AutoCAD can be used to easily design 3-D sheet metal layouts. The program gives you the ability to plot shapes, such as rectangles and circles, on a drawing board. In addition, you can create desired shapes automatically if you already know the dimensions. Drawings can be started using the Line command to create lines, and the Mirror command can be used to create mirror images of objects. Edges can be edited with the Trim command, and you can create angled corners using the Chamfer command.
Open a new drawing and set the layout using a template in your AutoCAD folder. If you want to change the units from decimals to fractions, click "Drawing Utilities" in the Applications menu. In the Units dialog box, switch to “Fractional” and set the precision level, such as 1/16th of an inch. The lower left status bar will now display the units in inches.
Choose a shape such as rectangle from the Draw menu. Click on the drawing where you want the upper left corner to appear. Right-click, select dimensions, input a known length as a fraction or decimal, and press the "Enter" key. Center the drawing if desired using the Zoom and Pan tools. When working with perfect symmetrical images, you can use the Mirror command to save time. This allows you to create mirror image shapes in relation to a center called the mirror line.
Corners with unusual angles can be made using the Chamfer command. Choose the angle and enter a known distance. If you need to duplicate the chamfer multiple times, click "M." Click the edge of the known distance and the other edge that creates the angle. To view the drawing in 3-D click "View," "Viewports" and then click "New Viewports." In the left column, select from a variety of views such as "Left," "Right" and "Above."
Tips & Warnings
- AutoCAD is produced by AutoDesk, which offers a more comprehensive program for sheet metal design called AutoDesk Inventor. This program can be used for complex, 3-D sheet metal prototypes.
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