What mechanical CAD do you recommend for 3D printing?

Thread Starter

ronsimpson

Joined Oct 7, 2019
2,404
I am struggling with FreeCAD and just can't make it work. We have printed 5 items but it is a big fight with FreeCAD.
Mainly I need .step files to import into KiCAD and .step files for 3D printing.
What do you use?
 

eetech00

Joined Jun 8, 2013
3,418
I am struggling with FreeCAD and just can't make it work. We have printed 5 items but it is a big fight with FreeCAD.
Mainly I need .step files to import into KiCAD and .step files for 3D printing.
What do you use?
I don't use Kicad but I use DesignSpark Mechanical to design PCB enclosures (PCB imported from Designspark PCB). Works great..
When I'm finished with the 3D design, I click "3D Print" that outputs an .stl file (3D Print file).
I then upload the file to a 3D printer service. The 3D print service renders a 3D view of the "enclosure" automatically so I can check before submitting. It takes about a week to get a printed enclosure back.
 

Sensacell

Joined Jun 19, 2012
3,069
Solidworks is the Pro platform, but crazy expensive.

Fusion360 seems to be the choice for beginners and students.
Fusion360 seems to follow the same functional concepts as Solidworks, a good start to understanding the process.
 

BobTPH

Joined Jun 5, 2013
5,801
I use Fusion 360 as well. It is free for personal use. It is packed with features that I have no idea how to use, and has many frustrating things about it, but compared to others I have tried, at least I can get the job done. I tried google sketch up, which has to be a joke, and a bad one at that, and Bender, which I spent hours trying to figure out without success.

I would like to hear more about people’s experience with other tools. I would switch in a minute if I could find a simpler tool that is easier to use.
 

panic mode

Joined Oct 10, 2011
2,303
For KiCad i prefer WRL files and those I usually wing in Wings3D. It is what KiCad used to include originally. Like with everything there is a learning curve but user interface is odd and I would not recommend this it for anything complex.
 

GregBbbb

Joined Nov 11, 2020
1
I'm not familiar with FreeCAD, and I'm not sure of what you're asking;
Are you trying to 3D print directly from FreeCAD? IF so, then I'd only do the mechanical design in any CAD program and use a separate slicer/printer software to actually output the 3D print files.
https://www.simplify3d.com/ works great for slicing, making supports and 3D printing file generation.
 

Thread Starter

ronsimpson

Joined Oct 7, 2019
2,404
Free CAD is " parametric " which is a very different way of doing things. It has taken too long to understand.
Friday I made a breakthrough in my head. Drew 5 pieces that bolt together and sent the files to China. They are printed and will be back by week's end.

Thanks to all. I watched many videos comparing low cost CAD programs. DesignSpark, Autodesk Inventor, Fusion360
After all that, I decided that I invested so much in Free CAD (in time) that I should push forward.
I really don't know what CAD is best. I think the CAD you know is best. Learning something different is VERY HARD.

Thanks to all.
 

eetech00

Joined Jun 8, 2013
3,418
On thing I found critical to making mechanical design a lot easier for PCB enclosures is if you can transfer the PCB design to the 3d mechanical design software. In Designspark, you can and simply “pull” the board edge with connectors thru the 3D surface to make the cutout. Really cool…once you’ve learned how. But you do have to take the time and effort to learn the 3D software and it’s well worth it.
 

Thread Starter

ronsimpson

Joined Oct 7, 2019
2,404
Hi eetech00
In KiCAD I can import a .step file to one of the unused layers. Or from KiCAD I can export layers back to a .step file and pick it up in FreeCAD. With any good Electrical and Mechanical CAD programs you can make your life easy. (some days harder) lol
Thanks for your input.
 

ErnieM

Joined Apr 24, 2011
8,337
Since I've been using AutoCad for a few decades now I use it to make the jump to the third dimension for my 3D objects.

I used OpenSCAD for some simple shapes once (model scale windows) to parameterize the output.

I also have some kind words for TinkerCad when I either have to create something very simple, or want to mod an existing object.
 

eetech00

Joined Jun 8, 2013
3,418
Hi eetech00
In KiCAD I can import a .step file to one of the unused layers. Or from KiCAD I can export layers back to a .step file and pick it up in FreeCAD. With any good Electrical and Mechanical CAD programs you can make your life easy. (some days harder) lol
Thanks for your input.
Hmmm, I hope you mean you import a PC board with components already mounted in their respective positions that need cutouts. Otherwise, it sounds painful...:D
The PCB I import is a 3D representation of the PCB assembly. I basically draw an enclosure around it, then temporarily "pull" the pcb assembly thru the surfaces that need cutouts (for example, ethernet jacks). When I move the assembly back to its original position, the cutouts remain.
 

Thread Starter

ronsimpson

Joined Oct 7, 2019
2,404
In many PCB programs you can export selected layers. In KiCAD I can select any layers and make a .step file.
Example. I can export a (edge_cut + Non_Plated_Through_Hole) file to FreeCAD. Then in FreeCAD build a plastic box around that. All the mounting holes are in the step file. (and edge of board lines)
I can take a .step file from mechanical CAD and bring it into KiCAD as a component and in 3D view see how the PCB with parts looks in the box. (see if the lid fits on)
 

eetech00

Joined Jun 8, 2013
3,418
In many PCB programs you can export selected layers. In KiCAD I can select any layers and make a .step file.
Example. I can export a (edge_cut + Non_Plated_Through_Hole) file to FreeCAD. Then in FreeCAD build a plastic box around that. All the mounting holes are in the step file. (and edge of board lines)
I can take a .step file from mechanical CAD and bring it into KiCAD as a component and in 3D view see how the PCB with parts looks in the box. (see if the lid fits on)
Hmmm....sounds like a lot of work...
 
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