capsule review

TurboCAD 3D Macintosh

Today's Best Tech Deals

Picked by Macworld's Editors

Top Deals On Great Products

Picked by Techconnect's Editors

TurboCAD 3D Macintosh has all of the features and tools of its 2-D cousin, TurboCAD 2D (   ; September 2006 ), including the same easy-to-use interface. In addition, TurboCAD 3D has an extensive set of 3-D tools and commands that CAD (computer-aided design) users will immediately find familiar, such as 3-D primitives, extrude, lathe, sweep, as well as surface and solid Boolean operations.

In most 3-D applications, using all of these 3-D tools on an inherently 2-D interface (your monitor) can be disorienting for novices. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which workplane you are creating in. For example, when you draw an object, such as a rectangle, it is oriented relative to a specific plane, as a slab might be parallel to the ground. When working in 3-D, it is not always obvious where that rectangle is located in all three dimensions without rotating your view of the object. TurboCAD 3D has made deciphering which plane you are currently drawing in easy to determine with a number of workplane presets—top, front, and side—available in its WorkPlane menu. These allow you to quickly switch back and forth between planes. In addition, you can define custom workplanes based on existing objects and surfaces or defined points.

TurboCAD 3D can also apply non-destructive fillets and chamfers to 3-D objects. In mechanical drafting, filleting and chamfering are common edits to an object where a corner or an edge of an object has a radius applied to it. In TurboCAD 3D, the filleting and chamfering attributes can be easily changed and adjusted at any time because they are applied to the object without changing its underlying geometry.

TurboCAD 3D comes with a 2-D and 3-D symbol and parts library that includes over 11,000 items, any of which can easily be added to a model via a drag-and-drop interface. The application also supports an extensive list of file formats for importing and exporting, including design industry standards like DWG, DXF, IGES, and ACIS SAT. TurboCAD 3D can import files from other CAD programs—AutoCAD and ProE, for example—then export those files in Illustrator format with 3-D views translated into 2-D elements, making TurboCAD 3D a good bridge between Illustrator and CAD. TurboCAD 3D can also import from and export to Adobe Illustrator format, making it a great application for designers who need to produce scaled, accurate drawings with professional CAD tools that are not included in Illustrator.

A downside to TurboCAD is that all units of measurement must be entered into the application in decimal format. Architects, who typically work in feet and inches, may find this difficult to work around. However, dimensions can be displayed in fractional units.

In general, the 3-D capabilities of TurboCAD 3D seem more applicable to mechanical engineering or product design than to the field of architecture. There are none of the architectural building blocks—walls, doors, roofs—that you see in programs like VectorWorks (   ; October 2004 ) or ArchiCAD. Rendering is also fairly basic and is limited to Phong and Gouraud shading, which produce good 3-D views, but will not produce photorealistic images. Nevertheless, given the $495 price, TurboCAD 3D is a good value for a full-featured 2-D drafting and 3-D modeling application.

Macworld’s buying advice

If you are looking for an easy-to-use, basic 3-D CAD program for a relatively reasonable price, TurboCAD 3D is a good choice. However, if your projects are architectural in nature, you should consider other CAD programs aimed directly at architects.

[ Greg Miller holds a Master’s degree in architecture and is chief technology officer of RDC Interactive, which specializes in new media for the AEC (Architecture, Engineering, and Construction) and publishing markets. ]

You can create Phong renderings of simple objects in TurboCAD 3D Macintosh.
1 2 Page 1
Page 1 of 2
Shop Tech Products at Amazon