If you’re familiar with Autodesk® Inventor and are looking to switch to another CAD software it can feel a little daunting, so here are a few handy tips for anyone looking to make the move from Autodesk Inventor to BricsCAD® Mechanical.
The good news is that the BricsCAD user interface (UI) is similar to that of most CAD software packages. You’ll find a ribbon, dockable panels such as the Mechanical Browser, Properties and Components panels and of course, the old, faithful, command line (you can hide it if you like).
The workspace is available in dark and light mode. If you switch to the BIM, modeling or 2D drafting workspaces it’s the same interface so you won’t get lost.
Commands and Features
General features, commands and sketching in BricsCAD Mechanical are similar to Autodesk Inventor and AutoCAD. You’ll find that many of the aliases you are familiar with such as REC (rectangle) and L (line) work exactly the same in BricsCAD. You can also customize your command shortcuts.
The Quad is unique to BricsCAD. It puts all the commands you need under your mouse. It’s intuitive to use, is constantly learning and can be completely customized. Once you get used to it it will save your hours!
Easy to create simple geometrical shapes
BricsCAD isn’t history-based which makes it easy to change the shape and sizes of simple and complicated models, without unforeseen consequences.
Parametric designs are easy to create and modify
BricsCAD’s comprehensive parametric tool kit makes it easy to create and modify parametric designs. Model once and create a whole range of variants without starting from scratch.
Free modeling vs History-based modeling
After working with history-based modeling in Autodesk Inventor, getting used to free modeling in BricsCAD can be tricky and BricsCAD might even seem a little disorganized and less precise at first. However just as accurate and you’ll quickly learn to love the freedom of direct modeling without constraints.
BricsCAD calculates measurements in the background whereas Autodesk Inventor brings measurements to the foreground. But don’t worry! BricsCAD is as accurate as you need it to be. You can adjust the accuracy down to 8 decimal places in the Settings dialog. (Working in a mm template gives a greater level of accuracy by default.)
You can also maintain object positions and distances with constraints. Use parameters to create a range of similar objects, without the need to start modeling again from scratch. You can even animate these parameters and export them to video.
Working with planes and surfaces
Dynamic UCS is the easiest way to draw on different orientations and planes in BricsCAD.
By default BricsCAD draws along the x,y plane. To change the drawing plane use DUCS (switch it ‘on’ in the bottom right corner). BricsCAD will automatically adjust the coordinate system to align with an entity. Hover over a face, surface or line to activate it.
During a command, hit Shift to fix the drawing plane for the duration of the command. The entity used to fix the plane will turn darker blue.
Another option is to enter the Settings dialog and turn UCS orthographic “on”. When this is switched on and the viewport lines up with an orthographic view, the coordinate system aligns with the current view. If you combine this with a 4 viewport workspace, this tool can be extremely powerful!
Warning: please remember to turn UCS orthographic “off” after you have finished!
You have many options to change the way BricsCAD looks. To change the background color you have 2 options:
Enter the Settings dialog and navigate to “Background color” (type “bkg color” in the search bar). Here you will find options to change the background, paper space (not printable, learn how to make the background, paper space color printable) grid, Quad, axis and many other colors on the BricsCAD user interface. Test it out for yourself and make BricsCAD your own!
Another option to change the background color is to type BACKGROUND into the command line. The Background dialog will appear and here you have the option to change the background to a gradient, solid color and even use an image!
Note: The Background dialog will override the background color set in the Settings dialog.
Useful Features to Learn
DMCopyFaces copies a set of 3D solid faces forming a feature (e.g. hole, rib or protrusion) to a new position on the same or another 3D solid.
DMSelect can be used in much the same way for protrusions, depressions, and more.
2D views, details and sections
BricsCAD has a selection of tools to create flat views and annotations. This is done in the paper space area. Scale can be adjusted during or after view creation. Use the Properties panel to adjust the scale retrospectively.
Note: The view style can not be adjusted on views created with the ViewBase command, unless they are imported as Isometric Geometry.
Bill of Materials Panel
The new BOM (Bill of Materials) Panel allows you to create and manage your BOMs and then insert them into your drawings.
In BricsCAD rectangular patterns are created with the Rectangular Array (ArrayRect) command. This tool doesn’t have a dialog box. The spacing is manually adjusted in the Command line. You also have the option to edit arrays at a later date with the Properties Panel or using the Quad. When using the Quad, hold Ctrl to access options to edit and delete individual items in an array.
Tip: Use the Dynamic Dimension boxes for higher accuracy.
Importing other file formats
All editions of BricsCAD export drawings and models in ACIS, DWG, 2D PDF, and a variety of raster formats. Rhino and SketchUp are also supported by BricsCAD Platinum licenses and higher. To import different file types in BricsCAD you’ll need to download the Communicator for BricsCAD.
Currently, this support:
Imports: ACIS, STPZ, STP, STEP, IGS, IGES, CATIA V4, VDA-FS (.vda), Creo Elements/Pro Engineer, PARASOLID, XCGM, PRT, JT, SolidEdge, SLDASM, SLDPRT, CATIA V5, IAM, IPT,
Exports: ACIS, STP, STEP, IGS, IGES, CATIA V4, VDA-FS, 3D PDF, CATIA V5, XCGM
Drawing views of your assemblies generated with ViewBase contain thread annotations for standard parts as thin lines for side views, and as a 270-degree thin arc for top/bottom views.
Symbols for indicating surface finish, weld annotations, etc. need to be drawn manually. It is possible to store custom MLeader styles and use these to create custom library annotations. There are also a large number of 3rd party apps available in the Bricsys App store that can solve this for you.
Disclaimer: All brand names and product names mentioned in this post are trademarks or service marks of their respective companies, including Autodesk® and AutoCAD®.