Delcam is a CAD/CAM software company originally founded in the UK in 1977. It has since been acquired by Autodesk. Delcam is best known for its CAM software, but also makes software for jewelers, orthotic insoles, tracking remote orders, footwear and more. In a few weeks, Delcam will launch the latest version of the ArtCAM Insignia software aimed at hobbyists and small businesses owners — not engineers. ArtCAM Insignia is CNC machining software intended for woodworking, metal cutting, engraving and sign making. You can start with a 2D image and add depth and height to produce a 3D piece. Though that sounds like it would be just for machinists, they have claimed that it would work in the hands of a 3D imaging newbie as well. Let's see. Upon downloading the demo, you may open either the full Delcam ArtCAM Insignia or the ArtCAM Express program. Both programs had comparable features upon first glance. Both programs open to a series of tutorials for producing or editing familiar and unfamiliar products (face relief, pattern and village inn, for example). Each of the tutorials includes a video and PDF with step-by-step instructions. Following the Face Wizard tool should transform a 2D image into a 3D model. The Wizard has a lot of information and can be a bit overwhelming. Upon second glance the instructions are broken down into clear, linear steps. For example, you can easily upload a photo and trace the image. The mechanics of the polyline tool that was used to trace my face were very smooth and responsive. Even using a laptop mouse the motion was easy to use. With the help of the tool guide that popped up, you can easily shift between the straight and curved line settings. However, erroneous portions of lines or undue single strokes cannot be erased. Make a mistake and you have to erase the outline and start over. ArtCAM Insignia includes a face wizard that, after you identify the front of the eyebrow and nape of the neck, will use these points to render a 3D "landscape" in the next stage. The wizard is very simple to use, although without going through the wizard, it is not apparent where these tools reside for a future project or (for a beginner) how to adapt these tools for a future project. Pros For a complete novice to 3D modeling, the initial program wizard and walkthroughs were fairly easy to use. The directions for the 3D rendering of my profile provided me with step-by-step instructions which responded to my actions. There are a variety of tutorials available on the front page including step-by-step tutorials, videos and example files. The instructions do provide a good introduction to making specific objects. Cons Any tools skipped over by the tutorials were not explained in-depth anywhere else, including some tools and aspects of 3D design and rendering. Even the tools that came with an explanation had no description of their purpose and effect to my final 3D model product. The Verdict ArtCAM Insignia contains powerful and versatile tools. Despite Delcam's claims that ArtCAM Insignia is for the ordinary "hobbyist and small-business owners" with "little understanding of engineering and computing," those users will face a bit of a challenge making productive use of the software. But those with a little bit of 3D modeling experience and machining ought to see results right away. That's probably not too much to ask of Delcam's typical clientele. For the others, even total newbies, a more general introductory tutorial would be of great help. How Does It Compare? Considering the price ($149) and capabilities, the ARTCam Express is a good deal for a beginner or hobbyist who needs professional-quality results. And evaluation versions of both programs are available free of charge. The toolbox for the ARTCam Express demo is nearly complete, and compares favorably to the ARTCam Insignia demo program. Compared to beginner software such as 3D Slash or 123D, the ARTCam Express program is more versatile, though less intuitive.
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