The High Pro Glow

Welcome! The topics introduced in this blog will vary wildly. Here, you will find a lot of odd topics that are here to help somebody in need. I post off-beat information, hard to find history, & stuff that is otherwise seldom regurgitated in our modern place. Sit back & find something interesting. Comment if you have a need or suggestion.

Thank you for crossing paths!

Christopher R. Smith (aka. Littlehorn)

I've got it on! Have you got it on?

Friday, June 12, 2015

SnapCAD..Virtual Building for the VEX IQ System - Download Free!

SnapCAD for the VEX IQ System..Went Live Today! Download it for free from... SnapCAD

Please, see the instructions on the download page and more in the Help File inside SnapCAD. 
Much appreciation goes to the folks at VEX Robotics, to Philippe Philo Hurbain, the LDraw Community, and Michael Lachmann.
Let me know how you like it. It has been a long hard road to make this happen. Now, some of us can sleep for a few minutes.

--What is SnapCAD?

SnapCAD is free Computer-Aided Design software enabling users to design and create a virtual VEX IQ assembly or robot and produce printable, shareable building instructions. SnapCAD also enables design exploration when access to real parts is limited. The SnapCAD virtual parts library includes all of the VEX IQ building elements and never runs out. Use SnapCAD to document models that have been built with real parts, use it to test a novel idea in the virtual world before building it physically, or render and share creations with the world in the form of step-by-step building instructions! No usage license is required by educators.

The process of creating a new model consists of repeating a few actions in a sequence. Generally, start by finding a part and placing it into a drawing area, add a few more parts connecting them together, and add a step command. Step commands break up the model into steps to show how a model is constructed. For example...add a few parts, add a step command, add a few more parts, add another step command, a few more parts, a step command...and so on until a model is fully constructed. This is a simple example of the process. Read the rest of the helpful information about SnapCAD's powerful functions needed to complete detailed building instructions in the Help File via “Help > Help Topics” from the top menu bar.

--SnapCAD Background

SnapCAD is based on MLCad (and the LDraw-based standard). It is almost a direct rebranding..though, SnapCAD was custom built by Michael Lachmann (creator of MLCad) for VEX Robotics and the IQ system and has very unique changes & enhancements. We chose MLCad because it is small, simple, proven stable, powerful, created files can be used in other rendering tools, and most importantly..can be installed very quickly/easily on any Windows PC. It can be maintained and supported by VEX easily. Michael Lachmann (creator of MLCad) recreated SnapCAD for us. Master LDraw Parts Guru, Philippe 'Philo' Hurbain converted the VEX IQ parts for the SnapCAD virtual parts library and also worked through many other aspects that control the software. I am the SnapCAD Project Coordinator and a very experienced MLCad user with over 15 years CAD’ing and rendering for books. In March 2014 I asked Philo to convert the VEX IQ part files released online by VEX in same month. VEX later noticed what we had at the VEX IQ Super Users booth at the VEX Robotics World Championship 2014. VEX mentioned that they wanted to offer something simple that anyone with a computer could record their own robot designs and share them with other users. VEX is releasing SnapCAD free and no usage license is required by educators.

--What are the differences between SnapCAD and MLCad?

While SnapCAD is built from MLCad and are functionally the same they are still very different. Primarily, SnapCAD is optimized for use only with the new VEX IQ/SnapCAD parts library. New default SnapCAD settings, a new custom color palette, and part group categories were required to handle the new VEX IQ parts library to help users build quickly and easily. VEX wanted to release a package that contained everything users need to create VEX IQ models easily using almost any computer.

--How different is the SnapCAD Parts Library from other LDraw parts libraries?

The SnapCAD Parts Library was converted by Philippe "Philo" Hurbain from VEX's own official CAD STEP files modeled to create the real IQ elements. Not only are the SnapCAD parts different from other LDraw parts libraries (and the original 2014 VEX IQ parts library developed by Philo and offered on his website)..each part in the new VEX IQ Parts Library has a custom part origin (the 3D part centers which control part alignment). New users will benefit from using this new library together with SnapCAD to create IQ models very quickly while reducing the need to tweak part positions after they are added to a build window. Basically, the parts 'snap' into place within the grid. However, this 'snap' action is not like some other CAD program that use a “locked-snap” function when connecting to other elements. SnapCAD offers more flexibility in model rendering. This type of functionality does not prevent alignment mishaps but it does greatly reduce such problems. Part over-lap can occur. This offers the freedom to create odd part arrangements or special layouts sometimes needed for many different reasons. 

--Can the VEX IQ/SnapCAD Parts Library be used with other LDraw rendering tools?

Yes! However, the rendering tool must be corrected for VEX IQ part placement and grid movements. Colors will also need correction. Additionally, if users wish to produce high definition images or building instructions with other tools each must be set to locate and use the actual VEX IQ SnapCAD Parts Library. More information about using these programs will be presented in the future.

--Regarding "Snapping" virtual parts in SnapCAD

"Snapping" has been a deep desire of many users of these types of CAD programs for a long time. However, many software implementations have hindered the purpose by being too bloated or difficult to use. Some programs have strictly used snapping of parts and that has many undesirable drawbacks for some of the veteran users. An on/off snapping function would be the best method for some specific reasons. So, SnapCAD compromises to aid beginner users and satisfy veteran users by utilizing an adjustable grid which positions parts being moved into and around a virtual model. Movements of parts in an adjustable grid is like snapping but will also enable users to position parts in a more flexible way when needed and that need is evident when users build their own real-world model in any CAD program. To explain this a bit further…Problems arise when virtually rendering a real model with a CAD program using a locked true-snapping function. The main reason is that it is common for real VEX IQ constructions to have parts that were connected under some stress or flexed condition ("off-pitch"). Real VEX IQ parts (and every other brand) have a bit of flexibility which none of these CAD programs can replicate perfectly. So, if there is a flexed part in the real world model...the same cannot be rendered perfectly in the virtual CAD environment...especially, if the program uses only true-snapping functionality. This is why we chose a method utilizing an adjustable movement grid while still offering the greater ability for users to create (and complete) their virtual model even if an off-pitch alignment exists in their real-life model. True-Snapping will not allow misalignments to be achieved and that could prevent you from completing a virtual rendering. SnapCAD will allow you to complete building instructions with an accurate part list for a rendered model. Even if some 'fudging" is hiding visually.

This is not the only reason why SnapCAD is a great option across a large and diverse user demographic. More insight will be discussed later.

If anyone wants to ask me something email is: the.littlehorn (at) gmail (dot) com


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