Merging modern software development with electrons and metal
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Sometimes Paper Is Better Than Tech

If you’re one of the elite few who has followed my blog for a while, you know that I like quality pens, pencils, and paper, as well as technology such as 3D Mechanical CAD.

I’ve been working on the electrical portion of a new machine, and this week I started on the layout.  We normally let our tech do the final layout since he does the actual wiring, but I need to make sure everything will fit, and with his help, want to get as close as possible to the final arrangement.  (Ideally, I want to work with our mechanical engineer and tech to get all the DIN rail and component holes placed correctly, because it’s a lot better when these holes are made by the sheet metal shop.)

I thought about trying to use 3D MCAD, but decided instead to cut sheets of vellum to match the panel size, and print life size profiles of the various components.  (I used vellum because I can easily tape and re-tape the cutouts to it).

This approach works well because:

  • I don’t have to create 3D models.  Some manufacturers do not supply 3D models.  Using 2D prints, I can use a PDF (by using Print View and scaling the output – thanks Adobe!), a 2D file such as DXF or DWG, or 3D (by scaling the print or creating a projection).
  • It’s much quicker to move the component prints around.
  • And, to be honest, I like the tactile touch of moving the paper cut-outs around and that everything is life size, not downsized on a smaller computer monitor.

Doing a full 3D model does have some advantages; working in 2D, I have to make sure I accommodate how deep the components are.  But even in 3D, you have to add extra space for hard to model items like cables.

1 comment

1 Daniel { 04.24.15 at 2:12 am }

Sometimes, the easy way is the best way.

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