Looking for pros and cons of CAD/CAM software

Greetings, friendly humans!

Based on current shipping estimates, my fun and exciting sparkly new Onefinity Woodworker is scheduled to be on its way very soon. Looking forward to making some new and improved awesome in my workshop. Well… My workshop and my basement until it warms up a bit outside. It hasn’t made it up to freezing in a couple of weeks where I live. Fortunately, the Onefinity is a lot more portable than a lot of my workshop.

I’m debating options for creating G-code. There are a few things I’d definitely like to do. There are the obvious basics that pretty much all the software can do, but I’d like to make snazzier stuff.

I have a fair bit of practice with Blender and it is possible to export models created with it into a number of different pieces of CAD/CAM software. With a bit of planning, most of the models I’d like to turn into actual objects could be done on the Onefinity. I would like to do this as painlessly as possible. Have played with Fusion 360, but that is WAY overkill for my needs and the interface makes me want to rip out what little hair I have left.

Other than that, I’m mainly looking for something that can work with 2D vector images (pretty much anything that can do G-code can do that) and do an occasional photo V-carve. That looks like fun.
Among the things I would like to make in short order are mechanical contrivances, such as gears and other things used in clockwork mechanisms.

So… Basically, I’m looking for something that is fairly easy to learn, but is powerful enough to do some distinctly interesting stuff with. As much as I’d love to buy ALL the software, I sadly don’t have access to Bill Gates’ pocketbook. What is your experience with the various pieces of software that can create G-code for the Onefinity? What would you consider pros and cons on them?

Thank you for your advice. Be well and have a fabulous day!

1 Like

I started with Carbide Create which is free. I just couldn’t get Carbide Create to do what I wanted when I imported something. It either became some huge thing, or really tiny. All the vectors seemed to go screwy. It also just didn’t have some things that I felt I needed for what I was trying to do. The tool paths seemed a bit convoluted to me for basic stuff. And at the time I new nothing about CNC. It was like watching a kid with ADHD chase bottle caps.
I gave Fusion 360 a go, but to be perfectly honest I did not have the patience to learn it. I just wanted to start making stuff. Well that and feeling rather stupid as I could never remember how to get back to that freaking window I found two seconds ago that I need again.
I went with Vcarve Desktop. Then upgraded to Vcarve pro, then to Aspire. The upgrades in the software came as I made more money in my shop, because that stuff isn’t cheap. I didn’t know about CarveCo until recently, or I might have given that a go. I can not speak to Carveco software, as I have not used it.
I looked around for a bit, but kept coming back to Artcam (which I now understand is Carveco), or Vcarve from Vetric. I downloaded the trial version of Vcarve desktop and was hooked. It was fairly easy to understand, lots of videos for learning, and the interface was much easier (for me) to understand than Fusion. Also a factor for me deciding to go with Vetric was their upgrade policy. When upgrading they deduct the amount you spent to purchase the lower tier off the price of the higher software. The con for Vetric software, (at least for me) is price.
It might be worth taking at look at the free trial version just to give it a go.
Though if you are used to working with something like Blender, Carveco might seem more natural for you. To be honest the only reason I don’t get Carveco myself is I don’t like subscription software and simply cant justify purchasing it out right. At least right now. lol.

And that was my ramble of the day. lol.

3 Likes

I started with Estlcam 4 years ago and love it. I can highly recommend it for the type of work you want to do. Most all my stuff starts out as a 2D DXF file and with Estlcam I can cut 2.5D parts & profiles as well as v-carving text & so-forth. I deal with complex (as well as stupid) CAD issues daily on my job, so I want my hobby CNC to be enjoyable. Estlcam is an important piece of that puzzle.

Estlcam has the ability to work with images, but it’s not something I’ve really messed with enough to give any intelligent feedback on.

I’ll second Estlcam!

I’ve spent years doing machine design on CAD systems and preparing projects for g-code programming, etc. After doing so much daily computer work, I stopped using one at home.

