autocad and solidworks

Werner Almesberger werner at
Wed Aug 24 16:23:40 EDT 2011

Ron K. Jeffries wrote:
> Given the rather primitive state of libre 3D design tools
> a project such as a new enclosure for post-Ben Nanonote might be
> accomplished
> by using SolidWorks (state of the art). When the design is well refined,
> translate to an open format.

Separating the creative work from the engineering task sounds
good, and I wouldn't see it as a problem if we did this.

But the issue here is that you also need to go back and tweak
parameters for engineering, and you don't want to include a
non-Free tool in this loop. Also, it would raise the bar for
anyone who wants to make a derivative work.

That's in fact the core part of the process where openness
matters most. The tools used for the artistic design don't
matter much, because what you take from it are mainly ideas,
but not things a machine can readily digest.

Likewise, the final steps of implementing the design often
involve tools and processes specific to the production
equipment. Also there, depending on closed tools wouldn't
matter much.

>From a pragmatic point of view, I wouldn't want to spend
resources on things we cannot own (in the sense of having
open access to all the knowledge and tools needed for the
task). We'd only add value to somebody else's platform and
increase our dependence on it. Even this would be acceptable
if the platform was sufficiently commoditized (as, for
example, a PC is), but things like SolidWorks aren't

Having non-Free elements in a process of a Free project
weakens the project, because it increases the barrier for
participation.  People who don't have access to these
elements will then simply be limited to shouting from the
sidelines while some of them could play a much more
productive role otherwise. I've seen this happen in practice
over and over again.

What surprises me a bit about those CAD tools is that people
make all the effort of developing those interactive tools,
but then don't go the comparably small extra way of actually
turning them into something that would make it a considerably
more powerful tool.

I wonder if it's them just somehow overlooking this
possibility, of if this has been tried and they ran into
unsurmountable practical difficulties I'm not aware of.

- Werner

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