FreeCAD (Part 1)

Part 1

For various reasons, I decided to investigate the field of open source CAD software for designing and printing mechanical parts. So I spent some time surfing the web for CAD applications and found a dozen of software which are topping the hit list. Blender software happens to be trusting the top of this list. A couple of years ago I asked newly hired engineers to spend some time in investing this field and they reported some complexity while approaching this software. So that I decided to give Blender a try my self: ah let’s show these green horns what’s in the old pots 🙂

🙁 Well, although the software is very nice looking, full of features, the first steps in Blender are uneasy and tedious. Tutorials are helpful but I could not find a “Blender for the rookie”; and top of that, I did not want to spend so much time in learning a new software. In comparison, KiCAD that I use a lot for electronics is piece of cake. Too bad.

Next from the list, described as focused on technical drawings, versatile and able to export all sorts of files (“no .stl, no way”) was FreeCAD. And about 20 hours after running FreeCAD for the first time here are my first impressions, advises, tricks, etc.

freecad_01

20 hours of “spare time” is about the time I needed to feel confortable at drawing all sorts of parts, rectangular and circular, using extrusion and revolutions, sweeping, cutting and fusing, placing axis and components, constraining and exporting. Although it looks like an exhausive description, I have the feeling that I covered one quarter of the features from FreeCad. SO, take the content of this series of post as they are: an other attempt to share experiences.

Getting the software

Simple and easy, there is a dedicated web site >HERE< and a download area >HERE<.

freecad

I personally decided to go for the last stable version, namely “0.15” that I installed on lap top running Windows 7 Pro 64b OS on an Intel Core i7-4500 CPU @ 1.8 GHz with 8 Gb memory. Quite a nice baby.

Learning how to create a sketch, navigate through the screens and memorizing the keywords is essential. The online help is fine but lacks details. You may have to learn the hard way and find answers in the forum >HERE< after multiple desperate attempts to cutting this #$%*§@ part the right way (sounds like real life experience doesn’t it?). There are many, many tutorials, mainly on YouTube which make a lot of sense. I found this series of tutorial mostly helpful for the beginner >HERE< and >HERE<.

Skip the tutorials which do not feature a sound track, most of them are boring and confusing.

freecad_02

This is what you will get on the first run of FreeCAD. In the next posts, I will show and tell a few tricks which proved to be (very) helpful while discovering FreeCAD and yet trying to achieve quite advanced part designs.

Enjoy

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