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Has anyone out there taught themselves 3D Software?


JonMA1
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Because it's winter and I have some time on my hands, I've been playing with 3D graphics for the last few days. I'll likely never become proficient, but thought I'd see if the tools and logic might make any sense. It wouldn't hurt to have some additional experience listed on my resume (been using Adobe software since the 80's). Mostly, it's just a hobby to keep my mind occupied until the golf courses open back up.

I started with some free software... FreeCAD and StrataDesign 3D SE 7. I could't get StrataDesign to run, and while FreeCAD runs pretty well, it seems a bit unstable. Of course, it's very possible the issues stem from user error, but I decided to download a 30day trial version of Fusion360 (AutoDesk). I like that software a lot so far and there's such a difference between it and the free stuff.

Anyway, it's been fun messing around with it. Simple, geometric shapes are pretty easy to work with, but I went ahead and tried to draw a golf club head which is a bit more "free-flowing". I became stuck on cleaning up the design...maybe too much of a challenge at this point.

There seems to be a great deal of math and engineering involved and probably because of my limited education, I'm unfamiliar with much of the terminology. For the most part, the difficulty lies in learning the best way to accomplish the task and resisting the temptation to use other software logic. Also, if you don't do things in the correct sequence, I think it becomes difficult. In other words, there's a right way and wrong way to accomplish what you're after.

For me, it's been a bit like learning Excel formulas and functions (which I'm a novice at). I know the software can accomplish what I want, the hard part is learning exactly how to ask the questions and to keep the formulas as simple as possible. 

Anyway, just wondering if anyone's had success learning this type of software without formal education, or even if it's of any interest to anyone.

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I messed with the 3D add-on for AutoCAD very, very briefly as part of my land survey drafting classes and I was mostly indifferent to it.  The instructor said AutoCAD wasn't very popular among 3D modelers so I took his word for it and moved on.  I've watched a bit of 3D modeling on Twitch as well and the vast majority of the streamers seem to use Solidworks, which I have zero experience with.  Anyway, as far as learning it I think it's probably not any more difficult than learning 2D drafting; it's just a matter of becoming familiar with the tools.  When I learned 2D drafting it helped to have an instructor as far as getting fast answers but over the past couple years of trial and error I've probably learned as much on my own as I learned from the classes I took.

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On 2/13/2017 at 4:12 PM, Strandly said:

I've watched a bit of 3D modeling on Twitch as well and the vast majority of the streamers seem to use Solidworks, which I have zero experience with.

A few years ago I played around with Maya which I believe is a Solidworks application. There was just something that made it feel like it would be impossible for me to learn. I've heard Solidworks is considered by many to be the industry standard - for mechanical engineering anyway. But from what I've read online, the "best 3D software" is often contested. 

This time around, it's been a little easier. But it isn't anything I'll be able to master.

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I've used 3D studio max, maya, lightwave and cinema 4d at various times in the past.  At the moment I'm putting some time into learning Blender (which is free to use and pretty much does everything I need).

With all these programs the thing I've found is that you have to learn the tools you have available and the shortcut keys to activate them.  When starting out it seems impossible to get anything done as you are always hunting for which tool to use and then trying to figure out how to operate it.  So any artistic ability you might have gets blocked by simply not being able to use the tool. If you watch 'how to' videos on YouTube then invariably the demonstrator rocks through the examples with a blur of key strokes and mouse clicks.

As with pretty much anything you just have to practice practice practice to get to the point where choosing tools becomes second nature.  I tend to follow what's happening on video and then repeat the action on my desktop.  I find this helps me remember what the keys are much more effectively than simply watching the video on its own.  But realistically it is going to take me hundreds of hours to get proficient enough to produce anything useful.  I do however have the benefit of having done this process before on several different platforms so I at least know that eventually I will be able to get there.  I think for a lot of people it just gets too boring and they give up.

 

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14 hours ago, JonMA1 said:

A few years ago I played around with Maya which I believe is a Solidworks application. There was just something that made it feel like it would be impossible for me to learn. I've heard Solidworks is considered by many to be the industry standard - for mechanical engineering anyway. But from what I've read online, the "best 3D software" is often contested. 

This time around, it's been a little easier. But it isn't anything I'll be able to master.

I would just get an evaluation version of Solidworks. There are many youtube "how-to" videos to guide you through the first stages of development.

About a decade ago, it took me about 2 weeks to learn on my own to design test fixtures and such and about 6 months before I was able to effectively design tools for high volume plastic.

Currently, I've been forced to learn Creo, and I'm still not that proficient in it. Tolerances and parameters are easier to change, because it's a relatively high end professional package developed for tool making. Overall, I like the power behind it without having to pay for Unigraphics, Catia or other packages. So, Creo 3.0 and above can place full featured Solidworks parts in it. So, it's even better. The only thing is the learning time is a lot longer than Solidworks.

Solidworks is the best for home use, and most companies use it when they are not doing heavy duty tooling for plastic.

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I learned Solidworks in college. There are some textbooks you can buy if you want to get more involved. I don't use it for work, so I'm not as up to speed as I'd like to be.

I've got an AutoCAD license on my Mac at home. I've never done much with it, but I plan on trying some simple things in my spare time. In the brief time I've tried it it's seemed much less user friendly than Solidworks.

Corporate usage seems pretty varied. Solidworks, AutoCAD, NX, Creo, and CATIA are the big ones.

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On ‎2‎/‎12‎/‎2017 at 1:41 PM, JonMA1 said:

or even if it's of any interest to anyone.

