Lately I've been reacquainting myself again with #FreeCAD after 20 months of barely using it. I was a little surprised to see that 0.19 still hasn't been released yet (its development had started when I left the community). I use the development builds. When using it just for a few minutes, I didn't notice many changes. But I've been using my 3D printer again, and I needed to design a few things I wanted to print.
There are huge improvements across the board.
Sketcher (constrained sketching), Part, TechDraw (technical drawings), Draft and Part Design workbenches saw many improvements.
But one big addition is the Link functionality. I started a larger project, consisting of an assembly of parts and sub-assemblies. In the past, everything had to be in the same document. When having more than one instance of a part, current tools actually made a hard copy that blew the filesize, resulting with a multi-megabyte file slow to open.
... With the Link functionality, the original shape is referenced, rather than duplicating the object. I have to admit that I had to check the documentation to understand it's use! That's a change, I was one of the few people who wrote some of the documentation.
What's nice is that the linked object can be an external file.
I haven't completed my large assembly, but right now it's not even 20 KB! It references a few assembly files which may also be multi-level...
... and linked parts, which are also in separate files. In the past I would export my part documents to STEP format, create an assembly document and import the STEP files. If I made changes to a part, I had to repeat the export/import process.
There is no native relationship (constraint) based assembly yet, and for now I prefer staying with the stock features rather than work with an add-on assembly module that may no longer work or be available in the future.
So the benefit of a multi-document project is lighter files, easier to manage. My main assembly loads in 6 seconds on my 8-year old desktop PC. With the old method, I'd guess a load time of at least 30 seconds.
The externally linked documents can be quickly opened for editing.
The shortcoming of the Link functionality is that it needs to stealthily load all the externally linked files in RAM. #FreeCAD was using between 1.2 and 2.4GB of RAM.
Still, it's really a huge milestone.
When I started my project, I made a quick try with the A2+ assembly add-on, but at first glance it didn't seem to make use of the Link functionality. Like its Assembly2 predecessor, when importing an external document, it seems to create a compound shape in the document. I haven't checked the other assembly add-on, and while realthunder's fork looks awesome, I prefer to stay on the mainline for projects I want to be able to open and use years from now.
Phew! I'm done (?)! 😄
I've always had whatever version of Blender is in the Ubuntu repositories. I sometimes launch it to open and convert a file, but I never learned to use it.
CAD and polygonal modeling are as far apart as can be. The way of thinking and the work flow is completely different. And for me CAD comes naturally, but Blender, oh boy. 😵
In any case, for my projects, Blender would be utterly unsuited. CAD shines for mechanical design. Blender or any other polygon modeler: not so much.
Now if I was to model figurines, or create photorealistic renders, the situation would be reversed.
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