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Swampyankee

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I teach high school, and we just got some 3D printers from a school that failed. For these, we need a 3D design program that's easy to learn (the students have the engineering class once per week) and produces .STL files (or something else that can be turned into G-code to drive the printers.)

Does anybody here have any recommendations? I need something easy enough for a high school kid to produce something like a helical gear or a spoked wheel without spending all year learning the program.

And cost is an object. We don't have the budget for CATIA :-(
 

Hot Wings

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Alibre

I don't use it but I tried it once and it seemed very easy to learn. It's till probably more than your school budget can handle?

Buy all the kids an EAA membership and get Solidworks free.

There is also Rhino

I never liked it but it should be easy to learn.
 
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ScaleBirdsScott

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I would go into Fusion 360. It's by Autodesk, it's cloud based, uses true parametric solid modeling but also has good direct modeling tools, has all kinds of tools for 3D printing, laser/waterjet work, up to full-blown CAM for CNC mill and turn ops. All built in.

It looks like the educational package is free for educators and classrooms for at least the first 3 years, and I think the overall price is not even that much. Certainly less than Inventor or Solidworks. Yet if these students end up going into a real design work environment later on, lessons learned in Fusion will translate almost directly into Solidworks and Inventor and other similar modeling environments.

https://academy.autodesk.com/getting-started-fusion-360
 

Dana

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I personally use Keycreator but if I was starting out today I'd look at Creo/direct from PTC. There is free version.

Dana
 

Jay Kempf

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DesignCAD is actually quite good and $99. It is quite capable despite it's tiny price. Then there are all the free trials and educational versions of everything. Onshape is interesting. Someone else mentioned Fusion 360.
 

DeepStall

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I've used CATIA and Creo/ProE professionally, and they are in a vigorous competition for "tool that makes my life most miserable." Tough learning curve, non-intuitive behavior, cryptic errors, crashy ... please don't make the students use either of them!

Solidworks would be my first recommendation if you can get seats within your budget. It was easy to learn, and as a program widely used in industry would be a major resume builder for your students when they graduate. I've also heard good things about OnShape from a former co-worker who is a CAD expert and advises a FIRST team, but haven't used it myself. It's $free for educational use, and looks plenty powerful for your needs.
 

skier

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I'm going to go against the grain here. I've used Solidworks, ProE, Unigraphics, and Catia professionally. And I've tried a number of the free or cheaper ones (including Rhino) at home.

I found Unigraphics and ProE the easiest to pick up for basic modeling and drafting. Followed by Catia. I've found other ones like Solidworks, Sketchup, and Rhino infuriating for my uses (part-design and drafting).

That being said, for some things (lofted surfaces) Rhino is much easier to use that Unigraphics, ProE, and Catia.

I know some people can do great things on Sketchup, Solidworks, etc., but anytime I use them, they make me want to punch a hole through my monitor. Absolutely awful.
 

ScaleBirdsScott

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I've only ever used CATIA V4 so everyone saying CATIA is making me think terrible terrible thoughts.

I'm sure v5 and beyond are fine.

Still tho. I hate using CATIA v4 so much.
 

mcrae0104

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Hands down, SketchUp is the easiest to learn and most universal gateway to 3D modeling. It's not a mechanical design package per se, but the thing it will teach students is how to think three-dimensionally. Solidworks, CATIA, etc. are a nice second step, but get them actually producing something quickly with SketchUp and they'll be more interested in learning the big boy programs without burning out.
 

skier

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I've only ever used CATIA V4 so everyone saying CATIA is making me think terrible terrible thoughts.

I'm sure v5 and beyond are fine.

Still tho. I hate using CATIA v4 so much.
V5 and V6 are much easier to use than V4. Still, I enjoyed learning V4 at one of my jobs. It's interesting to see how far solid modeling has come.

It's a bit like learning to program in Fortran.
 

Hot Wings

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actually producing something quickly with SketchUp and they'll be more interested in learning the big boy programs without burning out.
Never used SketchUp but your observation is probably as important to the OP as which program to buy. Got to keep them interested and develop a feeling of success.

To go along with the 3D printers I suggest getting a basic Laser scanner to compliment the 3D printers. There are programs out there that can make STL files using the MS Kinect. If nothing else the students could make things with clay, scan them, and then print them.
 

Swampyankee

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I've only ever used CATIA V4 so everyone saying CATIA is making me think terrible terrible thoughts.

I'm sure v5 and beyond are fine.

Still tho. I hate using CATIA v4 so much.
V5 and V6 are much easier to use than V4. Still, I enjoyed learning V4 at one of my jobs. It's interesting to see how far solid modeling has come.

It's a bit like learning to program in Fortran.
Hey, I like Fortran. I even wrote a database program in it. I've used Unigraphics and Catia, but only because I was doing automated geometry in the former and PLM in the latter. A cube was about my limit as a drafter.
 

gtae07

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I've only ever used CATIA V4 so everyone saying CATIA is making me think terrible terrible thoughts.

I'm sure v5 and beyond are fine.

Still tho. I hate using CATIA v4 so much.
Yeah, v5 is light years beyond v4. I wish I could get some of the old guys around here to understand that, but then again we still have guys that won't progress beyond CADAM :hammer:

I can still open and view things in v4 but I've forgotten how to do much of anything else past that.

I believe EAA members have free access to the student edition of Solidworks. Might want to check that out. From what I can tell v5, Solidworks, etc. are basically the same program from a user standpoint (that is, the same principles and methods generally apply). The trick comes in learning where the functions are and what they're called in that particular program, and any peculiarities to the software.
 

Autodidact

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If these students are not hardcore engineering nerds, and are mostly just ordinary high school students, I would also suggest Sketchup for quickest uptake. Admittedly, I spent some time reading Sketchup 2014 for Dummies, and have been watching the videos on the book's website, but with about 20 minutes total time actually drawing things, I learned how to draw this tube join as it would be in a welded tube truss with one tube fish-mouthed and fitted to the outside of another. Sketchup gives you 30 days to try the Pro version's solid modeling tools, but I limited myself to the one that is available in Sketchup Make (the free version), called Outer Shell. For 3D printing you need some additional bits of software, but they are free also. It's not the best engineering program, but you will probably have to sit and show many if not most of your students how to use it, and by reading the book, you should be able to show them how to get up to speed more quickly than it would take for them to study the program on their own. If they're dedicated engineering people, then a good student version of a more sophisticated program might be better.

tubejoint1.jpgtubejoint2.jpgtubejoint3.jpg
 
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