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Thread: Thoughts on what software to use?

  1. #1
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    Thoughts on what software to use?

    When talking about Open Source software, there's a few things to consider, one of them being "What software do I use?"... unfortunately, this is part of where I'm getting stuck. In some cases, such as firmware development for the PIC or AVR, for example, your choices are rather limited and there *does* tend to be a best choice. When it comes to modeling, things become a bit more tricky as there's more options of what software you can use, all with their pros and cons and it's difficult to say what really contributes best to the Open Source model. For example, you can design something in Solidworks (a single license is $4,000) and release the Solidworks file for anyone to do what they'd like with... of course, unless those people have Solidworks, it won't do much good. You could release just the STL file which should allow end-users to fabricate what you've created, but will be unlikely able to edit it.

    So, when looking at modeling an object (such as a trigger) and looking at the Open Source route, what software would you think is best? I've narrowed things down to three options:

    1. Designspark Mechanical
    2. Autodesk Fusion 360
    3. Blender

    Designspark Mechanical
    Pros
    • Free
    • "easy to use"
    • can save the Designspark file, allowing other users to edit the original model
    • can export a model to stl

    Cons
    • requires an online account
    • direct modeling, not parametric or history based (could be considered a pro to some)


    Autodesk Fusion 360
    Pros
    • Has free options suitable for open source development
    • "easy to use"
    • includes other options such as a renderer, drawings, animation and cam
    • can directly share links to each project through the application
    • can share projects with other users
    • includes a version control system

    Cons
    • can only export to stl
    • requires an online account
    • no local save option; all of the files / projects live on Autodesks servers



    Blender
    Pros
    • Free
    • can save files locally
    • no online account required

    Cons
    • not easy to use (lots of shortcuts, lots of options)
    • best for organic modeling, not precision object modeling



    Designspark seems like it has a slight edge on Fusion in that you can save the original file, though if you can't connect to their servers for some reason, it'll do you no good. Going with Fusion sounds great, but putting 100% trust in another company to handle everything just seems a bit sketchy. Thoughts, comments, suggestions?

  2. #2
    Insider Davros's Avatar
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    When judging Blender remember it is a 3D animation package, not a CAD programme.

    Having said that, I find it just fine for modelling stuff for 3D printing. And I can edit STL files on it without a problem.

    My interest in 3D printing and gorwing interest in paintball modifications/making stuff has gotten me to do a little bit more on the CAD side, but those CAD programmes you listed are Windows only so I do not use them and even if I did I am not qualified to judge like people here who have very likely used them to make actual objects. I just posted to say that I feel Blender is perfectly OK for STL creation for 3D printing.

    Those online free as in beer CAD through a website creations are nifty technologically speaking but I in principle would not like have the files stored elsewhere and all web apps that are normally native apps annoy me anyway. That is just me though.

    Did you look at OnShape?

    You started by mentioning open source programmes. Just so you know in case it matters to you, Blender is the only open source programme of the ones you listed.

    I installed FreeCAD. It seems to have good momentum, but it is not even at version 1 yet so it will be lacking. However, I look forward to learning with it a bit,

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the reply Davros.

    Quote Originally Posted by Davros View Post
    Those online free as in beer CAD through a website creations are nifty technologically speaking but I in principle would not like have the files stored elsewhere and all web apps that are normally native apps annoy me anyway. That is just me though.
    I agree, if I don't control it, I don't really own it. This takes on a slightly different meaning with open source, but the idea is the same. If I can't get to a project because Autodesk decided to cancel my account for some reason (or charge an amount for Fusion 360 that I'm not willing to pay), then what?

    Quote Originally Posted by Davros View Post
    Did you look at OnShape?
    I've heard of it, but haven't looked into it yet.

    Quote Originally Posted by Davros View Post
    You started by mentioning open source programmes. Just so you know in case it matters to you, Blender is the only open source programme of the ones you listed.
    Yeah, it'd be nice to use free (as in beer), open source programs as it allows more people to participate and help. With that said, I'm not sure FOSS CAD stuff is where it *really* needs to be for that. I know someone was working on a fork of Blender to *make* it a CAD program, but I think that's still in it's infancy, if it's even being developed still.

