Originally Posted by ctroyer
I am curious about what the community thinks about the current state of the art in opensource CAD software.
It seems to me that all the pieces of the puzzle are available out there in the opensource world. The rigorous solid modeling capabilities of BRL-CAD, the rendering and meshing utilities in OpenCascade, various opensource FEA libraries....
Seems to me that what remains is for some enterprising (or masochistic) individuals to start putting all the pieces together in a GIMP style effort to provide the 'killer app' for the Linux - opensource world.
That is exactly what is going on at the BRL-CAD project.
Unfortunately all of the pieces are not really available on the open source side. There is an astounding amount of effort (and background knowledge) that has to go into making an open source CAD system. That has been part of what has kept open source pretty much out of the picture as being a viable alternative to some of the big names in commercial CAD.
Even without getting into the assumptions that are made when someone says "CAD" (as that alone varies *heavily* from person to person, see http://brlcad.org/Industry_Diagram.png
for example), there is a lot of manpower required. BRL-CAD has nearly 500 person-years of effort invested in it yet it's still missing a lot of features required to encompass even a fraction of the overall CAD industry. That amount of effort is more than the Blender modeler (which has exceptional visibility/activity) and more than any other open source CAD project, but then BRL-CAD's usability and sheer size is a tough hurdle for new developers.
Improving usability is BRL-CAD's current #1 project priority with development efforts progressing on a new GUI prototypes and more comprehensive/robust support for BREP geometry. Participating in the Google Summer of Code has done wonders for increasing development efforts but more is always better.
If folks want to help make things better, the best suggestion would be to simply get involved. Make patches, write documentation, help make things better. ;-)