Sunday, April 18, 2010

HeeksCAD, my favorate Open Source CAD/CAM software

I have been using HeeksCAD for a little over a month now, I started using it because I only use Open Source products with my RepRap (I only have windows on my laptop because my wife prefers Windows). It has the look of Sketchup, but with a much more "clean" CAD/CAM GUI. I have used OpenScad, and it's great for modifying existed objects, but I just can't think that abstractly when prototyping. I need the ability to "draw & measure" my prototypes. Unfortunately, even though HeeksCAD is a great software, their Wiki and tutorial choices honestly leave a lot to be desired.

This program has a lot going for it:
-Able to import STL, STP, DXF, STEP, IGES, and Gerber
-It can export as STL, STP, DXF, STEP, and IDGES
-VERY easy boolean function.
-Python scripts available
-Active development
-Open source
-VERY good GUI, with very long Undo Redo string

The current documentation can be found at: (offical site, including VERY bare wiki) (very underpopulated user group) (amazingly active development forum, when was the last time you saw a development forum busier than the user forum?) a french forum, with a gentelman named Andre who is the moderator, great guy, and has made some awesome tutorials for this program. I have linked to Google translate version of this site for us anglophones.

I no longer use blender to modify my STL for the most part, this program renders STL in a much more informative manner than Blender (even though it only allows you to reorient, not modify the actual STL)

I have created a 5 video series on how to uses this Open Source CAD/CAM to make items specifically for RepRap printers. I also uploaded the 1st in a series of project videos showing how to make STL files, and then use Skeinforge to troubleshoot your parts. These are the project videos that I have shot so far, or made more than once and ready to film.

1. Wine Glass (took about 4 minutes to make and skeinforege), already uploaded
2. Spiral Shot Glass (shot, but not uploaded, going to see if there is any interest before I do more work :) )
3. Circuit Board Spacer 4 off re design (shot but not uploaded)
4. Bed spring 4 off (introduces arcs, drawn but not filmed)
5. Frame vertex 6 off (drawn but not filmed)
6. Drive pulley 3 off (drawn but not filmed, I show how to "cheat" a gear out of stl)

Anyway here is the 1st set of videos. I have also filmed the full construction of the Mendel X and Y carriages, but the video still needs to be edited, unlike these screen casts. If I should continue this project, please let me know in the comments.


  1. It is great to see that this tool exports STEP.

    I've been working for a few months on a slicing tool that can create toolpaths directly from STEP files. No more huge bloated files of tiny linesegments, and bizarre mesh errors due to leaky STL meshes.

    slicing STEP is also nearly 10x faster because it is a good boundary representation of a solid.

    I'm in test now, hoping to have a useful product soon. The vision is to go from Solid CAD--> STEP --> gcode qui

  2. Neil, Good to see some people discovering HeeksCAD/CNC. Unfortunately you seem to have missed one of the great features of HeeksCAD, the ability to use parametric sketches.

    I haven't had a chance to improve SketchSolve for some time now, but I think that you will find it very useful in it's current configuration.

    A simple video of the sketching is shown at

  3. Just discovered your tutorials today on Youtube, not knowing they were yours until I saw your blog.

    HeeksCAD seems to be a great tool. Have been looking into FreeCAD/PythonOCC as of late. Keep the videos coming!


  4. Looks good! I haven't gotten the chance to watch the video, but I've been looking for software like this for a while. Blender was, as you've said, not meant for technical drawing, and the other package I found (avoCADo) was just too new to be useful.

    Does this support assemblies?

  5. Great stuff! Thanks for your effort!

  6. Hey, installing Opencascade and HeeksCAD from Arch Linux's unsupported repository was easy, no problems at all! Haven't fully tested it, but it's a path I recommend for linux users.

  7. Great tutorial. Thanks!

  8. I can see that you are an expert at your field! I am launching a website soon, and your information will be very useful for me.. Thanks for all your help and wishing you all the success.

  9. I would like to see a open source case for a maple or arduino uno with step by step backup and edit. electronics projects boxes are alwase useful.

  10. Good tutorials. Will you be doing more?

  11. I know, I am doing Prusa tutorials now, then will likely do some more with the Heekscad , thanks for asking!

  12. If you compare HeeksCad with google-sketchup

    how much do they have in common?

    google sketchup has a lot of automatic snap-functions. (Sometimes a bit too much)
    anyway I like this autosnap-functions
    snap middlepoint (of lines and circles)
    snap endpoints of lines snap to surface etc.

    f.e. extruding a rectangular block is done very fast in
    sketchup and in heekscad
    but "drilling" a whole into the rectangular block is different:

    in sketchup this was almost intuitive
    choose draw circlefunction snap to surface
    enter radius - first part done
    activate extrusion function move mouse onto circle start extruding (negative type in depth)
    hole ready and finished.

    In HeeksCad I seem to create cylinder
    move it to the appropriate position.
    substract cylinder form rectangular box

    man that's annoying difficult and uncomfortable
    if you have worked with sketchup once.

    I don't know much about inventor but it does it in a similar way.

    If it can be done as fast as with sketchup please show me how to do it.

    best regards


  13. Stefan my issue is that Heekscad is 100% open, while Sketchup is crippled if you don't register.

    To each his own, I like Heekscad :)

  14. You talk about using polygons rather than cylinders, which makes sense. However I cannot find out how to make say a hexagon of a given size (say 12.85mm across flats) or to position the center in a given place. Any suggestions?

  15. I have to write an assignment on an engineering company that use CAD to design their products. What company use this software? Apple? Sony?.

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