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D869

DraftSight is/will be Unfree

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@D869

I see you have QCAD. Please would you look at it and see if it will do the equivalent of "explode text" which Mike Edge mentioned:

'Turbocad has a command to "explode text" which turns it into a series of polylines (fills) which are then reliably reproduced. It can no longer be edited as text but all the characters can be scaled, copied etc. '

I suppose this feature might be called something different - "Convert Text" perhaps?

have prevaricated long enough, I need to choose a CAD system for etching today. I wanted to use Turbocad because it is what a colleague in a forthcoming joint project uses but all the "permanent" copies/versions of Turbocad I have found are dubious and I'm not willing to pay annual licence fees for any software because there is always a risk that if you let the subscription lapse you lose all your work. I am therefore hoping QCAD will be OK, the Pro version states clearly it is a one-off payment.  In the near future I need to etch builders' plates, cast iron lineside signs, fire insurance wall plaques, road junction  figerposts, , etc. - all things with lots of text on them - which is why I am asking this question.

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In answer to two queries above, areas which are black on the film will be etched, the metal is coated with etch resist and exposed under the film. Where the light gets to it the etch resist is fixed, elsewhere it washes off.

I use Turbocad 4 professional (the professional version allows customising of the keyboard, otherwise just the same) for most of my work, that goes back to last century, I don't do updates or online services unless absolutely forced to. It works - "if it ain't broke don't fix it".

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2 hours ago, Michael Crofts said:

@D869

I see you have QCAD. Please would you look at it and see if it will do the equivalent of "explode text" which Mike Edge mentioned:

'Turbocad has a command to "explode text" which turns it into a series of polylines (fills) which are then reliably reproduced. It can no longer be edited as text but all the characters can be scaled, copied etc. '

I suppose this feature might be called something different - "Convert Text" perhaps?

have prevaricated long enough, I need to choose a CAD system for etching today. I wanted to use Turbocad because it is what a colleague in a forthcoming joint project uses but all the "permanent" copies/versions of Turbocad I have found are dubious and I'm not willing to pay annual licence fees for any software because there is always a risk that if you let the subscription lapse you lose all your work. I am therefore hoping QCAD will be OK, the Pro version states clearly it is a one-off payment.  In the near future I need to etch builders' plates, cast iron lineside signs, fire insurance wall plaques, road junction  figerposts, , etc. - all things with lots of text on them - which is why I am asking this question.

 

OK, can of worms officially opened...

 

First, the simple answer... yes the QCAD 'explode' command will turn text into polylines.

 

Whether it does exactly what you'd want is another matter - the polylines just give you the outlines of the letters - there is nothing filling in those outlines... which is probably not what you want for etch artwork. You can probably colour them in, but it's more work.

 

Artwork for nameplates and such like is one area where I'm not too happy with my approach. My approach produces results that I'm very happy with but I'm not happy with it for other reasons that I will explain.

 

Let's look at some artwork...

 

414487893_Fullscreencapture04042019153945.jpg.1b5d123fad070dbdea47cbc4197d1e7e.jpg

 

At first glance you might not think that there are any challenges here but there are a few...

  • The most obvious is the ability to lay out text on an arc (Chas Roberts works plates need this too). I don't think QCAD can do it. Maybe other CAD packages can.
  • The less obvious one is the ability to mess with word and letter spacing. Think about laying out 'ACTON HALL' and 'SHIRENEWTON HALL' on the same sized plate - it can be done but you need to play with the spacing.
  • The final one is kerning of individual letter pairs. 'AR' for example meet with a serif at the base so don't need any adjustment. 'ON' on the other hand has just one serif at the base, so the layout looks more natural if the two letters are squished together a bit. 'WA' would be a better example, but there are none of those on this plate.

I did this artwork entirely in Inkscape - it's a vector graphics package and it has excellent text layout features that I suspect are lacking in most CAD packages.

 

...so just use Inkscape then... what's the problem?

 

Well, even considering just these nameplates, Inkscape is not great at ensuring that the top and bottom borders of the plate and the text baseline are concentric. It can be done but it's a bit of a faff. Getting the end borders to exactly meet the top and bottom borders required manual playing around at high levels of zoom if memory serves. None of that is insurmountable but what if I want mix this stuff with other artwork that has been done in CAD to fill up a sensible sized sheet? Then I get into all of the joys of either importing SVG into CAD or importing DXF into Inkscape... neither of which has worked particularly well when I've tried it.

