Friday, December 15, 2006

DeltaCAD - A Useful Tool

In December of 1995 I was standing in line at the check-out counter of the CompUSA store in Escondido, California. It was a few days before Christmas and the place was packed, the registers apparently manned by people who’d never seen one before. The lines inched along beside the ‘bargain’ tables; software from companies I’d never heard of, most of it junk. Trapped in the check-out line, we sifted through the debris of progress.

‘The World’s Easiest CAD Software!’ caught my eye. I was trying to learn CAD in order to transmit drawings via the internet. The program was called ‘DeltaCAD’ (version 1.0) and CompUSA had it marked-down to a fraction of its original price. Reading the box, it sounded less complex than the CAD program I was struggling to master and I bought a copy, thinking it might help me learn the hard stuff by starting with something easier.

Ten years later, I've tossed AutoCAD, TurboCAD and WhateverCAD in the trash. DeltaCAD has done everything I’ve asked of it in the way of drawings, from a full set of plans for a seven-room house to the tumbler-bridle of a flintlock rifle. It has proven invaluable in the shop, producing lay-outs with an accuracy of better than 0.001" from an inexpensive Hewlett-Packard printer. When fed to a laser printer, it has produced intricate circuit boards. Now in version 6.0, DeltaCAD has proven to be the smartest money I've ever spent for software.

As a drafting tool, there’s lots of stuff DeltaCAD can’t do, such as 3-D, G-code generation for CNC and so forth. But for forty dollars it handles at least 95% of the chores other folks do with CAD software costing ten times as much and usually produces a more compact file, allowing for the quick transmission of even the largest drawings. The software itself is equally compact, allowing it to run on older systems, such as the desk-tops many of us have relegated to the shop.

Mention 'CAD' and people tend to thing of machines but the term means 'Computer Aided Drafting' and that means every kind of drawing, such as the compass rose shown at the right.

If that compass were installed in an airplane there is a legal requirement that it be accompanied by a Compass Correction Card. The size of a business card, the friendly folks at the local FBO will sell you one for about five bucks because everyone knows all pilots are rich, right?

Most folks who build their own airplanes put their nation's flag on the tail. I used DeltaCAD for that particular chore.

DeltaCAD has also proven very handy around the shop, where I've used it to create copies of useful tables, such as bend allowances, drill sizes and so forth.

There's no secret to marksmanship. Some folks are better shots than others but the key to maintaining whatever skills you have is practice. Skeet is fun albeit a bit over-organized. Paper plates, poker chips and even blocks of wood make handy targets for instinctive shooting. But it all begins with punching holes in paper. Once a youngster has mastered the basic skills they can move on to whatever type of shooting they find most enjoyable. Or not.

The targets below are produced by a laser printer then glued to cardboard and installed in a pellet-catcher. All of the drawings shown here -- and several hundred others -- were made by me using DeltaCAD. The drawings may be of any size; the compass correction card is about 1.5" x 2" wheres the rib below was four feet long.

The software supporting this blog is oriented more toward the chat-room than the machine shop and does a poor job with technical illustrations. But the range of examples shown here should make it clear that CAD is an enormously useful tool, its application limited only by your imagination.

-Bob Hoover

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