To translate a design or idea into instructions that your CNC machine will follow, we use CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) software to help us.
The type of CAM program you use will vary based on
- Whether you are using 2D or 3D models
- Your budget (either using free CAM or paid CAM programs)
- If you require basic or advanced functionality
Here are a few that our users like.
CAMLab is our very own 2.5D and 3D CAM software which allows you to create g-code toolpaths using 3D, STL files through your browser. We’ve been working hard on it so that it can be easy to use while having a variety of very powerful features. Cut 2.5D profiles, and 3D reliefs with ease by generating the g-code through your browser, exporting it to your computer, and using a g-code sender like UGS to run it on your machine! CAMLab is based on Kiri:Moto so Stewart Allen (the creator of Kiri:Moto) deserves a lot of credit for all his great work.
Kiri:Moto is a 2.5D and 3D CAM software which allows you to create g-code toolpaths using STL files through your browser. To add to it’s convenience, Onshape has support for Kiri:Moto as a plugin. This means that you can create your 3D files in Onshape and bring them into Kiri in the same browser window! Stewart Allen (the creator) is a great guy who works hard to keep the software updated and working well.
The following is our video on how to use Kiri:Moto. This same video will be shown later to teach you how to generate a CAM toolpath for your first project.
MakerCAM is designed for 2D cutting and etching. It’s very simple and also browser-based. Click on the lines you want to cut, choose how you want to cut them, and export the g-code and you are ready to go! We recommend using Inkscape to create your drawings.
Check out the Caleb Peters’ three part tutorial outlining a gear coaster he designed and built. In the second video, he shows how to import the gear drawing into MakerCAM and generate the g-code for it:
Fusion 360 is a powerful, industry-used software that has both CAD and CAM software built-in. It’s free for makers and hobbyists and they offer great training resources as well as a full playlist which teaches every step in learning how to use the CAM part of Fusion. Fusion 360 is a great option if you’re wanting to take the deep dive on CNC programming and want to take advantage of the latest, most advanced milling techniques.
F-Engrave is a free and open-source software which provides several useful features if you are looking to do engraving work. This includes v-carving, b-carving, importing DXF and bitmap files, and more. To learn about how it works, check out the documentation online or watch the YouTube tutorial videos.
Easel is a free (with paid pro features) web application that makes it easy to design and cut objects online. With a ton of presets for common bits and materials, as well as a simple user interface, it’s an awesome program for getting started with CNCing. There are tons of guides on Youtube that covers lots of different things you can do with Easel.
Carbide Create is an awesome free program that works great for primarily 2D and 2.5D carvings. If you’re working with SVGs and DXFs, this is a great program. Carbide Create also works great for v-carving as well. There are tons of guides on Youtube as well for using this program.