OpenScad Review - Worth learning?

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Giving my thoughts and and overview of the CAD software openscad.

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Transcript of the video: https://kurthutten.com/blog/openscad-review

OpenScad: https://www.openscad.org/downloads.html
freeCodeCamp: https://www.freecodecamp.org/
What to know which language to learn first in 2020?: https://www.freecodecamp.org/news/what-programming-language-should-i-learn-first-19a33b0a467d/
My OpenScad library: https://kurthutten.com/blog/round-anything-a-pragmatic-approach-to-openscad-design
Openscad libraries: https://www.openscad.org/libraries.html
SolidPython: https://solidpython.readthedocs.io/en/latest/
JsCad: https://openjscad.org/

Music Sappheiros - Home: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FleLfqZ2STI
I'm pretty responsive on twitter: https://twitter.com/IrevDev


This video is an:
Overview of OpenScad and where it fits in with other cad packages.
What's it good for and not so good for,
And whether I think it's worth learning.

OpenScad is a CAD or computer-aided-design package. In a nutshell, it's software for making 3d models that are dimensional and mechanical in nature, as opposed 3d graphics software like blender, which is better suited for artistic endeavours like assets for a game, as an example.

Since OpenScad is cad software, it's amongst packages like fusion 360, Inventor, Freecad, Onshape and many more. The point of difference though for OpenScad, is that it's all programmed. Every part of the model comes from text you write, and the GUI part of the software is only there to inspect your model.

This is worlds apart from the click and drag nature of the other packages. The programmed nature of OpenScad gives it some unique advantages that have resulted in somewhat of a cult following for the software, but also some severe drawbacks.

With all of that out of the way, my answer to the question of should you learn OpenSCAD my short answer is yes, and my long answer is it depends, and the best way for me to break down the long answer is to propose some scenarios.
1) If you are a programmer then go ahead, you'll probably enjoy it.
2) If you are interested in learning to code, then OpenScad is a pretty gentle introduction. There are plenty of programming concepts that you will never learn in OpenScad, but they can come later with the next language.
3) If you want to make parts that are very robust to changing parameters and want to be able to host it on Thingiverse, where users can put in their own parameters, then OpenSCAD is the only option available.
4) If you like the concept of OpenSCAD, whether that's the code, fostering community contributions, or lack of vendor lock-in, and you are making parts to be 3d printed, then OpenSCAD is a solid choice.

However, if you need to be productive today, or need to support STEP files for manufacturing, or need to make very complex shapes with smooth flowing meshes, then you'll be battling against OpenScad to get it to do what you need and would be a poor choice.

Some other things to consider before you make your choice are:
1) If the lack of vendor lock in, and opensource nature is appealing to you, then you could always consider other open-source CAD packages like FreeCad.
2) If you love the idea of programming-CAD, while OpenScad is the most popular, there are alternatives. SolidPython is a python wrapper for OpenSCAD, or one of my favourites is jsCAD. It's implemented in javascript, and models can be made right in the browser.
3) If you're worried about what I said about it being difficult to make complex shapes, have a look at libraries that are available first, as it should give you a good idea of the kinds of parts you can produce. The libraries officially recommended by OpenScad are an excellent place to start, but if I may, I'll plug my library, Round-Anything.
The library has a variety of features, but what I think is of most significance is offering a way to add rounding to polygons. The result is a move away from the "boolean with primitives" paradigm, towards the sketch and extrude paradigm, which is, in my opinion, the workhorse of more traditional cad packages.

One interesting take-away from everything I've said thus far is that even with some pretty heavy criticism of the software, I still recommend it for a variety of situations. This speaks to how well OpenScad fills a niche, and I think that means that the software will continue to be used and loved for many years to come.
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