Time for a change of CAD?

Not exactly about F360 but might be!

I was about to go down the F360 route at the time they had their little conniption over “free” accounts, decided to use OnShape and while not a power user by any means, have become quite proficient I think, in a relatively short time - thanks in no small part to the encouragement from you all.

I have a very eclectic bunch of interests, and there are some things that OnShape doesn’t do - download parametric files, or work with vector files for instance. Like most things you don’t know what you are missing out on until you have enough knowledge, and by then the learning curve has been great enough to discourage a restart!

F360 seems to be ubiquitous, but I like the thought of FreeCad very much - could any of you who have had experience with either or both steer me in either direction please?

FWIW - what do I mean by “eclectic”? - here are my currently uploaded design files - I’m about halfway through uploading the last year’s “work”!

PrusaPrinters Files


My biggest gripe with freecad is the sketch tools. The constraint tools are the biggest offender. They just feel clunky and take way longer for me to use than fusion.

There was also an issue with the naming tree. Freecad seems to ne things in order, so if you go back in the timeline/tree and delete an object, the next object would assume it’s name and freecad would apply operations as though it has always been the deleted object. Lead to some very strange behavior you can see on YouTube. Granted, i haven’t looked at it in a year or so, and maybe they got it sorted out or will soon.

I had some trouble with the cam, but it might have just been me being spoiled with fusion’s workflow.

Otherwise it’s pretty nice, and has tons of tools and addins. I’m pretty sure it’s got most of the stuff fusion has, except all opensource and available to download with no subscriptions or fees.

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I’m a happy Fusion 360 user, and, after all the uproar about the free license restrictions, the new restrictions had very little impact on me. The only restriction that I chafe under is the 10 editable documents limit, and that’s not even too bad since I can open and manipulate read-only documents. I just cannot save them without making them editable. Of course, I’m at the mercy of any new restrictions they might make in the future.


FreeCAD has a lot of development. The stable release (0.18?) Is pretty far behind.

But I can’t advise, really. I still use onshape mostly.


I have been considering switching away from Onshape myself. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE Onshape. I am pretty proficient with it now. But I would really like a CAD that can be used 100% offline. Kind of a prepper with a 3D printer line of thinking. Do any of the previous suggestions work offline?


Yep, FreeCad is entirely off line.

I am swaying in that direction I must say. But I really really love Onshape as well!


Fusion 360 allows you to be offline for two weeks at a stretch, but not completely offline all the time. Offline mode is turned on/off here:


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Anybody have any experience with OpenScad? How does it compare to FreeCAD?

OpenScad is a parametric CAD programming language, it’s about writing code and seeing it’s effect in a visualiser.
Hard to learn but powerfull


I love openscad and used it for several years before switching to fusion 360 for the most part. In some ways it does a better job at parametric modeling & threads than fusion 360. I especially find threads easier to get better 3d printing tolerances than fusion 360.

FWIW, there is a scripting tool for FreeCAD too. I tried it before and it was neat. Writing python and more object oriented than openscad. This was years ago.

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I was also upset about the F360 changes at that time, but I went back and found that as a hobbyist, it really doesn’t affect me either. The limit is 10 editable documents, but you can make old ones read-only at any time, and I’m pretty sure it’s easy to make them writable again later if you need to. For a business, this would get tedious (and possibly make it worth the money to subscribe, all by itself?), but for a hobbyist, it really doesn’t matter much. I had tried some other stuff, like Free CAD, but really didn’t like them in comparison. I’d use something else if I had to, but F360 still does the job for me. I can always switch later if they make things worse.


I am quite seriously allergic to numbers (in a kind of numerical dyslectic way) so the more graphic a program’s interface - the more likely I am to come to grips with it - I can’t imagine being able to develop a complex shape in openscad!

I am intrigued though as I notice FreeCad can export to OpenScad format to enable parametric files to be uploaded and modified. I think that Fusion files will do that - onshape does, but to modify the file the person downloading the files needs to have a (free) onshape account.

I’ve spent a lot of time with solidworks, freecad, and f360. f360 is easily my favorite of the freebies. Unlike freecad, it has never really held back my designs. Having to occasionally go through and change old files to “read-only” to stay within their 10 editable files limit is a nag. The design flow and tools are great though. The CAM is excellent with, especially with the flyfisher604 post processor. I use it for a similar array of designs like you do, including cnc stuff… bet it would grow on you too. :wink:

I found myself dabbling with all software after I got my 3d printer. I like freecad. it is offline and works well. 360 froze up on me a couple times on my awesome pc, so it was definitely internet related and i have a tough time learning it. If I am in a hurry, I still like Kindercad, I mean Tinkercad. It is awesome and simple!!!

I have been forcing myself to learn Freecad and think that is where I will be staying. All local, all open, and works well.

Openscad is unique, I had to kinda learn it as I waited almost an entire day for the modeler to work in Thingiverse, so I downloaded the OpenScad file and did whatever I needed. It was not simple but it worked.


Here is one that might be worth trying.
CadQuery Comes Of Age | Hackaday


That’s the library I was talking about. Looks like they have greatly improved the interface.

I come from all GUI all the time CAD. I can understand the example they have there, I could not write that by myself but I am confident I could with some practice. From my perspective, it seems like that is one layer of buttons away from a full GUI with all the programming done automatically.

It looks to me like if you could click and give dimensions and a few basic automatic shapes it is done.

That does read like I design stuff. Sometimes I start with my dimensions, make a box (click and drag a square), assign the dimensions, click and drag a circle and assign some locating and dimensional values, the fillet. Same same, just missing a few clicks and drags. Not sure about surfaces, lofts, and automatic bending, 90% of the people do not need that stuff though.


My thoughts exactly. In every detail. Most of theme that I add new shapes to my sketches I will ham slam it onto the page then use numbers to define it. That would be super easy to add to a GUI. The part I worry about is the 40% of the time that I am adding constraints to the sketch with the GUI as well. For example, these vertex points should be aligned vertically etc. but that shouldn’t be too difficult to add into a GUI either. Add those and I am ready to rock that CAD.

I will still watch some tutorials and maybe try it out anyway.

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Wow that looks very interesting. I am a big fan of OpenScad, and it is basically the only 3D modeling tool I use, but it has weaknesses where it fails in areas where I think it shouldn’t. Just the last couple days I have been fighting with it a lot. I will have to give CadQuery a try.

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