I use a chromebook instead but it’s not CNC capable. So I’m about to buy my first laptop after 11 years without one. In the meantime, Estlcam is running fine on my 13 year old, overheating, battery-less laptop.

If you want to keep costs low while figuring out what works for you, give Estlcam a try!

Eric

2 Likes

Another fellow tool designer! :sunglasses:
I can highly recommend an off-lease Lenovo ThinkPad. You can pick them up refurbished on ebay for in the very low hundreds, and many times they’re nearly new condition. Of course, the newer you go, the more $$ they become, but still a bargain. I’d take one of these over any new consumer-grade laptop any day. If you decide to go that route, use “nvidia” in your search terms to get one with the CAD-grade graphics.

For those that know, I am biased (part of Carveco)but firstly if you have a Onefinity machine always get software that has ramping ability in the toolpathing. Im not sure why some software doesnt have it, but its that fastest way to break tools by not having it as an option. Carveco products, Vectric Products and Fusion have it. (so that’s good). Our engineer has just broken his first tool this year, he almost had a clean sweep. Others like easel and carbide I believe don’t.

Next thing to consider is if you want to use the full bed size in this case if you go for V-Carve you are best to go for VCarve Pro. Carveco Maker Products and Fusion don’t limit bed size.

The next thing is do you want to do the modelling or bring in models from other packages. If you want to CAD model then Fusion is the way, if you want to relief model then Carveco Maker Plus or Vectric Aspire is the way forward. Both are available to own, but Maker plus you can also subscribe. If you just want to bring in files like STLs etc and machine them then Fusion, Vectric and Carveco will all do that, but I think you are limited to one STL file in Vectric products ( I may be wrong) and this is only a worry if you need to add multiple files. Fusion will struggle with heavier and more complex reliefs where Maker Plus and Aspire wont.

If it is just the 2D vectorwork you are after then Fusion is an overkill, so I would say Carveco Maker or Vectric VCarve Pro. Both do PhotoVcarve, Lithophanes, relief carving, but importantly have quality toolpaths in, that will make the most out of a OneFinity.

That’s as unbiased as I get. But obviously I really going to recommend Carveco products.

Rob

7 Likes

Thank y’all for the info! In my case, raw computing power or RAM is not an issue. My home system is a beast that I built specifically to run like lightning, even with extremely memory intense or processing intense tasks, but there may be a lot of folks browsing the forums who aren’t running high end systems debating what software to use.

As for me, right now, I’m leaning toward either Vectric or Carveco for a lot of my work. Most of the stuff I’m looking into doing - at least in the short term - can be done with either one. I’ve had a hard time finding direct comparisons of Carveco and Vectric software, though. There is a lot of overlap, but I’d like to know some of the things that Carveco can do fairly easily that Vectric can’t and vice versa.

Another thing that would be nice to see would be a few video clips showing the workflow of different software doing the same project - preferably by someone who has worked a fair bit with both. A direct comparison would be most helpful. Looking over tutorials, it would appear that Vectric is a bit easier to use, but that may very well come down to a difference in how different people making the tutorials like to do things rather than one piece of software actually being easier to learn and use than the other.

Thoughts?

I have gone the Shapeoko Carbide Create route. I too was concerned with $$. I learned a bunch from CC with many learning mistakes along the way. After 2 yrs I felt I wanted more detail, more options and upgrade ability. I moved to Vectric Desktop and more recently Desktop Pro. Each step up the ladder of the Vectric products brought an incremental upgrade price. I have personally done a lot of things on both the Carbide and Vectric products and couldn’t speak more favourably about the Vectric products. The Vectric software variants have cutting size limitations which you must consider. Any other products and my knowledge is zero. My wisdom would suggest start slow and see where it takes you. Good luck!

1 Like

I’m new to this too and would like to give Estlcam a try.
Rather than spending hours attempting to learn each detail, could you provide some of the setup points you use for best results with 1F and this software?

