FreeCAD release 0.14
This is certainly a bit overdue, since the official launch already happened more than two weeks ago, but at last,here it goes: The 0.14 version of FreeCAD has been released! It happened a long, long time after 0.13, about one year and a half, but we're decided to not let that happen again next time, and will try our best to stick to 3 to 6 month release cycles from now on.
To know what changed in this release, read the full Release notes, which will explain everything in detail. Also have a look at the Arch tutorial if you haven't yet, it explains pretty much how the whole Arch module works.
From my point of view, that is, the point of view of an architect, FreeCAD is slowly becoming a solid, decent BIM authoring tool. We now have solid and trustable IFC import in FreeCAD, if IfcOpenShell is installed. If IfcOpenShell is not present, the old IFC python parser we had in version 0.13 is used, but that parser is now so weak that we'll probably remove it in next versions, because it is not useful anymore.
IfcOpenShell is also preparing a new version, which is already supported in this release, and allows to export FreeCAD models to IFC. Since the beauty of the IFC format is in its concept, that, is, the complex "grammar" by which you describe a building in code, the whole operation to export anything to IFC is a big and delicate work, that involves many conceptual decisions. This is a subject which will certainly span over several releases.
The Architecture workbench of FreeCAD, which is where most of the architecture and BIM-related tools are, is also evolving and maturing slowly. Nobody creates a BIM application from scratch, and these things take time to build, evaluate, and see how it works best. Nevertheless, some of these tools, namely the older ones like wall or structure, are now becoming pretty robust, and using them as building blocks for BIM models is becoming quite enjoyable and efficient.
Nowadays, I use FreeCAD in all of my projects. There are several scenarios for which it already occupies a big place, namely importing and converting blender models to solid geometry, and exporting 2D views (sections, plans and elevations). Blender continues to by my modeler of choice in the first phases of the project. Nothing beats the modelling speed and the freedom you get from it. A bit like sketchup, with the fundamental difference that, apart from blender being open-source and running fully and natively on my Linux machine (sketchup works, but not with all its functionality and plugins), blender offers you a much, much better control over the topology of your geometry than sketchup, which actually tries to hide it from you.
This allows you to build models that are easily "freecad-ready": clean meshes, with no overlapping, no manifold edges, that get converted to solids in FreeCAD without errors. The old dream of turning your sketchy model into a BIM model is becoming very real.
Of course there is fundamentally a difference of philosophy between what you do when you build a sketchy model, when you are trying to compose an architecture project, and when you are building a BIM model, where you know what you are building, and you are mainly adjusting things. No matter how perfectly you build your model in the preliminary phases, there will simply be things you don't pay attention to at that stage. So the process will necessarily involve modifications and "redo it the proper way this time" iterations. This is often where you get your feet trapped in the wheels with parametric modeling. So I'm more and more in favor of a simpler, more clearly-labelled and well constructed approach, where instead of nesting many levels of parametric objects, you prefer a clear human-readable organization, based on grouping objects and labeling them correctly. This will certainly be the main path I'll base my workflow on in the near future.
So, happily we now have this 0.14 release out of the way and can concentrate on new stuff. My main target for next release will of course be IFC export, but there is a lot more on the way. For now, enjoy the new release!