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Software

OpenSCAD

openSCADlogo

OpenSCAD is a free, open-source, application for creating 3D CAD models and is available for Linux, MS Windows and Apple OS X. There’s also an online (cloud) version available that runs from within a WebGL enabled web-browser.

It introduces a different approach to creating 3D models as it’s not an interactive 3D modeller in the sense of being able to manipulate the model directly from a graphics window, rather it interprets instructions that describes the model and then renders the result.

A simple user interface is provided and includes a text editor, graphics and console windows.

A textual language is used to define geometric primitives and describes how they are modified and manipulated to create 3D models. Essentially, you are provided with a 3D CAD modelling programming language. The language is easy to understand and can be used by anyone – no specialist knowledge is required.

For example, create a cube with the command

cube(10);

Or create a variety of primitives using the following


// cube 
cube(10);

// box
translate([0,-15, 0]) { 
    cube([20,10,10]);
}

// sphere    
translate([-20,0, 0]) {
    sphere(10);
}

//cylinder
translate([20,5, 0]) {
    cylinder(h=10, r=5);
}

openSCAD Figure 1

OpenSCAD provides two types of 3D modelling, Constructive Solid Geometry (CSG) or the extrusion of 2D primitives into 3D.

Here’s a CSG example

openSCAD Figure 2

Here’s an example showing the extrusion of a profile

openSCAD Figure 3

There are lots of youtube videos showing how to use OpenSCAD for example

(original link at https://youtu.be/XNghpq9sKRc )

Models can be exported in various formats including STl, DXF, SVG and CSG. It is also possible for users to distribute CAD models as OpenSCAD (human-readable text) documents

Details about OpenSCAD can be found at

http://www.openscad.org/

It can be downloaded from

http://www.openscad.org/downloads.html

and documentation can be found at

http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/OpenSCAD_User_Manual

Here’s a quick cheat sheet

OpenSCAD cheatsheet

The source code can be obtained either from the download area on the website, or directly from github

https://github.com/openscad/openscad

If you don’t want to download and install the program on your machine, there is also a version available which runs in a web browser that supports WebGL.

OpenScad openJSCAD

OpenJSCAD can be used directly from

http://OpenJSCAD.org/

Summary

OpenSCAD provides a powerful and unique tool for programmers and other users wishing to create 3D solid models. It can be used on your local machine either as an installed program or used directly via a version available on the web. With the ability to output models as STL files, it can be used to easily produce models the can be used for 3D printing. Although lacking in some features found in other CAD systems it nevertheless provides a useful tool in your 3D modelling toolkit and it will be interesting to see where it goes in the future.