18 March 2013

Alibre Design 2013 Preview - The Best Alibre Ever

The folks over at Alibre USA have been hard at work at what looks to be the best release ever of their flagship CAD software. Alibre is the defacto CAD software for low-cost parametric 3D mechanical part and assembly design in Australia. Priced modestly from A$220 for the base hobby user package to A$2200 for the top-end version including motion simulation, direct editing, variant design and direct reading of CATIA and Unigraphics files, Alibre is a more viable option than SolidWorks or Inventor for smaller budgets. Alibre 2013 will introduce literally hundreds of improvements in all areas of 3D modelling, assembly design, 2D drafting and section views, sheet metal design, bill of material and more. The overview document Alibre has provided to CADDIT Australia listing these enhancements is 59 pages long. Here are some highlights:

USER INTERACTION CONSISTENCY: In previous versions of Alibre, CRTL and SHIFT multiselect treated were differently in the various modes of Alibre. Alibre 2013 now uniformly implements multi-selection in the Design Explorer and Work Area, using Ctrl and Shift. More commands can also be applied to multiple objects in a single operation such as anchor, hide, suppress, align and scale view etc. Right-click behaviour has also been improved to ALWAYS show the options that are available to all selected items. (Previously there were cases where a right-click actually deselected all selected items.) "Apply" buttons have been added to numerous dialogue boxes so that changes can be seen before leaving many commands. Conflict visibility has been improved, dragging the "Dog Bone" has been fixed, real-time measurement data now appears in the status bar, some menu items have been consolidated, even the licensing dialogues have enjoyed some housekeeping. There is now a much more consistent user experience with the overall interface of Alibre. This is good new to those using Alibre for their everyday mechanical design work :)

UNDER THE HOOD: Alibre 2013 will be powered by Dassault's new ACIS V23 kernel, released six months ago (see announcement here). This means better modelling and problem-solving on the geometry level of Alibre. STEP file export includes multi-part assembly and drawing "packaging" (somewhat similar to progeCAD "eTransmit"), STL publishing for 3D printing enjoys better support for binary STL, and control of the STL data.

SKETCHING AND PART MODELLING: Sketching performance is significantly improved and more responsive, especially when zoomed in. Dimensions can now be placed between concentric arcs and circles to define the difference in their radii. All disjoint ends of a sketch (caused by DXF or DWG import, etc) are automatically healed when the active Sketch is exited. User is no longer prompted that sketch problems exist when only Disjoint Ends exist, as they are automatically healed. Pressing Escape while in 2D Sketch Mode now make the Select tool active. User can now import Points from a CSV file into a 2D Sketch as well as for 3D sketches. User can also designate any 2D dimension to be Driven during dimension placement or after dimension placement by modifying the dimension. Driven dimensions update in real-time as figures are moved or further define objects in the sketch. Driven dimensions can also designated to show up in the Equation Editor as a parameter. This effectively enables use dimensions from one part in another part. For part modelling itself, the THREAD tool has been improved with drop-down menus of thread definitions.

OTHER IMPROVEMENTS: In this blitz review of the upcoming release of Alibre 2013 we haven't even started to discuss what's new in Assembly design, drafting, sheet metal, BOM, third-party bonuses etc and this article would be WAY to long to include them all. There is one improvement we picked from sheet metal we wanted to mention here. There will be a brand new tool which allows designers to create sheetmetal bend lines directly from a sketch, complete with rips. These bend lines are used to fold a tab or flange. This is particularly useful if you are trying to recreate a sheet metal part from an imported 2D drawing of a flat pattern:

It is important to note that Alibre Design 2013 will not support Windows XP, except for general how-to questions unrelated to anything in the operating system. Users really need to be using Alibre 2013 on a computer running at least Windows Vista or newer. Users choosing to remain back with Alibre 2012 on Windows XP and on active subscription will continue to be supported. For further information about this upcoming release of Alibre 2013 in Australia contact CADDIT.net (link). A further announcement will be posted here when the software is availble for download and trial.

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