The drafting face-off: AutoCAD LT and Vectorworks

The drafting face-off: AutoCAD LT and Vectorworks

Deciding on new software means thinking about what you need it to achieve. For an all-in-one, affordable 2D drafting solution, AutoCAD LT is a great choice, but if you want to add 3D drafting to your workflow, Vectorworks Fundamentals is the way to go.

We’ve weighed up the main points in favour of each program, so you can see which you should be looking at before you make an investment…

Drafting tools

AutoCAD LT is promoted for entry level 2D drafting and detailing, but now offers everything you need for general CAD work. It can work with Xrefs, raster images, dynamic blocks and PDFs, and Autodesk have added new features to the most recent versions of LT that were previously reserved for bigger brother AutoCAD. These include support for the AutoCAD WS mobile and web app, the Sheet Set Manager organisational tool, and other powerful tools such as Associative Arrays (maintain relationships between arrayed objects), Multifunctional Grips (now for lines, arcs and dimensions) and Delete Duplicate Objects (removes unnecessary geometry).

You wouldn’t expect to see a professional modelling solution within an entry level program, but Vectorworks Fundamentals punches above its weight, providing conceptual design tools and powerful 3D modelling functionality for professional free-form solid modelling designs. In that sense, it should be compared to the full AutoCAD package’s range of 2D and 3D tools for drafting, modelling, annotation and presentation.

Rendering

While LT doesn’t have solid modelling capability, it manages to produce some excellent 3D surface models in the hands of the capable user. There’s no rendering capability either, but again you wouldn’t have to look too far to find a compatible and affordable renderer such as Photoshop or Shaderlight for Google SketchUp. With Vectorworks,you have the option to add the Renderworks integrated renderer module, and the new CINEMA 4D rendering engine provides advanced functionality to produce quality photorealistic and artistic render images.

Interface

LT shares the same flexible user interface as the fully-featured AutoCAD and as it’s customisable, you can set up the screen to look and function how you want. Vectorworks also features a customisable GUI, with tool palettes and drop-down menus to suit the user’s way of working. Both programs pick up a point here for their layout and ease of use.

Compatibility

Since LT works in the native DWG format, it’s easier to use with AutoCAD users as it maintains the integrity of the DWG drawing and can be used for annotation and detailing on a drawing project. Vectorworks operates in its native .vwx format but also includes .dwg import and export functionality with mapping tools to allow Vectorworks users to work seamlessly and share drawing data with AutoCAD users.

Both Vectorworks and AutoCAD LT will also run on either Windows or Mac, which means they’re ideally suited to a drawing office where employees have a choice of platform.

Making a decision

AutoCAD LT was developed as a cheaper entry-level alternative to AutoCAD and has since grown to become the best-selling CAD software globally, even out-stripping AutoCAD. The full version does include enhanced 3D drafting and programming capabiliy, but if you’re only going to be using it for 2D drafting and detailing, it’s a solid all-in-one solution.

If you do need to work in 3D however, the modelling tools in Vectorworks Fundamentals mean it’s a cut above AutoCAD LT. For a similar price, you can take your project from conceptual design to parasolid 3D modelling. Even if you work primarily in 2D, being able to create quick 3D volumes during the concept stage provides big advantages, including the ability to take live sections, so it’s very useful to have these tools at your disposal.

Already a Vectorworks veteran or an AutoCAD convert? Let us know your opinions in the box below. For more info, call us on 03332 409 306, email CAD@Jigsaw24.com, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

– Visit our store to buy the latest versions of Autodesk AutoCAD LT 2012 and Nemetschek Vectorworks Fundamentals.

HP or Epson: What’s the best draft printer?

HP or Epson: What’s the best draft printer?

Looking for a print solution for your drafting workflow? There are dozens of large format printers out there which will all produce good quality results, so we’ve pitched two of the top offerings from HP and Epson against each other so you can see what kind of printer is best for your needs…

HP DesignJet T790

HP are primarily known for producing technical CAD printers for use in architectural, engineering, surveying and construction environments. Their 44″ DesignJet T790 is a plug-and-play large format printer which combines high-speed results with intuitive use. The real stand-out points here are the ability to easily create print-ready PDFs with the optional AutoCAD plug-in and the collaborative aspect of HP’s exclusive ePrint & Share application. This free web-printing solution allows you to select, print and share files directly from the colour touchscreen.

Epson Stylus Pro 9700

Epson’s range of photo and graphics printers have a heavy emphasis on print quality, and so are mainly used in the print for pay, production graphics, pre-press proofing and photographic sectors. They may seem a little over-qualified if you only need a printer that’s adept at producing 2D drafts, but if you’re working in an environment where you work with a range of designs and media, the flexibility of the 44″ Epson Stylus Pro 9700 could be what you need. ENERGY STAR-qualified, it also boasts plenty of eco-features such as a fixed printhead and low power consumption to boost your green credentials and keep printing costs down at the same time.

How they stack up

The stats you need to know, at a glance.

Printer HP DesignJet T790 Epson Stylus Pro 9700
Printhead HP Thermal Inkjet Epson Micro Piezo TFP Variable-sized Droplet Technology
Max resolution 2400x1200dpi 1440x1440dpi (special line mode)
No. colours/cartridges Six cartridges (C, M, Y, Photo Black, Matte Black, Grey) Four colours, five cartridges (C, M, Y, Photo Black and Matte Black), ten ink channels
Nozzles 2,112 nozzles per colour, 12,672 nozzles 720 nozzles per colour, 3,600 nozzles
Minimum droplet size 6-9pl 3.5pl
Max print speed 50m^2/h 50m^2/h
Best quality print speed 2.8m^2/h 4.2m^2/h
Paper thickness 60 to 328g/m^2 up to 0.8mm 0.08 to 1.5mm
Memory 8GB 256MB
Power consumption 120W 85W
Warranty One year onsite ex printhead One year onsite inc printhead

The verdict

In terms of initial cost, there’s little to separate the two printers (both have an RRP of around £3000), but the Epson does just edge the HP in terms of consumables, with printheads included in the guarantee and ink costing nearly half per ml. The real decider should be what you want your printer to achieve – for a dedicated drafting printer, you may be better off with the quicker, more accurate Epson 9700 and its collaborative tools, but if you need your printer to do more flexible colour design work, the HP T790 could clinch it for you.

To find out more about large format printing, give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email CAD@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.