Several of the available PCB layout tools provide 3D Previewing as a standard function. The PCB software that I follow are:
AuoTRAX has some really interesting features that I would like to use, but alas, AutoTRAX does not currently run on Linux or Ubuntu with Wine, which is my OS of choice and available in my shop and office (I am hopeful).
Most of my aggravations with DipTrace have be noted within my previous blogs and/or sent to DipTrace Developers where they were added to a long list of user requested enhancements.
Even with DipTrace's aggravations, I keep returning to DipTrace because of it's unique crosshatch copper pour ability, and because the support group has recently created some very instructive verbal video tutorials.
Crosshatch copper pour are well suited to the Toner Transfer Method of creating PCB's, as large blocks of Black Toner do not print, transfer or etch very well.
The New Beta Release of DipTrace (Mar 2011) now has a 3D Previewer feature.
In the past, I could only publish the PCB layout art for my projects.
With this new 3D function, I can now publish or document 3D views of the proposed results.
For Diptrace, 3D is still in Beta, and therefore some of the expected tools are not well developed. For example; an easy to use "Model Browser" for the library of 3D models does not exist. Currently all of the 2580 models are jammed into a single directory, where finding a particular model is problematic, especially if it's name is unknown. Even if you know the part family, it is a long iterative process to find the exact model that you are looking for. I know this is Beta, but the current aggravating usage part of this is; the model viewer/selector process continually "opens" and then "closes" the model directory when used, and each time it re-lists all of the 2580 models from the beginning.
Also, some simple standard models are not available, for example I could not find simple 3-pin fan headers, or anything like it. Note: the lack of headers, switches, coils, toroids, and trimmers in the above 3D view.
Hopefully more models and a better model Browser tools is being planned.
To make my use of the 3D Model Library easier, I spent about 4 hours sorting and dividing the 2580 Beta models into Family Directories. Now once within a Family Directory with only a few models, exploring different styles or revision of a part is much easier. A Viewer or Browser "Back/Next" button on the current viewer would be very useful, because the current method of opening the directory and scanning to a model file is very laborious.
Unfortunately, the supplied DipTrace 3D Library Model Viewer is like most MS products that are stuck with the authors vision of what display size should be used. The window is not scalable to take advantage of a large screen. Therefore, a large display user, must unnecessarily look at small window.
I am hopeful that the current DipTrace Beta with the new 3D Preview function is just the beginning of good things to come.
Note: I have recently sent the above board out to a Chinese PCB Fabrication Shop, this is a first for me. It will be interesting to see the results.