There are two types of descriptions: formal and informal. While we at MetaLab prefer a plain talk, we agree that there is a value in a stricter format, suitable for a more formal occasion.

Not knowing ahead of time which one you would prefer, we organized the following feature list for both types of readers (this is our typical approach to most design problems). This list is long — PractiCAD has a lot of features.

This is why every feature description below consists of two components — formal and informal (called Speaking simply).

You can choose whichever one you like — or read both.

New 21st century technology

The working environment of PractiCAD, based on a new interface concept and our proprietary advanced technology, was designed and implemented without any concessions to the past, featuring not only current practices and workflows, but also expected and possible changes in the manufacturing technology of the future.

Speaking simply, we have analyzed customer suggestions, requests and pleas observed over the 15-year span of our experience in this field, and designed, from scratch, using the latest and most powerful tools, a new product addressing the entire field and its foreseeable future, a product not bound by its own history —  we did not have to patch or re-package anything to create PractiCAD.

Minimal learning curve

PractiCAD offers you a wide range of modern methods and techniques, and at the same time, fully conforms to industry-wide trade practices, workflows and ergonomic requirements. This advantage is achieved through a built-in limitless customization, aimed at accomodating an enterprise of any size and facilitating the transition to the new streamlined manufacturing process of the 21st century.

Speaking simply, the concept of PractiCAD was born within a sheet metal shop, and it was born to make the shop better and easier to run by the same staff.

Three main premises behind the PractiCAD design:
  • Every shop is different.

  • You know your shop and your job better than anyone else.

  • You use your software to get your job done, and you do not want your software to limit you in this task.
We have eliminated every limitation and removed every unnecessary step to make things easier to work with — and easier to learn.

A typical operator (who has never seen our software before, or, perhaps, never even worked with any CAM software) can begin to use PractiCAD in production after 2 hours of training, and some people learn it even faster.

Built on latest software platforms
(Windows XP Pro, Windows.NET) and constantly updated
PractiCAD is designed using C++-based object-oriented technology, implemented under Windows XP and Windows.NET. Both modularity and portability of our design guarantee the success of the inevitable future migration to new platforms.

In today's business environment, any software must be able to adapt and re-deploy itself to quickly follow rapid and often unpredictable changes. This strategy requires continuous non-stop development, and PractiCAD is the fastest developing system on the market.

Speaking simply, all requirements for any manufacturing system are changing fast. Every day brings new opportunities, demanding quick changes or additions to the software —  and most software vendors cannot keep up with this demand.

PractiCAD’s development speed is unique: for the last several years, we have been making software releases, on the average, once a week.

To do this, we are keeping a close watch on any new software, hardware and technology developments, and literally break the entire system all the time and re-build it while adding new features.

Direct data import from existing CAD systems (for fittings, products, flat parts/patterns, and any accessories)
PractiCAD is capable of complete, accurate and fast data import directly from our PractiCAD and from other CAD systems, facilitating and streamlining the entire production process. The data import eliminates the duplication of effort and the error-prone double data entry, and is available both for 3D and for flat products.

Speaking simply, you can input fittings manually, or you can import them from your drawings, and if you fabricate your fittings from construction drawings, this direct import is the most cost-effective way to organize your production, because any time the data from your construction drawings is re-entered manually into the manufacturing system, the operator is likely to make costly undetectable mistakes.

Our PractiCAD can flawlessly export fittings (including all accessories and manufacturing data) into PractiCAD, and streamline your entire takeoff and cost estimation process (of course, you can still use the interactive input any time you like).

Our past experience with CAD and CAM systems we developed for others allowed us to introduce a direct download of CAD data into PractiCAD from many systems, including download from EastCoast CAD, QuickPen CAD, CADPIPE, Quotesoft, and others.

The direct download also works for flat parts and patterns. The majority of part drawings in the world use DXF or DWG (AutoCAD native) file format, and we have developed a proprietary DXF/DWG processor, capable of importing these files for practically all AutoCAD versions.

The largest (2000+) and most flexible set of fittings and products in the world
For every product and every fitting, PractiCAD uses custom-built proprietary templates, grounded in our patent-pending approach. These templates can replicate the exact data data set of any fitting model from any library or a catalog — including those of any product and equipment manufacturers, and, of course, any of our competitors.

