I have spent the last couple of weeks deciding what I was going to do to upgrade my CAD/CAM software. Not the software I use for Over Head Routing. I have one of the best for my purposes and cost restraints in the form of Vectric Aspire. I use it a lot and always find new things I can make or design using it. Aspire is not going to go away for something better in its class for a long time.
As the title suggests my struggle has been what do I do with my aging (over six years old) McNeel’s Rhinoceros and its CAM plugin, MecSoft’s RhinoCAM. I use this combination to do the things that Aspire was never designed to do in CAD/CAM, A few example projects are the stepper motor heat sinks on HB2, a complicated replacement gun part in aluminum, and the detailed A3 locomotive driver wheels I machined from stainless steel.
Rhino really rocks in the drawing department. Well, that is what it is, a 3D drawing program. I started with Version 3 and somewhere along the line I upgraded to version 4. It’s been in Version 4 for quite some time, but there have been updates on a regular basis. Version 3 was fun but when V4 arrived, I knew it was a real pro users program. I am now running the Beta for version 5 and it is another major leap.
Rhino sells for around $1000 new and about half that for upgrades. So I have probably $1500 invested in Rhino over 6 – 8 years. I don’t know where V5 upgrade will be priced, but I will be there.
MecSoft RhinoCAM is a special edition of Visual Mill that runs inside Rhino as a plug in. It is NOT a McNeel product. There are probably 50 companies making add-ins for Rhino.
I am still on Version 1.0 of the standard edition RhinoCAM plus 4th axis. I just now after 6 years upgraded to version 2012. I also purchased the yearly support package. They have not yet arrived . I jumped several versions and the newer version of RhinoCAM is much more enhanced to what I have been using. It was time for the change.
The version 1 with 4th axis cost me $2000 new. The upgrade today (4th axis) is slightly more than half that amount.
It’s this decision of what to do before spending that kind of money that led me into a re-evaluation of many of the other options available. I looked at tested and dissected four other competitors. One was in the five figure range. I want to see what kind of fish that bait would land, actually far more complexity than I could ever manage.
Sorry, I am not going to get into a blow by blow comparison. In reality all of the considerations were good CAD/CAM programs. My decision and purchase is a personal one. No fan boy ranting and trolling other products involved in my choices or what I say in this blog.
After all the hard work (Yes there was a lot of mental anguish.) I had a new appreciation of where I was and what I have. Having many years of experience with two programs that are still improving and staying cutting edge slapped me back from wonder lust.
Updates are less expensive than new programs. I don’t have to learn a new way of doing things. But then there IS a LOT of new things to learn in the updates. Well, that’s good and what new versions should be all about.
Has my investment in CAD/CAM paid for itself? The answer is, “Not even close” if you consider an investment as making profit from selling things I have designed. However, the answer is a resounding, “Hell Yes!” as an investment in my personal education and skills. Sometimes you just have to pay for hands on education in an avocation.
I plan to turn a few bucks for all this investment in training and education when I am in retirement, if that ever happens. Right now CAD/CAM is wonderful entertainment. 🙂