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Vintage engine models build advanced skills in Alibre Design

Bruce Buchner worked his way through college as a machinist and always enjoyed figuring out mechanical problems. Now an MBA, his job as a government financial analyst deals in numbers, not shapes. “My work has absolutely nothing to do with engineering or CAD or anything like that,” he says. But more and more on his off-hours, building things – even virtual parts on a computer – has become an itch he likes to scratch.

Where a generation ago hobbyists would wile the hours gluing plastic landing gear or tweezing ship sails through a bottleneck, today’s hobbyists are more likely exercising their spatial reasoning on digital objects – modeling for virtual reality sites and 3D games, or just modeling a ship and leaving it at that.

“There are hobbyists on the Web that have rendered 3D ships in lifelike detail, like the Titanic, where you can move through the scene like walking on the deck, for example. Some of these guys can create fantastic digital models—airplanes, cars or whatever. It can be just as rewarding as sitting down with a plastic kit and putting it together.”

Buchner also has interest in vintage mechanics, which are more in line with his metal milling skills. Solid modeling is a lot like working a milling machine, he says. “You keep build up a part from a single, rather than cutting material away from the block.”

He found 2D plans of a design of a vintage-style Stirling steam engine designed by Jerry Howell online. He discovered that modeling engine parts as a good way to learn parametric modeling in Alibre Design. And even though his work doesn’t leave as much shop time as he would like, he’s finding modeling the assemblies satisfying in its own right. “I’m making solid models of Stirling engines when I’m on a flight traveling for work, or if I’m stuck in a hotel room.”

Buchner’s advice to those trying to master Alibre is to pick an object of interest in and that has a variety of parts. “Alibre has great tutorials that come with the software, but it’s hard to keep up the discipline to go through all lessons end to end. It’s more fun to find your own project. You’re motivated to complete it and it challenges you to learn more. When you get stumped, you can go back through the tutorials to find a new technique that will work.”

Buchner’s designs his model complete with accurate moving parts. He can build in all the constraints of the kinetics in the Alibre Design assembly as well, so piston pumps inside its cylinder as the crankshaft is turned. Learning advanced Alibre skills has become a new kind of hobby, he says, one that has all the problem solving and mechanical thinking that makes machining an enjoyable pastime.

“My goal is to be able to get good enough at Alibre to model these complex mechanisms and be able to make them work just as if I had made the parts out of metal.”

Bruce Buchner is an Alibre user in Lorton, Virginia.


About Alibre, Inc.
Alibre is the leading global provider of cost effective professional grade mechanical CAD, CAM, and PDM solutions. Founded in 1997, Richardson, Texas-based Alibre is led by Chairman and CEO J. Paul Grayson (previously CEO of Micrografx) and other graphics visionaries who are changing the landscape of 3D mechanical CAD/CAM software. Alibre develops Alibre Design™ and Alibre CAM™, the fastest growing parametric CAD/CAM solutions on the market. A small fraction of the cost of comparable software, Alibre Design offers the same core features as SolidWorks, Pro/E, Inventor, and other mid-range solid modeling packages at a cost that is affordable to any business or individual.

Alibre CAM extends Alibre Design to provide integrated 2 1/2 to 5 axis CNC machining. Used by an immensely diverse user base, Alibre Design and Alibre CAM provide design and manufacturing solutions to Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, consulting firms, machine shops, start-ups, hobbyists, inventors, teachers and students. Alibre products are distributed in 50 countries and in 15 languages.

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