For every fitting made or offered by someone, we have a fitting with an exactly identical set of parameters — while migrating from a previous CAM system, our clients can begin to enjoy the benefits of PractiCAD right away without having to re-learn the details and variations of a new system.

Speaking simply, if you are used to working with a Cybermation fitting named C1801, you can continue to work with C1801. And along with it, you still can use any of 2000+ product and fitting templates from various manufacturers — including our own PractiCAD library — the largest set of fittings and products available, anywhere.

The largest (1500+) and most flexible set of parametric 2D and 3D parts and patterns in the world; an ability to create and produce any signs and symbols; raster-to-vector conversions
In addition to 2000+ product and fitting templates, PractiCAD libraries include:
  • 1500+ fully parametric, multilayered, reusable flat and 3D parts and pattern templates;
  • A built-in fully featured 2D CAD with a robust set of drawing and advanced design tools, including automated placement of allowances, part segmentation, part bending and rolling, part marking and others;
  • An ability to create any sign or lettering, flat or 3D, from any font or any set of symbols;
  • An ability to convert any raster image, drawn or scanned, into a ready-to-cut vector file
Speaking simply, you can take any of the 1500+ part templates, change its parametric dimensions on-the-fly, add any modifications, combine it with any other part contours, modify dimensions of each contour (without redrawing), indicate the position and extent of required bends and rolls, view this part in 3D or in flat throughout the entire process, — and cut it.

For example, you can take a grill outline (layer one), combine it with several decorative parametric star cutouts (layers 2,3,4, etc.), change dimensions of each star, look at the grill in flat or 3D view, move stars around without redrawing, and then cut a resulting star-studded barbecue grill.

Or you can type a name of a store in a selected font, add a logo, and cut a store sign.

Or you can scan a picture from a magazine, clean it, size it, scale it — and cut it.

All of these operations take minutes or even seconds, and resulting products are fully reusable. And those are just examples...

Architectural and kitchen element libraries, including parametric moldings, cornices, profiles, and universal construction panels for manufacturing metal buildings
In addition to products, fittings, parts, and patterns described above, PractiCAD libraries include:
  • Flexible and fully parametric templates for manufacturing any architectural and kitchen elements: moldings, trims, cornices, pedestals, roof segments, and any other profile-driven items;
  • Flexible and fully parametric templates for manufacturing metal buildings, including universal construction panels, corner elements, walls, door opening and window opening assemblies;
Speaking simply, you can design and build any architectural detail, with any profile or dimensions, change its parametric dimensions on-the-fly, add any modifications — for example, miter two sides of your own custom designed profile at any angle — and cut it.

You can also design and make an entire metal building or a metal enclosure using universal paneling elements — all custom made.

Unlimited number and variety of additional custom fittings, products, patterns and parts
In addition to thousandsof items in PractiCAD libraries, our hierarchical and user-transparent system of default values allows you to save and re-use most commonly produced items and most commonly used values within special libraries, custom built for the purpose.

This ability includes any items with custom cutouts and other modifications. It also allows you to automate a majority of typical operations, with a minimum or no additional effort.

Speaking simply, you can pre-set your own values for any fitting or any custom part, you can modify any item on-the-fly, and save it as a new custom item. You can create any number of your own custom fitting and part templates, expanding your libraries as much as you wish — and do all this with very few mouse clicks.

Unlimited library expansion
If you require any product or any template not already present in PractiCAD libraries, we will add it for you free of charge. This free service includes new fittings, products, parts, patterns, allowances, labels, reports and other items.

Our patent-pending product construction technology makes it possible for us to create extensive and unlimited libraries at a speed exceeding our competition's speed by several orders of magnitude.

Speaking simply, if you need anything in addition to all library items we already provide, all you have to do is call us, and we will add this item to your libraries quickly and free of charge. This is how our libraries grew from the beginning, this is why they are so extensive, and this is why they continue to grow daily.

Quick and efficient interactive data input
For repeatedly manufactured items (i.e. for certain standard products you make often), PractiCAD has a user-selectable Quick Input feature: a lightning-fast, keyboard-only, item-name-only takeoff.

