I’m looking for a CAD program for all the basic stuff (part building - vex and non, part combining into bots, and it should be able to download the parts available here on Vex). My problem is that I just spent a lot of money recently and want a cheep program that still works well coughfreecough. Anyone have some suggestions?

Wow, you have no idea how many times this has been mentioned before.

To recap:

You have a couple of choices…

*]Solidworks ($99) for two year license without COSMOS (which u probably do not need) I personally reccomend this program because it is cheap and very easy to use with the Vex parts library.

*]Autodesk Inventor (approx $150 for student version) I do not use this program a lot vecause I prefer the Solidworks ease of use

*]MLCAD for free, although it is very hard to assemble parts and it is kind of confusing.

Good luck


autodesk gives out inventor to FTC teams and students for free, just google Autodesk Student Software

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Solidworks is definitely the easiest of the bunch with both vex and parts and assembly creation.

I guess I should go do a search, but are there any good/cheap Mac OS X CAD programs that are compatible with the Vex parts Libraries?

I’ve used Cheetah3D ($129) and Punch! ViaCAD 2D/3D ($99), but I haven’t yet tried to import the Vex parts libs. I’ll give them a spin and post back when I get a chance, but I’m curious if there are any other Mac users who can weigh in.


  • Dean
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hmm…never heard of these, could you post links please?

Sure thing:

A fairly intuitive 3D program, but doesn’t feel like it has the precision of a traditional CAD package. I’ve only used it just a bit, though. One nice feature is that you can script movements with keyframes on a time-line, and have it ray-trace each frame to make a movie. It would be a great way to animate a Vex mechanism if you wanted to take the time. Mac only, priced at $129.

Cheetah3D Example: (from the school newsletter)

ViaCAD 2D/3D:
This one feels much more like a traditional CAD program, complete with a command-line interface for entering exact operations. Probably the thing to use if you want to create files for your CNC milling machine, but it seems less intuitive than Cheetah3D to me. This does not include a ray-tracer at the $99 price point, so you can only generate fairly basic graphics - nothing realistically shaded. It does let you draft in 2D, and then use that plane as part of a 3D model, which is kind of neat. Runs on Mac or PC, priced at $99.

ViaCAD Examples: (the turnip is my 10-yr-old’s design)

When I get some free time, I’ll check out these two packages for compatibility with the Vex parts libraries and report back on this thread.


  • Dean

sweet, viacad seems cool

BTW wow your 10-yr-old did that!?

She was telling me what to do (like always) and I was driving the computer (like always). She isn’t quite ready to be let loose on ViaCAD, though. :smiley:

I tried the Vex parts libraries with these two packages, and Cheetah3D doesn’t seem to recognize any of the three library formats.

ViaCAD was able to import the STEP files just fine. I’m not a CAD expert, so I can’t claim to have done any kind of exhaustive testing, but I’d say ViaCAD is a viable option for Vex CAD on the Mac (and probably Windows, too).


  • Dean

about the 10-yr-old, oh! well still pretty cool

is this viacad really easy to use? im talking like snap peice by piece, might be a nice break from inventor some time :smiley:

No, it is not particularly easy to use IMHO. I am not a CAD expert, so I can’t really compare it to other packages. I’m still at the stage that I’m fighting it to get it to operate in the plane that I want (it looks like you put the part in the right place, but you rotate the view and you discover it is not even close). I’ve had this problem with most 3D apps I’ve used, so it may just be my defect…

In any event, Punch! Software does have a demo of ViaCAD 2D/3D you can try before plunking down the cash.


  • Dean

alright thanks, im going to take that demo :smiley:

I strongly recommend that you DO NOT even try to use a program that does not snap and connect pieces together. The way you are doing it is by placing pieces together using the 4 planes. THis will take up a lot of time and effort to create an assembly. It will also risk accidently clicking on a piece in the middle of an assembly and moving it out of its position. This program resembles MLCAD, and I did not like using it at all.


Right - it seems to me that it works best when you use the text boxes to enter exact coordinates, which requires you to already know your design extremely well. Not a great program for experimenting with basic design geometry.

There may be a way to turn on snapping. I know it has alignment operations, but they are all explicit commands as opposed to a nice intuitive snap-to-position while dragging stuff around.

Cheetah3D has a more intuitive UI, but it does not seem capable of coping with the Vex parts libraries that are available.

  • Dean

does anyone know if inventor as a snap object thing because right now im using the different views and then moving it manually, this gets annoying too because sometimes you cant even get it perfect

In inventor just use the constraint command to constrain pieces together works great, try looking for it in the help section.

alright thanks!!! this will help sooooooo much because i can NEVER get it perfect

Does anyone know an off brand cad software for like $25-$50?

lol good luck, unfortunatly i doubt you’ll find anything good for less than $50, my suggestion is to get a teacher to sign up for the autodesk student community and then you’re allowed to download inventor

sigh I guess I’ll just try that