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MCAD Update: VX, Alibre

I don’t write much about the latest mechanical CAD news, because others (like Deelip) already do it better than I can.  But, since I write a lot about affordable MCAD, it’s time for a brief update on two players:

  • Alibre has replaced the $97 Design Standard with the $99 Personal Edition.  The PE is useless for my uses (such as modeling PCBs) because it won’t import or export STEP or IGES files, although at least you still can do a basic file export to 3D PDF.
    • The cheapest version that can handle STEP files is Design Professional, which is currently $599; Alibre’s price do move around a lot.  Since Alibre runs a lot of specials, especially for existing customers (e.g. PE or Standard users), you should be able to upgrade for less if you wait a while.
    • But I’m very happy Alibre is keeping the Standard edition alive for current users.  I plan on staying on maintenance as long as Alibre continues to provide Standard upgrades.
  • VX dropped the VX Innovator and Innovator Light products a while ago without saying anything at all.  So if you’re interested in Innovator, well, too bad.
  • My guess is that this is related to the news that China’s ZWCAD ZWSOFT (maker of the ZWCAD AutoCAD clone) has bought VX; VX will be staying in Florida, but the VX product line will become ZW3D, possibly with significantly lower prices.

September 2, 2010   No Comments

The SolidWorks World Effect? Alibre’s Lower Prices, VX 50% Sale

SolidWorks World 2010 just finished.  Maybe it’s a coincidence, maybe it’s not, but at the start of SolidWorks World Alibre announced “permanent” lower prices (no guarantees they won’t change prices again, but I suspect they’ll stay the same for a while).  And VX has just about everything 50% off until March 1.

Alibre’s prices now include Alibre Translate (which was $499).  (Alibre pricing info via World CAD Access).

Alibre Product Base Price Annual Maintenance With Maintenance
Design Standard $97 $97 $194
Design Professional $497 $147 $644
Design Expert $997 $197 $1197

VX’s current sale (through March 1, 2010) is VX Innovator for $495, VX Designer for $2000, VX Mold & Die for $3000, VX 3D Machinist for $4000, and VX End To End for $5000.

VX definitely looks more capable than Alibre, but it’s significantly more expensive (including, I’m sure, the annual maintenance fees).  So far, I’ve been able to do some things in VX Innovator I can’t do in Alibre, but Alibre has very few license restrictions.  For example, VX Innovator limits assembly creation to 40 parts maximum (it can import models with more), while Alibre Design Standard does not have any hard limits.  Also, Alibre lets you install Design on up to three computers, which is very nice for those of us with multiple PCs.

I think that if you do anything with 3D solid modeling (not surfacing), then Alibre is definitely worth a look due to its low price, lack of artificial limits, and good import/export options (especially now with Alibre Translate).  If Alibre can improve the ease of use, maybe it can become what SpaceClaim originally claimed to be: MCAD for the rest of us (non-designers), people who need to occasionally work with 3D, but aren’t designing complex parts all day long.

Right now, I’m still sticking with Alibre Design Standard V11 and VX Innovator; if I do a lot of CAD this year, I’ll look at upgrading to Alibre V12.

NOTE: Updated 2/4/10 to reflect Max Freeman’s comment.

February 3, 2010   9 Comments

Mechanical CAD, Special Deals, and Me

When I look at my traffic stats, I see there’s a lot of interest in affordable mechanical CAD.  I think that interest is good: I do not believe in pirating software, and I believe there is a place for affordable MCAD (and affordable CAM for desktop CNC machines), especially for personal use and as a tool for people who aren’t primarily mechanical designers.

I own licenses of Alibre Design Standard V11 (which I bought during the $99 sale) and VX Innovator V14 (which I bought on sale for $195).  I also have free licenses for DoubleCAD XT and CoCreate PE.

I mainly plan on using Alibre and VX Innovator, and reporting my experiences here.  They are somewhat complimentary; Alibre is a pretty standard history-based parametric modeler (with some nice features such as Acrobat 3D output), and VX is a hybrid modeler (solid and surface).

DoubleCAD looks very capable for 2D CAD, but I don’t expect to use it a lot.  I mainly use it for viewing and experimenting with DXF files created by Eagle PCB.

I do like CoCreate PE, but don’t plan on using it much now that I have Alibre Design and VX Innovator.  It’s limited to 60 parts per assembly, which I could easily exceed when modeling a PCB, and cannot export STEP files.  PTC has offered some very big discounts in the past to upgrade to the full version, but the annual maintenance  cost is way too high for my budget.

However, this is not a MCAD blog; my interest in still primarily in automation software and system integration (including PCBs).  OK, I do plan on writing more, but mostly I want to write about my experiences with affordable MCAD.  I do not have the time or interest to keep up with all the latest deals.  But I still might mention deals or MCAD news occasionally.

If you want to keep up on the latest special offers, you should visit MCAD sites such as and World CAD Access.  Also, if you register for the free versions (e.g. Alibre Design Xpress, CoCreate PE, DoubleCAD XT) you will receive e-mail offers.

Alibre has had a lot of good deals (maybe too many).  I’m currently sticking with V11 because I haven’t used it enough, and the improvements in V12 aren’t compelling for my uses.

VX had another sale on VX Innovator around Christmas, but they aren’t as good at marketing as Alibre; if you’re interested in a deal on VX, you should check their web store frequently.

Kubotek has had some sales, too, such as Kubotek Spectrum for $99; current deals include $700 off KeyCreator.

My latest MCAD news is here.

January 14, 2010   3 Comments

Expiring MCAD Deals: VX Innovator 9/4, Alibre 9/29

Update 9/9/09: VX Innovator is now $295 (Americas, India, Africa) until September 30, 2009.  Check here for my latest MCAD news.

Since I’ve been posting a lot about affordable Mechanical CAD software, here’s an update on two great deals:

  • Alibre’s $99 offer for Design Standard V11.2 ends on September 29, 2009; also on sale for $99 are Alibre Translate and Alibre Training Bundle.  The maintenance contract is still $299, and includes the upgrade to V12 (due on 9/29/09).
  • Time to give some attention to VX Innovator: it’s on sale for $195 until September 4, 2009 for Americas, India, and Africa (with a note that price will increase to $295 — we’ll see if that’s a permanent price cut).

I’ ve been playing with Innovator for the past couple days, and will probably buy it, too.  Some initial comments:

  • I’ve had problems installing it on two XP systems, but did get it to install on a Vista (yuck!) system.
  • There’s not much about it on the web.  I’ve tried searching for VX topics, and had a hard time coming up with useful results;  there’s much more information available on Alibre and CoCreate.
  • I was able to get it do some basic stuff without reading the manual, but with a fair amount of fiddling; overall, I’d say it’s not too difficult to use.
  • It can do some things Alibre can’t do, and works in a very different manner (which is good — if it was very similar to Alibre, Solidworks, Solid Edge, etc I wouldn’t be interested).

BTW, I’m not interested in running cracked copies of software (e.g. Solidworks).  I’m interested in using software that’s affordable for anyone to use commercially, and I think that companies that produce good software should be rewarded.

September 2, 2009   No Comments