I'm working on a robotic hand and I would like to simulate different joints and tendon insertion points before starting to actually build it.

I've been googling and found things like Solidworks and Autodesk, that seem very costly for a hobbyst like me but also I don't quite fully understand their capabilities (just CAD? 3D modelling but not simulation? Simulation but not interactive?). I've also found things like FreeCAD which seem to me somehow abandoned or just for CAD and not for simulation.

Another requirement would be interactivity of the simulation, not just rendering.

I don't have a problem with commercial software, but I'm looking for a reasonable cost for a hobbyst, not an engineering company.

Is there a software out there that meets all this requirements? Or should I use several programs each for a specific purpose?


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    $\begingroup$ Maybe I will turn this into an answer later, but I think you generally have two options. The first is to pay quite a bit for a decent piece of software (SolidWorks and other CAD programs should be able to do what you want, but you'll probably have to pay even more than the base cost for the required modules). The second is to write your own code using open-source tools like VTK and Gazebo. Gazebo is not too bad and will probably take care of all your visualization needs anyway (so you don't really need VTK). $\endgroup$ Nov 21, 2015 at 16:33
  • $\begingroup$ I didn't knew about Gazebo, I'll take a look, thanks. $\endgroup$ Nov 21, 2015 at 16:59
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    $\begingroup$ If you need CAD design, you could try OnShape, currently in beta but shouldbe free for simple stuff. If you wan dynamic simulation...that is a different question...if you do this as a hobby, you can buy Matlab licenses for home use for under 300 USD and you can do very good multi-body dynamcis simulations for that price. For commercial use Matlab will cost tens of thousands...Mayba combine OnShape.com for desing and Gazebo for simulation? $\endgroup$
    – 50k4
    Nov 23, 2015 at 11:44
  • $\begingroup$ I created a video where I show how to get the moving graphics of a mechanical arm youtu.be/crJXUlzJ918 $\endgroup$
    – LCarvalho
    Feb 14, 2018 at 23:25


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