【Free 3DCAD】FreeCAD and how to use it

This article introduces a free CAD open source software “FreeCAD”, how to download, the basics, and explains the UI needed for CAD modelling. In addition, I will go through a tutorial to create a model for 3DCG beginners.

At the end of this tutorial, I will also explain how to import the model to STYLY and display it.

What is FreeCAD

FreeCAD is a free open source CAD modelling software.
CAD software is used for Industrial businesses, to create blueprints. FreeCAD can be used for the same uses.

You can search “FreeCAD”, and find the official page.

FreeCAD top page

You can access the FreeCAD official site from here.

Download FreeCAD

First, click the white “Download now” button. Then, a page like the below image will be displayed so please select the source for the OS you are using.

FreeCAD download page

 

You can start downloading by clicking the blue circle under each OS. Please select the one suited for your computer specs. It depends on your network environment, but it may take more than 10 minutes.

Downloading FreeCAD

Once the download is complete, double click the .dmg file and unzip it.

If you have trouble unzipping due to security,
(If you are using MacOS)System environments>Security and Privacy>Execute permissions for downloaded applications

By executing this file, FreeCAD will launch.

The downloaded FreeCAD file

 

That will be all for the downloading.

UI of FreeCAD

Once your download is complete, let’s launch FreeCAD.

If you launch FreeCAD, the home page will pop up. Most 3D softwares share a similar UI, so if you have experience with other software, it may be fairly easy to learn.

FreeCAD home screen

 

The FreeCAD home screen can be divided into 3 sections. (These names are my original, so please call each area as you wish. For this article, I will call them as below)

①Tool area
②Compo view
③Work area

①In the tool area, you can create planes, transform into 3D, use bevel processing to create models.

②In the compo view, you can check the hierarchy for the objects and effects you created in the tool area.

③In the work area, you can check how the model looks in 3D.

 

UI of FreeCAD

CG beginners may find it a bit complicated, but for now, all you need to do is just to know there are 3 basic areas. To make it simple, ①Select the effects and functions you need in the tool area, ②check the hierarchy in the compo view, and ③check your work in 2D or 3D in the work area.

We will use these 3 areas to create a CAD model.

Create a basic CAD model

Create a table using FreeCAD

So, let’s create a simple 3D model with FreeCAD.
Let’s create a table.

The complete image of the table

First, we need to create a new scene.
Click the white square icon at the upper left hand. Then, a blank work area will be displayed.

Create new FreeCAD

 

Next, click the Start tab, and select the “Part Design” tab.

Part Design Select scene

Select the “Create new sketch” button at the upper right.

Create New Sketch screen

Next, select the plane you want to create in the compo view. For this tutorial, please select “XY_Plane(base plane)“.
A square as in the image below will appear in the work area.

Creating plane sketch

Click the “create rectangle on the sketch” button, and create a rectangle in the work area.
Note that if Mac users should use the Command key, and Windows users should use the Ctrl key then drag the mouse while clicking the right button in order to create a rectangle.

When you are done creating the rectangle, right click and select creation complete.

Creating square

Once you are done creating the rectangle, use the Command/Ctrl key to select all of the sides. Then, click “close” in the Compo view and complete the sketch.

Creating square

 

Next, let’s add width to the table.

Select “Close“, then click the extrusion button at the screen top, and transform the sketch to a 3D model. Next, go to the Compo view and set the width to 5mm. Click Ok when done.

Create extrusion

Next let’s round up the table edge.

As in the previous step, choose all of the edges you want to round up. If you are using Mac, use the Command key and if you are using Windows, use the Ctrl key to select multiple edges.
Then, click the bevel icon at ① and round up the edges. You can change the amount of the effect applied in the Compo view. In this tutorial, I have set it as 1mm.

We are done with the bevel settings.

Creating bevel

 

Next, let’s create the table legs.
First, ①Create the sketch then ②Create the square. These steps are the same as creating the table top.

③Sketch 4 legs.
Add a square as in the image below to the parts that are going to become legs. When you are done with all 4, select all. Then click “close“.

Create table legs.

After clicking “close“, click the extrusion button.
Set the extrusion to 8mm in the Compo view, and select the opposite direction option checkbox. Click Ok to close.

Extrude the table legs

 

Lastly, we will add colors.

Select Body from the Compo view. The details of Body will appear below, so choose the color you want from Shape Color. Click Ok when done.

Adding a color to the table

That is all for creating the table.

Export model with FreeCAD

Once the model is complete, the next step is exporting it as 3D data.
Select File > Export > Alias Mesh(obj). We can export the model as an obj file now.

Exporting the model

Selecting the obj file

The model export is done.

Import the CAD to STYLY

Finally, let’s import the 3D model to STYLY and check the object in a scene.
Login to STYLY, and create a new scene. Please refer to this article for how to create an account.

STYLY top page

Continue to the model import screen by performing the steps in ①, then ②.

Importing Model ①

 

Then, go to ③, ④, and in ④ you need to set the model name and model data. When that’s done, click Upload.

Upload Screen①

 

When the model upload is started, a status bar will appear, and when it is complete, the model will be added to”My Models“. Click the added model, and it will appear to the Editor.

Upload Screen②

 

When it is uploaded to the Editor, it looks like this.
The color we added has disappeared, so the color has became the default color.

That will be all for how to inport the model to STYLY.

 

 

How was this article?
Even for 3D creators, working with CAD softwares might have been a new experience. By using a blueprint software, you will be able to create objects with a businesslike process.

If you are interested in this area, how about creating other objects too?