New product design and prototyping

Hello all. I am in search of a free parametric 3D CAD program that works easily with 3D printers.

Specifically, I want to draw/design a gear train using a 3D Cad program. While in CAD, I want to be able to move the driving gear and see all of the other gears move. I want to verify how the gears mesh as I have several gear tooth profiles I’m interested in modeling.

After the CAD work is done, I’d like to be able to print them or make them in some other way.

Has anyone here done any CAD modeling where you move one piece of your assembly forcing the other pieces to then move (following the constraints placed on those part)?

Thanks and looking forward to responses!

fusion 360 is the way to go.

100% free if profits are under $100k.

I use it all the time, 3d printing options, and insanely good CAM toolpaths.

Solidworks does what you describe.

It uses assemblies in which different components can be assembled and mated in such ways as to have them interact with each other.

Components are designed as parts, and the entire workflow on the part is kept as a tree. You can make changes anywhere in the flow, and the change is propagated down the rest of design. For example you can create an extrusion that looks like a cross, then go back and change the ends to look like arrows. The extrusion and every other feature you added after the original drawing will be changed to reflect the new arrow ends. Depending on what features you added after the original drawing and extrusion, some of those features may work with the change others may not, but Solidworks will always show you what got broken and why.

Also, any changes made to a component/part is immediately reflected in the assembly, which sometimes is not a good thing as it can break the assembly functionality.

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Thanks for the replies! I am aware of Solidworks but I believe the cost is prohibitive. I don’t know anything about Fusion 360 so I will check that out. Thanks again!

PS: I did take a look at FreeCAD but I don’t think it will do what I need but I am not certain. I have used SketchUp but I do not believe I can move an assembly of constrained parts. Autodesk Inventor might work but the cost is too high for me.

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I recently discovered Onshape but have not tried it yet. This might work.

I took a quick look at Fusion 360 and it looks like Autodesk offers a free trial. I didn’t see a free account.

It looks like Onshape can do this.

Here is how you register a free license of Fusion 360

I have found Fusion 360 to be great for parametric modeling. It is also nice that I can send designs directly into the Formlabs Preform software be clicking 3d print then selecting preform as the print utility. I can keep all my projects on the cloud and can easily access them on my work or home computer. I feel like this sounds like an ad but I have really just had a good experience with it and it is very impressive for free software.

I have been using FormZ Pro that isn’t free and not fully parametric but has some really nice features for prototype modeling such as clipping planes and operand ghosting allowing you to go back and recall working geometry. It is around $800 but that is for a regular non expiring license and not a stupid subscription.

Fusion360 and Onshape are the only reasonable solutions. Unfortunately opensource solutions like freeCAD are still wayyyyy behind professional ones and things like SketchUP are not suited for product design at all (if you ask me, sketchup isn’t suited for anything except planning the layout of your new flat, but that’s just me)

Fusion360 is the cloud CAD offering from Autodesk and as such has similarities with Inventor but is ver much suitable to a Solidworks user as well. It’s free for students, hobbyists and pros who don’t make more than $100k a year. Hobbyist is a prety wide term…

Onshape is fully free as long as you are ok with the things that your are making are public, which may be an issue. It’s destined to be a freaking great CAD solution and the devs (former member of the Solidwork core team) are bold enough to cut ties with the old parametric CAD habits, which does mean they take some salt from the CAD community but in the long run as a CAD professional I’m convinced they will prevail.

Onshape and Fusion360 are roughly capable of doing the same things, they differ mostly in how they do it and under what conditions.

Medusa4 is free for a private use.

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I just signed up of OnShape, and I must admit, this thing is great for a free CAD program. A lot of the things it does, and the way it does them, and even some of the function naming is very much like Solidworks.

So for someone that is looking for a very functional 3D CAD, this is a great option. The only issue I see with the “FREE” version is that your document are not private, they’re in the open for anyone to use and modify.

The Professional version allows for private documents and a few other features, but for me the $125/month is a bit steep.

I completely understand that, however this is cheaper than actual Solidworks by an order of magnitude.

I suggest you give Fusion360 a shot, it is less fancy with the graphics and interface but works just as well. I personally think Onshape is on the right track but the “free is public” thing can definitely be an issue.

I’ve never heard of that one, thanks for pointing it out. It looks like the main selling point is that it can be made to work the way a company wants it to, I guess in order to integrate better with the company’s PLM.

This kind of specialty software often comes with trade-offs that are hard to accept, especially if you don’t have much use out of the things they specialize in, What’s yout take on MEDUSA4 in that regard ?

Sorry, I,ve never used Medusa4, I only know it’s free for a private used.
I think that it’s based on 2D drawings to create 3D.

I don’t need it, I work with CREO.

You can also use Blender to do that type of thing too

I don’t think any software that uses the cloud is suitable for any type of prototyping especially if you intend to do any patentable work as it is not secure. As far as subscription based software I tend to avoid that because many times you simply don’t need to keep upgrading and should not be forced to upgrade constantly.
You could check out Ashlars Xenon that is fairly competitive, well supported and fully parametric. Try the demo to see if it will work well on your system.

Like I said I do like FormZ pro even though it isn’t fully parametric it has a good history system with the ghost operands and is a hybrid modeler that allows me to integrate with poly objects such as sculptured models from 3dCoat. For my type of work it covers all bases and has outstanding stl export.

Depending on the type of modeling your doing you may not need a complex program and something like Rhino or one my favorites MOI3d may do the trick.MOI3d is very inexpensive and I have never had it crash on me ever!

Fusion 360 is so nice because its a top notch product from the leaders in the industry, and so many youtube videos on using it.

Double check the licensing on that. I would never use cloud based software for prototyping not only for security reasons but what if you change software or the terms change and they decide it is no longer free and you now have to pay to access your files? Horrible idea. Honestly you can get a fully parametric modeler like Xenon for $900 that never expires.

Also keep in mind that the need for parametric modeling isn’t always necessary and direct modelers and hybrid modelers will do just fine at a fraction of the price. Parametric modelers are handy when your altering multiple pockets, changing multiple shapes at the same time. Programs like FormZ have similar functions with components allowing object instancing.

Cloud-based CAD is certainly no less secure than storing your files locally or on a consumer NAS, which is what all people looking for a cheap CAD solution will do since they won’t have access to a secure, entreprise-grade server. I am receiving non-encripted files on CD-ROM by post while the company which sends that stuff forbids us to work will cloud-based CAD… this is just ignorance not security.

Plus all of these cloud-based CAD solution allow to export in some standard format (STP, IGS, STL and so on) which is how you guarantee that even if the servers or the company go down or is the business model changes then you still own your files.

I’m not saying there are other/better local solutions but a cloud-based solution is definitely a great alternative for a lot of people, and they have a lot of advantages that local software don’t have.