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.

Upgrading your Vectorworks Evaluation Licence to a Professional Licence

Upgrading your Vectorworks Evaluation Licence to a Professional Licence

Vectorworks KnowledgeBase has released this guide to upgrading your Evaluation Licence to a Professional one. Simply follow the instructions:

If you have purchased the full Designer with Renderworks version of Vectorworks and your trial has not expired, go to Part A. If your trial has expired or you purchased a different set of modules (such as Architect, Landmark, Spotlight and/or Renderworks) go to Part B.

A) If your trial has not yet expired…

During the 30-day Evaluation period, you may at any time decide to purchase Vectorworks. Upon doing this, you will be sent a new serial number, which will look similar to this:

E6XUSS-XXXXXX-XXXXXX-G01ABC

To enter this new serial number in your already installed copy of Vectorworks, go to Tools > Options > Vectorworks Preferences (see below).

Under the Session tab, choose Serial Numbers. Click the EVAL serial number and choose Remove, afterwards choose Add and enter your new serial number. Press Add again when complete. You should see your new serial number and activated products listed to the right:

Restart Vectorworks and you’ll find that your copy will now be a professional and will no longer expire.

B) If you purchased a different set of modules than you used during the evaluation…

You will have to uninstall Vectorworks completely and then reinstall with your new serial number:

Guide to uninstalling Vectorworks 2011.

Guide to uninstalling Vectorworks 2010.

Content taken from Vectorworks KnowledgeBase.

For more information on purchasing Professional Vectorworks Licences give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email CAD@Jigsaw24.com.

The top 5 benefits of Vectorworks Service Select

The top 5 benefits of Vectorworks Service Select

Making sure your software is up to date can be a pain – particularly when that means keeping track of different versions, having to fork out every time a new upgrade is released, and then being forced to take a crash course on new features. Thankfully, with Service Select from Nemetschek, staying on top of your Vectorworks software has become more affordable (and a lot easier).

Officially, it’s labelled as “a new and exclusive way of helping you maximise your investment in Vectorworks,” with an eye for making sure customers get the best upgrade price possible as well as a heap of other resources, such as priority tech support. But what exactly does that mean? In the spirit of making life easy, we’ve decided to put Service Select through its paces and run you through the top 5 benefits of the Vectorworks programme.

1. Free upgrades
As far as keeping up with the Joneses is concerned (or rather making sure you have the tools to work on projects with colleagues), having the latest version of an application is vital. VSS makes this much more affordable. Rather than paying for upgrades as and when they are released, you automatically get any updated versions (including service packs) released during the term of your agreement – for free. This guarantees that you are always using the most up-to-date tools while saving money, as VSS is more cost-effective than the standard upgrade route.

2. Free premium support
Nobody likes a queue jumper – that is, unless they’re the one doing the jumping. It’s not strictly the same thing but, with VSS, anyone in need of tech support is able to skip the main Vectorworks tech support queue and get their call dealt with first by using the Service Select telephone number. Again, the key word here is free – as long as you’re giving them a call during the length of the agreement. There’s also a dedicated email address for any general enquiries, and for larger problems, VSS offers its members remote support, which lets the Vectorworks team diagnose any problems by remotely accessing your computer.

3. Free training
New software updates mean new features and, in turn, require new skills. VSS comes with the option of two half-day training sessions per year – regardless of whether any new versions are released during the length of your agreement. It means, whether you’re looking to refresh your knowledge or learn about the latest tools, you’ll have the option to. There are also online training sessions that are delivered in webinar form and give you the chance to find out more info on some of the more important topics such as data exchange with DXF.

4. Free access to knowledge portal
Every VSS agreement comes with a personal portal password. The knowledge portal includes tips and tricks, tutorial movies, the Vectorworks Knowledge Base search engine and much more. More than just training, this gives you access to on-demand resources. Stuck on a specific Vectorworks tool? Chances are you’ll find the answer in the portal, whenever you need it!

5. And the rest...
It’s not technically all one benefit, but VSS also includes:

– Licence protection, which gives you dongle-free replacement in case you lose or damage your existing one.

– Access to new libraries, textures, plug-ins and templates.

– Discounts on training and services offered by partners.

– Easy account management.

– And the Service Select newsletter…

To find out more about Vectorworks Service Select, get in touch with our CAD experts on 03332 409 204 or drop an email to CAD@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

Tips for teachers: Demystifying 3D software

Tips for teachers: Demystifying 3D software

When it comes to CAD and 3D modelling there seem to be a never-ending supply of different applications out there, each trying to make teachers’ and students’ lives that much easier. While they all have their benefits, Elliott Smith (friendly 3D consultant) decided to put together a simple guide to help you choose between them.

First thing’s first, if you’re going to give students one piece of advice this September, I recommend telling them to visit Autodesk’s student portal. That’s because Autodesk (arguably the market leader in 3D right now) have decided to offer their software to students for free.

The process is simple: students just need to enter their student email address (one ending in .ac.uk) or have a faculty member sign them up, and can then download their choice of software. As well as a way to access the applications, it’s also a great place to post work, learn new tricks and make contact with peers. Of course, there are other helpful resources that you can direct students to, such as 3D forums, which all provide industry professionals with advice on aspects of a 3D workflow.

Once they have the free software, students will need to know how to get started. A good place to learn the basic interface is the Services and Support section of the Autodesk website. This lets you select an application and then navigate through video tutorials, relevant documents, receive updates and much more.

