Learning the in's & out's of Yacht Design Software

Discussion in 'Software' started by Joe Petry, Sep 10, 2004.

  1. Joe Petry

    Joe Petry Guest

    Hello everyone,

    It's been sometime since I've posted here. I was looking forward to grad. school at the Landing School, however, some problems with finances fell through so I'm spending another year preparing. I have some questions for all those computer techs who are really involved in the software for yachting or have been using it in the industry themselves.

    I would really like to prepare myself for a career in yacht design and was hoping to develop my computer skills with different programs available to the yachting industry for both pleasure and competative. I have done a lot of reading on yacht design in general and am in the current stages of Yacht Design Explained. I am looking to start being able to draw some hulls and understand the boat better, however, I don't know where to start. Any suggestions?

    Also, am looking to use both AutoCAD and any other 3D software anyone would suggest looking. Also, if there are any tutorials you would suggest please let me know.

  2. Dutch Peter
    Joined: Aug 2004
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    Dutch Peter Senior Member


    Take a look at this thread about the design programs and may I suggest you make a choice of those!


    Personally I wouldn't recommend to start with Autocad, as the program is to general and in 3D to limited (mind you, I never got further than the 2000 issue!) for boats.

    Good luck with the final stretch!
  3. ludesign
    Joined: Aug 2003
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    Location: Sweden

    ludesign Senior Member

    You will find a short (about 20 minutes) tutorial movie in boat design at:


    /Claes Lundstrom
  4. cestes
    Joined: Apr 2002
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    Location: Redmond, WA

    cestes Junior Member

    Hey Joe:

    There is much to learn and no one person can give you all the answers. The reason for this is that no one person has a full range of experience with all the available software.

    In general, though there are two types of software (at least) that you will need to be famiilar with:
    Design software
    Drafting software.

    Design Software

    As far as design software goes, there is a range of it, from freeware to multi-faceted (and mega$$$) suites. Your choice depends on your position in the industry.

    If you are employed by a large design firm whose clients have deep pockets, or by a shipyard engineering office with deep pockets, you will probably find yourself involved with using the high-end stuff, since the requirements are so much more demanding there.
    This includes programs like Ship Constructor, AutoShip, and several others. I have to confess I have no experience with these, since my own design experience (35 years of it) has always been with the small offices of limited means.

    Conversely, if you find yourself in a small shipyard or design office, the pockets will not be so deep, and the software with which you will be involved will be less functional and less expensive.

    On this end of the spectrum, there are offices that do a great deal of design with limited software and a lot of ingeniuity. This is where I hang my hat. Most of these will have some mid-range to low-end design software.

    In my own office I use Rhino for all my modeling. It has no intrinsic Naval Architecture functionality (well, almost none, anyway), but as a modeler, it can't be beaten for flexibility. In fact almost everyone in the industry that uses some specialized design software also has a Rhino seat in house for filling in the gaps left by the design software they use.

    At $895 list ($710 on my site - Yes, I am a Rhino reseller) Rhino is not as expensive as most of the mid-range or high-end design stuff and can be used to model any hull imaginable. When you finish modeling the hull, you have to turn to plugins (such as my own and others) to do any analysis.

    The abilities and shortcomings of these plugins can be found through this and other newsgroups and through the demo versions available online.

    Drafting Software

    Once the modeling and analysis phase of the design work is finished, you will need to turn to drafting software.

    Again, there is a wealth of it available. At the top of the heap is AutoCAD. It is terrible for modeling hulls, but once they are modeled, it's hard to find software that's better for drafting. Again: keep in mind the caveat earlier. I only have a limited exposure to any of the other drafting programs.

    With AutoCAD, as with any of them, there is much more functionality than you will ever need. I use approximately 10% of the AutoCAD available and I've been at it since the mid 80's.

    AutoCAD offers the LT version, which is far less expensive. It will probably serve you as well as anything else, but comes with its limitations. It does not support the popular programs that the full AutoCAD does, so customization is much more limited. Still, I have a client who has designed mega million dollar projects with it and found no drawbacks.

    Some will point to this or that cheapo drafting software. In the short run, you will save $$$, but keep in mind that eventually, you will need to interface with other design offices or shipyards/boatyards. In this capacity, it is inevitable that you will be making excuses for the shortcomings of your software.

    You are going into a profession where your clients will expect professionalism. Don't short change them. Certainly, look at the low-cost alternatives, but don't write off the more expensive ones just because of the initial investment. In the end, you will probably break down and spring for the better stuff.

    One other point to keep in mind: You will not get the answers you seek about software without getting your hands dirty. Noone can tell you what's best for your way of doing things. Roll up your sleeves. Test whichever demo version you decide to try and test it as hard as the demo will allow. When you think you know the program, go at it again. Then when you are sure you know it, try another and see if it works out best.

    You've got a year to do it. Spend that year wisely and get as much testing under your belt as you can. I teach online Rhino and AutoCAD classes for Marine designers and I can tell you first hand, most online students are disillusioned to find that they have to work harder online than they do in a classroom, since they are "all alone", except during the weekly online sessions. Expect to work hard and the rewards will result. Expect to get the information poured into your head and you're just kidding yourself.


