When Free Software is not Free

Hey Carl and Lynn,

if you are used to work with the proprietary NX software (did you? or just with the nx open api?) then you must be able very well to judge on how good FreeCAD competes. But of course, even if your experience surely helps, the learning of a specific software takes a lot of time.

Hey Andy,

yes, I use Linux and (among different distributions in the 90ies) the Debian GNU/Linux distribution since it exists without a pause, the only thing is I switched to the Devuan fork at the moment when, with Debian 8 “Jessie”, Debian made the use of systemd as the init system mandatory, and since I think systemd is not a PID 1 replacement but a disease (and first of all since they made udev now being a part of systemd, so udev would lack if you don’t use systemd), I used the possibility to cross-upgrade from Debian 7 “Wheezy” to Devuan 8 “Jessie”. I run it on most of my PCs and notebooks just as I ran Debian before. The majority of packages in the repository is of course identical (mirrored), it’s just you don’t have to use systemd, you have the free choice of the init system (Init Freedom). Recently I wrote this and it’s still valid if you’d like to try:

Linux-based systems are usually excellent to get the most performance out of aging PCs. I use FreeCad and Blender, I would suggest for CAD/CAM and 3D applications to have enough RAM. But I run them not only on my Xeon with 64 GB RAM, but also on e.g. a small passively cooled Celeron with 24 GB RAM, everything runs smoothly. I have the swap on a SSD just in case, so it is very fast.


Both actually… NX-Open API allowed us to merge our apps into the NX GUI … think a plug in. Which was both good and bad … it was nice to have the full GUI, but if the lib you were using exited well it exited NX … which means you had a 30 second restart time.

I would NOT consider myself an NX modeling expert but certainly qualified. Doing compound fillets between airfoils and their platforms was often tricking, and left to true modelers (used to call them draftsmen :wink: )

:grin: your extensive and precise replies make me smile. I will give your reccomendations on linux a go. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Ive been a blender user on/off since maybe early 2000 but prefer the procedural node based modelling of Houdini3D which is now finding its way into Blender, hence the renewed interest.

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Carl - I’ve used Fusion and Eagle for years. I ended up purchasing a license for Fusion a while back, after Eagle was integrated. In short, Autodesk is making Fusion an end-to-end design environment; concept to production.

In the past we did CAD work in CAD applications, PCB work in PCB applications, and then prayed the PCB fit the model once produced. Now, it’s all in one. 3D modeling easily converted into a PCB and back again. Things like the height of packages and how they fit into an enclosure were essentially rolling the dice until Fusion came along. Now you can design the PCB, select the parts, and ensure the enclosure matches (or vice verse if your Apple ;)).

Quite honestly I’m surprised by the innovation Autodesk is putting into Fusion. And I’m super concerned that its value will ultimately command an equivalent price – pricing me out of the market. Or, they will move more and more features behind a higher and higher paywall. Again, pricing me out of the market. So for right now, I think the end to end experience in Fusion is bar none. It’s not perfect, but it is the only game in town that I am aware of.

+/- 0.02


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So I was watching the FreeCad Users conf. video … start around timestamp 3:50

  • I have actually emailed back in forth with Yorik, seems like a decent fellow.

  • Roughly +/- 30 regular developers (i.e. getting paid, checking in multiple times a week)

  • The FreeCad Project Association (FPA) protects the communtiy-developed model of FreeCad.( guarantees no change in business model)

  • Uses professional development tools and methods ( I can attest to this)

Other comments

  • Official 1.0 release is supposed to happen this year
  • I routinely run the weekly builds … as of the moment that is 0.21 32662(Git)… This is a BETA build, I know what to expect.
  • I am taking a CNC class at the local college starting in May. I will be able to compare the Path WB to MasterCam

Hey Carl and Lynn, hey all,

I find the FreeCAD Tutorials are excellent to learn how to master this software.

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I have done about ~25 projects with FreeCad. Most even successfully.

