[Noisebridge-discuss] free-cad - the one true free mechanical CAD package that will save the world!

Michael Prados mprados at gmail.com
Fri Mar 23 00:29:09 UTC 2012

My background is in mechanical engineering, so I'm only being slightly
hyperbolic in the subject heading.


I have spent some time with Blender, Bricscad, and Openscad, and they are
each useful for many tasks.  But I am convinced that the fundamental
architecture and philosophy of these projects means that they will never
displace mainstream mechanical CAD programs, even with focused attention
and support.  That is fine, because they are intended for different

Free-cad, on the other hand, has strategically tied together several free
software projects to create a package with the potential to win the hearts
and minds of people doing mechanical design, given enough support from the
community.  I have been watching it for a couple of years, as it surpassed
several other nascent projects to become the prototype of something that
could transform how we interact with physical objects.

It isn't there yet, but its developers seem capable and determined, and I
think it is time they got some love.  Last Sunday, Stallman cited CAD as
one of the three most important areas for free software development.  I
find this fact very encouraging, since he, unlike me, has no reason to be
especially passionate about how objects are designed.

I want to see if there is interest at Noisebridge in aggregating a special
interest group devoted to free and open source mechanical CAD software.  My
intention would be to focus on free-cad, but if another serious contender
should arise, I'd be interested in learning about this too.

The goal that inspires me is a future where free-cad is a strong
alternative to Solidworks, Pro/Engineer, and Inventor, to at least the same
extent that Gimp is an alternative to Photoshop, and ideally to the extent
that gcc is preferrable to many proprietary compilers.  Some of the things
that I think a special interest group at Noisebridge could focus on are:

* learning to use the package as it is

* creating new tutorials

* evangelizing to people doing mechanical design, who generally don't know
much about free software

* studying the architecture and workflow of the program, and how it
compares to proprietary alternatives

* reaching out to the core developers, and providing feedback

* writing code, at any of three levels - bolt on extensions, patches, and
contributing to the core

* exploring how free-cad might be better tied in to rendering, 2d cad, 3d
printing, CAM, 3d object scanning, open source robotics, openscad, and
online 3d repositories like thingiverse and google 3d warehouse

Unfortunately, I'm sort of committed until late April, but I wanted to get
the idea out there while it is on my mind.  Am I the only one interested in
this topic, or am I in good company? Are there people interested in meeting
to talk about this?

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