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Hand drawing vs CAD


Hello all and greetings from an unusually sunny UK. I am writing to
ask for some about which I have seen several postings in
the past and in the archives - but still find I have some unanswered
questions. I am a jewellery designer and hand maker - specialising in
one-off commission pieces. I currently do all of my sketching free
hand and find this quite fast as I run up an A4 sheet of about 6
different ring styles including rendering in about an hour or so.
However I also find myself doing a lot of repeated work where people
want a standard ring shank or stone setting - redrawing the same thing
over and over to show different stone shapes or types. So it strikes
me that a CAD system may be a good way for me to save this time. I am
very computer literate and about 8 years ago did a lot of AutoCAD
drawings and used 3D studio a few times when it was first around for
a little while. I’ve even done some stress modelling on ansis (very
stressful!) years ago. I also have a lot of experience in other
software - so am not afraid of computers. On these fantastic Orchid
archives there are a lot of software names mentioned like Rhino and
JewelCAD. I have downloaded the Rhino demo and it looks good but long
winded. Are there libraries available of ready-done stone settings or
shank styles etc? 3D studio looks good but expensive. I would be
happy to spend about �500-�700 or possibly a little more for the
perfect product if it really will be the right answer for me. Would
any of these systems really save me sketch time or are they really
aimed more at the sort of designer who can take a long time designing
one piece because it is going into mass production? I just wouldn’t
be able to spend several hours on each sketch. I would really
appreciate some advice and tips on what, if anything, to look into.
Am I on a hiding to nothing and would I just be better to stick to my
trusty hand materials? Thank you very much in advance for your time
spend reading and replying, Harriet,

Hitchin, UK


Hello Harriet,

I have not used AutoCAD, but I have tried the Rhino demo. I think you
are right about it being “long winded”. Instead of using a 3d CAD
program you might try using a something like Adobe Illustrator. I have
been using it for two years along with PhotoShop and Streamline. It
has allowed me to make those changes in designs you speak of.
Eventually I may use 3d CAD, but for now it takes too much time.

Timothy A. Hansen
TAH Handcrafted Jewelry
e-mail: @Timothy_A_Hansen


Dear Harriet:

You rasie a lot of interesting questions. We should begin this
discussion by pointing out that there are a lot of different types of
CAD products. Their are 2d cad products which are refinements on the
drawing board. Autocad and Corel Draw are a few of the many products
available. Then their are surface products where you combine surfaces
to form a design. Rhino is a surface product. Then their are solid
modelors which give you shape as well as a number of physical
properties that are associated with the design. Pro-e and Solidworkes
are two names of these types of products. You also have products that
are primary concerned with the rendering of the design and 3d Stedio
Max is this type of product. If you are interested in how well is my
design going to last in my customers hand? What is the best way to
sprue and vent these rings and how am I going to eliminate casting
problems, then you will want a solid modeler so that you can account
for physical changes in the product and you can preform physical tests
on your design. These products are the most expensive and have the
steepest learning curve. However, once you master this curve, you
will never want to go back to the old way. Until you master the
product, it will take you a much longer time to operate in a CAD
program. I assume that you learned Autocad in DOS. You will find
that your transition into Rhino is harder because of your prior
Autocad experience. The programs are enough different that you will
expect Rhino to preform like Autocad and it will not. These
differences, until you master them, will drive you crazy. At least
they did for me. I am sure that others will be able to tell you that
CAD will lead you down the wrong path and that what was good enough
for their grandfather is good enough for you. Just ask them how long
it takes them to correctly design a ring where the customer wants a
cluster of marquee stones and they keep changing their minds on how
many rubies, saphires and emeralds that they want in the design. And
could they just see the picture of the design before you produce it.


Timothy- If you look at Rhino’s curves (or splines) they are similar
in anatomy to Adobe Illustrator’s Path system. They are both vector
based software applications, where Illustrator is 2D & Rhino is 3D.
Illustrator has X & Y spatial coordinates, where Rhino has x,y & z
coordinates allowing three dimensions to occur. They are variations on
basic design principles allow us to move from 2D to 3D.

If it helps you could begin to import Illustrator Paths in to Rhino.

Best wishes-
Doug Bucci


Harriet- What I find empowering about the use of CAD is the
realization that all the you could ever need is in that
’drawing’. After the completion of the CAD ‘drawing’ the transition
from 2D to 3D is made with modest effort. In many cases, you will
spend a great deal of time modeling these objects & the moment the
design is approved someone is going to say, “make this.” As a CAD
designer you can take the same (or model) used in the
’drawing’ and quickly prototype the model.

In terms of software…you must decide what will suit your needs.
For the last six years I have been whole heartedly committed to
designing jewelry on the computer. I have used a number of software
packages for AutoCAD to XCAD exploring their advantages and
limitations. Through all of this confusion, I began working solely in
Rhino. At first Rhino was offered as a free beta download from Robert
McNeel & Associates, in Seattle, WA. The idea of “free” was enticing
for me. I continue to use Rhino because it is affordable & well

Decide what your needs are & how much you want to spend to get the
job done.

Doug Bucci


A good value easy to operate professional CAD software is Look at the “Wireframe 19” version. There maybe version
of Wireframe 9 still available which will suit anyone’s needs. Kevin



Hello Harriet, like you, I am quite computer savvy and also have
highly developed skills as a designer used to freehand drawing and
rendering. Like you, I specialise in “one-of” individually designed
pieces. Like you I also find that certain designs keep on coming up
because my clients like them. (There is a specific ribbon-of-gold
design I seem to be constantly reproducing - to the extent that I have
developed a range of castings in this style because of its popularity)

However, I found that my clients did not like my 3D computer versions
at all. They felt much happier seeing me quickly create a sketch, as
they watched, in colour and from a pleasing perspective viewpoint,
than they did when I turned on my computer brought up the file,
tediously (and I mean tediously!) fiddled with it and tweaked it on
screen, then printed it out.

I love my computer, Illustrator, Photoshop, Macromedia Director,
Corel and my 3D programs, but I can draw much more quickly and
creatively on paper using ink and aquarells. In fact, I run rings
around my computer for sheer variety, originality and interpretation.
And this is what my clients genuinely prefer to see. In a world where
there is so much mass production and sameness, my drawings, coming to
life under their very noses, the resulting jewellery suiting them so
well because it has been designed around both their physicality and
personality, is a far more preferable product.

CAD has a valuable place in modern technology and I love it, but from
what you’ve described about what you do, think of the sales appeal
your work will retain for its being individually designed for your
clients. Kind regards, Rex from Oz


I used Cadkey for three years before I moved onto other software.
That was back when it when it was still only a wireframe modeler ( no
surfaces or solids). I created my first digital portfolio using this
program. It is a great package and the product has matured enormously.
Robert Bean, the CEO, bought the company and rescued it from going out
of business. He previously owned a company that made an add on called
Draftpak. Since Robert has been involved, this product has become a
very strong design tool, and it now has surfaces and solids that can
be added on if you need that functionality

Dominic Ventura


Solids and surfaces are a great visual tool. And again that is what
makes CADKEY such a great value, it offers solids in its Wireframe
package, as well as 3D capability’s. Kevin ATM