IMSI Design – TurboCAD Pro 15 Platinum review

2D and 3D Computer Aided Design
Photo of IMSI Design – TurboCAD Pro 15 Platinum
£461 (full version), £99 (upgrade)

Computer Aided Design (CAD) is no longer just about orthogonal projection of nuts and bolts in heavy engineering drawings or the concrete panels of corporate architecture. Lighting, textures and rendering give modern 3D CAD applications a lot more scope and TurboCAD has just reached version 15, with several flourishes.

TurboCAD is considered to be the leading CAD package for those who can’t afford the seriously pricey AutoCAD, but that’s doing it a disservice. Created by Californian software house IMSI/Design and distributed in the UK exclusively by Avanquest, TurboCAD Pro 15 Platinum is a fully-fledged technical design program, which can read and write AutoCAD files as well as many other types.

If you’ve ever used a vector graphics program, like CorelDraw or Illustrator, some of the functions will be familiar to you, but there’s a whole heap more to get to know here. The TurboCAD interface tries to make this as painless as possible and, particularly when working in 3D, does its best to simplify operations.

There’s a very full toolbox ranged down the left-hand side of the screen and a multi-tabbed browser down the right, displaying colours, materials, symbols (pre-drawn components) and a host of other facets of a typical technical drawing.

Working with 3D objects in a 2D environment is an acquired skill, but the intelligent highlighting of, and snapping to, planes helps. Tools such as the rotated box tool, which enables you to create a cuboid box in a couple of mouse drags and to line it up in the same plane as existing 3D shapes, are great time-savers. In fact it’s easy to shift work planes within TurboCAD and work in any direction that makes drawing simpler.

There are other interesting new tools in version 15, though you have to be a fairly serious draughtsman or engineer to appreciate some of them. There are ‘unbend’ and ‘unfold’ tools, for example, which flatten out 3D shapes to their metal sheet equivalents, so you can design stamping tools or fabrication techniques for making them.

IMSI has added to TurboCAD’s materials library, which now includes surface textures for over 300 new substances and eco-materials. This green theme extends to the component library, which includes all kinds of photovoltaic panels and insulation sheets. It’s good to have the new libraries, but highlighting them as green feels a bit like jumping on a bandwagon.

’1st Pricing’ data should be able to provide prices for standard architectural components such as ready-made windows and doors, to help compile quick bills of materials, but unfortunately it’s only available in the US and prices are quoted exclusively in dollars.

Company: IMSI Design

Contact: 0870 608 5522

Although the price of TurboCAD Pro 15 Platinum might look high, it's a whole lot lower than the market leaders. The software itself offers most of the features of programs like AutoCAD LT, for several hundred pounds less. While not an easy application to learn from the ground up, IMSI has made big efforts to organise things as logically as possible and includes new and improved tools to offer even more scope to the designer.