Technical 3D design using FreeCAD


Once you have your piece, you will want to use it elsewhere. As mentioned above, FreeCAD can import OpenSCAD models, but FreeCAD can also export to OpenSCAD. However, the results are not very satisfying, as FreeCAD reduces your part's whole body to a single polyhedron. With even only slightly complex pieces, this translates into a list of hundreds of vertices and faces, which are very difficult to edit.

FreeCAD supports photorealistic rendering from the Raytracing workbench… sort of. You can use POV-Ray [6] from inside FreeCAD as long as you install the povray utilities. However, POV-Ray hasn't been updated since 2013 and is, to put it mildly, slightly antiquated. The other alternative FreeCAD offers, LuxRender, currently doesn't work, since the LuxRender project has migrated to LuxCoreRender [7], and the FreeCAD team has not caught up yet.

Your best choice is to install the Python pycollada module on your system:

sudo pip install pycollada

Export your objects to a COLLADA [8] file, import that into Blender [9], and render from there.

Exporting for 3D printing is as straightforward as you imagine: Export your file to STL, open in your favorite open source slicer, and generate your G-code for your printer.

In all of the cases above, for the exporter to work correctly, and since you can have several pieces at any given time on your workbench, you have to tell FreeCAD what you want to export. To do that, select the objects you want to export in the Labels & Attributes list before starting the export process.


I know I say this a lot, but… FreeCAD is great fun! Some of the features and workbenches are rough around the edges and the learning curve is not at all flat, but the CAD power it brings to Linux is pretty sweet.

Besides, there are plenty of guided tutorials on the FreeCAD wiki [10] that will help you get up to speed designing your own parts in no time.


  1. "Tutorials – OpenSCAD: 3D Designer" by Paul Brown, Linux Magazine, issue 222, May 2019, pp. 90-94
  2. "Tutorials – OpenSCAD: Build Your Own Body" by Paul Brown, Linux Magazine, issue 223, June 2019: pp. 90-94
  3. OpenSCAD:
  4. FreeCAD:
  5. Latest stable version of FreeCAD:
  6. POV-Ray:
  7. LuxCoreRender:
  9. Blender 3D:
  10. FreeCAD tutorials:

The Author

Paul Brown has been writing about technology professionally since 1996, when he got his first break writing a monthly column for the Spanish tech underground magazine ARROBA. Since then, he has written extensively about Internet fads, creative programming, and fancy gadgets, as well as free software and free hardware. He has edited Ubuntu User magazine both in Spanish and English, Raspberry Pi Geek (in English), and the Spanish edition of Linux Magazine. He currently writes for Linux Magazine and, and he acts as a Communications Officer for Free Software organizations such as KDE e.V. and Free Software Foundation Europe.

Buy this article as PDF

Express-Checkout as PDF
Price $2.95
(incl. VAT)

Buy Linux Magazine

Get it on Google Play

US / Canada

Get it on Google Play

UK / Australia

Related content

  • Designing your own stuff with OpenSCAD

    Ah! What a joy your first 3D printer … but once you have printed your first benchy, where do you go from there? To building your own pieces, of course!

  • FOSSPicks

    There's a collective groan in Graham's household whenever he gets a new device and finds a terminal prompt. The latest victim to his nmap skills is an LG OLED television!

  • Tutorials – 3D Printing

    Having covered several ways to design your 3D object, let's cover how we prepare your design for printing.

  • MySQL Workbench 5.1

    A small database is easy to plan on paper, but the structure quickly becomes more complex as you add more elements. MySQL Workbench can help you keep the tables arranged.

  • Printing Proper

    One last step remains in our 3D-printing voyage: actually printing something. This issue, we'll tackle how to print and monitor your print at the same time.

comments powered by Disqus
Subscribe to our Linux Newsletters
Find Linux and Open Source Jobs
Subscribe to our ADMIN Newsletters

Support Our Work

Linux Magazine content is made possible with support from readers like you. Please consider contributing when you’ve found an article to be beneficial.

Learn More