Speaking simply, if you want to make 9 fittings which you call, for example, R1224 (denoting in your nomenclature a 12x24 reducing round elbow), in Quick Input you will press keys R 1 2 2 4 Tab 9 Enter — total of 8 keystrokes — and PractiCAD will do the rest.

Operator’s error checking and an intelligent default system
PractiCAD’s error checking procedure is script-based (as opposed to a commonly used instance-checking mode), allowing for more sophisticated, flexible, and precise error identification and prevention. It also allows us to build for you your own custom product templates with your own set of construction rules.

Speaking simply, you can modify the fittings you create without the necessity to enter your parameters in a proscribed illogical sequence, and without having to reply to multiple pop-up questions along the way.

Yes — you will never have to press Enter key 17 times to burn a fitting. And you will not create an improperly constructed fitting.

Flexible, detailed and convenient representation of every created product, with freely rotatable and zoomable 3-D photorealistic images, flat pattern views, clear and exact dimensioning
Dynamic, freely rotatable, zoomable, fully dimensioned, photorealistic views are the core of our data presentation.

To create your products “on-the-fly”, you can use interactive (and highly economized) line input, or enter the same data directly on 3D view, while the 3D model can be rotated, repositioned, zoomed into or away from by simple and intuitively clear mouse movements (without any pre-set views or mind-boggling relative coordinate system setups) — you can even look inside of the item you are making and make a cutout of any shape directly on the 3D view.

Simultaneous 3-D and flat pattern (exploded) views reflect all technological modifications (access holes, custom cuts, accessories, connectors etc.), enhancing and enriching the presentation, raising operator’s efficiency and reducing the error rate.

Speaking simply, what you see is what you get — and you can see anything you need in a way you want to see it. Easily.

Ergonomic working environment
All PractiCAD tool sets are completely custom in their function and appearance, creating a new metaphor of the working screen layout and allowing you to modify their arrangement to suit your taste preferences and working habits.

Speaking simply, your toolboxes can contain any tools you prefer to use, can be arranged in any number of configurations, and they do not clutter up your screen’s premium real estate. You pack your own stuff.

In PractiCAD, we have found a unique solution to a serious interface limitation: tools and data are always forced to share the same, very limited space. Our tools possess two new qualities — temporal and spatial transparency.

Speaking simply, they appear exactly when and where you need them, and their appearance does not obscure any data for which they are intended. Sounds like magic, but it works.

Pre-set job specifications, along with shop-wide and industry-wide standards to minimize, control and streamline the operator’s input
Our specifications envelop a complete range of possible relationships between virtually any and all parameters of specified products.

Any two parameters (out of thousands available), can be made related to each other through a simple sequence of logical conditions in plain English (which are pre-set in a variety of most usable scenarios, but are easily modifiable or designed by you).

As a specific limited case, those specifications include the full range of SMACNA tables, accepted within the industry.

We can directly import or replicate any specifications currently used within the entire industry.

Speaking simply, our specifications describe and determine as little or as much as you want them to — you can define and specify anything from a level of a given job to the level of an individual allowance.

Our specifications are capable of describing and determining every condition you could possibly want (even some you may not be thinking about at the moment). Without reservations.

Easy product modification, both in a parametric product representation and in an alternative flat pattern views
PractiCAD includes a full-featured CAD system for fittings, flat patterns and allowances editing.

Speaking simply, if it is drawn or constructed, you can change it easily. On the fly.

Integrated, flexible, accurate cost estimating system, providing industry accepted (SMACNA) cost estimates, further improved by shop-specific cost estimates, allowing a greater control over production costs, and instant cost estimation/monitoring
PractiCAD is the first cost-estimating system integrated with the manufacturing and not requiring data import/export for implementation.

Speaking simply, you know exactly how much would it cost to make a fitting — at every moment of its creation process. Of course, you will know the same thing about your whole project. Instantly.

Our estimation process offers two estimating alternatives: an industry-wide accepted approximation of the manufacturing costs based on published SMACNA data, and an exact estimate provided by a sophisticated mathematical model, taking into account specific aspects of your production process.