 

Unless you can find a tool that can do both things well (and maybe some CAD packages can?), I suspect the answer may lie in rendering the artwork from one or other tool into a format with less scope for 'interpretation' - maybe even a high res bitmap and then importing this into a defined area of the artwork in the other tool. I haven't tried it yet so this is just a half-baked idea.

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1 hour ago, D869 said:

Whether it does exactly what you'd want is another matter - the polylines just give you the outlines of the letters - there is nothing filling in those outlines... which is probably not what you want for etch artwork. You can probably colour them in, but it's more work.

Great help, thanks.

 

You'll have to stop me if my questions get dumb or this thread drifts too far from the title. I'm trying not to turn it into "Beginners Guide to Etching"!

 

I've attached a sketch of a very simple lineside plate - not to scale or anything. I've used Michael Edge's protocol of black = etch rather than the traditional red for front etch and blue for rear. In QCAD, if I create the text as text, then "explode" it to polylines, are you saying I can fill each letter as white, albeit manually?

 

If the answer to that is yes, I'll risk the 33 Euros and buy QCAD. I must stop faffing around and actually DO something!

 

Etching example 001 v01.pdf

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38 minutes ago, Michael Crofts said:

Great help, thanks.

 

You'll have to stop me if my questions get dumb or this thread drifts too far from the title. I'm trying not to turn it into "Beginners Guide to Etching"!

 

I've attached a sketch of a very simple lineside plate - not to scale or anything. I've used Michael Edge's protocol of black = etch rather than the traditional red for front etch and blue for rear. In QCAD, if I create the text as text, then "explode" it to polylines, are you saying I can fill each letter as white, albeit manually?

 

If the answer to that is yes, I'll risk the 33 Euros and buy QCAD. I must stop faffing around and actually DO something!

 

Etching example 001 v01.pdf 25.47 kB · 1 download

 

You dont need to spend any money to find out. QCAD has a free version so you can figure out whether it will do what you want. If you want to use the DWG format (or a few other features) then you will need the paid version.

 

It's a little bit non-obvious - you need to download the QCAD Professional version, install it and then remove some files to 'downgrade' it to the free version. The pro version will work too but it is time limited.

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PPD will use whatever colour scheme you like, so long as it's consistent. Their recommendations are blue etch from back, red etch from front, white etch through, black non-etched metal. But you can swap the white and the black if you wish; it doesn't effect what finally goes on the photo tool. They process your artwork according to the scheme chosen to produce the photo tool. You can also do that step yourself if you wish, i.e. produce the photo tools for front and back, which as Mike says requires black to show the etched areas.

 

I produce artwork using their default blue/red/white/black scheme and leave them to produce the photo tools from that. I aim to get the artwork correct as needed down to the last detail, including their recommended solid metal boundary around the etch, so they don't need to tweak it.

 

Haven't had any problems with DWG text, but it's all fairly clean stuff, Arial font, usually in capitals.

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Turbocad won't put text in an arc either but once exploded each individual letter can be moved and rotated.

Colours are irrelevant to the process, I use ones which are easy to see on a white screen and easy on my eyes, which is why I don't use large areas of black when drawing. My earliest drawings were (still are if they haven't been used again yet) in yellow because the original DOS version of Turbocad which I stared with in 1993 gave a black screen. That version came on a single floppy disc - if anyone remembers them.

Each layer has a colour assigned to it which can be changed at any point in the process so the black/white version only appears at the end of the process.

If you leave text on your drawing it may look fine to you but may be changed in font, size or spacing by the etchers using a different format in the process. Sometimes it worked but early errors with nameplates and the like soon became apparent.

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On 31/03/2019 at 22:40, Michael Crofts said:

I'm new to this. The etcher I want to use is Grainge & Hodder, for personal reasons and because they have done some amazing etches in the past. But I believe they only accept .dxf files. Can these older, cheaper versions of Turbocad produce .dxf output?

Specifically, I need to be able to import .dwg files and use them as the layouts, then draw the etch layers over the top, and export the finished work in .dxf format.

Thanks in advance for any advice!

Michael

 

Michael - I've used TurboCAD V14 Professional for several years for my etching needs.  I save my drawings, by default, as .tcw (TurboCAD for Windows), as I work on them and when finished, save them as .dxf and email them to PPD.  I submit a top and bottom layer (both black & white), with black being etch and white, no etch.