I haven't become proficient in any manner with experimenting in 3D, but I was able to create a few basic designs. I wanted to design new door hinges for my cart cover to allow the door to fully open and pivot. The manufactured hinge were a fixed pivot point and the door would not swing fully open. My back round have been designing patterns for metal fabrication, so drawing the new parts was simple. After watching a few tutor videos, I was successful and had the parts printed on a 3D printer.

It will open the door to create small parts for many things if you have a need.

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10 hours ago, ZappyAd said:

With all these programs the thing I've found is that you have to learn the tools you have available and the shortcut keys to activate them.  When starting out it seems impossible to get anything done as you are always hunting for which tool to use and then trying to figure out how to operate it.  So any artistic ability you might have gets blocked by simply not being able to use the tool. If you watch 'how to' videos on YouTube then invariably the demonstrator rocks through the examples with a blur of key strokes and mouse clicks.

This is what I've found as well. I got a kick out of your description of the YouTube videos and how easy the experts make it look.

4 hours ago, Lihu said:

Solidworks is the best for home use, and most companies use it when they are not doing heavy duty tooling for plastic.

I'll have to check and see if it runs on a Mac. I think Maya had to run on a Windows partition back in the day.

3 hours ago, jamo said:

There are some textbooks you can buy if you want to get more involved

I might look into this or even take an online class. Have considered working towards some type of certification, but that would be down the road, if at all. 

2 hours ago, Club Rat said:

I haven't become proficient in any manner with experimenting in 3D, but I was able to create a few basic designs. I wanted to design new door hinges for my cart cover to allow the door to fully open and pivot. The manufactured hinge were a fixed pivot point and the door would not swing fully open. My back round have been designing patterns for metal fabrication, so drawing the new parts was simple. After watching a few tutor videos, I was successful and had the parts printed on a 3D printer.

It will open the door to create small parts for many things if you have a need.

At least you're using it for a purpose. Haven't sent anything to a printer yet. It's amazing how affordable that technology seems to be. I'd print at least one piece.


I think a lot of this stems from just feeling that I haven't pushed myself to learn as many things as I could have in my life. Funny how things change once you approach a certain age. Anyway, there is a feeling of accomplishment when/if you can push through the difficulty and end up learning something new. It's not like I'm ever going to become proficient - as in career-wise. But it might turn into a cool hobby.

Of course, all this changes once the golf courses open. :-D

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1 hour ago, JonMA1 said:

I'll have to check and see if it runs on a Mac. I think Maya had to run on a Windows partition back in the day.

Solidworks is Windows-only. AutoCAD is the only big one that offers a Mac version.

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22 hours ago, jamo said:

Solidworks is Windows-only. AutoCAD is the only big one that offers a Mac version.

I'm not sure if they are one of the high-end developers, but Autodesk seems to make some decent software. I have next to no experience though.

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2 hours ago, JonMA1 said:

I'm not sure if they are one of the high-end developers, but Autodesk seems to make some decent software. I have next to no experience though.

Autodesk is probably the biggest actually, AutoCAD been at least since the 80s I think.  I really like AutoCAD though if I have to draft something that's the software I try to use first.  Also, Autodesk makes Maya if I remember right.

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9 minutes ago, Strandly said:

Autodesk is probably the biggest actually, AutoCAD been at least since the 80s I think.  I really like AutoCAD though if I have to draft something that's the software I try to use first.  Also, Autodesk makes Maya if I remember right.

You're right. I mistakenly thought it was Solidworks.

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2 hours ago, JonMA1 said:

I'm not sure if they are one of the high-end developers, but Autodesk seems to make some decent software. I have next to no experience though.

The big two are Autodesk and Microstation. I think Autodesk is used primarily unless there is a specific CADD program for a certain field. Electrical Utilities use PLS_CADD. Which is nothing like Autodesk, but is a 3D software for designing transmission lines. 

I would say it isn't too hard to learn. The key is getting it set up the way you want. I like to save my own profile so I can just load it where ever I go. That way all the toolbars are where I want them to be. There are little tricks here and there. 

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1 minute ago, saevel25 said:

The big two are Autodesk and Microstation. I think Autodesk is used primarily unless there is a specific CADD program for a certain field. Electrical Utilities use PLS_CADD. Which is nothing like Autodesk, but is a 3D software for designing transmission lines. 

I would say it isn't too hard to learn. The key is getting it set up the way you want. I like to save my own profile so I can just load it where ever I go. That way all the toolbars are where I want them to be. There are little tricks here and there. 

Just browsing through all the 3D software, I get the impression many are intended for specific fields such as electrical, architecture, modeling, animation, parts engineering...

I'll take your advice on setting up a profile. I agree that learning the software is the relatively easy part. The far more difficult part is knowing the trade or profession the drawing will be use for. I'm not going to learn that from watching YouTube videos.

6 minutes ago, Hardspoon said:

You should try SketchUp.

I'm pretty proficient in AutoCAD and Revit (3D modeling specifically for buildings), and I've used Maya and Microstation. For the "hobbyist", I'd definitely recommend SketchUp over all of them.

I'll give SketchUp another look as I definitely fall into the hobbyist category. Anytime I've had any sort of project (recently rebuilt steps for my deck), I've found having it planned out helps tremendously. I've always used Illustrator in the past for this, but only because it's what I use every day. 

Just as a real-world exercise, I actually drew a part that my brother-in-law needs to mill out of aluminum for the company he and I work for (he often machines his own replacement or custom parts). I first did the 2D multi-view sketch in Illustrator to establish the angles, dimensions, positioning of holes and threads, etc. Because I had that drawing for reference, when it came time to create the 3D model it went really well... only took a few hours. 

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