Is this even the right thing for me to be messing with, or will it all end in tears?

bill daly
  • bill daly

    bill daly - 2013-11-25

    I have this old but really pretty beautiful G5 power PC. I lost my seat of solid works office on a windows 7 laptop, and I need something to be independent in my acoustic guitar designs and mechanical engineering consulting from whatever company laptop I may or may not have at the time. I'm trying to do something that gets me back designing but I've been reading stuff for about 10 days and am no closer to having a linux installed on this machine or a open source cad tool that doesn't create a vacuum. So I thought BRL-CAD would be great (I've done ballistic shock analysis and tests on my designs). But I don't know UNIX from a hole in the ground, can't even figure out how to change a directory (imagine they call them paths), and at the end of the day am I wasting my time? Will BRL-CAD look anything like Solid Works or Pro/E or Inventor or any mechanical design tool? I need to create planes and axes and sweeps and lofts and stuff like that, will I be able to do those? Can I make engineering drawings? Can I get up and running in any kind of short order or will I need to take two years of Unix? I am currently incredibly frustrated and wonder if I should give up now while I'm ahead.

    Thanks if you can help.


  • Sean Morrison

    Sean Morrison - 2013-11-25

    BRL-CAD doesn't currently look or work anything at all like Solidworks, Pro/E, and other CAD systems. From what you described and are expecting, I don't think that BRL-CAD is presently a good fit for you. Maybe in a year.

    You could certainly create interesting designs using a variety of 3D methods with BRL-CAD. However, our support for engineering drawings is still under development and while you won't need to learn UNIX, there is plenty you must learn like any CAD system.

  • bill daly

    bill daly - 2013-11-28

    Ok, So I don't really care if it 'looks' like SW or PRO, nor do I mind learning something if there's a payoff to be had. The version I downloaded for MAC had me start it with a Unix command, but since I didn't even get how to change directories and such I couldn't even get it to launch, maybe later with a math/CS major visiting for the weekend we'll get it to run. So humor me with a few more questions which to see if the tool will be useful, albeit maybe not yet perfect:

    1. Can one dump a 2D view to scale, maybe in wireframe?
      (I need to be able to trace 'drawings' with my Gorton pantograph miller for inlay)

    2. Can one build assemblies from parts?

    3. If so, does one use geometric mate relationships or just orient parts in space (which can be very tricky)?

    4. Are there construction geometries such as axes and planes?

    5. Can one create sweeps or lofts from cross sections?

    6. Is it at all parametric or does one need to keep track of x,y,z coordinates for all point locations, ends of lines and that sort of thing?


    • Sean Morrison

      Sean Morrison - 2013-12-06

      Our latest download (7.24.0) for Mac OS X is a simple drag-n-drop installation, double-click the icon to run. No UNIX command-line is involved. We do have an integrated command-prompt within our application environment so some typing is to be expected if you really want to be productive.

      As I mentioned, we not only don't "look" like SW or PRO, we don't work like them either. So just be wary that you're going down a very deep rabbit hole, Alice. ;)

      For your questions:
      1) Yes, run "rtedge" (e.g.,
      2) Absolutely.
      3) Currently the latter, we're in the middle of working on the prior.
      4) As 3D geometry "yes", as entities you can reference during building like you would in SW or PRO, "no".
      5) Linear extrusions and solids of revolution are supported, taking sketched cross sections. Some users like our crude interface, but it's not our recommended approach for most geometry cases. We promote a constructive solid modeling approach.
      6) It's a mix. We have a lot of tools and commands that help you infer and keep track of key point locations. Some is parametric and automatic, other parts require manual effort.

      Hope that was somewhat enlightening.


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