FreeCAD 101

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HintLightbulb.png Hint: Note that the FreeCAD 101 Test has been moved to Developer Test


FreeCAD is a free and opensource program for designing structures, parts, and machines. It is mostly used in architectural and mechanical engineering contexts. OSE uses FreeCAD both for its mechanical design work for the machines in the Global Village Construction Set, and for helping create educational documents for teaching people to build those designs.

As OSE grows, this page will be our junk-drawer & repository of all FreeCAD materials organized under the following scheme: General Resources (manuals, YouTube series, forums); and Task-Specific Tutorials for current projects we have (creating a cube, simplifying files, exploded parts diagrams, etc.). This wiki is a sort of live and grow user generated OSE FreeCAD manual. As the list of tasks grow, we can further organize this material.

  • General FreeCAD Resources
  • Task 1: Create Cube (For Developer Test)
  • Task 2: Extract dimensional Drawings
  • Task 3: Simplify Files (for Parts)
  • Task 4: Combine Parts into Final Assemblies
  • Task 5: Extract Isometric Views from Final Assemblies for Exploded Parts Diagrams
  • Task 6: Export DXF's (Cutting Files)

General FreeCAD Resources

Here are some general resources for familiarizing yourself with FreeCAD.

Note: the following tutorials are dense. Please pause the videos as needed in order to practice the demonstrated lesson.

OSE FreeCAD Tutorial 1

Tutorial 1 Introduces the sketcher workbench in FreeCAD, so you can then create any 3D objects imaginable

OSE FreeCAD Tutorial 2

Tutorial 2 Introduces part libraries. Importing parts from libraries and assembling them is a powerful way to do design work. This can get the casual user to powerful design capacity using real geometries.

OSE FreeCAD Programming Tutorial

Github links mentioned in the video:

Automatic Python Modules Documentation: http://localhost:7465/FreeCAD.html

Task 1: Create Corner Cube (For Developer Test)

For the Developer Test complete the following instructions. You will create a corner cube: use the sketcher, part, part design, bolt, and assembly workbenches; and import, rotate, and align parts; make features on faces; and install bolts. After this, you should be ready to begin to work on basic User Contributed Designs. (Note: You will later submit a screen-cast video of this process. If you are comfortable with FreeCAD and screen-capturing video, you may video your first attempt. Otherwise, use this as a practice round, and once you learn to make the corner cube, come back to document it.)

  1. Review OSE's Introductory FreeCAD Tutorials 1 & 2 above in the General resources. (Refer to other sources as needed.) Also, review the self-verifying exams videos & comments on the Developer Test page.
  2. Download 8-hole square tubing (without rounded corners) from the OSE Part Library.
  3. Use the tubing to create an x-y-z bolted corner cube.
  4. Record a video of you building the cube, from the beginning, using Vokoscreen. Please refer to Vokoscreen 101.
  5. When you are done building the cube, create a 1" bolt and nut using the Fastener Workbench in FreeCAD.
  6. Insert one bolt through any of the corners, as if you were actually building the cube - using the Assembly Workbench in FreeCAD.
  7. Tighten the bolt with the nut (just insert the nut onto the bolt).
  8. Now take any face on the tubing of the resulting cube - and using Sketcher on that particular face - write your initials on that face. Pocket those initials so that they are cut into the face.
  9. End video capture.

Example Test by Roberto Jaramillo - 3/30/2017

When you are finished with Part 2: Design a Cube in FreeCAD go back to the Developer Test and complete Part 3: Document Your Work.

Task 2: Extract Dimensional Drawings

To be completed...

Task 3: Simplify Files (for Parts)

Goals: Redraw certain parts to reduce file size. Among other things OSE is currently working on the Lyman Filament Extruder for making filament for our 3D printers. We have rich files for each part that is ready to be purchased or printed. However, many of the files are too large to combined with other rich files into an assembly. OSE needs to combine all the parts into an assembly to 1) interact and modify a whole machine or module more easily; and 2) use for visual instructional materials. Please see File Simplification for reference.

Task 4: Create Final Assemblies

Now to see the forrest for the trees, we sometimes have to put all of our individual part files together and see how they fit, etc. Once all the parts (stl files) are together in an assembly, we can now use it for modifying the existing design, or for creating educational materials based on the design.

Marcin explains the Work Flow for creating final Assemblies.

Task 5: Extract Isometric Views for VBOM, Exploded Parts Diagrams, and LAIs be updated...

Task 6: Exporting DXF's

Task 7: Using Path Array to Make Tracks for Tractors

Task 8: Generate an Exploded Part Diagram

For a comprehensive part diagram that goes into the user manual, the workflow is not automated yet in FreeCAD. Workflow is:

  1. Explode parts across several axes using the Exploded Part Animation workbench
  2. Extract an isometric view of that explosion
  3. In Google Docs, paste the isometric view, and add the arrows and labels
  4. Add a table of all the parts, summing across quantities

Here, an Exploded Part Diagram Workbench should be developed for FreeCAD.

Task 9: Extract Isometric Views for Language Agnostic Instructionals

You can download the macro in the video description.

See procedure at Language Agnostic Instructional Protocol

Tutorial 10: Using Assembly2 to Update Parts

Tutorial 11: Annotations

  • In Spanish - [1]

Tutorial 12: Various Functions

  • Mirroring whole objects - [2]