Jun 5, 2017

ViaCAD by Punch!CAD

I'm always on a search for the new and interesting software tools and when I received a tweet from Punch!CAD about their ViaCAD product I decided to take a look.

ViaCAD looks like an easy to use CAD that has an acceptable learning curve and feature set. You can start from the easy models and move into more complex stuff as you learn. Since it has support for many file formats I was able to open and edit things from various sources. The community behind it and support/tutorials available helped me find answers quickly.

The price seems very affordable and there are no additional fees or vendor lock-in features. It runs both on Windows and Mac machines.

ViaCAD has some powerful 3D printing features and tools:

  • 3D Print Check: This tool checks a part for print viability, displaying warnings or errors to the user.
  • Surface Normals Check: Facet normals define the inside and outside areas of a part. If facet normals are pointing the wrong way, the 3D printer may have problems creating the part. If you have a normals issue, there are several commands that can help you fix this problem.
  • Overhang Analysis: The Overhang Analysis tool provides a means to visually inspect modeling areas that may require structural support for 3D printing. Meshes, surfaces, and solids facets normals are compared to the work plane direction. Angles that are less or equal to 45 degrees are highlighted as red.
  • Wall Thickness: The Wall Thickness Analysis tool provides a means to visually inspect modeling areas that may be too thin for 3D printing. Meshes, surfaces, and solids facets are examined using ray intersections. 
  • Preview Slices: The Preview Slices tool provides a user interface to slice models given a direction and thickness. The dialog box allows for animation through the slices and single stepping. One use of the Preview Slice tool is to verify a part has closed, non-overlapping sections, a requirement for 3D printing. The Save Slices option provides several options to save slices to DXF, STL or adds the results directly into your drawing.
  • Auto Position: The Auto Position tool translates the model to the positive x, y coordinate system at z=0.
  • Support Structure: Manually adds geometry to support material as it is created by the 3D printer. Support structures controls, include Attach Radius, Midpoint Radius, Base Radius, Base Thickness and Drag base and midpoints to modify structure location.
  • Show Printer Volume: Toggles the boundary of the default 3D Printer. The volume is defined within the Printer Definitions dialog box.
  • Printer Definitions: Sets key parameters of the 3D printer, including length, width, and height of the volume accessible by the printer. The parameters in the Printer Definitions dialog box are used for commands such as 3D Print Check and Auto Position.

Here is the ViaCAD presentation video:

For much more information go and check out the company website:

In the future, I'm going to explore ViaCAd further and see if it can bring a CAD noob like myself on to the next skill level.