Usually a back of the napkin grade sketch with a couple of key dimensions added in. I'm new at this. Drawing the sketch sometimes points out things I hadn't realized before. I have gone beyond the point where I wished I had made a sketch before starting...
I use Draftsight for 2D drawings I use as well for customers I do design work for. Want to go forward to the 3D world, but have no time to learn it. Been playing with a couple of the free programs out there. I don't care for cloud based programs, but do like the looks of Autodesk Fusion 360.
I use SolidWorks for CAD, SprutCAM or HSM Works for CAM. I am also working at developing skills in Fusion 360 for an integrated CAD/CAM package.
I find it simpler to do my sketching in SolidWorks rather than with paper and pencil. There's no need for an eraser as I work through the design process.
I use to use many of the products mentioned above. I moved to Fusion 360 a few months back and dont look back. I can 2d draw, 3d draw, print out the drawing plan, and create CAM for my cnc.... Really good software and for the home it is free.....
Since I started modeling up my designs in solidworks before going to the machines I have found there are less oops moments where I realise I should have done one operation before another. The whole extrude and cut mechanism in solidworks makes it feel like I am performing a trial run before hitting the workshop.
Being able to export as drawings with all dimensions is an added bonus.
A notebook of grid paper to get ideas out of my head and onto something more permanent. Once I've gone through some iterations there I start CADing. Ideas bounce back and forth between notebook and cad for a while. I can take the notebook anywhere and always have a record of the design process, calculations, and ideas for variations.
Depending on the design or the available materials when the ideas strike. I use several approaches. Most of my ideation starts in my head. For personal simple projects I use anything from white space on printed matter to restroom paper towling. I like a good gel pen on soft media & #2 "kitchen" pencils with erasers for copier bond paper.
For cad I have Autocad Inventor light 2012. When I am documenting wiring schematics or ladder logic diagrams I use Office publisher.
Most of my sketches are 3D, some are exploded assembly-like diagrams.
I use MasterCam X but also have been dabbling in Solidworks lately. I like the 3d for making sure things fit together for assemblies. Less chance of having to make parts over again because they don't fit.
paper, pencil, pens, and straight edges. Need to get into one of the software packages and try to learn CAD, Have to find one that will come with some good teaching materials for me to get to learn it.
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I currently use eMachineShop for CAD and D2NC for CAM. I'm in a learning curve with CNC so these programs fit my needs at the moment. My only exposure to CAD has been with DeltaCAD and eMachineShop which are simple 2D and 2.5D programs. My goal is to do some 3D machining so I've downloaded Fusion 360. Been playing with it but to be honest it's way over my head. Lot's to learn but I'm not giving up.