By Martin Kutter
Who did not want to design its model aircraft in 3D before building it in order to see how it looks? Until recently the design of 3D model aircraft was related to the acquisition of an expensive CAD software, a long starting time to get used to the software, and complex and difficult design procedures. The team from RCCad wants to change this and developed RCCad, a very easy to use 3D-design tool sold at a very competitive price ($50).
Installing RCCad is done by starting the one file 3MB RCCad distribution. After some standard installation screens and selection of the target directory RCCad installs in less than a minute on the local harddisk and adds an RCCad link in the START-PROGRAMS-RCCad.
Snapshot of the RcCad screen, showing an example of a model design
After launching RCCad the first-time user has to follow a short RCCad introduction which shows how to perform basic design tasks such as changing wing size and inserting fuselage sections. Once the introduction is over RCCad presents a screen containing three main sections. The top right window shows a 3-D preview of the aircraft, the lower right section shows the top view of the plane, and the section on the left contains the option panels. Without even doing anything, RCCad shows a glider plane, which is the starting point for any design. In the 3D preview, the plane can be rotated and scaled at an impressive speed even on an old 486 with 8MB ram. Moreover, the preview is updated in real time during the designing process.
The philosophy of RCCad to design planes is based on four views, top, front, side and zoomed top view. To switch between the views one can click on one of the four view buttons or activate the corresponding tabbed pane in the option section. Each view is dedicated for certain tasks. For example in the top view the user works on the wings and elevator. By clicking on the end of the wing and moving the mouse, the ends can be moved backward and forward. If at the same time shift is pressed the length of the wings can be changed. Applying the same concepts on the center section of the wing allows the repositioning and changing the spacing between the wings. Instead of working with the mouse it is also possible to use the wing control panel and enter numerical values to define the wing. The side view is dedicated to the design of the rudder and the fuselage. Working on the rudder is similar to the wing and elevator. For the fuselage, RCCad uses cross sections, which can be inserted and removed by pressing CTRL and clicking at the desired position. The individual sections can then be moved and the roundness and height can be modified. The tabbed option panel for the fuselage contains many nice features, such as a view of the selected cross section, switching fuselage transparency on/off, and much more. To change the width of the fuselage cross section one has to either switch to the zoomed top view or use the fuselage control panel. A very useful feature is the smoothing option which performs a lateral smoothing of all cross sections in order to make the surface of the fuselage smoother and more pleasant for the eye. Last but not least, the front view serves to position vertically the wings and elevator.
The features so far described allow the design of standard aircraft with one wing, one fuselage and one rudder. However, this is only the beginning. RCCad allows multiple fuselages by either entering the number or desired fuselages in the option panel or just dragging the fuselage in the top view apart. Additional fuselages can also be used to design reactors and other parts. In a similar way two rudders can be added. Through the division of the wings in two parts it is for example straight forward to add winglets. All these additional features actually allow full freedom to the designer's fantasy. If someone wants to go beyond designing the outside of the aircraft RCCad can be used to design the interior by adding servos, receivers, and accumulators. For this, RCCad comes with a database of commonly used parts.
Summing it up
RCCad is a very impressive 3D-design tool with en excellent price quality relationship. Installation is simple and without problems under the tested system (WIN 95, WIN NT, WIN 98). The program interface has been designed for simple user interaction and the overall program speed is impressive, compared to other 3D applications. Designing planes is very simple and nevertheless it is possible to create even very complex models (see figure). Only a few problems were encountered. The windows integration is not perfect. For example, the 3D preview is not updated when it was hidden by another application and sometimes buttons and text boxes are badly aligned. Otherwise features such as multiple selection of fuselage sections to facilitate editing is missing. Nevertheless, RCCad gives a very good impression and is of interest to anyone wanting do design professional looking 3D models without spending much money and time. On a scale from 1 to 10, RCCad receives a rating of 9,5.