A CAM Add-On for QCAD

I am pleased to announce a first beta release of the new CAM add-on for QCAD: QCAD/CAM.

CAM stands for Computer-Aided Manufacturing and typically involves a mechanism to create files that can be used to control various types of computer numerically controlled (CNC) manufacturing machines.

QCAD/CAM adds CAM export capabilities to QCAD. A CAD drawing can be automatically exported to a previously configured output format such as the popular G-Code format. While only one configuration for G-Code output is included in this release, the CAM add-on can be configured to output virtually any format through its very powerful scripting interface.

If you have used our previous CAM product called CAM Expert in the past, you might recognize some of the features of this CAM add-on. This CAM add-on for QCAD is indeed designed to replace CAM Expert.

If you are interested in this QCAD add-on, please download a free trial version.

Just like QCAD, QCAD/CAM is available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux Systems.


The QCAD 3 Property Editor

A very powerful but often underestimated tool of QCAD 3 is the property editor. Time to put it into the spotlight!

Property Editor Basics

The property editor is shown at the right side of the QCAD application window after the first launch of QCAD. If you cannot see a property editor, you can show it using the menu 'View' - 'Property Editor'. Just like most other widgets in QCAD, you can dock it in any desired position, usually somewhere at the right as shown here.

As you would probably expect, the property editor displays various properties of the entities that are currently selected and allows you to change them. In the example screen at the left, a dimension entity is selected so the property editor shows all properties of this entity.

In this example, we can see, that the 'Label' property shows the value 'Auto'. This means that the label of the dimension is not explicitly set and is therefore calculated automatically. We can now for example enter a fixed label to be used instead.

Dimension Labels and Symbols

Dimension labels often contain special characters that are hard or impossible to access on a keyboard (, °, ±, ...).

A right-click into the dimension label text field in the property editor shows a context menu which can be used to quickly insert commonly used symbols and formatting. Of course, you can also type these codes or symbols directly into the text field. The context menu is merely provided for convenience. The most important code is <> (less than, greater than) to use the automatically measured value in combination with a symbol or text. For example 'R<>' creates a dimension label 'R7.5' if the dimensioned radius measures 7.5 units.

Changing Multiple Entities at Once

You can also change multiple selected entities at once using the property editor. To add an 'R' in front of all radial dimension labels, simply select all radial dimensions and type 'R<>' into the value of the label property.

Filtering by Entity Type

Sometimes, selecting all radial dimensions might be a challenge, especially in large and complex drawings.

To assist with that, the property editor offers a filter at the top where you can choose to only display the properties of a certain entity type. To add an R prefix to all radial dimension entities using this feature, we can simply select the entire drawing (Select - Select All) and then limit the property editor to radial dimensions by choosing 'Radial Dimension' from the 'Selection' box at the top of the property editor.

This filter also comes in handy when reorganizing drawings. To put all texts on a separate layer called 'text', you select the whole drawing, choose the filter 'Text' in the property editor and then change the layer property. You can even move all selected texts to a new layer by clicking the plus button at the right of the layer property.



Community Provided Tutorials

To learn more about the property editor, please check out this tutorial video made by Husky:


More community provided tips and tutorials are available in our user forum. Thanks to everyone who is contributing to the success of QCAD!


An Isometric Grid for QCAD 3

Isometric projections are sometimes used in 2D drawings to help visualize how an object looks in three dimensions. Isometric projections are relatively easy to create since parallel edges remain parallel and the scale along all three axis is equal and constant.

QCAD has had an isometric projection tool for some time already. In the current development version of QCAD 3, an isometric grid has been added to extend this support for isometric drafting. The isometric grid is an alternative to the existing orthogonal grid and can be switched on and off using a tool button.

If you are working on a drawing with orthographic and isometric projections, it might be interesting to enable multiple viewports and configure some with an orthographic (regular) grid and others with an isometric one. 

This way, you can construct flat, orthographic views of the object in the orthogonal view and project them into another view with an isometric grid. The screen shot shows a drawing with two views: an orthographic view with orthographic projections at the left and a view with an isometric grid on the right.

