CAM software for solidworks users

Hello,

I am all very new to CNC routing. I was about to start getting a lot of seat time with Fusion 360 until I heard about them removing features. Also I’m not very keen on it being cloud based.

I will be using solidworks for design but their CAM software is only 2.5 axis. Instead of trying to juggle using the cam features of Fusion alongside solidworks, for purely CNC routing would it be best to just get something like vcarve? I’d prefer whatever is the most user friendly as I don’t want to overwhelm myself with complex software. I’m open to other CAM options as well. Much appreciated.

  • Steve

Hi Steve - to be clear, Autodesk is not technically removing features from Fusion 360. They are limiting access to certain features for the free version. I won’t go into my thoughts on that.

In the end, your choices depend what you want to do with your machine. If you want to do a lot of 3d carving, then Vectric is a great choice or Carveco. If you want more “simple” 2.5D cutting, then there are other options such as Carbide Create, Easel, CamBam, etc.

I will be sticking with Fusion 360 since it’s the most powerful and complete CAD, CAM, and PCB suite available at no cost, even if certain features are limited in the free version. But I have to say, the 10 active designs might be a show stopper for me - we will see.

-Tom

Hello,

I too am very new to CNC routing. I’m expecting my first, the Onefinity, in December. I have experience with CAD software but no CAM experience. For CAD, I have been using SolidWorks and this is the first that I’ve heard about their CAM package being limited to only 2.5 axis.
Despite already having SolidWorks I have already been looking for other CAM software options as I just don’t see much discussion about SolidWorks in the CNC routing forums that I have looked into. And I fear the support may not be there if I attempt to teach myself something different from what the majority of CNC router users are using.
I do want the ability to do true 3D and I see the most discussion seems to be either centered in Fusion 360 or Vectric Aspire. So I have a few questions about these 2 options:
(1) I’ve been to the Fusion 360 website and I see mention of the limit of 10 active designs for the hobby/free version. What exactly does this mean? Does it mean that you can only have 10 files open at once? Or that it only allows you to create 10 designs period? Not sure of the distinction between “active design” and “design”.
(2) How do Fusion 360 and Vectric Aspire compare in terms of capabilities? Are there things one of them can do that the other cannot? I’m thinking about CAM capabilities specifically. I may stick with SolidWorks for CAD as I already know how to do that.
(3) Which is easier to learn?

Thanks,
Carl

Hello Carl - welcome to the forum and the magic of CNC :wink:

(1) I’ve been to the Fusion 360 website and I see mention of the limit of 10 active designs for the hobby/free version. What exactly does this mean? Does it mean that you can only have 10 files open at once? Or that it only allows you to create 10 designs period? Not sure of the distinction between “active design” and “design”.

The whole “10 active design” limit was just announced a few days ago and has not been implemented in the SW yet. But, as near as I can tell, you will have to designate files as “archived” or “active”. If you have a single project file and all your components are in that file, then you are golden. If you reference components via links or embedded external components, you will likely quickly hit the 10 active file limit – depending on how Autodesk implements the feature. It is not clear at this point if linked components must be “active” or not.

In this case, a “design” is a single project file which can have many components (not sure there is a limit).

(2) How do Fusion 360 and Vectric Aspire compare in terms of capabilities? Are there things one of them can do that the other cannot? I’m thinking about CAM capabilities specifically. I may stick with SolidWorks for CAD as I already know how to do that.

Caveat – My experience

  • Vectric Aspire and VCarve specializes in v-carving. Fusion 360 is a complete CAD, CAM, and Electronics design suite of applications.
  • The CAM component of Fusion can do v-carving, but it is limited to 2.5d, not 3d like Vectric SW.
  • If you want to do complex inlays with crisp corners, Vectric is the way to go.
  • If you want detailed control over routing profiles and material removal, Fusion is the way to go. I’ve not seen anything like adaptive pocketing in Vectric, but doing the 3d v-carves is nearly impossible in Fusion (but not completely impossible).

(3) Which is easier to learn?

  • I’ve found both intuitive and mostly easy to use.
  • I’ve found Fusion CAD easier to use than Vectric (especially the design in place, parametric modeling, and on the fly 3d rendering)
  • Fusion CAM is far more complicated than Vectric and more difficult to learn.

Related - I’ve found SketchUp more difficult to learn than Fusion or Vectric. But, SketchUp is much better at creating BOMs and build drawings for wood workers; however, SketchUp but can’t do CAM so that’s a barrier.

Finally, I’ll offer CamBam as a simple CAM program that is very similar to Vectric (1/5th of the cost) and is capable of a wide range of CAM operations short of 3d v-carving.

Whew. I hope that helps.

-Tom

2 Likes

Thanks! That is very helpful.

Carl

Check out FreeCAD.

As the name suggests, it’s free (open source), parametric, and has lots of add-ons. The developers took many cues from SolidWorks, so it should be easy to pick up on. It also has CAM capabilities.

I have not used it yet, but I’ve been impressed by the reviews online and many Youtube tutorials. I used Creo previously and can’t wait to try FreeCAD, especially the sheet metal tools.

And you can’t beat the price!

Hey guys, has anyone spent any time with the Solidworks CAM? From my looking it seems like it should be very robust and able to do everything that Fusion can. It just seems like it is lacking the support from user experience. My CNC arrives in a month and im still trying to decide if I should get Vcarve or learn Solidworks CAM on my own.