FreeCAD: Solid Modeling with the Power of Python

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.

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12 Comments

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  1. FreeCAD is a very exciting project.

    I think they’re making excellent technical choices. I’m optimistic that the seeds that the FreeCAD team is sowing will blossom into a first-class CAD platform.

    I’m definitely going to check out this book.

  2. Aleve Sicofante 10 August 2013 at 5:24 am

    I love books. I started my career in CG by just reading the classics back in the eighties (Foley & Van Damm, Newman & Sproull…). Unfortunately, these days it makes little sense to buy books to learn applications. They are developed so rapidly your book will be outdated in a few months. Besides, the web is full of tutorials that make these books a luxury. Sure, this particular one might be good enough, since FreeCAD has a slow development pace, but when I see those beautiful books about Blender, I can’t help but wondering who’s buying them.

  3. FYI PacktPub is looking to get a new FreeCAD book done.

    https://sourceforge.net/apps/phpbb/free-cad/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=4328

    None of the FreeCAD regulars who could write that book has answered - publicly at least.

    Also, considering the upcoming v0.14 is going to bring a massive change in how the Part Design workbench is to be used, it would make more sense to wait for this release.

  4. Alexandre Prokoudine 10 August 2013 at 11:04 pm

    @Normand, well, it says “We have a new Mini book project of 100 Pages on Creating 3d models with FreeCAD…”. If I was a FreeCAD regular, I probably wouldn’t be all that excited about this project. Modeling is important, but there is more to it than that, especially given team’s interest in PLM.

  5. Not sure what you’re talking about, re: the team’s interest in PLM. This is very low priority at the moment and was talked about last year but with no follow up.

    When I said FreeCAD regulars I was not talking about the dev team, but the experienced users such as I and a few others.

    Also, PLM, WTF? PLM is mostly hype from big corporations. Modeling, or geometry creation is the most important thing in CAD and I certainly hope the devs do not get sidetracked before a full modeling toolset is completed. There’s still much to add in that area.

    And a book on creating 3D models with FreeCAD is very much important, one could say a necessity. I would know, considering the time I spend on the FreeCAD forum helping newcomers. But it won’t be me writing that book.

  6. a) Sorry for my ignorance: what’s PLM?

    b) Is this book going to make any money for the developers? I’d buy it if that’s the case.

  7. PLM = Product Lifecycle Management

    My loose understanding is that it is version control for CAD models.

    The description states that the authors are contributors to the project. I’m sure a large chunk of the purchase goes to Packt, though.

    I agree if there are basic features missing, focusing on advanced features can be premature. This is open source, though, so what the developers find most engaging to work on, and what is most needed do not always match.

    In the early days of Blender being an open-source project, Ton had ideas about including functionality for the 3-d web. In a way similiar to WebGL, but years before it. The newly formed community had different priorities, though, and steered development towards fleshing-out the modeling tools. This was a good thing.

    Anyway, I have only a passing familiarity with FreeCAD. I’ve bought the book. It’s quite short, but I have yet to clear an evening to work through it.

  8. FreeCAD .Hmm. Seems pretty exciting. I will buy this book this week. Thanks.

  9. Great info about Python, Thanks for sharing such a valuable information.

  10. thanks for sharing….. I need this…... I will follow this….

  11. i made my own list of free cad software, didnt have this one in it for some reason

  12. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful post please keep sharing such information in future also..

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