 

 

Regards

 

Dan

Edited by Dan Randall

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Hope you don't mind me chipping in on this one - as a professional engineer I've had more than my fair share of the many different programs, editions and incarnations of CAD software over the years - going right back to the pre-Autocad days of Boxer and Duct at Leeds Uni. My last personally purchased program was Autocad 2013; before that Autocad 2006.  In terms of professional use, the go-to software is Solidworks, and in my area of expertise, Catia, both by Dassault systems, and eye-wateringly expensive.

 

My experience echoes that of Michael Edge - stick to what you know - and basically if it's not broken don't fix it. I would certainly buy the software - check Ebay for earlier issues of Turbocad, for example, learn how to use it - and stick to it - no need to upgrade, it is perfectly capable of producing anything for etching purposes, the older versions being relatively inexpensive.. I still have a free edition of Autosketch 5 from 2000, which will easily cope.

 

If I can be so bold to suggest it - a CAD software program is arguably not the best choice here. When you think about it, we are not producing manufacturing or design drawings, all we are doing is producing artwork in a form that is suitable for printing,; that has an acceptable resolution; in a form etching companies can deal with and that will work with other drawing formats.

 

I have over the years, used Adobe Illustrator to produce ready for etch vector drawings and found it more than capable. It is, after all, designed for print output - its capabilities with type manipulation are second to none and registration of prints is easy and accurate. Its native format Ai switches easily between Eps and Pdf and most etching companies can cope with these formats. Corel draw is also widely used, but I have only a passing familiarity with it. Dwg files can also be imported with layers intact.

 

There is a learning curve, as with all software, but it's worth giving it a go. I can produce drawings much faster in Illustrator than I can Autocad. The functionality with line weights, offsets and general shape building, is a joy. I use edition CS6 - the current versions are subscription only, but older versions are easily available, with more than enough functionality for etching drawings.

 

 I just realised that after 9 years of lurking, this is my first post - please excuse the interruption.

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Consider your lurking at an end :)

 

I semi agree with you... if the etch is heavily text based or perhaps for something like decorative ironwork then a vector graphics package will be better suited to the job.

 

I've done artwork both ways and I'm far more comfortable doing 'engineering' artwork (wagon chassis and so on) in CAD - it tends to have more advanced object snapping features and the ability to copy or move objects through a specified distance that my vector graphics package (Inkscape) lacks.

 

I did put some 'engineering ' stuff onto my Inkscape artwork but I was quite glad to get back to CAD for the next lot.

 

I'm sure that more expensive vector packages may have a better features.

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Thanks for further help. I have bought QCAD and the ebook and will experiment with that to begin with. Can't remember if I already said this, but I never use subscription software, only programmes which I can buy and own, which reside on my machine, and which I can transfer when my machine dies. Getting harder all the time but still a good policy for the private individual paying out of taxed income with no way of recouping costs. Also I hope to transition to a Linux Operating System either this year or next so whatever I use must run on Linux, and that was part of my decision to try QCAD.

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Quote

it tends to have more advanced object snapping features and the ability to copy or move objects through a specified distance that my vector graphics package (Inkscape) lacks.

 

In Illustrator select the object you want to move, hit Enter and a pop-up pops up allowing you to specify the vertical or horizontal distance and/or angle you want to move or copy the aforesaid object to several decimal parts of a millimetre.

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I've been continuing my work with QCAD as and when the opportunity arises. I don't want this to become a QCAD specific discussion but it does (I hope) highlight the differences that can arise between different tools in the same part of the market.

 

Most things in QCAD are bit different but it doesn't take long to get used to a new way. On the other hand I think that the way fills are drawn is quite different and will need me change the way that I draw the outlines.

 

Here is a coloured in example - the deck from a Pickering 14T chlorine tank...

34279535_Fullscreencapture16042019081854.jpg.cb70ea5b0b7002cacd2452e0564ff9d0.jpg

 

In DraftSight I drew the overall metal outline first...

925420448_Fullscreencapture16042019081914.jpg.917682d8f7e8e5e190cd5365a337df0f.jpg

 

and then I drew the extra lines to divide off the half etched areas (the white outline is switched off for this screen grab)...

