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Simple Design and Digital Prototyping Software Answered

Hi guys.

I've been making some very simple mechanisms for a steampunk Instructables series I've got planned, and have been prototyping using cardboard and paper. This has actually worked really well, but I'm a fan of the digital realm, too, and was wondering if anyone could recommend some simple, cheap (ideally freeware) digital prototyping software to help me eliminate (or minimize) the paper and card phase?

As I say, the mechanics are very simple. Cams, pulleys, levers, gears -- nothing more complex than bell cranks, linkages and basic drives. I think a scotch yoke is about as adventurous as it's got so far. So I'm looking for some nice simple software that'll allow me to build and test the mechanisms digitally, if such a thing exists.

I've looked at the likes of Autodesk and Blender, but they seem like a sledgehammer to cure a headache. Even something that runs online in a browser, or an iPhone/iPad app would be good (I've played some physics-based games on the iPad that would almost be ideal if they weren't puzzle games!). Any advice?

Cheers guys!

5 Replies

graffitiwriter (author)2011-10-18

Thanks for the links. I've had a look, and these bits of software can certainly do it all -- it's all a bit pro for my needs, however.

As an alternative, can anyone recommend a good prototyping "kit"? Something like a Meccano set, only with more generic parts (Meccano seems to be all about building very specific models these days). This looks like it might have lots of parts, at a very reasonable cost, but it might also be limited to a lot of straight limbs: http://goo.gl/aoz9s

Perhaps there are shops (UK ideally) that supply model makers with mechanical parts? I can't find any, but then again I'm not quite sure what to type into Google to find them!

Again, any advice is gratefully received.

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lewisb42 (author)graffitiwriter2013-06-15

Check out ServoCity.com. They've built up quite a catalog of parts that might fit the bill. You buy everything a la carte, but all the parts are designed around the same hole-spacing pattern which makes for all bolt-together assembly.  (Which also makes the parts re-usable for later prototyping projects.)

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anigam1 (author)2011-10-17

nice post......thanks for sharing

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Kiteman (author)2011-10-17

You can get free trials of a lot of software:



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