Through the years, software gets developed and enhanced along with their newer release. Some give changes in both features and price, some others are free. However, the free ones is no longer considered as tools to have fun. Blender for example. It is now considered one of the most powerful 3d modeling, animation, rendering and visual effects software on earth. It has evolved into something that can directly compete with other commercial software, offering many features, giving the answers and solution to many animators and graphics artists.
The same situation within engineering design area. There are some free drafting software which are quite useful to create 2D layout drawing. Some others could also create 3d models/parts and still come for free. The million dollars question would be "which software would do good to answer the needs of those engineers?" Welll, I won't be giving an answer for that particular question, but I will surely show you one potential software series from RS Components, a UK company. So, what's the good of it? Let me give you some description about it below.
DESIGNSPARK: IT STARTED WITH A COMMUNITY
RS Components released it first PCB design called DesignSpark PCB in 2010. It grew its user base in time and on 2013, again, RS Components released their first mechanical software called DesignSpark Mechanical. They now are completing the series by having DesignSpark Electrical for electrical engineering and DesignSpark Safety, a powerful risk assessment tool.
With the development along the time since RS Components released their first software, most of their software now significantly got updates and growing features. On thing about DesignSpark software that attract so many engineers, enthusiasts and students, is that their software is FREE FOR DOWNLOAD AND USE. Too good to be true? Well, on some parts, it is. So, where the revenue generated for their business? RS Components is actually a listed company in London Stock Exchange. They supply electronic components, electrical automation and control, test and measurement equipment, and engineering tools and consumables. So they already have massive revenue for their business.
DESIGNSPARK MECHANICAL: A FREE 3D CAD SOFTWARE THAT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND
The DesignSpark was created to actually giving easier design and installation process. It gives freedom to engineers to adopt, use, apply and implement components to their designs. I personally would just list a short description of what DesignSpark Mechanical could offer.
There are some more videos on YouTube about DesignSpark Mechanical, and other DesignSpark software. I personally just tried it to view and made some small changes on my LVT A-7 Corsair II RC Parkjet design STL file.
I experienced some unfamiliar workflow with the DS Mechanical workflow in the beginning since I'm familiar with Rhinoceros commands and features. However, after spending some time in getting to know the workflow, things started to get better and smoother. I would strongly recommend user to leave some habit behind and start fresh with DesignSpark Mechanical to obtain best experience with it.
DS Mechanical is good for rapid prototyping and/or reverse engineering process. It allows us to have access to massive library of products in 3d components, generate Bill of Materials (BoM) as well as online quotes, import and export industry standard file formats (STL, SKP, OBJ, DXF, etc.) and many more.
DESIGNSPARK ELECTRICAL, DESIGNSPARK PCB AND DESIGNSPARK SAFETY: GIVES YOU FREEDOM TO HAVE A FULL SERIES SOFTWARE AND EXPERIENCE
Just as the DS Mechanical, all RS Components DS Electrical, DS PCB and DS Safety are absolutely free to download and use. And they claim it will always be.
DS Electrical software is a bespoke electrical CAD solution for engeineers to save time and create error-free designs that gives us all automated reports and process including wire and comonent numbering. It also offers live parts price and availability along with simple Bill of Materials (BoM) generation.
DS PCB can turn your circuit ideas into testable board much faster. It gives us umlimited schematic size, create our own libraries or use extensive free library, import and output files in the format we use and not limited in creating BoM for our design.
DS Safety is a powerfull risk assessment tool allowing us to embed safety considerations into our design from the outset. It reduces timelines by addressing hazards and risk during design phase, reduce cost, add value to our designs by demonstrating compliance to relevant standards, maximize safety and avoiding risk of prosecution.
DS software can be considered as an option to mechanical and electrical engineers and designers, as it's being offered as a free software to download and use, permanently. However, it requires internet connection to validate license obtained from RS Components.
The UI is somehow similar to some commercial CAD software out there and smooth workflow could be obtained by learning on how we interact with it. Some tutorial videos are also available on YouTube with "DesignSpark" keyword that works best to look for them.
It supports on STL is giving us advantages for 3d printing environment and rapid prototyping. However, it doesn't perform quite good on organic surfaces components which electrical and mechanical engineers may not need on most of their work. Therefore, there are still Rhinoceros, CATIA and other commercial available at a cost. Combining these software may lead us to a complete and cost effective investment to complete our work. Somehow, some useful free software can give us advantages so we could secure and focus our investment on appropriate hardware/HP Workstation.
More information on DesignSpark can be viewed from DesignSpark Website.
Bimo Adi Prakoso, founder of Sentra Grafika Kompumedia, is an engineering-animation-broadcast industry professional and workstation evangelist. He's been in the Workstation industry since 1996, the era of SGI.