OpenSCAD is a open-source solid CAD (computer aided design) software that works great for designing objects for your 3D printing. It has support for Windows, Mac and Linux and has very minimal system requirements. If you wanted to try out your new 3D printer, then you do not have to shell out cash for expensive software like 3DS Max – now you can easily design anything using OpenSCAD.
But unlike some products from Autodesk, OpenSCAD can be used to design only solid 3D objects and is ideal for working with 3D printers. But it cannot be used to create 3D animation like some other software such as Blender.
OpenSCAD does not provide you an interactive interface – which means that you cannot use your mouse to drag-n-drop objects on to the viewport (AutoCAD style), move them, rotate them or change their dimensions or parameters. Rather, you have to type in code to create or modify objects in OpenSCAD. The code uses the syntax similar to C/C++ programs and is very easy to learn.
For example, if you want to create a sphere of radius 100mm, then you can type sphere(100); and then click on the preview button. It will create a sphere of radius 100 mm with its center at the origin. Similarly, you can create other solids like cubes, cylinders, etc. You can change their dimensions, rotate them and change their color. For more complex 3D designs, you have to join multiple objects together or remove one object shape from another – all this is available using union, intersection, difference, hull and minkowski transformations.
Good thing about OpenSCAD is that you can play around with your designs as much as you want before sending them to your 3D printer. OpenSCAD has an official manual available and there are some well written books available on Amazon for self-learning.
You can download OpenSCAD from http://www.openscad.org/.