Hello. I am currently using SolidWorks to design sheet metal components for products that the company I work for builds. I would like to experiment with alternatives, and I was wondering whether BRL-CAD would be suitable for this kind of work. I hope I am inquiring at the right place.
I design the individual parts in 3D by starting from sketches, creating a base flange and extruding and folding edge flanges from there. Then I build the parts into assemblies and start 'connecting' them with different relations and mates. Usually many relations arise between the different sheet metal parts (so that certain dimensions and angles are dynamically calculated and so that certain holes and edges line up properly).
Once I have completed an assembly, I create two files for each part to send to the laser cutting and bending company. The first file is basically a 1:1 flat pattern of the component in DXF format, which is used by the laser cutting machine. The second is a printable A4 PDF with diagrams and instructions for bending the sheet metal part correctly.
Designing the actual 3D parts in SolidWorks is usually a breeze. Creating the flat pattern and bending instruction sheets and (especially) keeping them up to date with the 3D model is a big hassle. It has always seemed to me that though entirely graphical interfaces tend to be a step forward in usability, they also tend to represent a few steps backwards in automation. SolidWorks also sometimes presents me with some very nasty surprises such as inexplicibly generating bending instructions inverted.
So, I am looking for alternatives to try out, and hopefully to some day replace SolidWorks entirely in our pipeline. Is BRL-CAD generally a good candidate for sheet metal modelling and flat-pattern generation?