Dec 7, 2011

VariCAD 2012-1.03 for Linux

VariCAD is a 2D/3D CAD application, that has been shipping Linux versions for over a decade. It is a powerful application, quite different than other CAD programs, with a lot of interesting features.
VariCAD is an application for mechanical design. As mentioned above it has many differences than other CAD packages especially in 2D. However it has a lot of features and tools in order to create 2D and 3D drawings easily.
With VariCAD you can:
- Draw 2D and 3D objects.
- Create 2D drawings from 3D objects and vice versa.
- Do some calculations for mechanical parts.
- Import/Export drawings in various file formats.
- Create Bills of Materials.
- Create assemblies.
- Use the built-in libraries of mechanical parts like screws, bearings etc.

I have tested the latest version of VariCAD 2012-1.03 on my Ubuntu 11.10 32bit. I had also tried to test previous versions of VariCAD a few months ago but I never completed the tests due to the lack of free time and the differences between VariCAD and other CAD applications. VariCAD needs you to spend some time in order to understand its power.

Installation/Desktop Integration
VariCAD has been installed in the latest Ubuntu without issues. VariCAD is a Qt application and it uses the plastique theme. You can easily make VariCAD use your GTK theme through the system settings menu but I experienced some problems with the Ambiance theme. So I recommend the use of the default plastique theme.

 VariCAD with the GTK theme applied.


Import/Export capabilities.
VariCAD has some usefull import/export capabilities. You can import/export STEP files and you can also export IGES and STL files. These file formats are very useful for sharing 3D drawings with other CAD applications, rendering and multiphysics software. VariCAD can also import/export DWG/DXF files but only in 2D.

A STEP file exported from FreeCAD and imported to VariCAD.

Performance/Workflow
The performance of VariCAD is really great. It loads documents fast, it makes calculations and executes commands fast, its graphics are fast even with large models.
But it really needs a new modern GUI. All these toolbars, some of them placed in wrong positions, make the transition to VariCAD hard. Of course you can change the position of the toolbars simply by dragging and dropping them into a new position and the use of the large icons set make things better.
However a new, cleaner and modern GUI is still missing.

VariCAD with one of the included sample files opened. The file was loaded instantly.

VariCAD's 2D workspace.
Features
All that you need for complex mechanical design is here. VariCAD is a full-featured product that allows you to create complex 2D an 3D drawings. It contains also tools for various mechanical part calculations and built-in libraries for a lot of mechanical parts. Tools for creation of BOMs and interference checking are also available such as tools for easy creation of 2D drawings from 3D objects and vice versa.

 The "Mechanical Part Calculations" menu.

Documentation
VariCAD includes detailed documentation easily accessible from the Help menu with various tutorials.

 VariCAD's documentation.

Summary
VariCAD is a powerful application with excellent Linux support for both 32bit and 64bit. It comes as a complete package of tools for easy 2D/3D mechanical design. It has great performance, it  can import/export in various useful formats and has a very affordable price. If it had a better GUI, 3D DWG support and it was customizable through an API it would be perfect. Also notice that you have to spend some time in order to understand how it works. Especially if you come from an AutoCAD- like program you will find VariCAD's 2D complicate.

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