On this website, you can get familiar with one of the best free programs for 3D engineering modeling. It’s called DesignSpark Mechanical. This program offers such important and useful features as the intuitive interface, the wide range of tools and instruments (for a free program), and the embedded access to the library of component models, which can be easily imported to your design project.

DesignSpark Mechanical is a simplified version of the shareware program for CAD-modeling called SpaceClaim Engineer. However, DesignSpark Mechanical offers a wide range of tools and functions, which can be used to solve even the most complex and important tasks. DesignSpark Mechanical can be easily used in conjunction with another free application called DesignSpark PCB. DesignSpark PCB is intended to design printed-circuit board.

DesignSpark Mechanical: seamless integration into existing design workflows

All these features make DesignSpark Mechanical a really convenient tool for the design of electric devices prototypes. By implementing these programs one can create the sophisticated communication channel between the engineer, who creates the key idea of the device, and the designer, who implements such ideas by using professional software. It’s much easier to explain the key principles of the new model operation using a 3D-model that by making a limitless number of drawings.

Three-dimensional engineering modeling techniques

There are two key modeling paradigms: parametric one and direct one. The most powerful and sophisticated programs offer two sets of tools for both of them. It’s worth noting that DesignSpark Mechanical is a program for direct modeling.

Let’s look closer, and find the difference between the direct and the parametric approaches out.

Parametric modeling is a process of consequential modification of the model with the full history of changes. When in the parametric mode, one can go back to a specific step in the history, change modification parameters for that step, and apply all the following changes. The file of a parametric model looks like a step-by-step tutorial for the model production. In order to adjust the final result, one has to change the manual.

In the case of the direct modeling, there’s no history of modifications. Any modeling action is performed on the current models, and the origin of a specific geometry makes no sense. As a result, the direct modeling allows describing the production process in full. Furthermore, we are able not only ‘to cut’ the material, but ‘to add’ it too.

In the case when one knows the final result, both approaches offer relatively same features. Obviously, you don’t need to go back to a specific stage, in case if you already know what you want to make, and how it’s going to look.

In the real life, both of the approaches have their own advantages and disadvantages. Furthermore, each of them can be more convenient and sophisticated for a specific task.

The parametric modeling is really close to coding and programming. A thoroughly created parametric model is like a program that allows changing the design and eliminating any problems of unforeseen events. However, it has the very same flaws. The versatility required on the initial stage requires a lot of additional time, while the long and constant search of the required solution can result in a complex and multifaceted model, which has to be reorganized into something simpler for the future work and implementation. It’s worth noting that some retrospective changes, which affect the geometry of the model, may result in the impossible or even faulty or unpredictable models on the newer stages.

Keeping the wide range of modeling software, and the availability of the modeling tools in mind, one won’t be able to transfer parametric models between different software solutions in the majority of cases. In order to make such transferring possible, one has to transform the model into a more common format, thus losing all the history of changes, and getting only the current geometrical state of the model. Such models are sometimes called ‘dumb’.

In fact, the parametric modeling can’t be used to adjust ‘dumb’ models, while such models have to be changed and updated once in a while. In order to modify the parametric model created by a different engineer, one needs to understand not only the requirements to the final result but the principles of the creator of the model and the parameters required to make such changes.

Vice verse, the direct modeling is a great choice for ‘dumb’ models. In order to use it, one has to understand only the requirements for the final result. All the changes are ‘direct’ and obvious, i.e. move a wall, increase the diameter of the opening, changes the deviation angle of the surface, add round corners etc. That’s why it’s easier to understand the basics of the direct modeling.

It’s worth noting that DesignSpark Mechanical offers a wide range of tools for the direct modeling.

Download & installation of DesignSpark Mechanical

DesignSpark Mechanical can be installed by downloading the source files from the official website.

DesignSpark Mechanical download and installation

The process of installation is relatively simple and can be done by following the instructions of the program. In order to launch the program, one has to activate a new copy by creating an account here. In case if you already have products by DesignSpark, e.g. DesignSpark PCB, you just need to enter your credentials.

DesignSpark Mechanical activation by creating an account

Brief introduction to the interface of DesignSpark Mechanical

After launching the program one will see the window with the start screen that contains a lot of information, including a link to the tutorials to DesignSpark Mechanical in English.

DesignSpark Mechanical interface

All the menus and panels are located in the very same way as in Microsoft Office. All operations with the files are located under File tab. Design tab contains modeling and navigation tools to be used in the working space of the program. Display tab contains the viewing mode tools, while Help/Resources offers links to the tutorials and useful information.

DesignSpark Mechanical tutorial modeling

In order to start working, we need to create a new file by using File > New > Design menu items. You will see the empty working space with the point of reference sign and the control grid in the horizontal surface. Now we need to understand how to control the camera view. The turning of the camera around the chosen orbit can be done by holding the scrolling wheel of the mouse. In order to move the camera at the same time, one has to hold Shift button.

The scaling can be made by scrolling the mouse wheel up and down, or by moving the mouse and holding the scrolling wheel and Ctrl key. Camera settings can be found in File > DesignSpark options > Navigation menu.

Furthermore, one can find the camera controlling tools in Orient group of Design tab. It’s worth noting that when one hovers the cursor above any tools, they will see useful hints about the hot-keys for such tools, which make the overall usage of the program even more efficient.

Let’s draw the box now. The entire process is shown on the video which has to be easy to understand in the case in you know how to move around the working space, and you are aware of the fact that one needs to hold Ctrl in order to select objects.

The next video shows how to save the work, and export it in a format that can be used for 3D-printing.

That’s all!

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