Speaking simply, you will know how much does it costs to make something in this industry — and how much does it cost you. On the spot.

Cost-effective use and accurate tracking of materials, including automatic and interactive pattern nesting, scrap inventory and utilization, dynamic gauge allocation

Integrated shop reporting system, including pre-set report templates and a custom report editor and generator

Integrated product labeling system, including pre-set label templates and a custom label editor and generator

Built-in hardware support for all available system peripherals, including any NC-based production machines (plasma, laser, water-jet and other cutters), automated production coil lines, printers, plotters, bar code readers, and other devices

Creation, ordering, labeling, reporting and tracking of various accessories (vanes, dampers, flexes, diffusers) and secondary items (tools and other implements) within the primary job framework

Shop standard creation and maintenance, including allowance design and use, universal job specifications, and data sharing

Our specifications are only one part of the extensive collection of standard libraries, setting forth shop manufacturing standards. We provide our users with the most sophisticated system of limitless (and easily expandable) libraries containing and describing in detail all shop allowances, notches, materials, connectors, locks, joints, seams, stiffeners, and all other related data, in the easiest to comprehend and the easiest to use fashion. Every aspect of those libraries — starting with a complete absence of limitations on the number or complexity of shop standards, and ending with a visually rich and intuitively clear interactive presentation — serves the ultimate purpose: shop’s effectiveness and efficiency.

Speaking simply, our libraries can take any number of any type of any connectors, locks, materials etc. You can design your allowances using any number of completely custom notches or cuts you may require. You can see it all instantly in a clear, concise, and visually controlled setting, all done and ready in a few seconds — accommodating even those metal-processing and metal-joining techniques which have not been invented yet.

Multitasking, networking, shop-wide system integration, and free data exchange between shops and workstations

In the past, the time required by each workflow stage — input, nesting, labeling, reporting etc. — created a step-by-step, hurry-up-and-wait, working routine, requiring, at every stage, an operator’s intervention and an operator’s active leading role determined the sequence — you had to wait until one stage was finished, to start another one. While the sequence and shop requirements for it were always known (and in most shops they tend to vary relatively slightly from job to job), fulfilling these requirements on-the-fly was always beyond the capability of a typical shop computer.

Our product, designed for the modern hardware and using now available alternatives, changed the concept of the work process. Truly intelligent multitasking mechanisms split the process and work without a delay. The job gets finished — fittings nested, labels and reports prepared for printing, cutter sequence determined and set, all in accordance with your shop requirements — and without any operator’s intervention. By the time you are ready to review the ready-to-cut job, it is truly ready to cut. You can, if you wish, go back to any stage of the process, and adjust any of your settings — to see those changes reflected in your results at the same extraordinary speed.

Speaking simply, as soon as you finished your input (be it an imported or an interactively entered data), you are ready to cut, because the software took care of all related aspects the best way it knew how — and exactly as you told it the last time.

Our ability to set and maintain a distributed and/or a centralized access to all of PractiCAD libraries (and, actually, to all of your work, including takeoffs and everything else within your shop), utilizing a custom defined combination of a local data storage with a direct access across the network, virtually guarantees a shop-wide adherence to set standards.

Speaking simply, you can have all of your libraries in one place. Or in as many places as you want — and as you decide.

User management facilities with an effective differentiated control of user access, user privileges, and user workload

Within PractiCAD, you can set user privileges, allowing the shop foreman or your production manager to determine the extent of responsibility and levels of access for each of his craftsmen, apprentices and even occasional system guests. Coupled with a history log, tracking (and timing) every operation within the software, the system makes it easier for you to reach your production goals.

Speaking simply, you can define who does what in your shop — and track it as well.

...and (thank you for reading the entire list!) — anything else you wish, almost as soon as you tell us about it.
In the beginning of this feature list we said that PractiCAD was born within a sheet metal shop, and it was born to make the shop better and easier to run by the same staff. Today, PractiCAD continues to grow from the same roots — almost every improvement in PractiCAD still comes directly from sheet metal shops just like yours.

We follow your suggestions and implement them as fast as possible — after all, our clients were, and still are, the most valuable source of our growth.

Speaking simply, we continue to listen to you very closely.