Jim Lewis


Jim Lewis is an industrial designer. J. L. Lewis, Inc., La Crosse, Wisconsin. (608) 788-5544

When I graduated from Ohio State University in 1970, engineering drawings were all done by hand. I didn’t get my first calculator until 1971. It had “square and square root” capabilities, cost me $100, and I remember thinking it was the greatest thing ever to come along. My degree was in Industrial Design, and I’ve worked as a designer ever since, primarily in manufacturing and metal fabrication. As a designer, I’ve worked on a great variety of projects including attachments for heavy construction equipment, specialty trailers, personal houseboats, commercial boats up to 500 passengers, and miscellaneous metals used in commercial building construction. As a designer, I’ve had to develop some very good drafting skills and techniques to convey ideas to a manufacturer. Besides designing, my company does detail work for structural steel, misc. steel, precast concrete, pre-stressed concrete, and general manufacturing.

Many of the drawings that are done by my company are combinations of working drawings, technical drawings, and marketing drawings. Almost all of our work is done in 2D (about 95%) rather than 3D and for this, we use PowerCADD. Customers like 3D but for the most part are unwilling to pay for the extra time it takes to do it. The people who manufacture these products work primarily with 2D working drawings, and they do not use 3D. We do use 3D for development and marketing and use a full 3D package for that.

I’ve been using Macintosh computers since I purchased a Mac Plus in 1986. I used VersaCAD for a couple years, and was a certified trainer. I began using ClarisCAD in the early 90’s, and I still think it was way ahead of its time. The ease of use and quality of drawings you could create were wonderful. Many of the tools that you find now in PowerCADD were found in ClarisCAD. But Claris stopped developing ClarisCAD, and I had to find a new software package.

Many companies were using AutoCAD but after using Claris, I wasn’t about to go backwards in regards to ease of use and drawing quality. I waited for two years before selecting a new CAD program and believe me, I looked at every package available for the Mac and quite a few for PC’s. Three years ago, my company began using PowerCADD, and this is the reason why.

I’ve been hiring on average 2 to 3 people every year for the last 3 years. Some have experience drawing by hand, some have experience using AutoCAD, and some have no drawing experience. Everytime I hire someone, I have to purchase a new computer system and software, and then I have to train them. Today, the software cost for a single AutoCAD station is about $2,900. I can get a single PowerCADD station with WildTools for under $800. If you were using AutoCAD, you almost have to hire an experienced user or find someone who has been trained at a technical school. I can take a person who is experienced in the work that we do who has NO CAD experience and have them doing productive work in less that two weeks because this is one easy program to use. I get a kick out of reading the want ads, seeing companies not advertising for someone experienced in their field of work, but they’re looking for “AutoCAD experienced.” What do these companies do when they finally get the person trained to do their work, and the guy leaves?

It’s not just the cost of software and cost of training. Drawing with PowerCADD is just plain faster, and the quality of the drawings is fantastic. I recently had one customer who was afraid I was spending too much time doing the drawings because they looked too good. I assured him that wasn’t the case. PowerCADD with WildTools has everything my old software had plus much, much more. Like I said before, 95% of my work is two-dimensionsal. I’m not about to sacrifice speed and quality for that last 5%. I bought a special program for that. And with the ability to turn a PowerCADD drawing into an AutoCAD drawing, I feel pretty good about our drawing software, PowerCADD with WildTools.

Jim Lewis