1550338311_Fullscreencapture16042019081939.jpg.8f872945f9e0daa9ed07b7422c7ac386.jpg

 

From what I've seen of QCAD so far this needs a different approach. In DraftSight the fills are done by turning on the required outline layers and then clicking on a point inside the area to be filled - rather like 'flood fill' in a bitmap drawing tool. In QCAD the fills are drawn by selecting the outlines bordering the area and then asking QCAD to fill the selected outline... fine here for the overall metal fill but not fine for the red half etches because at the moment there is no easy way to select the outline of just the half etch area for the red half etch. I think it needs a dedicated outline around each half etched area so parts of the white border need to be copied into the half etch border layers.

 

It will probably be quicker if I draw the half etch outlines as a bunch of separate polygons which overlap each other rather than trying to draw the whole complex half etched area as a single outline.

 

None of this is insurmountable but it's all work to do when changing from DS to QCAD.

 

Perhaps one of the TurboCAD users can tell us whether it needs the user to draw fills in a manner similar to DS, QCAD or has another way to do it?

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Turbocad 2 was a bit like this but from 4 onwards you just have to select entities and it will fill between/inside them. The layer that the fill will be on is selectable, not necessarily the same as the entities selected. Depending on the shape selected and whether the lines are properly snapped together it does sometimes produce surprising results - easily corrected with ctrl Z. That wasn't part of the earliest versions, there was no "go back" in them! The fills themselves become separate entities, independent of the original lines used to create them and can be edited on their own with snap tools - often useful for later corrections.

If you catch up with me at one of my demos I could explain this a lot better.

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Thanks Mike. It sounds like the TurboCAD way of creating fills is similar to QCAD (i.e. select the bounding outline) rather than DraftSight. I guess I just need to bite the bullet and change the way I draw my half etch outlines. I managed to get the red fills sorted in my new chassis deck drawing (which is a more 'normal' 10ft wheelbase 17'6 over headstocks tank chassis).

 

The red lines are all closed polygons and are drawn for just one quarter of the chassis and look like this...

 

1493197083_Fullscreencapture16042019201034.jpg.2840d8905c2c775c44515850338e6a14.jpg

 

I was lazy and used overlapping rectangles where the chassis members cross. These were filled a polygon at a time and then just the fills were mirrored on 2 axes to do the other three quarters of the chassis...

 

1581940201_Fullscreencapture16042019201058.jpg.2ef448850012752ab9913b25ace1f62b.jpg

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On 04/04/2019 at 23:05, Michael Edge said:

Turbocad won't put text in an arc either

 

The version I use does support text on a curve. (TurboCAD 2015 Pro)

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I sent a message to Turbocad (using the message tool on their site) asking if any of their versions can be purchased instead of rented. The site suggests there may be some versions which one can buy but isn't crystal clear about that. They didn't bother to reply.

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Hmm... so is the 119 quids quoted here not an outright purchase price?

 

The US site also lists a more basic 'Designer' version for 60 dollars (plus tax) but this doesn't seem to be on the UK site.

 

Regards, Andy

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Looking at their site it appears that the subscription model is only available for the most expensive package; everything else is outright purchase.

 

The UK version of Designer for the Mac still seems to be available, but not mentioned for the PC; Amazon has the PC versions listed as not currently available. You could ask them. Designer is fine for 2D work.

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11 hours ago, D869 said:

Hmm... so is the 119 quids quoted here not an outright purchase price?

 

 

That's outright purchase. You might pick up a slightly older version on Ebay for quite a bit less.

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I've also been looking around at the options for Mac since seeing DraftSight has gone subscription only.

 

TurboCAD for Mac is still outright purchase only (£59, £99, or £399 for different versions) rather than subscription. But the trial version of Pro (the £99 version) seems very disappointing and unintuitive to work with - as well as being very ugly! 

 

QCAD does seem like a very good option, and the €33 price does seem very reasonable. However my frustrations were with the trim/extend type functions, which seemed not to work as intuitively or reliably as in DraftSight. 

 

But I actually discovered that Autodesk's Education License is extremely generous - it seems like pretty much anyone with a .edu or .ac.uk email address can get AutoCAD for free, for as long as they are enrolled/employed and have access to that email account. Obviously this precludes commercial use, but the terms will allow a lot of people free access (e.g. no restriction on full or part time study, as far as I can see, etc.) Terms here: https://knowledge.autodesk.com/customer-service/account-management/education-program/who-can-join/eligibility-free-edu-license 

 

So, for now at least, I'm trying to get to grips with AutoCAD for Mac 2019. Looks fun!

 

Justin

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