3d CAD drafting on Ubuntu?
November 25, 2009 10:00 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a 3d CAD drafting program that will run with Ubuntu.

A feature I need that is missing on the one 3D drafting program I found (CollabCAD) was the ability to use scripts that are something I can generate with my own software (parsing it out as needed). Other programs lack the third dimension. FreeCAD is very promising, but still lacks 3d drafting ability (which I discovered after laboriously compiling the lastest version). I suppose that something running under Wine is acceptable. Ultimately, I need to get output from the CAD program that will import into POVray or something similar.

I say "drafting", because so many programs seem to work by manipulating solid geometry. I prefer plotting my own lines etc. based on computation. I used to do this in Windows, and had a lovely CAD program I found on a magazine disk. That computer is dead, the disc apparently lost, and I don't do windows anymore.
posted by Goofyy to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I say "drafting", because so many programs seem to work by manipulating solid geometry.

Could you please clarify and expand on this statement?

Does it mean that something like Blender is not what you're looking for?

There's Google Sketchup on WINE.
posted by Netzapper at 12:53 AM on November 26, 2009

Response by poster: Sketchup isn't doing 3d drafting. The word 'drafting' seems to be used, in this context, to be about using lines and circles and such. 2D simply means, everything is on the flat plane. 3D includes the Z dimension. So you can draw, for example, a box that is formed from a frame made of parallel lines.
posted by Goofyy at 1:01 AM on November 26, 2009

I mean drafting as opposed to "manipulating solid geometery".

Blender lets you programatically (in python) define the vectors that make up a 3D shape.

[I program 3D graphics, btw. (Amongst other things.)]
posted by Netzapper at 1:22 AM on November 26, 2009

Response by poster: I looked at Blender some years ago, but ended using POVray. However, I found building my objects in CAD was more intuitive for me. I worked concept out on paper, then used VB to generate scripts that went into the CAD program I had. That was great for getting a look and making adjustments, then exporting that into POVray for texture and rendering.

It's possible I'm barking up the wrong tree, since I did this sort of thing about 10 years ago. I'm not familiar with this python scripting in Blender, and only vaguely familiar with Python in general (but books are on the way, as I need it for some other work). The scripting I was doing was ascii stuff with basic drafting commands and parameters (line x,y,z etc). I found this made adjustments easiest, since changing a couple numbers in VB resulted in major changes in the final output.
posted by Goofyy at 2:10 AM on November 26, 2009

You need not use the renderer in Blender. Just the modeling tools. And it's definitely improved since ten years ago. There is a bit of a learning curve, though.

If you're programatically generating your geometry anyway, why not generate it directly into a file format that various rendering systems understand. Nearly every rendering system understands the obj format. It's the lowest common denominator of 3D graphics file formats. It looks like POVray supports it.

You could easily generate the .obj from whatever programming language you prefer, drop it into blender for manual manipulation, and then render it using POVray for all your high-quality ray-tracing needs.

But Blender will let you manipulate geometry directly from python within Blender itself. I haven't used it myself, but I've seen the results. The scripting is clearly quite powerful. So powerful that people actually write games that use blender as the game engine.
posted by Netzapper at 2:24 AM on November 26, 2009

Response by poster: See, that obj format doesn't fit me too well, for the kinds of things I'm doing. I make frames, typically geometric baubles, that may or may not have a surface applied between the edges. Sometimes, I end up with rather pretty renderings of what I create. Other times, I just get a huge buzz from doing the effort.

I'm trying find a program that works the way I've done this in the past. Thinking about it, I could build the same sorts of things with polygons etc, and if that's the only means I can discover, I may just give it a whirl. But really, I was doing 3d CAD of the type I describe way back on my 286 DOS machine. Seems there has to be something that works like that in Linux. It's not like it's new!
posted by Goofyy at 4:19 AM on November 26, 2009

I searched around on the ubuntu forums and there are two free ones listed: CYCAS and FreeCAD. I've never used either, but I had tried out QCAD before (which is not free and 2D only). VariCAD is another 3D CAD, but it is commercial.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 6:05 AM on November 26, 2009

Sorry - I see you already mentioned FreeCAD.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 6:07 AM on November 26, 2009

Response by poster: Oh, FreeCAD is worth mentioning, even if it isn't ready yet! It looks like an awesome project. I hadn't yet heard of CYCAS. QCAD was easy to rule-out, due to the 2d limitation. I know I heard of VariCAD, but don't recall details (I'd buy something, if it wasn't too expensive. No justification for spending much).

Oh, checking CYCAS, they want $128 for their 'basic' version, which does appear to include what I need. ::sigh:: Can't justify it. I might get deep into it for a month or 3, and then never touch it again (or, 10 years later, want to do something again, and find everything has changed)
posted by Goofyy at 8:12 AM on November 26, 2009

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