BRLCAD needs to come up to the level of Solidworks, Autocad, ProEngineer. These over priced and under powered packages force the engineering community to crawl around in Microsoft's OS hell. We need a Cad package that is affordable and can run on Linux. Linux, as you all know, can run multiple systems in tandem. We need that when working with Cad. Personnaly I would like to see BRLCAD work more similarly to Solidworks. Those people are in desperate need of a proper smackdown.
$8,000 per seat, WTF! Please do something. Tell me how I can help. Thanks.
There's lots of ways you can help. If you're a developer, I'd suggest starting with the HACKING file in the source distribution as that has some pointers for new contributors. There are many many projects and ideas that need to be worked on. If you're not a developer, there's plenty of ways to contribute on the website and documentation.
If you want help interactively narrowing down on some other way you can help contribute, feel free to follow up on IRC, on the mailing list, or even here.
It's appears that it has been a while since any discussion on this topic, and I think it is time for an update. Most importantly, for 2D CAD, Dassault Systèmes (SolidWorks, Catia) has just released DraftSight2 in Linux builds- *.dbe and *.rppm packages. Available here: http://www.3ds.com/products/draftsight/free-cad-software/
I also recently completed a study of other CAD options available for Linux systems, available here:
Note that I still consider brlCAD the best available, although Salome http://www.salome-platform.org/ may be a bit more user-friendly…
There are many ok 2D CAD solutions for Linux available. The state of 3D CAD apps for Linux isn't as good. BRL-CAD is superb when measured with technical specs, but the UI is still far from user friendly (and it's only CSG). Blender is great for visualizations but not for CAD (and the python CAD plugins aren't really upt to par with the requirements).
For example my specialty group (architecture) would need something similar to the ordinary AutoCAD (partial replacements exist in the FOSS/Linux world), and something similar to ArchiCAD or Revit Architecture which are BIM CAD programs (no alternatives available). It looks like BRL-CAD could possibly be a contender but only with significant feature extensions to replicate the functionality of Revit.
And then there's the most problematic issue of all, proper support for Autodesk DWG files. LibreDWG is on the job but with far too few developers. I'll propably suggest BRL-CAD devs cooperating with LibreDWG devs for the benefit of both to finally introduce proper DWG rw-support in at least one FOSS program.
Unfortunately, *.dwg is a moving target- even older versions of AutoCAD can not read *.dwg files created in newer versions. I do find that I can read most *.dwg 2D drawings that come my way with DraftSight2…
As for 3D modeling, although I really like the CSG of BrlCAD (we old school types think in terms of cutting shapes rather than building from points to lines to triangles), I am migrating more and more to the Salome platform, mostly because much of my 3D work is intended for FEA or CFD analysis- and I usually wind up somewhere along the line with the object in *.stl format. I did just come across a new 3D package that may be more appropriate for CAD- OpenSCAD, more in tune with the engineering aspects rather than the artistic (I just spent a couple of days trying to navigate around a new version of Blender, and had to give up- they have so radically modified the UI that one must start the learning curve all over again, and the documentation is a mixture of older documentation that is no longer applicable, and newer documentation that reads like it came from Microsoft or AutoCAD…). I haven't had a chance to really get in to OpenSCAD to fully evaluate its capabilities, but it does appear promising on first glance.
My past look at LibreDWG left me with the impression that they are quite a ways away from a viable solution- but, then, my requirements are going to differ from your focus on architectural work.
I probably should also add the disclaimer that CAD is such a small part of what I do, if I need anything much more than a simple shop drawing or a model for an analysis, I will farm it out to someone who is properly set up for such work. Most of the commercial packages I have looked at are far too complicated for my limited applications- the problem with the commercial houses trying to be everything for everyone, winding up with far too many features to be easy to navigate…I guess that's why all the major houses are now offering "specialized" packages.
Forgot to add a link to OpenSCAD
Work on improving our UI has been steadily under development for a couple years now. It's a two-phase multi-year effort with still a couple years to go before it's "complete" (is a GUI ever complete?), but we're expecting to get our foundation in place with an alpha release of a new interface later this year. That will be followed by a dramatically different and improved interface approximately two years afterwards. That's the short summary. ;)
The CAD domain is far too large and complex to dwell on supporting any vendor's proprietary binary format. Our focus continues to be towards being the best at supporting the ISO STEP format along with other open geometry formats that support solid modeling (IGES, 3DM, DXF). We have more than enough on our plate introducing and maintaining proper boundary representation support (we're no longer CSG-only) along with developing better geometry processing services and a new GUI to boot!
The great thing about open source is that you don't really need anyone's permission to work on something or take things in a different direction. If someone wanted to hook in proper DWG support into BRL-CAD, I certainly wouldn't object (presuming it was legally developed and license-compatible). GPL libraries, however, are not compatible with BRL-CAD's BSD/LGPL licensing, though, so proper integration is already a non-starter. It'd have to be a separate plugin extension or separate converter project.
Wow. This topic and the responses convey a ton of information very efficiently. - Thank you
Your input was perfect in that it nudged me into DraftSight, and so far it seems the best match possible for my skill level and immediate needs. The price has me still smiling. My recent search: "freeware cad (+ several modifiers)" - produced the typical informational fog layer of which internet searches are famous. Expert advice sure cuts through that fog.
I pursued the link to your study on Cad options for Linux to the point where my not having an academic email address put me on the outside looking inward. I can appreciate how the academic filter for joining that group greatly affects both the quality of postings and ease of forum management …. but I would have enjoyed reading your work if only it was accessible and I have no doubts there are many more like me who could also benefit.
My analysis of OpenSource CAD packages can downloaded here:.
It is rather dated, but gives some links to various additional options. I still rate BrlCAd as one of the best.
Reviewing Sean's comments, I realized that I am still using 7.18.4- I need to check out the recent changes…
Excellent article and thank you for making it generally available. Plenty of depth and breadth of a complex topic. I read it carefully once through and will revisit it several times as my skills increase. I've done some heat transport modelling in the past using the relaxation method … so I have an appreciation for the meshing you discuss. My guess is meshing is at least an order of magnitude more challenging than any of the 3-dimensional models I have written. I have even simulated 3-dimensional node analysis with cross and diagonal contributions using an Excel spreadsheet. Excel actually worked quite well and it allowed an interesting view of the convergence oscillations. I am now absorbing DraftSight as fast as my brain cell allows. Its both a fun and frustratingly slow process; however, I remain convinced that the choice to use DraftSight was the right one for me and I thank you again for the indirect guidance I derived from your earlier comments in this thread.
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