"Best" freeware / open source mechanical CAD software?

I'm sure this has been asked many a time....
I'm doing some work for a company that is currently doing their mechanical
dwgs using Microsoft Visio. It's slow, impractical and a *major* PITA to
Most of the drawing are simply showing sheet metal layouts, hole locations
etc. A 2d package would be ok.
Has anyone found a open source or freeware package that is really usable.
I've used & really like SolidWorks but the company is small and
unwilling/unable to spent $100 let alone many thousands!
I've found a couple BRL-Cad and FreeCad - any experience anyone?
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Others mentioned the free 2D Dassault program, which I guess is intended to replace 2D Autocad-like seats. It does do .dxf and .dwg, but there's a potentially serious catch with the periodic online activation requirements.
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There's also Google Sketchup, which has a free version as well as a $500 version, but not sure how good that is for making dimensioned drawings (looks like you have to pay $500 to get usable features like export of .dxf and dimensioning)
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Best regards, Spehro Pefhany
Reply to
Spehro Pefhany
I've recently found qcad from RibbonSoft to be the easiest to use with precision drawing. (I'm running it on OpenBSD, where it is one of the included packages ready to install.)
I've had difficulties compiling the source on Sun's Solaris 10 for whatever reason.
You can download a demo version for several OS's (including Windows) from here:

but these will shut down after ten minutes of drawing, and can be used for a total of 100 hours before they refuse to work at all. (No such limitation in the one in OpenBSD, FWIW.)
This page:

gives the prices (in Euros) for the various versions. I am somewhat tempted. Buying it now gives a free upgrade from version 2.2 to the upcoming versio 3.0. And I do find it the easiest to learn to use properly of all that I have so far tried.
But -- I would be limited to using it on either the Mac Mini or an Intel-based box running Solaris 10. (The program can be purchased for Solair 10 x86, but not for the SPARC version, unfortunately.) But then, the computer in the shop is running Solaris 10 x86, so that should work. :-)
I'm currently downloading the part library to try with what I have.
Aside from that -- there is another program (jDraft) which is free -- runs on multiple systems in Java -- and I've just today downloaded the most recent upgrade -- but not yet installed and tried it.
You can download it from:

and will have to request a license key to be able to save drawings. The key is free -- he just uses it to track how many people get as far as wanting to use the program after downloading it. You will need java on your Windows box to run it. But aside from the systems named on the page -- it also runs on Solaris 10 with no problems -- other than a minor tweak needed to the file which stats it up. If anyone downloads it (say one of the linux versions) and needs to run it on Solaris 10, drop me an e-mail and I'll tell you how. (Fix the e-mail address as described in my .sig block below.)
Enjoy, Don.
Reply to
DoN. Nichols
Well, there's OpenCascade:
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But you'd have to be, or have on hand, a shit-hot C++ programmer; I looked into it, and it's basically a huge library of Classes that can do stuff, but you still have to be a programmer to hook them all together in the right order. ;-)
Good Luck! Rich
Reply to
Rich Grise
Thanks Spef that looks like a solution. I've down loaded it seems ok, just have to climb the curve!
Reply to
Thanks for the reply Don, the Draft Sight option Spehro suggested looks like a good fit. I found the QCad - the completely free (for now) aspect might ease the implementation of the Draft Sight option..
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Cheers Rich, I'd be embellishing if I said I was a shit-house C programmer, let alone shit-hot!
Reply to
Dennis Inscribed thus:
There is always "Open Office Draw" thats free !
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perhaps if you said what bothered you about visio? I've used it a lot, though not for precision layouts and find it fast, very useful, and easy.
Reply to
Bill Noble
That's little better than Visio.
Reply to
Tim Wescott
There's an open-source version of QCad. They leave out something (I think it's decent beziers), but what they leave in is fully functional and nice to use.
Check on Sourceforge to see if there's a Windows install version.
Reply to
Tim Wescott
If you are going to be in business you have to buy the tools. It sounds like you need an Autocad clone that will accept Autocad lisp and VBA add-ins. You don't need the full 3d version with rendering. See
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(90$ US for one seat with several utilities)
You can download a free trial and upgrade later after you buy if you need too.
also see for free/cheap add-ins
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?page=5google on for 528k hits.
-- Unka George (George McDuffee) .............................. The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. L. P. Hartley (1895-1972), British author. The Go-Between, Prologue (1953).
Reply to
F. George McDuffee
Not on the sourceforge that I looked at. It just redirects you to qcad.com, where the only options are to buy it.
Thanks anyway, Rich
Reply to
Rich Grise
I used to draw some complex drawings with Visio. Most Data Sheets of Semiconductor parts are drawn with it - It is very handy. Wife draws the landscaping in it - even though we bought Pro grade landscaping programs.
It depends on the user and experience level. A guy on 30 year old cad using DOS can whip anyone - due to skill in the brain overcoming all.
I got a request for a part design delivered in Visio. The company was doing most of their work in Cadance as did I but Visio was handy and quick.
Maybe they / you don't know how many things are in it - auto-scaling all sorts of stuff.
Reply to
Martin Eastburn

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