Get to know the new GrabCAD measuring tools!

It's almost midnight, you just remembered your niece’s birthday (tomorrow) and you start to panic! There is no time to go to a store or rush an online gift.  As you try to come up with apologies in your head, you catch a glimpse of your 3D printer sitting in the corner, gathering dust. A 3D printed toy like Thomas the Tank Engine model by GrabCADr A. Ter Meer would be perfect. But, are the parts the right size to 3D print?

GrabCAD measure tool

This is one of many scenarios where you need to know the measurements or scale of a model before downloading. We want to help you with that! This post will walk you through each handy tool, so you can measure like a pro.

GrabCAD measuring tools currently support four different modes that you can access in the Measure menu of the 3D viewer. Three are accurate and one is approximate:

  • Length or radius of edge
  • Distance between faces
  • Distance between points
  • Angle between faces

Measure with accuracy!

The following, accurate tools expect that precise geometry information, when available, has been transferred from the original CAD system to our viewer. When I say precise geometry information,  I mean entities that can be defined analytically like planes and circles. Without this information, these tools will not be available for use.  To help you clearly see what you are measuring, selected edges appear thicker and selected faces get highlighted in yellow.

Measure the length or radius of an edge

This tool is useful on linear and circular edges. If the selected edge is linear, the measurement refers to the length of the edge. If the edge is circular, the measurement is for the radius of the underlying arc, shown with the letter “R” in the annotation.

Length or radius of an edge on grabcad measure toolSample radius and length measurements pictured, above.

Measure the distance between faces

This tool is supported for planar and cylindrical faces. It is clear what the distance is between parallel faces. For planar faces that are not parallel, the distance returned is the minimum distance between the edges of the two faces.  If two cylindrical faces are selected, the distance between them is defined to be the distance between the axes of the cylinders. Note that if these axes are not parallel, the distance is undefined.

distance between faces on grabcad measure tool
The distance between the front and back bumpers' planar faces are shown as an example. Also, note the cylindrical selections.

Measure the angle between faces

Defined for planar faces only, this tool measures the angle in degrees between two faces regardless of whether they intersect each other.

Angle between faces on grabcad measure tool
This example shows how the faces are highlighted and the angle is displayed.

Measure the approximate distance between points

This tool measures distance in space between any two points picked on the model. The picked points live on the underlying tessellation of the model as opposed to the exact geometry. Therefore distance computed is only accurate up to the accuracy of the tessellation, i.e. the denser the tessellation the better the approximation. This measurement does not expect any precise geometry data and therefore can be used on all types of surfaces (Nurbs, procedural, etc) and is available on all 3D viewable models, even the basic STLs.

Distance between points on grabcad measure toolNote how the distance involving a corner blend and other Nurbs surfaces can easily be measured using this tool.

As usual, we are striving to improve the tools we provide to our users and my passion is making our 3D viewer the best one you can find. So keep your wishes and requests coming and we will deliver as soon as possible! The viewer team sees all of your feedback and we will watch the comments on this post, too.

Senior Geometry Engineer