Throw FreeCAD Some Curves

[Mango Jelly] got a question from someone trying to model a phone box with a complex curved roof. We have to admit that when we saw it, we knew it would be hard to model well. Naturally, there are several ways it could be one, but [Mango Jelly] used the curves workbench in FreeCAD to produce a wireframe of the shape, and you can see how that works in the video below.

The curve bench didn’t sound familiar to us, and that’s because it is an add-on workbench. He starts with a sketch of a curve, constrained to be symmetrical. Then the draft workbench allowed a rotation to convert the curve into a nice skeleton of the curved roof.

The curves workbench can create a Gordon surface over that skeleton. You can extrude that into a solid object. There are still some details to add, though, and you’ll see how each part of the roof takes shape.

Watching videos like this reminds us that we use a small fraction of what FreeCAD can do. You’ll probably pick up at least one tip from this video. If you need a quick basic tutorial, try the one from [NovaSpirit]. Or, try a longer one.

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FreeCAD Is Simple, According To This Tutorial

Remember learning to tie your shoes or ride a bike? Like many things, that’s easy once you know how to do it, but seems impossible before you learn. [NovaSpirit] asserts that Freecad is simple, and provides a simple walkthrough to create a part in the video below.

If this were riding a bike, this tutorial would be akin to watching someone ride a bike to pick up tips. You’d probably still want to have someone explain details to you before you attempt it yourself.

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Using FreeCAD To Replace OEM Parts

As much as we might all like it if manufacturers supported their products indefinitely with software updates or replacement parts, this just isn’t feasible. Companies fail or get traded, technologies evolve, and there’s also an economic argument against creating parts for things that are extremely old or weren’t popular in the first place. So, for something like restoring an old car, you might have to resort to fabricating replacement parts for your build on your own. [MangoJelly] shows us how to build our own replacement parts in FreeCAD in this series of videos.

The build does assume that the original drawings or specifications for the part are still available, but with those in hand FreeCAD is capable of importing them and then the model scaling to match the original specs shown. This video goes about recreating a hinge on an old truck, so with the drawings in hand the part is essentially traced out using the software, eventually expanding it into all three dimensions using all of the tools available in FreeCAD. One of the keys to FreeCAD is the various workbenches available that all have their own sets of tools, and being able to navigate between them is key to a build like this.

FreeCAD itself is an excellent tool for anyone repairing old vehicles like this or those making 3D prints, designing floorplans for houses, or really anything you might need to model in a computer before bringing the idea into reality. It does have a steep learning curve (not unlike other CAD software) so it helps to have a video series like this if you’re only just getting started or looking to further hone your design skills, but the fact that it’s free and open-source make it extremely attractive compared to its competitors.

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How To Model A Twisted Part In FreeCAD

Quick references are handy, but sometimes it’s nice to have a process demonstrated from beginning to end. In that spirit, [Darren Stone] created a video demonstrating how to model a twisted part in FreeCAD, showing the entire workflow of creating the part as a blend of surfaces and curves that get turned into a solid.

FreeCAD is organized using the concept of multiple “workbenches” which are each optimized for different tools and operations, and [Darren] walks through doing the same jobs in a few different ways.

This twisted bracket is a simple part that is nevertheless nontrivial from a CAD perspective, and that makes it a good candidate for showing off the different workbenches and tools.

The video below is also pretty good overall demonstration of what designing a part from a mechanical drawing looks like when done in FreeCAD. As for mechanical drawings themselves, we’ve seen FreeCAD can be used to make those, too.

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Using STEP And STL Files In FreeCAD

If you’ve tried FreeCAD, you know that it has a daunting number of workbenches and options. [MangoJelly] has a large number of video tutorials on FreeCAD, and the latest one, below, covers working with STEP and STL with the tool.

If you’ve ever wondered why designers like to work with STEP files and not STL, this video answers that question immediately. A part brought in from a STEP file is closer to the original CAD object. It doesn’t have all the operations that make the part up, but it does have proper faces that you can work with like a normal part. The same part imported from STL, however, is one single mesh.

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Highly Configurable Open Source Microscope Cooked Up In FreeCAD

What do you get when you cross a day job as a Medical Histopathologist with an interest in 3D printing and programming? You get a fully-baked Open Source microscope, specifically the Portable Upgradeable Modular Affordable (or PUMA), that’s what. And this is no toy microscope. By combining a sprinkle of off-the-shelf electronics available from pretty much anywhere, a pound or two of filament, and a dash of high quality optical parts, PUMA cooks up quite possibly one of the best open source microscopy experiences we’ve ever tasted.

GitHub user [TadPath] works as a medical pathologist and clearly knows a thing or two about what makes a great instrument, so it is a genuine joy for us to see this tasty project laid out in such a complete fashion. Many a time we’ve looked into an high-profile project, only to find a pile of STL files and some hard to source special parts. But not here. This is deliberately designed to be buildable by practically anyone with access to a 3D printer and an eBay account.

The project is not currently certified for medical diagnostics use, but that is likely only a matter of money and time. The value for education and research (especially in developing nations) cannot really be overstated.

A small selection of the fixed and active aperture choices

The modularity allows a wide range of configurations from simple ambient light illumination, with a single objective, great for using out in the field without electricity, right up to a trinocular setup with TFT-based spatial light modulator enabling advanced methods such as Schlieren phase contrast (which allows visualisation of fluid flow inside a live cell, for example) and a heads-up display for making measurements from the sample. Add into the mix that PUMA is specifically designed to be quickly and easily broken down in the field, that helps busy researchers on the go, out in the sticks.

The GitHub repo has all the details you could need to build your own configuration and appropriate add-ons, everything from CAD files (FreeCAD source, so you can remix it to your heart’s content) and a detailed Bill-of-Materials for sourcing parts.

We covered fluorescence microscopy before, as well as many many other microscope related stories over the years, because quite simply, microscopes are a very important topic. Heck, this humble scribe has a binocular and a trinocular microscope on the bench next to him, and doesn’t even consider that unusual. If you’re hungry for an easily hackable, extendable and cost-effective scope, then this may be just the dish you were looking for.

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FreeCAD Takes Off With A Rocket Design Workbench

Here’s how FreeCAD works: the program’s design space is separated into different “workbenches”, each of which is intended for a particular set of operations, and a piece of work can be moved between them as needed. There is a sketching workbench, a part design workbench, and now a Rocket workbench has been added to the healthy ecosystem of FreeCAD add-ons. There’s even a series of video tutorials; ain’t open source grand?

It all started when [concretedog] posted on the FreeCAD forums, making a strong case for a Rocket-themed workbench. People got interested, and a short while later [DavesRocketShop] had some useful tools up and running. Here’s a blog post by [concretedog] which goes into detail and background, and while the Rocket workbench is available via FreeCAD’s add-on manager, the very latest experimental builds are available for manual installation on [Dave]’s GitHub repository.

This sort of development and utility is exactly the kind of thing our own Elliot Williams was describing when he made the point that one of open source’s greatest strengths is in the little things, like the FreeCAD ecosystem letting people scratch strange and specific itches, and the ability to share those solutions with others.