Call for participation: Free CAD project

If anyone’s interested in developing or learning about free CAD software, someone in the FSF Latin America list has posted a call for participation: Proyecto: CAD LIBRE. Right now the information is in spanish but I thought I would take the opportunity to ask other Ubuntu users what is the current status of free, open source solutions for CAD ?

I know the Open Design Alliance reverse engineered the DWG format, and their own version of its specification is a restricted copyright document. I am a bit surprised there aren’t that many packages that provide any support for DXF / DWG files manipulation and viewing (or even editing). Or maybe my level of ignorance on the subject is such I shouldn’t be writing about this in the first place 🙂

I remember a few years ago I went to a tradeshow and I was speaking to an Autodesk rep who laughed at my 5-minute pitch about freing Autocad, while explaining their strategy to copy-protect and enforce licence restrictions on customers. He summarized their position saying « just like accounting and games, free/open-source won’t ever touch our niche ».


12 réflexions sur « Call for participation: Free CAD project »

  1. QCad Community Edition

    The community edition contains the source code of QCad, released under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL). This package contains dxflib, fparser, qcadlib, qcadcmd, qcadactions, qcadguiqt and QCad, all in one tar ball. A script to build everything from scratch on any Linux / Unix system is also included. Note that the community edition does not contain the scripting module or polyline support. Sources are usually released some time after the professional editions. Requirements: Qt developer edition 3.3.4, C++ compiler, GNU tools. Please understand that RibbonSoft cannot offer free support for compiling or using these sources.

  2. Fabián: Just a quick correction: Open Design Alliance has reverse engineered DWG (to some degree), DXF specification is pretty much open specification.

    Ken & Jake: Yes, QCAD is nice and all but we shouldn’t mention it as a serious replacement of AutoCAD, Inventor or any other full blown 3D system. 2D is almost dead now and someone should finally unplug the life support for it.

    The first step to building a Open Source CAD system should be choosing existing or writing a new 3D kernel and then building specialised application on top of it.
    Anyway, I’d love to be involved in that kind of project somehow.


  3. Thanks for the corrections. Do you think compiz-fusion changes in any way the possibilities for this kind of apps ? I am not sure what you mean by a 3d kernel… specific optimization for 3d ? How is this different from compiz-fusion ?

  4. Ken: Exactly, that’s what I forgot about. BRL-CAD seems like a good starting point. It has an awful interface but screenshots of results prodcued with it look very good.

    Fabián: Every 3D CAD package has a modelliing engine (what I called 3D kernel). Probably the best known examples are ACIS and Parasolid. They work as environments in which all objects are modelled, stored modified and so on. The better that engine is the faster and more accurate software you can build on top of it. Good 3D kernel also allows you to display your objects in different modes like wireframe, hidden lines, shaded and so forth.
    I’m not an expert in programming matters here. I haven’t really done any programming in CAD – I just work in that industry my whole professional life, designing, supporting and documenting the software.

  5. We desperately need a simple 3D CAD package for education. In the UK at least Design & Technology departments, which don’t seem to exist in many other countries, are the heaviest users of IT, and they mostly use it for CAD and CAM. It’s hard enough pushing OpenOffice, Gimp, Inkscape etc, but once you admit there is no decent free 3D CAD (and no support for CAM machinery) you’ve lost the argument.

    If the BRL-CAD kernel is good enough then PLEASE will someone build a decent GUI for it?

    For personal use I’ve invested in VariCAD, it’s simpler than most but good enough for school work I prepare for my students and not too hard to learn. Runs on Linux/OSX/Windows. Would be ideal for Edubuntu, anyone like to persuade Mark Shuttleworth to buy the company and open source it?

  6. I am in the civil engineering field in Illinois. While I do not do much CAD work – I deal mostly with PDF’s of plan sheets, everything in in microstation format and the industry has moved away from Autocad. is there any talk of being able to work with DGN files?

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