CAD Systems around the Ham Radio Shack

Wanted to dust off my CAD chops to do some station layout sketches.

I’ve use Generic CAD from way back when – roughly about 1988. I know I had a program that used prior but neither the program or the name made enough impression that I can recall it now.

Upgraded from Generic CADD 1.x to v 5.04, including the bit of time under Autocad. Bought an Autocad LT license, which soon bacame useless, and quietly have been running the old version of Generic renamed & upgraded as VisualCADD/VCADD by TriTools, ever since.

Haven’t updated further as most new features (they are on VCADD v8.04 and a v9.0 beta is also available) have been 3D tools or advanced tools I haven’t yet needed.

Unfortunately VCADD is a bit pricey for a Station Sketching Tool (currently $460 new user/$160 upgrade fees). I’ll have to decide if I want to upgrade I guess.



Some alternatives that may work and a donation or free:



And a recommendation by Dale N6JSX, who uses it in his 3D printing/machining setup.



Or maybe my take-off drawing kit comes out and I just hand sketch for the time being?



Tagged , , , ,

One thought on “CAD Systems around the Ham Radio Shack

  1. Kuby, N6JSX, MS-EET(ret) says:

    I go way back to Autocad 3.0 DOS, OrCAD ESP, PADS, And my personal joy was MicroGrapix Designer pre-Windows 3.0 for a 286 CPU. I still use Designer on my reserved WinXP Notebook because I know it, it is easy for me, and does what I need for my mechanical CAD needs. I hate raw AutoCAD as it was so damn process intense slow (just to draw a simple line was a major pain – no click her-drag to here – unclick and drop) until shell overlays on top AutoCAD were created making AutoCAD efficiently and KISS usable (like Designer from day one some 35yrs ago – gosh I’m getting old).

    I was a solid OrCAD (schematics) user and still prefer it even today BUT it is no more selling out to ?Cadence. The negative with OrCAD DOS was it did not embed parts into the schematics data file and the printer drivers were to specific model printers. But I could take my OrCAD schematics and import to TANGO PCB Layout/Router and do a nice layout. I hated PADS as it was so damn tree structured with NO jump-to-to-page capability. You had to back all the way out of the tree limb to slide into another limb for that functional use.

    But understand these were in the days when you could intuitively learn the CAD by doing it and pick it up again 6mo or a year later and not loose much in your how-to knowledge. Today’s, CADs due to annual maintenance/support requirement$ they must put out a new version every year and often it really changes how the CAD operates. So in the commercial world CAD is now an full time occupation not an add-on of your engineering abilities. Same goes for LabView.

    So when I do it for me, what do I use (I am a cheap curmudgeon HAM). Like Steve pointed out for my mechanical 3D needs and 3D-Printing, TinkerCAD (free) but it is over simplistic and was tricky for me to use as I expected some typical features (not present) so I must now work around thinking layouts differently. TinkerCAD’s next step up to a normal CAD is Fusion360 that will have the tools much like AutoCAD/Designer, for single non-commercial use there is a full FREE version install. I’ve not done this YET, but will soon. My TinkerCAD needs are for 3D-Printing jigs/clamps for use with my CNC’s [carving/dragging/burning] I just got into last year.

    As far as Schematics and PCB. Well my last 25yrs as an electro-mechanical/electronics Test Engineer I was required to design/make functional test fixtures. Usually these were one/two-ups so when I needed supporting fixture circuits I would often use a service like
    that has their own schematic & PCB layout CADs as part of their package for FREE. The plus in using these type of services is they have the oldest to the latest parts in their vast libraries, you typically do not need to draw a part for use. Their goal is for you to order PCB’s (and two boards for $51 is worth it plus giving you the Gerber/NC-Drill /BOM files makes your Configuration Controllers very happy and cuts you extra support workload down significantly). For my personal project or for just documentation I use this service but save my Schematic and PCB view files (or print-to-PDF) without ordering boards.

    The biggest of issues to any CAD takes is it requires time to learn and MASTER. So is the CAD “INTUITIVE” requiring minimal/NO support? Will that CAD be around 3/5/10yrs from now? If you buy will your investment be moot in a few years and you’re tossed back to square-one being forced into another CAD? Will your NEW CAD read your old CAD files/NET-list/Parts-Libraries, so you loose nothing? Even as a HAM you hate to waste your energy/$$$.

    I highly recommend that when you complete/update any drawing you also print-to-PDF for your own records/reference. So if that online/purchased CAD disappears or changes or Windows will no longer install it (i.e. OS WinXP 8/16/32bit to Win7 32/64 bit only) you still have your work to view/reference and not become mega-*issed when you can no longer see your old CAD files – it will happen. Saving the program is not always the answer when the OS and even printers forces your hand.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: