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on June 4, 2007
ViaCAD 5 is the first release of Concepts 3D since their acquisition by Punch! software. While priced like a 2D illustration or CAD tool (TurboCAD 2D for Mac, for example), it is a 5th generation of the Concepts 3D CAD engine which has been used in their own products as well as OEM'd to firms like Ashlar Vellum and IMSI TurboCAD for Mac.

I'm a use of the Concepts Unlimited 3D version 4, a package normally selling for over $2K. The PDF available on the Punch! site highlights the differences in features, the main one no present in ViaCAD being more advanced 3D rendering capabilities with surface textures.

Folks, this package, either for Windows or the Mac, is a genuine bargain- I bought it to have a license install of the full 3D editing capabilities on a new MB Pro, while the "high end" Concepts Unlimited sits on my G5 PowerMac. This is NOT the kind of limited functionality 2D illustration program you usually wind up with for under $100- this is a full featured 3D CAD program that is quite easy to use (in part due to the user interface, including what ViaCAD now calls "Logicursor", which was/is called "Drafting Assitant" in Ashlar Vellum products. Advanced construction and snap features combined with parametric editing after the intial entry make object creation and basic drawing quite easy and fast with just a little practice.

Additionally, there are a number of UI modifications and refinements in this ViaCAD version 5 compared with Concepts 3D version 4, including how switching between 2D and 3D views is handled, rotation of view point in 3D, and some other tweaks which streamline and simplify the user interface.

Standard features include extensive Import and Export format support, including IGES, SAT, STEP, ACIS, AutoCAD, Rhino3DM, and 3D Studio.

3D support includes surface modeling and solids modeling. The solids modeling using the most current ACIS kernel is quite powerful, and supports fast editing of complex 3D objects, with an emphasis on mechanical design support needed for castable or machinable parts. Extrusions, swept solids with curves, bosses, shelling, etc, this is a real production capable tool- too many useful features to list.

Currently I'm only using this as a hobbyist, for 3D design for HT and high end loudspeakers.

Though the package has some tools making it interesting for architectural design, that's not really it's intent- furniture design, now that it would do well.

Documentation is a manual that's a standard paperback size about 7/8" thick, ~340 pages, and two double sided reference cards the same size as the page size of the manual.

Very recommended.
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on January 2, 2008
Punch! Viacad 2D/3D for Mac

Let me first say that I realize that this is a sub $100 'CAD' program and that I may have had my sights set too high from the start, but that still doesn't account for the drawbacks of this package.

I am a Mechanical Engineer and am very used to fully featured 3D Cad programs such as Solidworks. I have existed in the PC world for most of this software use, but several years ago I ditched my PC and purchased a G4 powerbook for video production use at home and have never looked back. I wanted to get a cheap CAD program for my MAC to work on some basic design projects at home. Solidworks is a $4k+ program and this is $90, so I was a bit skeptical from the start, but $90 wasn't a bad gamble.

Performance wise, this software runs very well on my G5 powermac tower (I have a decent graphics card, but also run with 4GB of system RAM). Even with my massive system memory, there are some performance slowdowns with more complex shapes and shading in the 3D mode.

My biggest complaint about this package is the lack of parametric modelling features. I wanted to use this package for some side projects to design some very simple sheet metal parts and the very first operation I wanted to model was a slot in a part. Making the slot was easy enough in the 2D mode. The problem came when I wanted to define the spatial position of this slot on my part. I tried to add a dimension to show the offset of the slot from the 2 edges of my basic part, but this is not possible, since dimensions are just dumb text with no real driving relation to the geometry.

I've tried many different ways of accomplishing this BASIC function without success. I even tried to pack up my files and send them to ViaCAD technical support to get some assistance to see if I was just missing something. I didn't hear a response from them for over a MONTH! Even then, it wasn't until I re-submitted my question that I finally got a response (6 weeks after my original inquiry) saying that I shouldn't compare Solidworks to ViaCAD. Ha. They also told me that I could use the 'nudge' feature and create my geometry and move it in to the position that I need using the nudge command with edited properties to nudge it the distance that I wanted it offset. Ok, that's fine for a simple linear relation, but what about radii, curve offsets, etc. It might work, but it seems to be a bit more trouble that I was hoping for.

What this boils down to is this, if you are buying this package because you want a cheap CAD package, but are used to much more powerful programs, you will most likely be disappointed. I honestly cannot understand how they could possibly model some of the example items on the package without the functionality that is lacking in this program. Maybe you could really spend a lot of time to dig in and find work-arounds to accomplish everything that I want to do, but I don't have the time for that and would rather come in on the weekend and use Solidworks at my office for 10 minutes to create the geometry I need.

If you are just looking for play around with making some very simple 3D geometry and have never used more advanced CAD software, then this package will entertain you for a little while, but might begin to frustrate you if you try to get too advanced. Then again, maybe if you've never had the features of the more expensive packages, you won't miss them...
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on September 15, 2012
Program worked fine for basic drawing but as I started using its more advanced 3d modeling capabilities I entered an ACIS ERROR hell. It got to the point where just attempting to draw a spline would elicit the error which then required task manager to get out. I tried reinstalling but would eventually get to the same point. Installing on another computer made no difference. I got no response to my email from ViaCad support. Unfortunately I wasted a lot of time learning the program. I would recommend buying a product with good customer support and a larger network of users.
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on September 15, 2007
Years ago, I've used Claris Cad and Vellum for the MAC.
-ViaCAD contains the same Mac frendly menu and is simple to learn.
-Not complex and yet very powerfull.

The Logicursor is a familiar item if you have used Claris and Vellum. The cursor will guide the final points of what you are drawing. It take about 3 minutes to understand how to use it...and saves tons of time and simplifies design.

Solid modeling is a nice feature, I cannot rate this as I have not used it much, but the tutorial is easy and I made simple models in minutes. Modeling is very simple to make and high quality

The minumum requirement is a G4 mac. I installed on my 5 year old G3 800 iBook with OS 10.4.1. Runs a little slow, but works fine. Kudos to both Punch and Apple(for making 10.4 run fast)...not many people get powerful new software on old 'slow' computers.
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on June 9, 2011
A software product must be judged not just by how performs, but by the support that is available from its authors. This product had an update ViaCAD2D3D737Patch that could not be installed on my computer because it required administrator privileges. Thing is, I AM the administrator, and I tried everything from changing permissions to downloading again. Going to the website to seek assistance proved to be an exercise in futility.

So, it might be a decent working product, but the support falls far short of reasonable expectations. So, I just stick with the old build and hope that all goes well.

Consider product support when buying a product.
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on September 21, 2014
The program requires me to enter all of the registration information every time I open it, which is annoying. I am still awaiting a response from tech support on that issue. From reading a few of the comments here, I guess I better not hold my breath. The tutorials presume a pre-existing knowledge of CAD, so if you are a beginner like me, be prepared for a steep, steep learning curve. I've been working with it a week now, and still haven't mastered all of the basic commands. Looks like it could be fun, though, just for something to play with. I'm not a professional designer, so can't comment on how useful it would be for that.
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