Recommendations for Newbie

Hi folks…

Just ordered the CNC and now need to get up to speed with a CAD app… I’m a Mac User, I don’t want to cheap it out but it would be nice to start with something under or around $500 that will allow me to upgrade as my skill progresses and leverage what I have learned…

(Point of reference: I’m retired. Was a 30+ year enterprise software and database engineer (Java, C++, Delphi… Interbase, Oracle…etc…). Not much CAD or design software (some Generic CAD, Gimp…etc) so I’m really a Newbie in that software space. ).

If there is a thread that covers this already (I would assume there is, but I did not find it yet) A point in the right direction would be appreciated…

Thanks so much and looking forward to the adventure….


Fusion 360 is free for personal use. It will do anything you will need to do. It also has the CAM side (toolpaths, gcode). There is alot of youtube video tutorials on both CAD and CAM side. I started using fusion 360 for my 3d printer so it was just natural to do the CAM side with Fusion 360 as well. I am still very new to the CAM side and I am still fumbling around as I just got my machine last week.

Thanks… appreciate the info and will look into Fusion.

I will second the recommendation for Fusion 360. The personal edition (free) is already very capable and the commercial version fits in your budget. It covers both CAD and CAM in an integrated solution. It runs natively on macOS.

However you might want to start with Carbide Create (free version), which also has a native mac version. It is very limited (2D paths only) but it may be more approachable for the first operations such as surfacing your wasteboard, learning about cutting speed, etc.

Carbide sets very conservative cutting speeds. You can overwrite those but I found it helpful when I was starting (more chance to stop the machine in case of error). Switching to Fusion and his more aggressive paths was… frightening initially :grimacing: Also the CAD section is really just a (very simple) drawing tool. More limited but more approachable for the first few days.

Another thread to consider:

Hi John! Recently retired from IT myself - glad to have you join the club!

Fusion360 is great as a native Mac app, I use it and it works great for things that I’ve designed from scratch.

If you want to do more “sign” projects, or 3D carves, you’ll likely want to move onto something else. You can run the windows products that work well here (V-Carve, CarveCo) on your Mac with VM-Ware or Parallels.

Good Luck!

Good suggestions from everyone. I have VMware Fusion, but frankly Windows contributes to hair loss… I use it only under duress. Prefer Unix based OSes. Anyway, without going down that rabbit hole, it looks like I’ll have a go with Fusion360 and see how that fits first. Thanks again for the guidance.

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I am using a Macbook Pro and have VCarve Pro set up under a Bootcamp Installation. I prefer Mac for all things, but it seems like VCarve had a great community and seemed a bit easier for me to grasp from a UI perspective. I have Fusion360 and will still look at using it, but VC Pro seemed like a quicker entry point to start getting things going.