This tutorial teaches absolute beginners how to use FreeCAD software to model their ideas and make a suitable output printed with a 3D printer. We will start with the download and install process; it’s best to change some preferences to ease the workflow. At last, we’ll use the FreeCAD features to create a simple pot and export a printable file. You can import this file in any slicer software (for example, Cura Slic3r) and Start 3D printing!
The final design is a simple hexagonal pot like the picture below
Download and Install
Different versions of FreeCAD are available on the internet; however, you can download the standard product on their original website. On the download page, download a version that suits your operating system.
FreeCAD is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux for free.
Once the download is finished, you can run the installer file and follow the below procedure to install FreeCAD.
Once the installation is finished, you can open the software and see its interface. It should look like the below image.
It’s wise to change a few preferences and settings. This way, we can change units, language, sheet style, and more.
To reach the preferences window, go to edit in the top left corner and click on preferences like the picture below.
Now we have access to preferences. The general section is selected by default, but others like Display and workbenches are also available. Here you can change parameters like the default language, Style sheet, and units.
Changing the Style sheet can make the whole user interface fancier!
First, you should be aware that FreeCAD works with different macros. For example, analyzing designs with the FEM module is entirely possible. However, Part Design is the best macro for creating 3D designs. You can use this menu by activating it from the icon shown in the picture below.
After clicking on the Part Design and Create New, You are ready to start designing!
It’s necessary to know that FreeCAD categorizes various objects into parts. Each part can consist of several things called body. So, we need first to define a part, then create our body as a piece of the part.
Click on to create a part and click on to add a body to the part.
The next step is to create a 2D drawing or sketch and extrude it to make a 3D object. This method is one of the most common and powerful CAD programs to create a 3D object.
To make a sketch, we need to define a 2D plane to draw our sketch on (just like a piece of paper). Click on and select XY Plane.
It’s good to mention that most CAD programs work similarly to FreeCAD. They also need a sketch to start with and have a handful of commands to create objects from them. For example, we can extrude a circle and create a cylinder or rotate it around its diameter to make a sphere. Another option is to subtract from 3D shapes to reach a new object.
Here we only show a basic example, extrude a hexagon, and cut a smaller one to reach a simple pot. To do this, you need to create a hexagon in the sketch, specify its dimension, and extrude it as high as you want.
The video below shows how to do the process. Be aware that when you specify the center of the hexagon and bring the cursor to the center, it shows a red shape. This sign tells us whether the center is snaped to the center of the sketch (origin) or not.
You can also give dimensions in different ways. Here is an example of how to specify your dimensions using vertical measurement.
Once working with the sketch is finished, you can close it and click on Pad. This command extrudes the hexagonal sketch and creates a solid shape.
At first, we selected XY Plane as the base plane of our sketch. However, FreeCAD is not limited to the three predefined planes. You can also select different faces of a 3D body as a sketch plane.
Click on the top face of the object and select new sketch again.
If you can’t see your object below the sketch, click close and double-click on the sketch’s name to open it again.
Now it’s time to create a smaller hexagon and cut the inner piece of the pot. Use the pocket command to cut the prism.
Now that we created our simple object, it’s time to export it into a printable file. Click on the body, then select file and export the file.
STL is a suitable format for slicer softwares like Cure and simplify3d. The next step to 3D print this file is to slice and send it to a 3D printer.