OpenSCAD

OpenSCAD 2019.05

Free
Creates and renders 3D CAD solid objects from a script
 
2019.05 (See all)

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OpenSCAD is intended to create 3D CAD objects. In this regard, it can render 3D models from a script. Needless to say, this is far from complex than working with an interactive modeler, as you cannot interact directly with the on-screen object. However, this has the advantage of allowing more control over the process and using accurate measurement. Luckily, there are multiple sample files, which are arranged according to their areas and you can load to have an idea of how the program works. Besides, there is excellent documentation you can consult online.

The tool has the technical look that characterizes this type of software. It also is neat and quite streamlined. In this respect, there are multiple panels with different purposes. The editor is where code is edited. There is also the area where the object is shown as well as the Customizer panel, which lets you change the rendering mode. Moreover, you can view the log of your operations on the Console panel.

OpenSCAD supports two different modelling techniques: constructive solid geometry (CSG) and extrusion of 2D outlines. It also allows importing parameters from DFX, STL and OFF file formats. Likewise, it can export to STL, OFF, DXF, CSV or PNG format, as well as flush caches, which seems enough to allow sharing data with other similar tools.

The way the object is shown is highly customizable. Thus, you can show more or less details according to your purposes. As to this, edges, axes, and crosshairs can be hidden or shown to meet your needs. Besides, you can switch the view from perspective to orthogonal and vice versa. Fortunately, the tool even lets you animate your objects. Unfortunately, the code editor does not seem to be very powerful. For instance, it does not allow syntax highlighting.

All in all, OpenSCAD is an excellent tool when it comes to designing machine parts. It works just as its developers describe it with no excessive consumption of system resources. Yet, keep in mind this is not the right tool for creating 3D animations. The product is free and there is even a portable edition available, which you can carry and run from any portable storage device.

Pedro Castro
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Review summary

Pros

  • More control over the process and accurate measurements
  • Multiple sample files and excellent online documentation
  • Support of many formats

Cons

  • Not very powerful code editor
  • Does not allow interacting with the on-screen model
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