The drawing plane of the isometric grid can be changed to 'top', 'side' or 'front'. The drawing plane setting effects the display of the meta grid, the mouse cursor crosshairs and the behavior of the orthogonal mode.

To improve QCAD's support for isometric drawings with cylinders, two new projection tools have been added to create orthogonal and isometric projections of entities onto cylinder surfaces. In the screenshot above, all edges of boreholes through cylinders have been created using these new tools.

Update: A snapshot release of the current development version of QCAD 3 is now available in your download area.


QCAD 3 Release - SVG Support

One of the major improvements of the new QCAD 3 is its new built in SVG export. QCAD 3 exports your drawings to SVG without loss of quality. QCAD 3 also transfers the geometrical information with exact coordinates across to SVG.

The SVG file format has become a de facto standard for vector graphics on the Internet and has been widely adapted in publishing systems as well (for example in the XML based XSL-FO).

Drawing tools with SVG support usually target users in the publishing industry which means that the result is not expected to be precise as long as it looks appealing. However, trying to produce accurate technical or schematic drawings with such software is frustrating if at all possible.

With QCAD 3, you can simply export your precise CAD drawing to SVG for inclusion in your publications or for further processing in your favorite SVG capable vector graphics editor (such as Inkscape). If you intend to use the SVG file for further processing or you require texts to remain editable as texts, choose the 'preserve geometry' mode in the SVG output dialog. If the visual appearance of the drawing is more important (e.g. for publishing), choose the normal export mode.

Let's have a look at our flange.dxf example drawing which comes with every QCAD 3 installation. The SVG at the top right has been exported using the 'preserve geometry' option (click on the image to view or download the SVG file).

The SVG at the left has been exported without the 'preserve geometry' option and is guaranteed to render exactly as in QCAD 3. Line patterns and texts in particular are rendered at exactly the same size, position and shape as in the graphics view of QCAD 3.

If you are working with XSL-FO, you can easily include such an SVG file in the output using the fo:external-graphic tag. And yes, in case you were wondering: the figures in the QCAD book have been produced in exactly the same way.


QCAD 3 Book

As you might have already noticed, the official QCAD book "QCAD - An Introduction to Computer-Aided Design (CAD)" has been updated to cover the new QCAD 3 release a few weeks ago.

The French and German translations of the book are now also available as printed books or e-books (PDF). If you have purchased the QCAD 2 version of the e-book less than a year ago, you can download the updated e-book from your download area immediately.

If you are new to QCAD or CAD in general, this book is a great way to get started quickly. The book covers not only the various QCAD tools and features but also explains step by step the fundamentals of computer-aided design from the basics of viewing and creating drawings using precision tools and coordinates to advanced concepts such as layers and blocks.

To comment or reply to this blog post or ask any questions you might have about this offer, please post a reply in our forum.


QCAD 3 Release - Command Line Tools

The new QCAD 3 release contains not only the QCAD 3 application but also three command line tools: dwg2pdf, dwg2svg and dwg2bmp.

These three command line tools convert your drawings automatically to PDF documents, SVG drawings or bitmap files. Of course you can also export drawings to these formats using the QCAD user interface, but the command line tools can be much more efficient if you need to convert a whole lot of drawings.

Command line tools are also often used in a server environment where the user interface is part of a web site. This can for example be used to deliver a preview file (e.g. PNG or JPEG) for a drawing on a server.

Linux and Windows users can find the command line tools in the same directory as the QCAD executable. Under Mac OS X, the command line tools are inside the QCAD.app application bundle under ./Contents/Resources.

The basic usage for all three tools is to give it an input file as command line argument. The output file will be generated with the same base name but the appropriate file extension. For example:

dwg2svg mydrawing.dwg

This creates the file mydrawing.svg.

Various command line options are available to write to a different file name / location or specify the details of the conversion. For example to create a PNG bitmap called preview.png using antialiasing, a white background and a resolution of 10 pixels per drawing unit, use the following command:

dwg2bmp -b white -a -r 10 -o preview.png mydrawing.dwg

A list of the supported arguments is available with the -h option, e.g.:

dwg2bmp -h

The same information is also available on our web site at: