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

Michael Prados mprados at gmail.com
Tue Mar 27 20:02:21 UTC 2012

Really, only enough to determine that the work flow of BRLCAD is way
different from all the proprietary mechanical CAD programs.  For the most
part, it's been my impression that the proprietary programs evolved in the
direction they did for good reasons, except where it seems market forces
have steered them wrong (since it is always therepeutic to make a bitch
list, see mine below.)

Corey, you are adequately fluent in at least one proprietary mechanical CAD
package to comment on whether the BRLCAD work flow is "different and as
good" or just... different.  I'm open to the idea that the proprietary
programs have it all wrong, but I'd need good evidence.


Mike's 95 (+/- 87) Theses to Nail to the Door of Dassault Systems,
Parametric Technologies, Siemens, and Autodesk

1. Your software is too expensive, and your student versions are too lame.

2. You nickel and dime us for every little extension.

3. You offer no good interchange format that allows easy modification of
mechanical designs.  STEP and IGES capture geometry well, but not design
intention.  Solid Edge is even trying to gain market by using "synchronous
technology" as a workaround.

4.  You attempt to keep us on exorbitant annual maintenance fees by
needlessly changing your proprietary data formats every year, and not
offering a way to save backwards compatible files.  This is a mean, dirty

5. You have forsaken all but Windows platforms, even though your entire
industry grew up on POSIX compliant workstations (Irix, Solaris, and HPUX.)

6. The API's you offer are not conducive to user scripting in the design
process.  Whereas, a little SCAD style code would fill in a lot of blanks
in complex geometry, this is out of the reach of anyone who does not have
the time to learn a complex, Microsoft based development environment
targeted at proprietary extensions.

7. Your data formats are binary based and proprietary, making it impossible
to merge changes between users, and otherwise use tools like git and svn.

8. While you do continue to add meaningful new features to your software,
you can not adapt to new technology and design methodologies as fast as
frustrated users could duct tape together mash ups of open source versions
of your code.  This slows progress in any form of engineering that involves
a material thing.

On Tue, Mar 27, 2012 at 1:27 AM, Corey McGuire <coreyfro at coreyfro.com>wrote:

> BRL cad was given some "summer of code" love a year or two ago. I don't
> know how it materialized or if, indeed, it did.  Have you touched it since
> then?
> I hope I can make Wednesday. As of now, quintuple booked.
> On Mar 27, 2012 12:19 AM, "Michael Prados" <mprados at gmail.com> wrote:
>> ps I noticed that in my original post I wrote Bricscad, which is the name
>> of a proprietary package I know little about, whereas I meant BRLCAD, a
>> FOSS package I've poked around at a bit.  Mea culpa, caveat lector.
>> On Mon, Mar 26, 2012 at 7:44 PM, Michael Prados <mprados at gmail.com>wrote:
>>> All right, since you asked so nicely!  Not sure I've got an hour of demo
>>> with freecad so far, but I think there is definitely an hour's worth of
>>> discussion of what makes an effective mechanical cad tool and why.  I can
>>> be there a little after 8pm Wednesday.
>>> -Mike
>>> On Mon, Mar 26, 2012 at 11:24 AM, miloh <froggytoad at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>> On Thu, Mar 22, 2012 at 5:29 PM, Michael Prados <mprados at gmail.com>wrote:
>>>>> My background is in mechanical engineering, so I'm only being slightly
>>>>> hyperbolic in the subject heading.
>>>>> http://sourceforge.net/apps/mediawiki/free-cad/index.php?title=Main_Page
>>>>> 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
>>>>> purposes.
>>>>> 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?
>>>>> -Mike
>>>> Mike, I know you said you were busy until late April, but can you come
>>>> in and present Freecad and your vision for Freecad for an hour at
>>>> Replicator Wednesday this week (03/28/2012)? I'm really interested in the
>>>> project and I think I can get some others in the community interested in
>>>> checking it out.
>>>> We can have a few presentations using the big screen and audio. I'll
>>>> ask Matt to come and show off his http://reconstructme.net/ kinect
>>>> based scanner, and I'll present some things I made with the  elegant and
>>>> simple http://www.openscad.org/
>>>> Of course Andrew Rutter will also bring in Type A Machines prototypes
>>>> and have them printing samples.
>>>> Replicator wednesday isn't just for the 3D printer types, in lieu of
>>>> any other regular meetings we are the de facto regularly meeting fab group
>>>> at Noisebridge, focusing on all the things to make all the things.  If you
>>>> want an introduction to the Noisebridge tools shop, the Makerbots or
>>>> Repraps at Noisebridge,or the Nb Laser cutter, come to Replicator Wednesday
>>>> the first of the month (04/04/2012 in April) and we'll give everyone an
>>>> introduction.
>>>> -R. Miloh
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