I’m new, what do you guys suggest I am a Mac user interested in 2.5 carving

Curt, Estlcam is excellent for 2.5D work (which is basically 95% of what I do). My designs start out in 2D CAD, then go into Estlcam for programming. There is not a Mac-native version of Estlcam, but I think many people use it under one of the methods typically used to run Windows based applications.

I don’t have my 1F yet but I’m also a Mac user and it’s important to me to have macOS or iOS software (I don’t want to run a Windows emulator). The list is short but here are the options that I have found:

LightBurn, if you get the laser accessory, runs natively on macOS.

I am not in a position to recommend one yet since I need the 1F to learn and test… I am tempted by MeshCAM which, to my uninformed eyes, appears as the most comprehensive native macOS solution.

–ben
PS: I can sort of understand that the macOS market for CNC is small but not even iOS support? It would appear complementary to the creative options on the iPad Pro.

Hey Bill,
What are you using for 2D CAD? Your workflow and experience are like mine.

In the attempt to keep software reasonably lightweight and open source (when I can), I am using QCAD for 2D stuff. DXF is my preferred format. I also have Inkscape for SVG and bitmap tracing. FreeCAD takes care of 3D, mostly for assemblies. EstlCAM is my primary CAM tool, although I also use Carbide Create.

I haven’t found any particularly useful utilities yet, although I’m always looking.

I’m using (and have been for years) Draftsight free version. It’s a lightweight 2D CAD system with a clean, uncluttered interface, and behaves much like AutoCAD. The primary tool it’s missing is arc-aligned text.

I also have CMS Intellicad. I bought a license of that for under $200, and it’s virtually identical to AutoCAD. Still, I prefer the Draftsight interface.

I tried QCAD, but the commands & workflow were just too different for me to get used to. Same with TurboCAD… I used it years ago, but it’s just not the same as it was.

I just got a new laptop and currently Draftsight is the only CAD software installed on it. When push comes to shove, I will install CMS Intellicad on it, or our work license allows me to do a ‘home’ installation of AutoCAD as well. Fine for as long as I work there, I guess.

This is my first post on this site. I just ordered a cnc and am looking into software. My machine is a ways out so I have a little time. I use fusion 360 free version now for my 3d printers. but I would have to buy a license to use it for CAM work. I do plan on spending money for a CNC software. My question, is F360 very good for CAM work vs Vcarve Pro? For 495/yr for F360 vs 690 for vcarve pro + upgrades down the road. Its seems as though F360 is capable but not as intuitive as Vcarve Pro for CNC specific tasks. Any thoughts on this issue would be helpful, Thanks in advance. Phil H.

You don’t need a paid F360 version to cam with your 1F. Note that I use both. Vcarve and F360.

I Checked F360 and it comes up in Cam. I tried a long time ago and got errors I guess I just assumed it would be a problem. I have trouble exporting files like drawings. CAM in F360 looks intimidating to me. I guess just part of the learning process, I assume vcarve is easier to learn.

I started from scratch 3 months ago, and tomorrow is the 2-week anniversary of my 1F - and now I can get things designed and cut out in both VCarve and Fusion360. The CAM in Fusion isn’t a lot different than VCarve - you have to control the same things. YouTube is your friend - I have always been able to find a video explaining what I was struggling with.

I find VCarve much better for (surprise) v-carving, and assembling 3d carvings. Their “clipart” library gets you started very nicely. Things I want to make from scratch I like Fusion for - setting sizes, angles, etc.

VCarve has a 30-day trial - I’d definitely take them up on that and see what you think.

Thanks for your response it is the bump I needed to make a decision. I will check out vcarve to get a feel for it. It looks like vcarve pro is necessary with the 1F just based on the size of carve area.
Phil H

I’m still on V-Carve Desktop - so far a lot of what I’ve wanted to do has been smaller than 24x24. Bigger things (like surfacing the wasteboard) I’ve done in Fusion. It’s only 8" difference. Depends on what your projects look like. It’s an easy upgrade later - you just pay the difference between the versions.

1 Like