The workbenches I use primarily are:

  • Spreadsheet ( usually start here as all my models are driven by desired length)
  • Part Design (Part Design & Sketch go hand in hand)
  • Sketch
  • A2Plus ( for assemblies)
  • Path ( to generate GCode)

The last project was a 6’ tall model of “The Cathedral of Learning” in Pittsburgh. I am a PITT alum (H2P!) The model:

  • was scaled from a picture
  • had 5 depths of layered plywood
  • had 10 parts (had to ship to Pittsburg from Cincinnati)
  • was cut on a Journeyman.
  • hung on a wall (french cleat) OR was self-standing
  • the customer wanted to paint it herself
  • Got to pay myself $3 hr for labor … did I mention I need to improve my business savvy?

or as in CAD

My current project is a bit of a Jewelry Box with all the sides cut from one prefinished board. The bottom will be a stock plywood bottom, but the top will be a custom carve.


Hey Carl and Lynn,

wow, what a building. The universities here where I live are rather big in the other dimension (the horizontal) :slight_smile:

I agree license is important… here is the link to FreeCad’s:

or the TL-DR (to long - didn’t read) version

Impact of the licences

Below is a friendlier explanation of what the LGPL license means for you:

All users

Anybody can download, use and redistribute FreeCAD free of charge, without any restriction. Your copy of FreeCAD is truly yours, as are the files you produce with FreeCAD. You will not be forced to update FreeCAD after a certain time, nor change your usage of FreeCAD. Using FreeCAD doesn’t bind you to any kind of contract or obligation. The FreeCAD source code is public and can be inspected, so it is possible to verify that it doesn’t do things without your knowledge such as sending your private data somewhere.

Professional users

FreeCAD can be used freely for any kind of purpose, being private, commercial or institutional. Any version of FreeCAD can be deployed and installed anywhere, any number of times. You can also modify and adapt FreeCAD for your own purposes without any restriction. However, you cannot make the FreeCAD developers liable for possible damage or business loss that could occur from using FreeCAD.

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FreeCad is very good but the CAM side can be a little bit tricky, check for updates.
The other free Cad and Cam is Onshape but your files are public other than that it is completely free to use with a great help system. Oh one other thing it is a network system but still fine.

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I have been using Path ( the CAM workbench in FreeCad) for about 2 yrs. I also have and use VCarve Pro, current release.

The following is my opinion, and we all know what people say about opinions…

These two definitely have a different user audience. Path I think is oriented to more of a Haas type machine … think cutting steel, adaptive tool paths, automatic tool changer, coolant, full 3D surfaces, etc. The learning curve can be high for folks new to CAD & CAM.

VCarve Pro is primarily what I would call 2.5D … 2D on multiple Z layers. But I agree the learning curve on VCarve is very short.

I will be using an Elite Foreman with an ATC (yes a work in progress)… FreeCad will be more at home with this sort of machine.

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Hey Nelson, hey all,

this depends on the individual free license.

For example, a widely used free license, the GPL, implies “that any derivative work must be distributed under the same or equivalent license terms. It is more restrictive than the Lesser General Public License and even further distinct from the more widely used permissive software licenses BSD, MIT, and Apache.”

Another popular free license is the CC license, which "is one of several public copyright licenses that enable the free distribution of an otherwise copyrighted “work”.[a] A CC license is used when an author wants to give other people the right to share, use, and build upon a work that the author has created. CC provides an author flexibility (for example, they might choose to allow only non-commercial uses of a given work) and protects the people who use or redistribute an author’s work from concerns of copyright infringement as long as they abide by the conditions that are specified in the license by which the author distributes the work.[1][2][3][4][5]

So it’s always worth reading the individual license terms before using a licensed work, even it is a free license.

Further Reading

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Hey Carl and Lynn,

That’s super cool! I’ve been thinking of giving FreeCad a try (currently use Fusion360).