    Quote Originally Posted by Davros View Post
    I installed FreeCAD. It seems to have good momentum, but it is not even at version 1 yet so it will be lacking. However, I look forward to learning with it a bit,
    I tried getting into FreeCAD and couldn't do it. As you said it's not even v1 and it just seems... off... from what I'm used to.


    The other important question is, is providing an STL enough? If so, then it doesn't *terribly* matter what software is used. I mean, yeah, Autodesk can shutdown my account, but so long as I have the STL's, that's the important part. Thoughts?


    Something my friend mentioned is that you *can* get student versions of some software (eg. Solidworks) or you can try looking for a nearby makerlab or junior college as they may have that software available at a low price (ie. either a student version or just available by auditing a class, etc). Honestly, I'd *MUCH* rather go with *actual* software that gives me full control of the project rather than hope nothing happens to it.
    Last edited by FallNAngel; 01-27-2017 at 10:47 AM.

  4. #4
    Insider Davros's Avatar
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    For 3D printing plastic items I say yes, STL is enough. Still not sure what type of work you will be doing with the files. It is probably good enough for metal but I have no experience with that.

    Whatever you use in the end please consider using FreeCAD once in awhile and make reports on the wish list and bugs. Enough to give feedback to improve it. Only way it will get usable.

    Have you seen MEDUSA4? Proprietary, but you can get a version where you only pay per file to free the file to other formats and remove a watermark.

  5. #5
    I've been using Fusion 360 for quite a while, and really enjoy it.

    It can export to IGES, SAT, SMT, and STEP formats, in addition to saving files as STL.
    You can save local copies, but they are saved as one of the above formats, not a native fusion format maintaining full design history.
    It is easy to have multiple people involved in a project, and even limit certain people to viewing things so they can't mess something up but you still want their feedback.
    The integrated CAM is excellent. I have the ultimate version with 5-axis capability, but even the regular version has excellent capabilities.
    There are a number of good youtube channels that are excellent resources for Fusion, including one directly from Autodesk.

    Honestly haven't looked into many of the other options, but my experience with Fusion is excellent.

  6. #6

  7. #7
    Fusion is probably the best for what it costs. From my little use of it, its very similar to inventor but more focused on being cam software. All the autodesk cam software is based off hsmworks since they bought the company, which is my favorite cam software as it plugs into solidworks. They then plugged it into inventor and finally came out with the more integrated fusion

  8. #8
    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiM...bW5mbx0iDcRQ2g

    Autodesk probably has a more involved youtube presence trying to give people great information and tutorials than any other company I have seen.

    For small business or hobby use it is free. I got grandfathered into the ultimate package for $300 a year because I wanted the multi-axis toolpaths (just 4th axis for now, but no middle ground between 3 and 5).

  9. #9
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    Yeah, just came back here to mention that upon further review, it *does* allow you to export in f3d (Fusion 360) format, which *does* keep the feature history. From here, I suppose my real concern is migrating from one software (Fusion 360) to something else such as Solidworks, though I suppose that's an entirely different discussion. I *do* like dealing with Solidworks and I don't like the fact that F3D is online only, but I think for the time being it may be my best choice at the moment.

  10. #10
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    I have been using Solidworks, but my background is AutoCAD and Inventor, and AutoCAD is what I do at the day job. I mostly chose Solidworks because most of the machine shops I talked to used it. But that was before Fusion 360.

    I do not like the idea of Fusion holding my files, but I want to try out the CAD/CAM work. Onshape is similar, with their cloud ownership IIRC. I guess I will setup the Fusion 360 program and see how it spins on my machine. Rendering and animation would be nice additions also.

    How has it been to transfer files from Solidworks to? Has anybody here done it?
    Josh Coray
    J4 Paintball
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