogous to Stonehenge for example. The marketing
plan as above would fail if I made it public presently but it ties in
with the way in which Sto:lo have worked with stone since the Ice Age
(and literally a Stone Age civilization) using the concept of
transformation in their cosmology and religion to make the word a
better place.

those interested as buyers or sellers of CAD-CAM systems form a
closed group to talk turkey. It will be toodetailed and boring and
off-topic I expect for Orchid. If anyone isinterested, we can get
started right away and form that closed groupof people who might
be serious buyers. 

Peter, that place already exists, though it’s not jewelry specific.
No doubt there are others, but this is the grandaddy:

CAD is digital, drafting style drawing and that's what it excels
at. That's why the market is flooded with square, symmetrical
designs encrusted with micro-pave, because that's what it does
well. Try to make a flower - . . . I mean a real flower, one that
looks alive and has some style and elegance to it. It's not that
it can't be done, it's that it's really, really difficult to pull

I’ve been thinking about CAD. The CAD jewelry I’ve seen does look
“square” and “engineered” and often anonymous. Right now I make
Supersculpy models that I eventually replicate in metal. I sculpt
polymer clay creatures, make molds of these Sorta Clear 18, and pour
wax into the molds. I cast the wax patterns by lost wax casting. This
is an enormous amount of fun, but its time consuming because wax
replicas often need repair. I was thinking of learning CAD, but does
it produce many charms, creatures, netsuke, or things like sculpture?

I'll just say, for myself, that I've used many of the programs and
I am just frustrated by the limitations of them - 

Knowing the limitations of the technology (what it can and cannot
do) is a big part of this.

Does anyone here have any experience with the larger robotic arms?

Are they sufficienctly portable that we could take one to a rock
face and have it carved into the rock in situ? Suppose we find a
particular location where the rock is especially appealing. Google on
the name “Greul” for example. Greul was not First Nations but he
reproduced excellent Haida, Kwakiutl and Tlingit motifs. Motifs like
this could be carved right into the rock face with a robotic arm as
relief work IN THEORY. But what about practical reality?

Could the arm go further and do full 3-D carvings in the rock face?

Of course we can remove the rock and do reliefs in necklace pieces
etc. That would be the task of a desk-top unit.

but its time consuming because wax replicas often need repair. 

Hmm. They shouldn’t. Sounds like something’s going wrong along the
way. What kind of repair?

Possibly there’s something you want to refine about your model
making system that would reduce the need for repair.

I was thinking of learning CAD, but does it produce many charms,
creatures, netsuke, or things like sculpture? 

Of course it can!


CAD can achieve any shape or form. One must be aware of the many
software available on the market. Some are best for geometry, others
are best for free form. One can do flowers, animals, all nature
shape. Just need to know about the softwaRe: rhino, zbrush, tspline,
maya, clayoo…

Fady Sawaya

Thinking about buying CAD software and possibly a mill or rapid
prototype machine is a big and interesting question for we makers of
metal adornments.

If you buy the software and the computer to run it you’re spending
at least 10K (forMatrix, if you include the primary training to
begin using it). And if you’reproducing models, it’s preferable to
make them in your shop, particularly while you’re learning to use
the software. Otherwise you will be sending out your initial,
probably unusable, files to a service bureau then waiting a week
tosee if the model you thought you made is what you actually made
and spending goodmoney to find that out. So it’s better to make the
models in-house and find outthe same day that you need to change
your CAD file. But if you decide to buythe mill or rapid prototype
machine you spend big money (25K for Gemvisions newC-model or about
20K with training for the Envisiontec Mini desktop RP). Theissues
with those are that the mill, which produces wax models that you
canadjust by hand after milling, are finicky machines that require
frequentcalibration, while the RP machines produce models that
really need to be spoton because they can’t be altered much,
something that is hard to do when youare just learning CAD.hard even
after you’re familiar with CAD.

It seems like the buy CAD/CAM or not decision often (but not always)
comes down to twothings. One can be seen as a purely business
decision, that is whether it is more cost effectiveto own the
software and equipment or to send the jobs out? Will you make
moremoney with it, or are you better off using that money elsewhere?
If you canfind a good service bureau and you can communicate what
you want clearly andprecisely, then you can have your fairly
complicated model produced for about $200 - $250 in about a week.
While that CAD expert is producing your model, youare profitably
doing what you do best. It’s like having a super talentedemployee
that you only employ when they are at their absolutely most
productivebest.then you send them home. Why spend the money or lose
the untold hours intraining when you could continue to do the hand
work while jobbing out thekeyboard work?

The other is a little bit more of an emotional decision. CAD/CAM is
awesome and as amazing as it gets. It’s fun to use, it’s cutting edge
and it’s here to stay. You havechosen this honorable craft as your
livelihood and all of your effort andtraining has lead you to CAD.
You will be doing this the rest of your life, youmight as well take
the plunge and climb on to the learning curve now because it’snot
going to get any easier if you wait. Granted it only costs you some
$200 amodel to send it out, but if you borrow the money for the
CAD/CAM, your monthlypayments might be $800, so 5 models a month make
it worth buying. Plus it’s somuch more satisfying to do the whole job
yourself and not depend on others. It’s a dilemma that is worth some


Where would you direct someone to go for intensive jewelry CAD
training, who is open to nearly any geographic location/country?
Specifically, one-on-one (English speaking) instructors who are also
highly skilled goldsmiths - or low student to teacher ratio
classes/schools - standing out in this field? Could not find a
previous posting in my archive search… my apologies if this is
redundant… only found discussion of learning directly from the
distributor/trainer of a specific program. Many thanks… figure I
cannot knock it 'til I try it!

Jenn Dewey

one-on-one (English speaking) instructors who are also highly
skilled goldsmiths 

Contact Vasken Tanielian. Vasken is a highly skilled goldsmith,
former long time instructor at the Revere Academy, currently resides
in Austin Texas.