Alibre Design 2011 Personal Edition
Alibre Design 2011 Personal Edition: CAD Software Slightly Simplified
- Inexpensive; Exports files that you can send to online machine shops; Parts are easy to find online
- Difficult learning curve; Undo command is often unavailable; Still a 32-bit application
Very challenging to learn, but interesting and rewarding once you get the hang of it, especially with the aid of online machinists.
Price$ 115.00 (AUD)
When I make stuff—regardless of the material I use—I start by creating a rough sketch of my idea using pencil and paper, and then I launch into the project, typically spending a great deal of time revising and fixing mistakes. In the future, however, I may try to design some projects in Alibre Design 2011 Personal Edition to save time and frustration on the back end. That is, if I can ever master this hobbyist-level CAD program.
I looked at the shipping version of Alibre Design PE ($115 as of January 4, 2011), which is a teaser app for Alibre's $809 Professional and $1620 Expert versions. The more-expensive versions have more tools, include parts libraries, and let you import or export more file formats (from other programs, for example). With this latest edition, the pricier versions are native 64-bit applications, whereas Design PE is still a 32-bit application.
Alibre says that most users won't come close to the RAM limits imposed by the 32-bit application, unless they create something with thousands of parts. I never ran into any RAM issues, but my models were relatively simple. According to Alibre, the new version offers faster 2D editing, too; I can't confirm that assertion, but the application was certainly fast on the two systems that I used it on—and one of them was a notebook with integrated graphics.
My models contained few parts because I'm a 3D novice. I took drafting classes (eons ago), and I'm pretty good with Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, and other 2D design applications, but Alibre Design requires conceptualizing and implementing designs in three planes, and its tools and controls are much different from the ones I'm accustomed to. Math, geometry, and occasionally trigonometry come into play.
Design PE does not stand in relation to a high-end CAD application the way Adobe Photoshop Elements does to Adobe Photoshop Pro CS5. Though Alibre provides a few video tutorials and a lengthy list of text tutorials, Design PE is essentially a high-end CAD program with some features stripped away. I usually endorse that approach with software—because I'd rather learn to use the good stuff than eventually hit a capabilities ceiling—but I found Alibre's application difficult to learn. I suspect that most people who lack 3D design experience will feel the same way, though Alibre says average folks can get the hang of it, and fans of the application aren't hard to find. A large group of people who use it hang out at a company-sponsored site, alibrepowered.com.
Table lamp design created in Alibre Design 2011 PE.That's not to say the application impossible to learn. I stuck with it and eventually created a table lamp model that might have saved me significant time, wood, and aggravation if I had had the model on hand last summer when I actually built the lamp. When Design PE worked as I expected it to, it was very gratifying. See, math isn't so hard!
But frequently, the application didn't work as I expected it to. One of the most important concepts in 3D design is the idea of establishing "constraints"—defining the way parts or pieces relate to each other, to an axis, or to a plane. I tried to set the pieces of my lamp vertically around the Y axis so that they would line up consistently, and I "mated" the underside of one piece to the top of the piece below it, which means that they would stick together when constructed. Unfortunately, when I rotated the view, the pieces often unmated, flying off to distant reaches of the canvas, where I'd have to go to retrieve them. The Alibre rep I spoke to explained that I needed to activate a setting for each piece in my lamp assembly and then align each of their axes with the master assembly's Y axis. It makes sense once you try it—but small, crucial details like that often threw me.
You can create a bill of goods that lists all of your pieces.Design PE has several work modes, including new part, new sheet-metal part, new assembly (composed of multiple parts files), multiview drawing (suitable for printing), and bill of materials. When I tried to insert multiple parts into an assembly, the application let me select them from a window; but then it reported that the parts weren't "found," and asked whether I would like to replace my selection(s). This time, the Alibre rep explained that I had erred by creating copies in the Windows file system; I was supposed to use Save As within the application. The copying approach doesn't seem to cause problems for other applications, though.
When I made mistakes, I usually retreated from them via the undo command—but that command often was grayed out because the app limits undos to stacks of operations. For example, if you stay in 2D sketch mode, you can readily undo anything you've been doing within that mode; but once you leave 2D sketch mode, your ability to undo any earlier work there is gone. Alibre says that the application is far more complicated than applications like Microsoft Word, and I see the point—but Adobe Photoshop is pretty darn complicated, and it offers many levels of undo and the ability to remove individual operations nonlinearly. An application that involves using many steps to create fine details would benefit from supplying a more typical undo scheme.
