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CAD Tools

hold down On this page we’ll give you some starting points for getting into Computer Aided Design for the first time.

CAD can be very addictive in its own right and it’s easy to lose sight of turning your CAD designs into reality. There is real satisfaction to be had from cutting parts to your own design knowing that they are going to fit first time! So make sure you spend time in the workshop building your designs.

Excellent CAD tools are available for the home engineer and hobbyist. Sketchup is a powerful 3D Computer Aided Design system that will allow you to rapidly visualise parts for any project. You can prototype and test designs in a virtual environment before committing expensive materials. FreeCAD is equally powerful and more orientated towards mechanical engineers. hold down

Your first encounter with CAD software can often be pretty off-putting. There is a learning curve you will need to climb before you will be able to rapidly create digital designs. Our best advice is to set aside your actual project and initially spend a few hours going through on-line tutorials and reading forums and blogs. Start with simple designs and then work up to objects with complex compound curves.

Start with simple shapes and learn how to use layers, save elements as components and blend standard shapes like cubes, cones, cylinders and spheres. A great tip, when working on smaller parts, is to multiply hold down all the dimensions by 10 (or even 100) and then reduce the final item to the right size when you’re producing working drawings. You’ll find that the overall resolution and accuracy will be much improved.

Remember it’s easy to design items that may be complex to manufacture unless you have access to 5 axis CNC milling machines, lathes and laser or water jet cutters. So think “how am I going to get this made”.

There are now many online companies that you can email your CAD or engineering drawings to and they will remotely cut and machine parts for you – quite often at pretty reasonable cost - just search for online laser cutting or online machine shop. The websites of these companies often have easy-to-use CAD software that you can use to design kart parts.

hold down The development of 3D printing technology is opening up all sorts of exciting new ways to make components, jigs and prototypes. CAD software will often produce the STL files that can directly drive 3D printers.3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is becoming more and more affordable for small businesses or home hobbyists. You can follow developments in this exciting new technology at Make and Shapeways