Friday, August 21, 2009

Which Free 3D CAD program would I suggest?

A few months ago I received a comment on one of my posts, asking me which free 3D CAD program I would suggest. You can see my response here.

Answering JOE's (the commenter) request reminded me that I had posted a few articles in the past about Open Source CAD programs. Since then though I had pretty much given up searching for an open source CAD program that would provide at least a usable modeling tool (primarily because my initial search was futile).

But I did keep my eyes open a little bit and came across NaroCAD a few months ago. Having followed NaroCAD's feeds for that period I noticed that it is under quite active development. From the developer's blog "NaroCAD is an opensource CAD design tool written in C#/.NET and is built on top of proven OpenCascade library". In fact NaroCAD reached 1.0 milestone a few months ago and they even provide .NET bindings for OpenCascade (including IronPython).

In my comment, I had recommended to JOE to use Alibre Design Xpress, since it is free, and offers great capability at that price (check out Alibre's CEO's blog - they even have a sale on Alibre Design Standard at the time of this writing, Aug 18 2009). I have not experimented with NaroCAD myself but considering its infancy I am relatively certain that its capabilities don't match Alibre's.

If the fact that I have a blog titled "Open Source Software and CAD" and am recommending a non-open-source program to my readers, alarms you, then don't be. I simply am recommending what I think is feasible. Most CAD users are not programmers. They may be versatile in creating Mapkey Automation or Macro scripts but mostly simply care about how complete their 2D/3D tools are for modeling purposes. In my experience with open source, attempting to use a program which has not matured, would usually result in much frustration to users who are not adept at looking at source code to solve any problems they may have (this is not to taint NaroCAD itself, it may be a great program, but just to explain my reason for the recommendation).

If you feel upto it, I would suggest downloading NaroCAD and experimenting with it. I am relatively certain that you may need to download OpenCascade separately as the installer for NaroCAD does not seem large enough (15.6MB) to accommodate all of OpenCascade (175MB).

UPDATE (8/30/2009): I stand corrected. One (of the 3 contributors to their blog) of the developers of NaroCAD (ciplogic) left a comment (still visible below this post) that NaroCAD uses only a subset of OpenCascade, which means that the ~15 MB download of NaroCAD is really all you need. So what are you waiting for? Have you downloaded NaroCAD? I have.