I’ve been reading the various posts here and also on FB about the “best” software to use. My situation is:
No past experience with CAD/CAM software but I understand the difference between CAD and CAM and am generally very tech literate.
Want to avoid Windows.
I am a home hobbyist, not looking to make a living with my CNC machine.
Mostly planning to use my OF for carving signs, at least that is my main focus here.
Fusion 360 seems like a really good choice to me from the standpoint of being very capable, runs on Mac, and is free for personal use. But I am seeing lots of people advocating for VCarve, Carveco, etc. and I would like to understand why. One thing I have heard people say is F360 is perhaps overkill for most CNC projects, very complex and difficult to learn. Is that the main complaint? In terms of CAM, I know OF is planning to provide a post processor for F360. But are there other aspects of CNC CAM that F360 is not good at? I read a lot of references to speeds and feeds, also tool paths. I understand the concepts in general but since I have not yet used a CNC machine, I don’t totally understand how those come into play when you are setting up your CAM. Are these other packages like VCarve or Carveco more capable in this regard? Thanks in advance for any insight you can provide.
I think Fusion 360 is a great tool, and use it on my current CNC and plan to use it with my Onefinity also. I see programs like Carveco (which I recently bought) and others is for making artsy things like signs quickly and easily.
Since I knew CAD well before using Fusion 360, the learning curve was small. I expect having to spend a lot more time on Carveco.
I say give Fusion a try. There are more YouTube videos than you could ever watch, and Autodesk Academy has online tutorial classes for CAD and CAM aspects.
Okay, even having never used it this sounds like a scream for Carveco. Runs under Mac, mostly for signs, no commitments as you can pay by the month.
Now I am a HUGE fan of Fusion 360 but where it shines is in making things other than signs.
I’m a Mac user as well. I learned fusion for modeling and 3d printing. I’ve been learning the CAM workflow and it is indeed very powerful. I’m new to CAM, and haven’t used any other software, but I think that fusion could handle anything I wanted to make.
Benefits of fusion:
1). You can learn the CAD modeling at the same time. Then your design potential is limitless and you can create whatever design you can imagine.
2). You have the 3D modeling and CAM files linked. Change something in the model and you can automatically update your CAM tool paths to reflect the change.
3). Fusion is able to program 4 and 5 axis paths. If you ever add more axes in the future, you will be set.
4). The hobbyist license is free. Full featured professional design software- free. You can always buy a commercial license if you want to later.
A drawback of fusion is also how powerful it is. You are able to adjust an incredible amount of settings. It means you can tailor things exactly how you want, but it also means you sometimes get lost in the menus of options that you don’t even need to use. It has pretty good default settings, and you will learn a lot from just ‘playing around’. Any new software will have a learning curve, but I imagine that fusion is not one of the easier ones to learn.
Look up Lars Christensen on Youtube: he has hundreds of videos on learning fusion CAD and CAM. That’s how I learned.
@Markevans36301 - The FAQ on the Carveco website clearly says it does not run on a Mac. I guess if you have Parallels or VMWare or if it works with Wine (e.g., Crossover) then sure, but it is certainly not native like Fusion 360.
@rgoldino - Fusion 360 is a full featured CAD/CAM tool. It is not a hobbyist tool. I didn’t find it difficult to learn, and I’ve never really used a professional CAD program. But I am a recovering professional developer and IT professional. So YMMV. As noted, there are plenty of videos to help with the learning curve.
I actually found both Vectric and CamBam more difficult to understand initially than Fusion. I will say Fusion 360 manufacturing space is daunting, as it assumes you are familiar with a lot of features that are simply not offered in the other tools. I generally overlook them – but only after I learned they could be.
So - in the end - I’d recommend Fusion once you learn the ropes. But I’d also say start with something simpler like Easel or Carbide Create - they mask some of the details and let you get carving quickly without learning a lot of the lingo. Ultimately you will outgrow them, and want to move on. That is when you should make the decision IMHO. Don’t plunk down hordes of cash until you know where you want to go and you have learned what is important to you.
Thanks everyone else for the feedback so far! Tom, I do have Bootcamp set up on my Mac to dual boot Windows but that’s only because there was some game my daughter could not live without, lol. I definitely want native Mac (Linux would be better but I know that’s a stretch…). I have F360 installed and have watched some YouTube videos. I also just got a 3d printer so I will be able to practice my CAD skills a bit on that before my OF arrives (November).
@rgoldino - excellent. I have some videos and I highly recommend Winston Moy and John Saunders (NYCCNC) - both good content. I use Parallels when completely unavoidable - then I don’t have to get out of MacOS completely.
Best of luck and feel free to reach out if you have questions.
I am partial to Vectric software probably because I have been using it for years. But mostly because I find it very intuitive and very easy to create tool paths. I installed fusion 360 a while back and did not find it very intuitive. While I appreciate the power of 360 I found for me it to be overwhelming to lean.
