Team: 3D Printing

Faster, better, made of plastic

Let’s find the best tools for 3D printing. We review everything needed for 3D printing with an emphasis on consumer level products and open source software/hardware.

Number of members: 1 (view list)

Moderators:

Team rules
  1. Only review items you’ve used personally

3 stars
Usable now, incredible potential

FreeCAD is a FOSS 3D parametric modeler that runs on Linux, Mac and Windows. This is a review of version 0.17.

Features

Parametric modeling

Parametric modeling is the killer feature here. It allows you to link dimensions so they autoupdate when the parent changes. This is early software and it shows. Sketches mapped to faces will map themselves to a different plane when editing a feature above the sketch in the feature tree. You can also link dimensions by naming a dimension and then referencing it by name when creating another constraint: Sketch.constraints.name. This part is well thought out and easy to use. Datum features are new in this version and need work. I’ve spent several hours fighting to get the datum planes defined correctly even when doing simple things like creating a copy of the xy plane but higher on the z axis. That being said, once a part is modeled with datum planes and dimensions are controlled with named constraints, everything works well.

Sketcher

Sketcher is on par with commercial programs for the most part. I’ve had issues with auto constraints not always being applied which will cause issues when you try to base a feature on the sketch. The solver has issues that will lead you to overconstrain sketches if you follow its guidance. Fixes for this are already in the 0.18 branch.

UI

Straight forward and relatively easy to use. It’s interface is similar to many other CAD programs with toolbars for commands and a feature tree for the part. The property view panel is a great addition that allows you to see all the properties of feature or sketch and edit them. The UI is confusing when multiple parts are open in seperate tabs because the feature tree keeps both parts in the same pane and doesn’t change focus when you switch tabs. This leads to many unintended edits on the part you can no longer see.

FreeCAD 0.17 (Own work. License: CC-BY-SA.)

Verdict

Software is usable now with quirks that come with early development software. The majority of features of a true 3D parametric modeler seem to be in the program but many need work. Assemblies are not yet implemented… The ongoing development should make this software not only usable but competitive with commercial products in a few years.

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