    *** Cliff W. Estes cestes@basline.com ***
    *** BaseLine Technology ph (425)882-7317 ***
    *** 15834 NE 67th Place fax (425)882-7327 ***
    *** Redmond, WA 98052 http://www.basline.com/ ***
    Hydrostatics from Rhino using RhinoStatics
    Quality Marine Fairing, Modeling and Rendering
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  5. MikeJohns
    Joined: Aug 2004
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    MikeJohns Senior Member

    We have Rhino and Autocad in house. All surface work is done in Rhino, detail is done in Autocad which we find is a better draughting and plotting package. Autocad doesn't support nurbs surfaces and Rhino eats it for this. In turn Rhino is poor in the support for linetypes, dims, text and plotting.

    Rhino has some very good plugins for Naval Arch work from various sources (look at the rhino site under boat design). More and more engineers/naval architects are moving to Rhino, if you are on a budget you could make do just with this package and a few plugins.
  6. Gilbert
    Joined: Aug 2004
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    Location: Cathlamet, WA

    Gilbert Senior Member

    Hi Joe,
    You've received a lot of good information in the responses to your post and I'm not going to disagree with any of it.
    But I would like to add that I've been using Autocad and five lisp routines for boat design since 1987 and I haven't really felt deprived or anything. I've had a demo of Rhino for a few years, but the only thing I've used it for so far is to print out four views (plan, sections, profile, and perspective) on one sheet of paper.
    The lisp routines came about as a result of my becoming interested in using a computer for boat design in the early eighties. Autocad release 9 was the latest of Autodesk's products then and it did not even have a spline function at that point. My computer programer brother came to my rescue (he's also a mathematician) and wrote the six lisp routines, which overcame Autocad's shortcomings and allowed me to design boats without leaving Autocad or having any other software. I am now using release 12 and am not aware of any reason I actually need a more up to date version although they must have made some advances in the intervening years.
    I must say that this setup is not glitzy or flashy and at times a little tedious, but I've never had much in the way of spare money so the glitz and all has not seemed to justify the expense of the stand alone products. Mind you, I am not trying to infer that the stand alone products are not good. But you can see by the posts that there still does not seem to be a simple solution to the seemingly conflicting requirements of software that is capable of boat design and drafting in one package.
    I will describe the five lisp routines so you may have an idea of their capabilities.
    There is a spline routine. It will do longitudinals, bezier curves for sections whose control points are virtual longitudinals and what we call a tangent spline which can piece together splines whose end points are tangent.
    There is a routine that makes a 3D polyline from a 2D plan curve and a 2D profile curve.
    There is a routine which uses station section curves and profile stations and the waterline intersection of the fairbody line to calculate displacement, wetted surface, center of bouyancy, and prismatic coefficient. It can be repeated to give heeled centers, etc.
    There is a routine which draws ruling lines for 2 selected 3Dpolylines.
    There is a routine that draws the outline of a pattern for a panel to fit 2 selected 3D polylines.
    These last two could use a some refinement, as the logical progression would be to program the computer to calcuate the section at any station on a chine hull. As it is, I mirror the ruling lines about the station, create a ucs for the station and draw a pline picking the intersections of the rulings. Also the pattern routine at present only draws to where the rulings stop, so the ends often are truncated. My brother has been too busy for some time to do this programing so I just suffer a little tedium.
    I will also throw out an option for Autocad users who might wish to design a boat using the 3D mesh feature. After constructing a 3D mesh that looks like what you're after, you can draw the sections just like I described earlier with the ruling lines. Mirror the mesh at the station, create a ucs for the station and draw a polyline using the intersections. With the mesh this is less tedious than the ruling lines because you only have to erase one thing, the mirrored mesh, not dozens of ruling lines.
    While I'm at it the ruling lines in Autocad 12 are a joke and the ones in my demo version of Rhino are not accurate either.
    I'm afraid I have gone on far too long here but I did want to contribute. I'd be willing to go into a little more detail on the mesh thing if anyone is interested. If you try it, use as few control points as you can get away with.

  7. Tim B
    Joined: Jan 2003
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    Tim B Senior Member

    There are some people who have both feet very firmly in the Rhino camp (me) and some who have thier feet very firmly in some other camp, and those who use several bits of software. I like using Rhino, it is quick, simple, and when you've learnt it, it's accurate.

    How about if I suggested that you could write your own software to design a hull, for free, for your own system (be it windows, mac, linux, Risc-OS etc.) and tailor it for your own needs. I have begun to do this under Risc-OS, just because I wanted to do hydrostatics by volume automatically. There is another thread on this forum http://forums.boatdesign.net/showthread.php?t=4587 which gives some information as to the whereabouts of the information to put the code together.

    Ok, so what's the link here? well, it really revolves around Rhino's Scripting feature, which will allow you to write you're own code to output the control points (in x,y,z) and associated weights. Once you have that you can re-draw the hull in your own software and write your own hydrostats code.

    Attached is a screenshot from my hull design system, which is b-spline only at present, but will become a NURBS system when I get time to write a bit more.


    Tim B.

    Attached Files:

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