Drawing and rendering VEX IQ CAD models on macOS

This is an outline of the procedure I came up with for producing CAD models of VEX IQ creations, as well as rendering images of those models, on macOS.

Background

I wanted to produce a CAD model of the VIQC Squared Away sizing tool I had built from a Next Level field setup. I had heard of SnapCAD, but never used it before. Unfortunately, SnapCAD is windows-only, and running it in WINE didn’t work on the first try.

Then, reading this page, I noticed the following:

.ldr is the model format used by LDraw, an open-source standard for LEGO CAD with which I was already familiar. So I figured it should be possible to point a macOS LDraw editor at the parts library used by SnapCAD. Reading through a few old threads (like this one and this one) seemed to confirm that this would be possible.

Building CAD Models

Getting my LDraw editor to work with IQ parts was very easy. Starting with an existing and functional installation of Bricksmith (my favorite macOS LDraw editor), I did the following:

  1. Download and unzip the parts library from this page.
  2. Open Bricksmith.
  3. Open the preferences dialog (Bricksmith -> Preferences) and select the “Parts” tab.
  4. Click “choose” and point Bricksmith at the unzipped parts library.
  5. Click “Reload Parts” and close the preferences window.
  6. Quit and relaunch Bricksmith (this was necessary to get any of the parts to appear in the model or the preview window).

To return to the normal LEGO parts library, do the same as above, but point Bricksmith to the default LDraw library instead (mine was in ~/Documents/ldraw).

From there, building the model was pretty straightforward. The test files I tried all opened fine in SnapCAD on Windows.

Rendering Images

After building the model, I wanted to render some images of it. I had previously done this with some LEGO models, rendering the images using POV-Ray, and wrote a webpage detailing my process for doing that. That process worked pretty much unmodified, except that I had to point LDView at the IQ parts library as well, which is possible from the “LDraw” tab of the preferences window.

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