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FreeCAD is 3D modeling and design software. It is free to use, open source , and runs on Windows, macOS, and Linux. FreeCAD supports importing common 3D file formats like STEP, IGES, and STL.

The latest stable release is version 0.17, released in April of 2018. But FreeCAD's developers have made many advances since then. Pre-release downloads of version 0.18 sport numerous updates, including features to make creating and exporting 2D drawings much easier.

You can download the release and latest pre-release versions of FreeCAD on the project's GitHub website.

Using FreeCAD to view and export STEP files

Let's take a quick look at how to use FreeCAD with Big Blue Saw, starting from a design formatted as a STEP file. The steps shown below were produced with a pre-release version of 0.18, from January 2019.

GearSTEP

Let's suppose we have the STEP file with the part pictured above, and want to produce a 2D outline for use with Big Blue Saw's online quoting and ordering system.

After starting FreeCAD, go to the File menu and pick Open. You should select the STEP file to import.

2019 01 18 10 04 39 FreeCAD 0.18

FreeCAD will then show you your STEP file and allow you to zoom, pan, or rotate the view of the part.

2019 01 18 10 06 08 FreeCAD 0.18

Next, we need to switch to FreeCAD's TechDraw workbench in order to create a drawing. Choose "TechDraw" from the drop-down list of workbenches.

2019 01 18 10 06 28 FreeCAD

You'll notice that the toolbar and menu change to show the features needed for creating drawings. Click the "Insert new default Page" button to create a blank drawing.

2019 01 18 10 06 38 FreeCAD 0.18

FreeCAD will show the new drawing.

2019 01 18 10 06 45 FreeCAD 0.18

 Expand the Model tree on the left and you'll see a sub-menu item called "Template".

2019 01 18 10 07 11 FreeCAD 0.18

Click on Body001, the object representing the STEP file design, in the Model tree.

2019 01 18 10 07 31 FreeCAD 0.18

 And click the "Insert View in Page" button. A 2D view of the design will appear in the drawing.

2019 01 18 10 07 51 FreeCAD 0.18

Now we're ready to create a 2D file. Click the "Export a page to a DXF file" button on the toolbar. You'll see a dialog box that lets you enter a filename and the save location.

2019 01 18 10 08 08 FreeCAD 0.18

The file is then ready to use with Big Blue Saw's online quoting and ordering system to turn the design into a real part.

2019 01 18 12 29 49 Big Blue Saw Get a Quote   Big Blue Saw   Opera 

Here's the finished part waterjet cut from carbon fiber.

carbonfiber

Are you a FreeCAD user? Let us know!