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Open Engineering Software

When trying to integrate more free and open source solutions into your engineering workflow, software is one of the first places to look. Below is a collection of software that can potentially replace other non-free, non-open source solutions in engineering.

There was a nice talk from Fernando Oleo Blanco at FOSDEM 2021 providing an overview of available solutions, with a focus on mechanical design.

Computer-aided Design

There are a lot of open source CAD software available, almost too many to compile into a single list. Though folks have tried, check out the Shapeoko wiki here and here. There is also a Reddit thread documenting a plethora of options in the CAM/CNC world. We’ve documented a few of them below. Some are pretty well known and some are a little more obscure.

FreeCAD (source) – Parametric modeling with a relatively user-friendly interface.

BRL-CAD (source) – Another open source modeling and rendering system.

Open CASCADE (source) – A technology suite which includes both free and paid components. The parametric modeler is free.

Cascade Studio (source) – A web IDE for working with Cascade built on OpenCascade.js.

OpenSCAD (source) – A scripted modeling software with a bit of a high learning curve. It uses a programming language to generate simple geometries which can then be combined and transformed into more complex objects.

CADjs (source) is a Javascript-based CAD programming environment inspired by OpenSCAD. CADjs was originally developed Dr. Krishnan Suresh’s Engineering Representations and Simulation Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The code is being open-sourced and archived, with permission, by Open Engineering.

OpenJSCAD (source) is another Javascript-based CAD programming environment.

JS.Sketcher (source) is a Javascript-based parametric modeling environment.

QCAD (source) is an open source 2D modeling environment.

LibreCAD (source) is another open source 2D modeling environment. It was initially a fork of QCAD.

Blender CAD Sketcher Add-on (source) is an add-on on top of Blender, the popular modeling software, which adds parametric sketching functionality.

ShapeUp (source) is written in C and provides a non-parametric environment for modeling.

Computational Fluid Dynamics

OpenFOAM (source) – For the solution of problems in continuum mechanics and computational fluid dynamics.

SU2 (source) – Multiphysics and design optimization engine.

Scientific and Mathematics Calculations

GNU Octave (source)- An alternative to Matlab. A matrix and vector based data processing and numerical computation.

Electronic Design

This thread on Reddit provides a long listing of open source electronic design resources.

KiCad (source) – Electronic design tools for creating schematics and PCB layouts.

Product Lifecycle Management

OpenPLM (source) – Software for management the development of a product from start to finish. This software doesn’t appear to currently be in active development. (download mirror)


Robot Operating System (source) – ROS is a collecting of scripts and algorithms for programming and controlling robots.

BowlerStudio (source) – A robot development platform that includes modeling and simulation of your robot in one package.

Building Information Modeling

BlenderBIM (source) – A building information modeling add-on for Blender. Built on top of IfcOpenShell, which itself is built on Open CASCADE.