One of Design PE's new features is an in-place editing framework. You can right-click to gain access to context-sensitive commands, freeing you from having to use the menus for some work. But you'll still have to click lots of icons (which are tiny and unlabeled), enter data into dialog boxes, and switch and enable editing modes frequently. Once you get used to the program, you'll have a better sense of how and when to use all these commands and boxes, but it's still a symphony of many small operations.
In addition to exercising your math skills, you can use Design PE to produce printable designs to guide you in your own workshop; or you can send your finished creations to a business that accepts one of the app's exportable file formats and have it machine your design. Alibre suggested Ponoko.com and Shapeways.com.
Need creative inspiration? You can download compatible, premade parts and then insert them into your own assemblies and edit from there. I found many free parts files on Lynxmotion.com and TracePartsOnline.
Alibre Design PE has a large enough feature set and a low enough price to make it a worthwhile investment—if you're willing to invest the time and brain cells necessary to learn how to use it. People who prefer that their software titles begin with "My" or end with "for Dummies" might want to steer clear.
Join the newsletter!
WD MY PASSPORT™ X Gaming Storage
Panasonic OLED 4K Ultra HD TV - TH-55EZ950U
Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44
Panasonic OLED 4K Ultra HD TV - TH-77EZ1000U
WD MY PASSPORT™ Gaming Storage
Apple iPhone X
Nespresso Creatista Coffee Machine
SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™
Dyson Supersonic™ Hair Dryer Fuchsia/Iron
Bang and Olufsen BeoVision 14
Toys for Boys
iRobot Roomba 980 Vaccum Cleaning Robot
WD MY CLOUD™ HOME Personal Cloud Storage
Dearear Endear In-ear Wireless Earphones
Xbox One X
Amazon Echo Bluetooth Speaker
Toffee Bags Commuter Satchel
Panasonic Hi-Fi - SC-UA7GS-K
Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K
PETKIG Go Smart Dog Leash
Panasonic Portable Splashproof Fun - RF-D20U
Urbanworx Full HD Action Camera
Kogan Bluetooth Soundbar
Ikea NORDMÄRKE Wireless Charging Pad
Raspberry Pi Starter Kit
Lexon Flip Alarm Clock
Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Huawei Mate 10 Pro Review: A solid winter flagship that cribs from the best
- 2 Google Pixel 2 review: not quite 'pixel perfect' but damn close
- 3 Huawei Nova 2i review: Flagship features get smuggled into the mid-tier
- 4 Moto X4 review: This is what a world without MotoMods looks like
- 5 Giabyte Aorus X9 Gaming Laptop review: Full, in-depth review
Latest News Articles
- Microsoft delves deeper into AI with new kit bag of tools
- Samsung unifies smart-home products with Bixby 2.0
- Dropbox go pro with Dropbox Profesional
- Intel launches AI-driven anti-money laundering solution
- Nvidia unveils Pegasus, an AI computer that can power fully autonomous vehicles
PCW Evaluation Team
Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.
The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.
The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.
The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic
I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.
It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.
- Huawei Mate 10 Pro review
- Dell Inspiron 5675 Gaming Desktop review
- Hands On: Our first impressions of Sony's a7R III
- What's the difference between an Intel Core i3, i5 and i7?
- Laser vs. inkjet printers: which is better?
Product Launch Showcase
- CCAndroid developerNSW
- FTPractice Director DevelopmentSA
- FTData ModellingACT
- FTMid-Senior PHP DeveloperNSW
- FTPMO Project Coordinator, Multiple projectsOther
- FTCustomer & Sales Support Associate - TelecommunicationsOther
- TPEL1 Business AnalystACT
- CCSCCM EngineerNSW
- CCI&CS Communications LeadVIC
- CCITSM Integration Solution ArchitectNSW
- FTWorkspace/ Workplace Lead/ Manager - ABW environmentOther
- CCEnterprise Architect ? Network & InfrastructureNSW
- FTLead Business AnalystNSW
- TPProject ManagerNSW
- CCPega LSA - Banking IndustryVIC
- CCSystems Analyst / Consultant ? SAPQLD
- FTDigital Business Analyst - IntermediateQLD
- FTManager, PortfolioOther
- CCSystems EngineerWA
- FTPayments Business AnalystVIC
- FTSenior .Net DeveloperQLD
- FTProduct Support ManagerVIC
- CCScrum MasterQLD
- FTTIBCO Integration SpecialistOther
- FTTIBCO iProcess LeadOther