this is a commercial project I have started a while ago. Things start to come together, so I thought it might be of interest for some to see how well FreeCAD is suited for such type of work.
Here is the structure of the cup model as depicted in the dependency graph.
The Espazzola consists of a cup to be made from stiff plastic and membrane to be made from flexible material. The shapes are therefore quite fluent but must also adhere to strict rules necessitated by the injection molding process (especially pretty even wall thickness and draft angles everywhere).
The molds for both parts are currently made and first samples have arrived:
My initial intention was to use FreeCAD for the first prototype stages and to later switch to a commercial CAD suite when things start to outgrow FreeCAD's capabilities.
However, FreeCAD kept pace with my needs and I ended up with doing everything within this superb free software!
Being more or less at par with some commercial CAD suites (mostly Autodesk Inventor) I started this journey with version 0.14 of FreeCAD from official Ubuntu Trusty repos as a FreeCAD beginner. This went pretty ok, however Boolean operations - which I utilize frequently - proved to be too buggy and I was about to switch back to commercial solutions when I discovered the FreeCAD PPA. With version 0.15 boolean operations were much more stable and I was happily modelling away. Release 0.16 of FreeCAD made things even better (the constraint solver in sketcher is totally awesome!!, improved support for fillets) so the urge to switch became less and less. In the end I am very happy to have done everything with FreeCAD and will continue to do so in the future.
Here are some remarks, totally from my point of view, so you might disagree:
- FreeCAD is great!
- I love that it is a fairly lean package (in contrast to pretty much all commercial suites which are often extremely bloated).
- Did I already mention that the constraint solver in sketcher is brilliant? For me this is the most beautiful and natural way to build models I have seen in all CAD programs used so far.
- Feature content in general is good enough and a lot of special things can be done on the python console.
- FreeCAD is astonishingly sturdy - apart from stability issues with Boolean operations in the very beginning I haven't had many problems. Throughout the whole process I had only one crash where I lost a few hours of work, which has also happened to me with commercial CAD suites.
There are, of course, also some areas which could be improved:
- The UI can be confusing sometimes with seemingly redundant functionality hidden in different places.
- With large models on not-so-beefy hardware things start to become a bit sluggish.
- Support for fillets and chamfers is a bit limited on complicated geometries (but this is more an issue with the underlying CAD engine, as far as I understand).
- I would love to see a feature where the model can be navigated in the dependency graph (e.g. clicking on a node brings you to the corresponding entry in tree view). Tree view itself is not terribly convenient in that it is constantly jumbled around when e.g. Boolean operations are reversed.
- It would be very helpful if features in the model would be tied to geometrical elements instead of some entry in an intern list. E.g. a fillet would be connected to an edge at a certain position in space and not to an edge with a specific number in an internal representation. The enumeration in the later changes much too often when some element lower in the tree is altered, which results in broken models all the time. Especially working on features very much at the bottom of the tree can become cumbersome if the whole model has to be constantly repaired.
Overall, though, FreeCAD has proven to be a very valuable tool and more than ready for larger projects! A big thank you to all developers, your work is great!
And if you wonder, how the parts of the Espazzola belong to each other:
By the way, this tool is intended for cleaning group heads of espresso machines. If your espresso tastes that much better next time you visit your favorite cafe, it might also because of FreeCAD.