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From CAD User AEC Magazine Vol 22 No 5 - MAY/JUNE 2009
David Chadwick looks at the latest version of TurboCAD - 16 Pro - and the 3D modelling features that benefit the architect as much as the mechanical design engineer
I always enjoy diving back into TurboCAD. I've had a version of it on my system for the last ten years, and, in spite of having the latest versions of other mainstream CAD packages, it is the first that I dive back into when I need to produce a quick drawing or model.
That, I suppose, is because it is so easy to get back into. The problem with jumping from one package to another, and not using any of them on a frequent basis, is that you have to re-learn the basics of each, and the way in which it does things. TurboCAD is the easiest of these as its functions are as intuitive as they get, enabling me to stumble on until that little spark in the recesses of my brain is re-ignited.
The software has been around for twenty years now and has attracted an enthusiastic bunch of users - professional CAD users as much as what I would suppose you call hobby users. TurboCAD has another major thing going for it, namely its compatibility with AutoCAD at a far lower price. You can beef up the number of CAD seats you have in a company at a very reasonable rate. And, if you are a young designer on a limited budget, you can crack away knowing that your efforts will be accessible to your prospective manufacturers. Whatís more the compatibility doesnít just end with AutoCAD, as the software comes with over 40 different formats, greatly increasing its collaboration capabilities.
The software addresses all ends of the market, providing both 2D draughting and 3D modelling for mechanical engineers (with a CAD/CAM add-on for tool-mould and die making) and architectural functionality for the construction industry. It also has a toolset designed to accommodate adventurous woodworkers!
It comes with the well-established ACIS solid-modelling kernel, including a complete set of drawing, editing and
annotation tools, D-Cubed constraints and LightWorks rendering - exactly the same features and performance that you would expect to find in software costing many times more.
WHAT'S NEW IN VERSION 16 PRO
Before we look at the AEC-specific goodies there are quite a few improvements to the underlying CAD application, billed by TurboCAD as a significant launch of new features and performance.
One feature that relates to both mechanical and architectural drawings is the improvement in Drafting, especially the drafting-to-detailing process. Using this you can create 2D sections from standard views, or sectional planes of 3D surface or solid models, including their XREFs which, being associated with the model, are updated whenever the model is changed including any hatching or annotations added after creation. Talking of XREFs, these are now built into the Block Palette, and can be exported along with DWG or DXF drawings, improving AutoCAD file compatibility.
3D MODELLING ENHANCEMENTS
Architects are starting to explore more complex designs, encouraged by the success of leading architectural practices earning high profiles at events such as the Bejing Olympics, the Bird Nest stadium and Water Cube being the focal points of the games. This is coupled with the increasing use of non-traditional building materials. No longer are architects constrained by four walls and a roof. They can now play around with models in true 3D, trusting on design engineers being able to convert their designs into constructible entities.
To reflect this, TurboCAD 16 Pro has improved its 2D draughting and 3D modelling tools. No longer is the architect constrained by straight lines - he can now
play around with curves, with improved handling of Bezier curves , using node handles to provide better control over different types of curve fitting , and improved node editing allowing users to choose between single or multiple node selection.
The improved 3D curve capabilities allow users to split 3D curves - and to create 2D and 3D spirals. There is also better control over 3D Boolean operations. And, you can even measure the length of a 3D curve or find the area of a 3D face, all part of the improved 2D and 3D dimensioning tools. Another snippet - Offsets are simlpe to extract from spline based curves and ellipses, making them more editable, and allowing the user to create offset constrained, compound profiles.
Even better, it has incorporated one of the best 3D modelling tools from SketchUp the ability to select and manipulate enclosed geometry on an objectís face. Called QuickPull, it can be used to quickly imprint or extrude objects in 3D geometry sketch on a face and pull it out - rapid modelling to create architectural design concepts!.
You can get the best of both worlds - TurboCAD and SketchUp - using the new plug-in IMSI/Design's IDX Renditioner, reviewed in CAD User recently. SketchUp models can be imported into TurboCAD with supplemental rendering, lighting and materials information, using the enhanced SketchUp (SKP) file import filter, and TurboCAD models can be exported as native SketchUp (.SKP) files for seamless import into Google SketchUp.
RENDERING AND MATERIAL HANDLING
Like other mainstream packages, TurboCAD has incorporated the latest version of Lightworks in Version 16 Pro, which provides global illumination, final
gather, tone mapping, gamma correction and loads of new material shaders. Other new features include Lens Flare, ambient occlusion and final gather. Great technical terms which result in state of the art photo-realism when you want to produce lifelike representations of your designs. Accompanied, of course, by the ability to drag and drop materials onto a 3D face - a very quick way of adding multiple materials to a complex 3D object such as a building!
And, of course, when you apply materials to a building you need to scale it as well. You don't want to see oversize bricks in a wall. New scaling methods have been applied, plus the ability to check the scaling on the fly!
If you are building up a portfolio of your work, or preparing a series of presentations for a construction project, TurboCAD has incorporated new render styles and style editors, ensuring that you can easily achieve consistency throughout your work.
TURBOCAD PRO 16 ARCHITECTURAL EDITION
I have been playing around with TurboCAD 16 Professional, which covers both mechanical and architectural applications. Imsi/Design produces a version specifically for architects, builders and civil engineers, called TurboCAD Pro 16 Architectural Edition, adding further design tools for building professionals.
With it, you get an extensive collection of parametric object types and shapes for walls, doors, windows, stairs, slabs and railings. New improvements make accurate placement of these architectural objects even easier. TurboCAD has long enabled users to drag and drop parametric doors and windows into self-healing walls. The process has been improved by providing new vertical alignment properties, including head height and sill height for windows and head and threshold heights for doors.
Positioning the doors and windows in openings is easier as well, with right and left, inside and outside 'flipping'. Measuring is made easier with 'measure to property' and the visualisation of architectural objects in Object Materials is considerably improved. A new wall tool allows you to create multi-component walls and - a small item, but an important one for those involved in creating stairs
-the ability to edit the stairs height! An improved Style Manager lets you create and manage how objects are defined, look and behave, with a selection of pre- configured styles, if you don't want to create your own. And, finally, you can manage data more accurately with dynamic window and door schedules and use the new Sections/Elevation tool to
examine custom cross sections of architectural designs.
The overall user interface of TurboCAD has not undergone any major changes - and for this, much thanks. It works very well as it is, enabling me to get back up to speed very quickly. There have, naturally, been a few minor tweaks - but these were easy to find and use. TurboCAD 16 Pro continues in the same vein as previous releases, adding considerable value to rock solid 2D and 3D CAD software at a fraction of the price of mainstream packages - and yet with most of their functionality. www.imsisoft.com www.computersunlimited.co.uk
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