I found Mesh maker really easy to work on 3D models and Blender after a struggle became usable. I haven’t seen it mentioned here but Free Cad also can generate GCode. All good software tools have a pretty steep learning curve and one has only so much time available. I would suggest you try a few programs to see which one clicks with you, It going to take a lot of effort to get comfortable with the program but sometimes a program just doesn’t make sense so it becomes much harder to get over the curve. I know Vectric has trial versions and I assume Carveco as well. From what I know about 360 I don’t think you would be limited in any way once you learn to use it.
This has been my same concern ever since I ordered the machine - I know Fusion from a modeling and 3d printing perspective, but still have no idea on the CAM / gcode side of things as I usually learn by doing - and without a machine I haven’t had anything to practice on. Fusion still seems like the best tool… but then why does it seem that no one (on YouTube, in the woodworking “community”) uses it?
It seems that many / most of the people who post videos of CNC cutting, whenever they post photos of the computer side of things, it’s always either Vetric, Carbide3d or something else - it seems that Winston Moy & NYCNC are the only one who posts anything including Fusion, and most of the time Winson is posting. it’s to complain that Fusion crashed again when trying to plan his next crazy idea.
There’s tons of videos on “how easy” carbide3d, Easel and whatnot are… but when considering fusion -there’s quite a few posts in this thread above that are for Fusion360, but no one has really pointed to any resources to learning the CAM side of things Fusion, or even a simple “I want to cut out a sign I found on Pinterest” examples using Fusion.
I’d vote that if we’re really selling Fusion as the software of choice, link to the videos / series / makers that you really learned the specific topic at hand. Huge resources like NYCNC and Lars Christensen are great - but it’s easy to get lost in their huge library of content.
That said - here’s a few of the tutorials for Fusion / CAM that I’ve seen so far:
@mkngjoy thanks for sharing these links. I am also clueless about the CAM aspect of CNC. For example, @EdwoodCrafting noted that Vectric makes it very easy to create tool paths but I have no idea what that really means… I am not expecting people to explain all these details to me here. I know it is going to be a matter of rolling up my sleeves and digging in but as Josh pointed out, that’s tough to do when you don’t actually have a machine yet.
Most of the CAM software tools mentioned have built in simulators so you don’t need a machine to learn. As I mentioned there is no one perfect tool so try out a few to see which one will best fit your needs. The initial learning curve might be steep but you will figure it out. For me though 360 is still impossible
I’ve done many videos on using Fusion 360 for woodworking. I just went to my playlists and I’m a little surprised just how many videos I have made. Some are older and not very good quality, but out there for consumption nevertheless.
I’m a little late to this discussion but as someone who is brand new to CAD/CAM I thought I could add something helpful. I had been researching CNC for a while but only recently decided to actually pull the trigger and get a machine. I stumbled upon OF after the pre-order period ended, but thankfully only about 2 weeks before this new order period begins. Once I decided OF was the machine for me I started researching CAD/CAM software so I could actually do something other than stare at my shiny new machine when I finally get it. As a MAC user Fusion seemed like a natural choice AND it’s free for my purposes. In just two weeks I was able to learn enough to design a dust hood for my router table (also just purchased a 3D printer so that I could practice CAD skills) as well as a new top for my router table with the router plate insert for my Jessem router lift CNC’ed into the table, I was able to then go to the CAM side of Fusion and convert my design into gcode. I did this in two weeks without any previous experience in CAD/CAM software . Took a lot of youtube video watching and patience and trial and error but the hardest part is just remembering what tools serve what function and which tool heading they are under. I will caveat this by saying I am retired and have a lot of free time and I’m also a persistent fellow. So two weeks is probably a working mans 6 weeks or so. My point is that even though at first the power and functionality of Fusion can be daunting because of all of the moving parts, it is very learnable by anyone willing to sit and fool around with it. My advice is pick a project you have been thinking about designing, open the software, open a youtube browser start clicking. Once your project is designed you will have a grasp on the CAD side of things and be WAY more confident in your ability to use the software. Then go to Lars Christensen’s video How To Get Started With CAM Within Fusion 360 — Tutorial to learn how to turn it from a design into a tool path. This will at least give you a foundation and let you know if Fusion is for you. Hope this helps.
@Mirramjr thanks for sharing. This is inspiring and gives me hope that I can conquer Fusion 360. I am doing what you suggest: F360 open in one window, Youtube video in another window. My only issue with Lars’ beginner videos is they are based on an older version of F360. A lot of the menus have changed, options renamed, etc. I’ve found a few newer videos from other Youtubers that are easier to follow.
@rgoldino Yeah Lars videos are all older videos but I found his CAM tutorial to be a good primer for how to take your design from CAD to gcode. There are a bunch of good folks with comprehensive tutorial libraries. Kevin Kennedy is another good one - and The Woodgrafter has a series of Fusion for Woodworkers videos. Please share what you have found as I’m still a long way from being any good at using Fusion and would definitely benefit from more resources. Best of luck I am sure you will do great!