Fusion has been nice because there’s a machine and post processor available. Simply choose “Post Process” and it outputs an .nc file ready for my non-elite Journeyman. But with each change I worry we’ll loose more capabilities in the free version.

Can I ask how you are creating the .nc file from FreeCad?

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Hey jedson,

the toolpath is created with the Path Workbench.

See also

Generally with FreeCAD, you start at FreeCAD Documentation and at → User hub.

There you find everything, e.g. Getting started, the FreeCAD FAQ and a lot of Tutorials on different topics.

Welcome to the forum!

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Yes the “Path Workbench” also has a post processor. I had the Journeyman you have for ~2 years … The machine I chose was “grbl”. My new machine will have the Masso and I hope a tool changer, with that in mind I will likely change output type (I wrote a post a few months ago on that topic, just can’t remember now)

As far as learning off of youtube, I like these two folks:

This guy “sliptonic”

is a minor FreeCad God … he heads up the Path Workbench, and leads a company (maybe non-profit) that provides 5 paid developers for FreeCad.

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Thanks! Looks like the forums are active and friendly!

Ahh, that’s what I was wondering! I didn’t know whether FreeCAD had post processors (they do) and since I’d heard that the OneFinity controller was based on Buildbotics which was based on Camotics which was a fork of linuxCNC, I wondered if folks used GRBL or LinuxCNC…

I was just watching CNC with FreeCAD: CAD + CAM workflow from WayOfWood! It’s only 9 Minutes so I figured what the heck, although I had to slow it down at times so it’ll probably take me 15 or 20 haha. Already picked up a couple really useful tips - like using the spreadsheet workbench for parameters and using the Alias macro. I also found the Launcher widget that lets you just type in commands which is awesome when you’re having trouble finding it’s icon.

I literally was at the point where I’d switched my workbench to “Path”, switched to the “Output” tab and was looking at the “Processor” options in the dropdown list!

We are hijacking this thread a bit … let me create a new one.

FreeCad workflow - CAD (Design) Software - Onefinity CNC Forum

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Hey jedson, hey all,

just to be precise,

  • The Onefinity CNC Controller is a software and hardware fork of

  • the Buildbotics CNC Controller (Source). The G-code the Buildbotics Controller (and therefore the Onefinity Controller) understands is patterned after the LinuxCNC dialect of the G-code Standard.

  • The CAMotics 3D toolpath visualization software has the same author as the Buildbotics CNC Controller. CAMotics supports a subset of LinuxCNC GCode.

  • LinuxCNC evolved from the NIST’s Enhanced Machine Controller (EMC) project (See EMC History).

  • GRBL is free, open source software for controlling the motion of machines that move, that make things, or that make things move, and runs on wide variety of microcontrollers.

    The first version of GRBL was released in 2009 by Simen Svale Skogsrud. It was later picked up and led by Sungeun “Sonny” Jeon Ph.D who evolved it into a highly capable machine control system running on the Arduino family of microcontroller boards. It makes incredibly efficient use of the 8-bit Atmel processors on the Arduinos and is an amazing feat of software engineering to get so much from such a humble processor.

    Grbl is a no-compromise, high performance, low cost alternative to parallel-port-based motion control for CNC milling. It will run on a vanilla Arduino (Duemillanove/Uno) as long as it sports an Atmega 328.

    The controller is written in highly optimized C utilizing every clever feature of the AVR-chips to achieve precise timing and asynchronous operation. It is able to maintain up to 30kHz of stable, jitter free control pulses.

    It accepts standards-compliant g-code and has been tested with the output of several CAM tools with no problems. Arcs, circles and helical motion are fully supported, as well as, all other primary g-code commands. Macro functions, variables, and most canned cycles are not supported, but we think GUIs can do a much better job at translating them into straight g-code anyhow.

    Grbl includes full acceleration management with look ahead. That means the controller will look up to 18 motions into the future and plan its velocities ahead to deliver smooth acceleration and jerk-free cornering.

All of this is free and open source software (unlike the software the original poster is whining about)

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