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[ale] BRL-CAD anyone?



Anyone here familiar with BRL-CAD ( http://brlcad.org/ )  ? It's a pretty
interesting 3d-modeling software suite which is designed specifically for
CAD/CAM. That makes it different from and (I hope) better than things like
Blender ( http://blender.org)  and Artofillusion ( http://artofillusion.org
) for designing printed objects. It's a pretty simple install on my Debian
Jessie system. I haven't tried it on other distros. I believe it is
available for proprietary OSs but that is outside my expertise.

This software was developed in the mid-'80's by the US Army, but only open
sourced in 2004. Amusingly enough, Mike Muus, the guy who headed the
development team, was also the first author of ping(1). The UI dates from
1984, the documentation also. The result of this is that it is a
fantastically rich program with all kinds of nifty features accessed
through a command line with a creaky GUI built on top of it. The doc
devotes no less than 2 illustrations and 5 paragraphs to explain the zoom
feature, but is notably silent on important concepts like vectors,
vertices, and object trees. The web is also pretty silent on most specifics
(e.g "How do I rotate a shape in BRL-CAD?"). The extensive built-in
documentation often doesn't explain anything about command-line arguments
beyond their existence and function.  A glossary would be a huge step
forward for a n00b such as myself.

I had a small breakthrough in understanding  last night and succeeded in
building a rough model of a "standard craft stick" (114.3 x 9.5 x 1.5 mm).
It took me about 2 hours to grok some basic facts on how BRL-CAD works,
partly because I lack strong background in 3D design and partly because the
tutorial is heavily slanted toward buttonology.  The original GUI ("mged")
seems to require a 3-button mouse, but a later iteration ("arrow") is more
compatible with my current setup.The tutorial, of course, assumes the
former.

Has anyone else tangled with this software? It seems really interesting but
somewhat difficult. Mastering it might be a Useful Life Skill for a
well-rounded 3D printing hacker.

-- CHS
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