A Very Interesting Reader

The readership of this blog consists of people all shapes and sizes ranging from school kids to CEO’s of corporations. Some publicly comment while others communicate with me offline via email or phone. In fact, some time ago, I was utterly amazed to receive a hand written letter in the mail written using a fountain pen. Every once in a while I get an email from someone that make me sit upright and notice. Yesterday I received this email:

I have enjoyed reading your reviews etc. very much. I am an 80 year old retired mechanical engineer that recently bought at Office Max a copy of ViaCAD 2d/3d for 99 bucks. I have used it to good advantage to make a few bucks of support money doing mech. eng. design jobs on small machines. This software is a product of Punchsoftware.com. Now I’m considering an upward move to to a higher end product offered by Punch called Shark Lite, Shark or Shark FX. The cost of these packages is $500, $1200 and $1700 respectively with no needed follow-on charges.

My question is: Have you ever offered your opinion or a review of these packages in the past and if so can you direct me to them. My experience with Via CAD 2d/3d 6.0 has been very positive for a non expert (old man).

I read this email to my wife and she said to me, “I hope you still have it in you when you get to that age.” I replied, “I will be glad just to get to that age.” The man is Bill Volna and he founded Volna Engineering in 1968, that’s seven years before I was even born.

I replied to Bill asking him if I could quote his email on this blog. I wanted to to let my readers know what at least one 80 year old retired mechanical engineer was doing with CAD. Bill agreed and wrote back to me, “After spending 40 years leaning over an 8 ft. drafting board now I have a board infinitely long.

Here is a screenshot of a telescope mount that Bill designed in ViaCAD, a product that has now definitely got my attention.

  • anch


  • I had some similar experience couple of years back. Someone bought my GeoTools software and said he was gifting a license to his dad who would find it extremely useful and his dad was well into his seventies.

    Never thought GeoTools would be 'gift material' but at his age, this gentleman probably had seen it all, had it all and done it all. GeoTools software was truly a valuable gift to help him with his CAD.


  • William Pelletier

    I really love how this engineer has used a CAD software that cost him only $99 (that many of us may have looked down on) to do real engineering work. It just goes to show us how the person behind the tool is far more important than the tool itself. Thanks for reminding us how its done, Mr. Volna.
    I viewed the demo video of ViaCad on their website. It really does look like an impressive CAD tool. I hope you find the time to review it soon, Deelip! I have been using Alibre Design Professional at home (and I am likely to continue to do so), but ViaCad looks like an interesting option. (I would be particularly interested in knowing how well developed the ViaCad 2d drafting tools are. I'll be doing some web searches to hear what others have to say.)


  • William: “It just goes to show us how the person behind the tool is far more important than the tool itself.”

    I could not have said this in a better way.

  • Kevin Quigley

    ViaCad/Shark/SharkFX/TurboCAD Mac/Ashlar-Vellum Argon/Xenon/Cobalt…….the main to speak to is Tim Olsen Deelip. I used Ashlar-Vellum Solids/Cobalt for many years as my primary 3D system. Try them.

  • William Pelletier

    Thank you, Deelip. I myself am 'only' 52 years old, but I hope I can be like Bill Volna when I grow up.

  • murda

    As William Pelletier noted, the commercial use of applications like ViaCAD has been stifled by professional elitism, and by the vendors of software who can afford to have a physical foot-in-the-door. But, as happened in word-processing and database use, access to consumer-priced, easier-to-use programs that have professional features is eroding conventional demarcations that have defined drafting, modeling, and CNC programming. Having been there and done that with high-end and consumer CAD, in my experience the difference between them is verification. Geometry creation is on a par, (as one of the CAD blogs termed it, “democratisation”) and as Mr. Volna demonstrates, if you know how to use it, ViaCAD refunds your $99 outlay PDQ. Where the lower-end programs suffer some is that because they don't have as many bums-on-seats, and the pricing, they don't have the same level of educational material for novices. They don't look like SW, Inventor, ProE or even AC, so experienced users of those softwares often don't immediately see how something can be done, and dismiss them out-of-hand. That's not giving them their due, especially ViaCAD, which gives access to feature-based solid-modeling design and ACIS data exchange at a price point that no-one else has,Alibre's limited-term $99 offer excepted.

  • go3d

    I am a newbie on ViaCAD but have 20 years experience of NX (Unigraphics) I have started using ViaCAD recently and I am very impressed so far! I really like the fact that the toolset is common between ViaCAD & Shark (Shark has extra surfacing tools among other things). At $99 it's great value, probably worth that for the 2D drafting and translators alone and many companies would charge 5 to 10 times the price. Mac & PC too!
    You don't get stung costly paid support. In fact if you go for ViaCAD pro or Shark they will discount you what you already paid. AutoDesk/Dassault/Siemens it is not…..and that's no bad thing in my opinion.

  • Shyamal Roy

    Deelip, I know and admire Tim Olsen and have followed him for several years. Perhaps he is one of the few in the industry who can singlehandedly create such powerful, simple, and elegant products like ViaCAD.