CAD Sketcher, It’s Parametric CAD For Blender

Blender screen with CAD drawing

It’s very early days for CAD Sketcher, a new parametric CAD add-on for Blender by [hlorus], but it looks very promising.

We do a lot of 3D work and like Blender as an environment. It’s always annoying that Blender doesn’t do parametric modeling, so we’re forced into a dedicated CAD package. Blending the two for that robot ocelot is always particularly annoying.

CAD Sketcher lets the user make a ‘sketch’, a 2D drawing. They then  constrain it, saying “this line is vertical, that line is parallel to this one”, until the sketch is fully defined. It’s a normal part of parametric modelling. This is powerful when your model needs refined over and over.

There’s an old adage, “Better a tool that does 90% of the job well than one that does 100% poorly”. For CAD systems, (and much other software), we’d suggest “Better a tool that does 90% of the job well and works with whatever does the other 10%”.

3D render of gaurd
Guard Drawn In CAD Sketcher And Blender

We tried a test part, and being in Blender’s universe showed its value. CAD Sketcher doesn’t do bevels and rounds yet, and probably won’t for a while. But Blender’s perfectly happy doing them.

It’s not going to put SolidWorks out of business any time soon, but it’s a very promising new development. We hope it gathers some community and encourage contributions.

We cover CAD frequently, like the recent advances with CadQuery  and the port of OpenSCAD to WASM.

[thanks paulvdh]

37 thoughts on “CAD Sketcher, It’s Parametric CAD For Blender

      1. I´m glad I contributed liberating Blender source code 20 years ago. I received a nice, colorful cardboard “C-Card” by snail mail.
        At that point, Blender was fitting on a floppy disc. It was one of the few decent 3D software running under Linux.

        While Blender is a great piece of software, I have a much more mitigated opinion of FreeCAD.

        1. It’s understandable. I’m using FreeCAD it in a practical project and while it’s pretty feature-complete, there’s plenty of trial-and-error to get what you want. FreeCAD hasn’t been as lucky as Blender in gaining as much support from companies and communities. Part of what makes Ton a major FLOSS heavyweight is how seriously he takes his campaigning.

    1. Blender needs to be incorporated into EMACs. Or vice versa.

      Gave myself a nightmare. EMACs with Blender user interface. Barf.

      I’d have sooner imagined a naked, horny, Stallman.

      Sorry about what this post did to your mind’s eye…not sorry.

    1. OpenSCAD is only easy because you’ve put in a lot of time learning how to type and think about describing operations in code. Blender would be easy if you put in the same amount of time, just takes practice but anyone can get it. Lots of great tutorial videos around, you can do a lot of stuff with just 5% of Blender’s features.

    2. “It’s not going to put SolidWorks out of business any time soon”

      But the sooner it does, the better. SolidWorks has gone to, yes, a bullshit rental model. So… somebody take ’em down.

  1. Is there any 3d modelling software that can even come close to competing with Rhinoceros? Something that
    1) has a command line interface
    2) models through points in a top, front, side, perspective interface
    3) can connect to any external spreadsheet or computer program for parametric modeling

    Also if blender has a command line interface, you are probably better off using that for parametric modelling than cad sketcher.

      1. I’ve been using freeCad for my latest project and it has worked out well. Export to stl and off to the 3D printer. I am liking it for hobby work any way. Don’t see a reason for using something more at this point.

      2. I have tried freecad a few times. The main issue for me is it doesn’t seem to have a command line other than python console which makes it slow to do things. eg in rhino you can just type ‘cu’ (autocompletes to cube). There are no boxes to fill, no dropdowns or expanding/collapsing, it remembers all the settings you used last time a command was run so you don’t have to enter the same things over again. It’s very fast.

        Rhino also sucessulfully distributes actions between the two hands for fast workflow. Eg as you type ‘cu’ you are already selecting the origin point by mouse and as you choose the origin point you are already entering the dimensions by keyboard.

        It’s also very nice that all the options for a command are displayed on a single line along with their current values. You don’t have to look in different places for anything, it’s all in the command line.

          1. … which requires locating both the mouse and button with your eyes, moving the mouse off the viewport, clicking, and moving the mouse back to the viewport. It’s slow, requires a lot of movements, and generally has crappy flow. Command line has no mouse movements, eyes never leave the viewport, is much faster and has better flow.

            There are 5 or 6 ways to make a sphere (2 and 3 points, center and r/d, etc) are there buttons for all of these? How do you go about memorizing all their positions and icons so you can click them in a timely fashion? Sorry for ranting, I hate buttons and it seems no other modeling software has a similar command line interface.

  2. FreeCAD is impressive in what it can do but has some prominent issues:

    – Many simple actions are not very streamlined and require multiple interactions to navigate prompts and menus

    – Semi-modal due to workbenches

    – It appears to be much more flexible than it is so you can get halfway through doing something one way only to learn that you can’t finish and have to start over using some other workflow (hopefully that one is properly supported)

    – The topological naming problem makes some flows either brittle or impossible

    – It’s licensing (whole project is LGPLv2.1) means that it’s always at risk of Embrace, Extend, Extinguish (the reasons for this choice seem to be a result of FUD from the early days of free software)

    If you can get past these and work inside the invisible faired path then FreeCAD is a powerful tool ready for your use that will always be there if you can keep an operable environment around. Otherwise, help and hope that alternative projects like this gain ground.

    1. The flow with 0.20 felt a lot better and familiar to Solidworks tbh.
      One Addon that makes a difference is the ModernUI one in the way it lays out the icons / buttons in the toolbar although it needs a bit of polish I think (disable the auto hiding of sidebars).

      The PartDesign workbench is the starting point I use for Objects for extrusion / revolves etc, then the Sketcher workbench for sketching 2d profiles inside the part. With these two in combination you get a similar workflow to that of solidworks in terms of Parametric Cad.

      For assemblies, the Assembly3 workbench is the closest one to that of the Solidworks way of assembling parts together, in terms of constraints.

    2. The topological naming problem has got to be fixed. That bit me as I was trying to use fillets and chamfers. Once I ‘knew’ about the problem, I worked around it and successfully finished my project. Still I enjoyed working with freeCad.. Hopefully they can find a fix for it.

      1. This was interesting in that I just found out about this. It looks like there are patches for it in the real thunder fork, but they won’t be making they’re way into mainline until after the 0.20 release.

        “FreeCAD 0.20 will purposely not have the toponaming PRs in. We (including realthunder) have setup a way how to incorporate these PRs to FreeCAD for the next major release after FreeCAD 0.20. There will be a further announcement about toponaming before the release of FreeCAD 0.20.”

  3. I see a lot of complaining online about the UI of FreeCad and GIMP. Do they actually have bad UIs or are people just complaining because they are used to some other software? I use both FreeCad and GIMP and they seem fine… but I never used photoshop or solidworks or autocad.

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