First look at DesignSpark Mechanical
I’ve been aware of DesignSpark Mechanical for some time but never had the need to install it. I’ve been using Fusion360 until recently when my “startup” license expired. So I downloaded it, installed it and had a bit of a play wit the features.
The installation was simple and error-free. Some chunky buttons lead to a more conventional Windows installer. It needed admin rights to install, I guess because of the reviewer it installs into windows explorer.
The install created a couple of icons, one for the main application and one for the SpaceClaim viewer. The installation also added some fonts which can be used when dimensioning.
Using DesignSpark Mechanical
When you first launch DesignSpark mechanical you are presented with a page which looks to be a new page from a website.
Choosing File -> New Design from the menu allows you to start up a new design.
You can then create objects, either by using 3D primitives or by sketching. Sketching is the more powerful option here and you can draw quite complex shapes and then pull or rotate them to produce a 3D object.
There are a good selection of tools for sketching along with drafting favourites such as construction lines. Objects can be moved or duplicated using the move command and that is where you can create a repeated pattern such as a number of holes in a row or on a grid. 3D objects can be further modified by pulling on the edges to produce fillets or chamfers. You can also sketch on a surface to add or subtract from it. An existing feature can be edited by selecting it and adjusting the values.
Objects can also be grouped into components for easy of manipulation or navigation around complex designs.
Different materials can be selected for the objects and a colour can be independently selected along with transparency. DesignSpark does not have a built-in rendering engine so what you see in the UI is what you get.
Dimensions can be added to a model which is useful if you are manufacturing from the drawing. Note that DesignSpark is not a parametric modeller so you can’t edit the size of the object by typing in a new dimension.
Decals can be added to a surface by importing an image.
DesignSpark Mechanical was created by CAD company SpaceClaim and you will see that mentioned in a few places such as the installation of a SpaceClaim Viewer and that the executable for DesignSpark Mechanical is actually “SpaceClaim.exe”. I discovered that if you renamed the DSDoc files created by DesignSpark Mechanical, they are easily opened in the SpaceClaim Viewer. The Windows file preview also works for these files but not for DSDoc files which is a shame.
Importing and Exporting
It is possible to import other 3d objects into your design, and I successfully imported both OBJ and STL files. As this is part of a suite of software, it is not unexpected that you can import a PCB design so that you could design a case around it.
And as expected it is also possible to export STL file for use with your 3D printer, which seemed to work well for my test object.
DesignSpark is a simple to use Free 3D CAD solution. It may not have some of the sophisticated features of other packages but there is a good selection of tools to help you build many designs.
There is plenty of online help and I particularly liked the quick reference chart. There is also a training course on Udemy.
When learning all such tools you come across little annoyances. In my case it was unlearning some of the Fusion360 techniques and some of the more advanced features I couldn’t make work. I suspect that is more of a training issue than a bug.
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