"Crescit enim cum aplitudine rerum vis ingenii"

Publius Cornelius Tacitus



CAD - computer aided design

  • - model (draw, render, animate, simulate, ...) a possible final project, and post it on your class page with original 2D and 3D files.
  • - difference of 2d and 3d
There are many applications for 2D and 3D and the time is really short to have a look at all for this weeks assignment. Thus I took a few tools to make a little review and maybe add the one or the other to my favorite tools. I have to make clear that, at least for me, it's not a complete review on the tools. I'm just scratching the surface of each tool and all statements are based on my own personal needs and habits. Just keep this in mind. Thank you.

Before I start with the tools I want to define the difference between raster(pixel) and vector.Pixels are the smallest controllable element of an image. pixel stands for picture element. And the raster format is perfect suitable for realistic images like photos less for illustration. The raster format is resolution dependable, that means if a raster image has to be resized to a lorger size the quality will suffer. While the vector format, as a mathematical function is resolution independent. Meaning that a vector file can be scaled up unlimited. Vector are used mainly for illustrations. Another detail is the file size - vector files are quite small regardless the size of the design, where raster documents depending on the physical size and the basic resolution can reach up to certain hundreds megabyte.

2D Software

(vector based)
My 'line-up' for the vectorbased 2D tools contains: Adobe Illustrator, Affinity Designer, Inkscape (which I'm going to keep for use in the future) the rasterbased tools are: Affinity Photo, Krita, Adobe Photoshop and the tools for 3D are: Rhino, Freecad, Autodesk Fusion 360 and finally Dassault Solidworks.
That selection covers the range from 2D to 3D and gives me the chance to see the difference between certain applications nevertheless they are designed for the same purpose. That gets me to the point that 'the perfect' tools doesn't exist because the habits and needs of each user are different.

The Adobe tools are de facto standard so I assume that I don't need to introduce them in any way - I'll jump straight to the 'alternatives' because of their capabilities and/or costs.

Affinity Designer

I'll start with the application Affinity Designer. AD is quite impressive because of its power, speed and really 'cool' features. Despite the fact of it's capabilities like constraints, asset management, export- and import formats it needs suprisingly very little memory. It is also fascinating fast comparing to other applications. I don't have to mention that this tool together with Inkscape will form my new favorite team for 2-dimensional graphics & illustrations.

The Handling and the shortcuts are illustrator-like, so anybody who's switching from Adobe's Illustrator won't have much trouble.
This is a sequence from a larger ad clip just to get a first impression...


Coming now to Inkscape is a free and open source scallable vector graphics editor that is available for all platforms and I have to admit I'm honestly surprised about the functionality and quality Inkscape is coming along. Despite the, to my opinion, not up to date UI I could not say what I would miss right now. Inkscape has many functions to create, manipulate, align and distribute vector elements
Also to mention especially for the use within FabLabs is the implementation of the extension 'Gcodetools'
Gcodetools extension in Inkscape

Here is a overview of Inkscape's tool sets

Here I designed an illustration in Affinity Designer for use in my next weeks assignment. It is a 2d vector file. This is mandatory for using any tools for cutting. The tool/proocessor needs vector aka paths to follow for any cutting or milling actions. In the following screenshots can be seen very clearly the nature of vector files. The so called outline preview shows just the edeges of any design that is made within the application and no infills.

alt here is the vectorfile that I made for my logo...
alt ...and this is the fiel that I'm goint ot use for my next weeks assignment...

2D Software

(raster based)
Rasterbased Software like Adobe Photoshop is mainly used for editing realistic images (Photos). During the last years since the emerging of 3D modeling & animation tools like Maya, Cinema4D, Blender etc. rasterbased applications are used for finalizing the textures of the rendered models. I had a look at some representatives of this tool family like: Gimp, Krita Affinity Photo. ALso here the same situation as with the illustration section.
After I had a testdrive with the tools my first impression is that GIMP is definitely the opensource twin from Photoshop. Nearly the same functionality as the the commercial one but an user interface that takes a while to get used to it. That means that you can do anything with Gimp what you do with Photoshop.


KRITA at first glance is the right tool for users with a graphic tablet, not as a counterpart to GIMP or Photoshop more an extension. It provides the user with a big library of brushes to use with a pen. Also the included document templates pointing to illustrative actions comic & Manga artist to name. The advantage of this tool, because of its focus for comic artist, is not overloaded and therfore it loadsand reacts fast.

Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo is relatively new on the market. As its vector twin Affinity Designer it is clearly a counter part to Photoshop. And it leaves the same impression as AD did. Fast, innovative and compatible to Photoshop for less money.
  Affinity Photo

3D applications

Autodesk Fusion

Following is a simple workflow in Autodesk Fusion, I started with the sketching tool for designing the front view of my object. This way guarantees that I have full control over my object because of the parametric capabilities. I could have done the design also with primitive forms within Fusions, but then some of the parametric features won't be available - so we've been told.

The orginal files will available for download on the bottom of the page.

I started with the sketching, assigned the dimension so that I could easily change the values. Where it was neccessary it defined constraints to keep the relation of my sketch. I sketched out only half of my object because both sides are symmetric so I will mirror the opposite part later.
At this point I have to say, that I usually grab a pen and start sketching "the old way", because this gives me the chance "to play" around to find 'the' right form. But as I was asked to sketch my (possible) final project I choosed the 2D sketching capabilities of Autodesks Fusion because of it's parametric and constraints features.

On this step I took my sketch and extruded it to the desired depth with the pull/push command. It looked as it should so I was lucky not to go back and change any values. Now the next step was, as I mentioned before, mirroring the first part to assemble the complete object.

The ready assembled frame looked good until now. To continue I had to design now the front and the rear cover.

Herfore I selected the inner sketch and offset it about 1mm(.04") and extruded it to the frontwall of my object. So I checked the size and the fitting of the front plate. After this I copied/mirrored the wall for the rear side.

Above an animated exploding view of the case

Resumee: Fusion360 is an CAD tool that comes as an 'all in one' package. It has a clean user interface, that is uptodate and it is also crossplatform available. What I have noticed is that sometimes I have trouble with the management of the different constraints. It has all the functionality of cad tools like solidworks and inventor just a bit different organized. To name some remarkable functions like simulation and animation (exploding an assembly)not to forget the included CAM modul.
I like the way I can work with Fusion and I think I'm going to stick with it but I will also give Solidworks and Freecad a try just for comparison.


Rhino is a 3d modeller with a different approach as Fusion or Solidworks or even Freecad. The first difference that I noticed is that Rhino is not parametric. At least not without special plugins. The second difference ist Rhino is a NURBS modeler. Nurbs stands for Non-Uniform Rational B-Splines meaning that Rhino is a free-form modeler perfect for smooth and organic lookalike design.

The following screenshots are showing a similar workflow in Rhino as I did before in Fusion. A disadvantage of Rhino is defintely the missing history/timeline. This makes it difficult or even impossible to apply changes to a finished model.


Another approach for a cad tool is Antimony made by Matt Keeter. Antimony is based on a node system where the design process/modeling is done by connecting different nodes together. Each node is a container for a mathematical function: for example one node has the function for creating circles with all the values (as variables) that are needed. We add a second node with the function of extrusion to it and now we connect the node with the circle to the extrusion node and the result is a cylindrical object controlled by the values we put in the nodes circle diameter and extrudion distance etc...


I don't think that I will use Antimony in everyday work, but I do like the workflow with the node system. It reminds me on the parametric plugin Grasshopper for Rhino, therefor I'm going to keep an eye on it.


Fab Academy 2017
FabLab Kamp-Lintfort Germany