Active Open Source CAD Tools for Linux

CAD software is an important tool for engineers, animators, and graphic designers. In comparison with the proprietary CAD tools, Open Source free CAD software is as sophisticated as with its commercial counterparts. Also due to the demand, commercial CAD software are quite expensive. This leads us to free CAD Software, where you can get fully-fledged Computer Aided Design software without spending too much money. In this article we will check few open source CAD tools that you can use in any Linux flavors.

1. FreeCAD

FreeCAD is a open source general purpose parametric 3D CAD modeler for mechanical engineers and product designers but also fits in a wider range of uses around engineering, such as architecture or other engineering specialties. Apart from 3D CAD modelers FreeCAD has many 2D components in order to sketch 2D shapes or extract design details from the 3D model to create 2D production drawings. FreeCAD does not focus on animation or organic shapes like Maya, 3ds Max, Blender or Cinema 4D.

FreeCAD makes use of  the open-source libraries in the field of Scientific Computing. Among them are OpenCascade- a powerful CAD kernel, Coin3D- an incarnation of Open Inventor, Qt- UI framework, and Python, one of the best scripting languages available. FreeCAD itself can also be used as a library by other programs.

FreeCAD is also fully multi-platform, and currently runs flawlessly on Windows and Linux/Unix and Mac OSX systems, with the exact same look and functionality on all platforms.

2. LibreCAD

LibreCAD is a 2D CAD drawing tool based on the community edition of QCAD. LibreCAD uses the cross-platform framework Qt, which means it works with most operating systems. The user interface is translated in over 30 languages.  To compensate for the lack of 3D, libreCAD support layers to create exploded views. Options such as snapping and grouping make it easy to create objects that can be moved around en masse. Dimensions units can be adjusted to account for scale and country. Completed designs can be exported in a variety of formats including image like JPG and TIF, and other such as PPM and XBM.

3. OpenSCAD

OpenSCAD is another CAD tools for creating solid 3D CAD models and is available for Linux/UNIX, Windows and Mac OS X. OpenSCAD is not an interactive modeller and it is something like a 3D-compiler that reads a script file that describes the object and renders the 3D model from this script file. Thus the designer has a full control over the modelling process and enables him to easily change any step in the modelling process or make designs that are defined by configurable parameters.

OpenSCAD provides two main modelling techniques. The first one is constructive solid geometry (CSG) and the second one is extrusion of 2D outlines. The data exchange format for this 2D outlines Autocad DXF files are used. In addition to 2D paths for extrusion, OpenSCAD read design parameters from DXF files. Besides DXF files OpenSCAD can read and create 3D models in the STL and OFF file formats.

4. QCAD

QCAD is a free, open source application for computer aided drafting (CAD) in two dimensions (2D). QCAD can create technical drawings such as plans for buildings, interiors, mechanical parts or schematics and diagrams. QCAD works on Windows, macOS and Linux. The source code of QCAD is released under the GPL version 3 (GPLv3), a popular Open Source license.

QCAD was designed with modularity, extensibility and portability in mind. QCAD has very nice intuitive user interface, easy to use but powerful 2D CAD system for everyone. You don't need any CAD experience to get started with QCAD immediately.

5. BRL‑CAD

BRL-CAD is a powerful open source cross-platform solid modeling system that includes interactive geometry editing, high-performance ray-tracing for rendering and geometric analysis, a system performance analysis benchmark suite, geometry libraries for application developers, and more than 30 years of active development. BRL-CAD is a collection of more than 400 tools, utilities, and applications comprising more than a million lines of source code. The package is intentionally designed to be extensively cross-platform and is actively developed on and maintained for many common operating system environments including for BSD, Linux, Solaris, Mac OS X, and Windows among others.

6. CollabCAD

CollabCAD is a 3D CAD/CAM Software system for collaborative design & development of Industrial Designs. CollabCAD's applications ranges from product design, numerical control, visualization, simulation, analysis to design data repository, workflow and enterprise resource planning. CollabCAD is an initiative of National Informatics Centre (NIC, Department of Information Technology), Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC, Department of Atomic Energy) and Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (Department of Space, VSSC).

CollabCAD is developed on the Linux platform and is available on Windows and Linux. CollabCAD is developed using open source software like Java, Open Cascade geometry kernel and supports open standards of data exchange such as XML, STEP, IGES, and VRML to ensure interoperability.

About Dwijadas Dey

Dwijadas Dey is working with GNU/Linux, Open source systems since 2005. Having avid follower of GNU/Linux, He believes in sharing and spreading the open source ideas to the targeted audience. Apart from freelancing he also writes for community. His current interest includes information and network security.

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