Ultimately, the type of software students will need is going to be prescribed by the course they are studying, with many of those applications falling into one of five categories (Engineering, Product Design, Built Environment, Multimedia (inc. Animation) and Games Design). But to give students a better idea of what software is out there and what each one can be used for, here’s a brief summary of the major contenders.

 

Application Summary Platform
Autodesk MayaMultimedia

Games Design

Maya is one of the easier pieces of software to understand and learn, and provides comprehensive tools for animation, modelling, visual effects, simulation and rendering. It is a great all-rounder that can be used for just about anything. A lot of film visual effects are done in Maya. WindowsLinux

Mac OS X

Autodesk 3ds MaxEngineering

Product Design

Multimedia

Games Design

3ds Max is perhaps the most difficult application to master. It has been around in different guises for years and has many features that make it incredibly versatile and powerful but also very complicated. Because of this versatility, it is used in a diverse range of industries, from games design to architectural visualisation. Windows
Autodesk 3ds Max DesignBuilt Environment There are two versions of 3ds Max: Max and Max Design. Max Design is used primarily for architectural modelling and designing, and has additional features that do not come with the other version. These include daylight analysis and BIM (Building Information Modelling), which allow architects to model a building and then analyse how it will function under certain circumstances. Windows
Maxon CINEMA 4DMultimedia

Games Design

Product Design

Built Environment

Engineering

CINEMA 4D has engineering, architecture and broadcast editions that are tailored to each specific need. Where it really excels is in animation. Using the built-in MoGraph toolset (made for creating motion graphics) is easy and delivers amazing results very quickly. The BodyPaint module also sets it apart from other applications as it gives you the ability to paint a texture directly onto a model. Without the need to arrange textures over specific co-ordinates, texturing your models becomes fast and more intuitive. CINEMA 4D is used heavily in both film and TV for these reasons and is a great option for most 3D needs. WindowsMac OS X
Mental RayRendering Plug-in Mental Ray is a rendering plug-in that comes free with most Autodesk 3D applications. The plug-in is used to design and apply materials to your models, add lights to a scene and much more. Mental Ray is not used to make models, only to give them the material that you want, such as a wood texture for the floor and paint finish to a wall. It’s a fairly complicated plug-in to learn but does yield fantastic results when you get a bit of experience. Windows
V-RayRendering Plug-in V-Ray is a separate render plug-in for 3ds Max, Maya, CINEMA 4D and a few other leading 3d applications. Like Mental Ray, it is used to apply materials and lights to a scene. In many industries, V-Ray is the standard choice of renderer as it is considered the best at generating photorealistic renders. V-Ray is packed with features that make it more than just a renderer and is highly respected within the industry. Depends on application it is being used on.
Autodesk MudboxGames Design

Multimedia

 

Mudbox is a digital sculpting and texture painting application that is used primarily in the game, film, television and design industries. Think of a lump of clay that you gradually sculpt into the final model: Mudbox works in a similar way but, instead of using a scalpel, you use a graphics tablet or mouse. It is very intuitive and is great for creating odd shapes or characters. Windows users have the option of a 32-bit or 64-bit version where as OS X users need to be working in 64-bit. WindowsMac OS X
Pixologic ZbrushGames Design

Multimedia

Zbrush is much like Mudbox and is used to create digital sculptures of unique characters for the games or broadcast industries. Zbrush has many powerful features and has a very elegant and intuitive interface that allows greater freedom and control. WindowsMac OS X
E-on VueMultimedia

Games Design

Built Environment

E-on Vue is one of the lesser known applications on the list but is actually great at generating organic scenes such as mountains, terrains, skies, trees, grass and anything else you might find in nature. It is very simple to learn and was used extensively in Avatar to populate their scenes with organic matter. WindowsMac OS X
Google SketchUpBuilt Environment

Product Design

SketchUp is great because it is free. There is a pro version thats adds more features for professional use but, for students, the standard version is a great place to start. SketchUp is probably the easiest of the 3D programs to learn. Architects love it because they can sketch out ideas for buildings very quickly and accurately. WindowsMac OS X
Nemetschek VectorworksBuilt Environment Vectorworks is a CAD (Computer Aided Design) application that is used by architects to design and analyse their buildings, but is considered to be one of the programs that is easiest to learn. One advantage over other CAD/BIM applications that Vectorworks has is that it is very customisable. If you are trying to re-design or renovate an old building, you can adapt Vectorworks to suit the specific requirement of the building and your workflow. WindowsMac OS X
Autodesk AutoCADEngineering

Built Environment

AutoCAD is probably the oldest application on the list and has been the benchmark for accuracy and precision. It is primarily used by engineers and architects for this very reason. Historically, it has been 2D but is increasingly integrating 3D elements into its features. Windows
Autodesk RevitBuilt Environment Revit is another application made for CAD and BIM. Revit helps architects and designers to capture and analyse early concepts and can then be used to design all aspects of the design process, right through to construction and handover. It is suited more to new builds rather than renovations and retrofitting. Windows-only. Windows
Informatix PiranesiRendering plug-in Piranesi is a rendering plug-in that architects use to produce initial concepts. It doesn’t try to be a photo-realistic renderer but instead excels at producing traditional sketch-like renders that both the building and architect trades still love. Windows and OS X. WindowsMac OS X

It is worth mentioning that most, if not all the non-Autodesk applications, have free trials available from their respective websites and generally provide plenty of support to get started.

If you want to find out more, give the team a call on 03332 409 306 or email sales@Jigsaw24.com. To receive the latest 3D news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or Like’ our Facebook page.