FreeCAD: Solid Modeling with the Power of Python
This is our late, late review of "FreeCAD: Solid Modeling with the Power of Python" book. It was out in September 2012, but as it covers then-upcoming FreeCAD 0.13 which is still the latest release, it's 100% relevant today.
Both writers, Brad Collette and Daniel Falck, are contributors to FreeCAD, and both have hands-on engineering experience. For instance, Daniel has been doing tooling design and prototype machine shop supervision for the past 26 years, including 14 years at Gibson (yes, the guitar company).
The book also got technical reviews by Yorik van Havre who is in charge for the drafting and architecture workbenches in FreeCAD and is also an architect by trade, and by Adrian Przekwas who's behind an unofficial FreeCAD tutorials blog.
In other words, everyone involved with the production of the book know their job pretty damn well. No surprises there.
Now, for the caveat. Strictly speaking, this is a howto, not a full-fledged manual. A little over 40 pages of actual content in the book cover such topics as:
- Understanding the interface of FreeCAD.
- Basics of constructive solid geometry modeling in the Part workbench.
- Drafting, rotating, and extruding to create parts.
- Modeling with constraints.
- Recording and editing a macro, automating your work with Python scripts.
- Creating 2D views of 3D models, importing and exporting DXF.
The intention is to answer the most common questions coming from new users who have some experience with other CAD software.
The parts to be modeled per instructions are: a offset mounting bracket for a NEMA 17 stepping motor, a timing pulley, a servo motor.
All the instructions are precise and to the point, following them wasn't a problem. There are also far less boring Python code listings than one might expect. As for illustrations, given the coverage, there isn't much to say about them really.
The only major concern here is, predictably, the amount of actual content. Don't worry: PacktPub priced the book accordingly, but their decision to produce a howto instead of a regular-sized book is still a bit disappointing. My educated guess is that they were generally interested in the topic, but unsure, whether a complete FreeCAD manual would lead to desired sales. Sadly, it's the only FreeCAD book out there so far.
Conclusion: if you need to get just the basics of using FreeCAD, this howto is right for you. For getting more advanced techniques you still can't beat Adrian's tutorials blog.