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post #1 of 164 (permalink) Old 05-06-2011, 11:18 PM Thread Starter
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Default what is the best cnc software

what is the best cnc software I am a handyman and have built a wood shop now I want to buy a cnc router but don't know what software to buy looking at shark pro
any advice?
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post #2 of 164 (permalink) Old 05-07-2011, 12:51 AM
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Welcome to the router forum, Shawn

Thank you for joining us

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I don't profess to know everything, and I may learn something new.

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post #3 of 164 (permalink) Old 05-09-2011, 08:02 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks James, I hope to learn a lot here
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post #4 of 164 (permalink) Old 05-09-2011, 12:00 PM
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Hi Shawn,

Disclaimer, the following are my OPINIONS! I am no expert, just a craftsman trying to learn new techniques and methods.

I am working thru this issue right now. From what I can see in my internet research, (many hours) there are actually 3 kinds of software involved. (please note, I am NOT an experienced CNC user, I am purchasing an american made machine and haven't received it yet).

At any rate, first there is the software that runs the controller that drives the stepper or server motors that move the router in 3 dimensions. From what I see, the most well known is Mach3 by ArcSoft. The have a user forum here. Again, you have lots of choices to sift thru.

Then you need a software that tells Mach3 what to do, like which tooling you are using, what depths of cut, how many passes, and lots more parameters.There are many; the Shark (sold on Rockler.com) comes with Vectric's Vcarve Pro. Another is BobCad-Cam V24. And each has different versions with different functions and different prices. You can spend days trying to determine which one you want to use.

IF you buy a complete unit (hopefully a brand name) the CNC router manufacturer will probably include software with the unit. From what I can see there are LOTS of parameters and tools in any of these types of software and each brand has a pretty steep learning curve. Pay close attention to the availability of support, as sometimes it can cost nearly as much as the software. If you decide to jump into the real fire and want to build your first unit, be prepared to spend lots of hours on the different CNC forums learning a huge amount of new terms, techniques, and device names. Truthfully, I gave up on that idea. I'd rather spend my time woodworking.

then, there is the software to actually create a design in a format that the CAD/CAM software will import. Here the market is even larger and includes apps like AutoCad, TurboCad, SolidWorks, and Googles Sketchup (not the free version, tho, it will only export a .skp file which most CAD/CAM software won't recognize). Most will have a limited function trial software that you can download, but I found using them difficult as a beginner with no training. Some are quite expensive, have MANY functions, and are hard to learn. I seems to me that most require lots of study and practice, and their tutorials can be difficult or impossible to decipher without support and instruction.

From my perspective, and I have been woodworking for several decades, using hand and power tools. Moving into CNC routing is arduous and challenging, but I am hoping to finally be able to create my designs in quantities that make it profitable.

I hope this gives you some idea of the challenges you would face.


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post #5 of 164 (permalink) Old 05-09-2011, 04:07 PM
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BobCAD (and some other CAD applications) are capable of being used to design the components in CAD then export (convert) the CAD drawing of individual components to a machine-specific post file (normally in a flavour of ISO G-Code) which the CNC controller software cam understand without the need for other application programs. There is a definite blurring of the specifics [sic] in the area of CAD and CADCAM because of different applications' abilities to handle 2D, 2-1/2D and 3D CAD and CAM outputs.

As someone who's used earlier versions of BobCAD as well as Biesse RoverCAD (a machine-specific package) and AutoCAD with CADCode to generate my CAD drawings and post files I'd say that the OP might be best trying out some of the CAD packages available first, then seeing whether a post processor was available to create the required CNC controller specific code he'll need (it probably is). Another thing to take into account is the type of work the OP is going to do. Simple 2D or 2-1/2D to produce flat components (thing flat-pack furniture parts) is a much simpler and cheaper for the software vendor to impliment than full-blown 3D CAD even without the need to support 5-axis machining. Oh, and on the BobCAD front a lot of folk out there lost faith with BobCAD somewhere around version 20. I know I did, but then I never really needed 3D CAD.


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post #6 of 164 (permalink) Old 05-14-2011, 06:13 AM
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I use mach3 interface and Vectric Vcarve Pro6 and Aspire3. Vcarve Pro is 2d and 2 1/2d software design and Aspire is 3d. A lot depends on your $$$... I have a K2CNC with 4 axis servo motors. Love the products I have.....
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post #7 of 164 (permalink) Old 06-01-2011, 03:36 PM
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Default EnRoute Software

EnRoute Software provides robust production tools for doing things like creating accurate toolpaths, nesting parts, adding bridges or specifying lead-in/lead-out parameters AND creative design tools for 3D engraving and parametric texturing and unique Rapid Texturing.

EnRoute Software also interfaces with most kitchen design software programs converting DXF files into layered output files and cut lists.
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post #8 of 164 (permalink) Old 06-01-2011, 04:11 PM
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Dermer really hit it on the head.

Since you are looking at the Shark, you aren't going to be cutting kitchen cabinets or full plywood sheets. I just checked the Shark site and it ships with Vectric V-Carve Pro 5. That software is very good and will keep you very busy and able to learn in the beginning. It doesn't include CAD.

My suggestion is to learn the CNC with the included software and then figure out what you need. CAD packages are not the easiest to conquer without some background.

I have had BobCAD/CAM since 2005 at V-17 and currently have seats for V-21 and V-23. To be honest, V-21 is doing all that I need and I haven't taken the time to learn the 3-D based V-23. Having an integrated CAM utility to generate the g-code from the CAD is helpful. BobCAD lets you "simulate" the tool path right over the CAD so you can see if something isn't obviously wrong.

Many CAD programs that can create files for CNC today are very powerful and with that are quite overwhelming to someone with out any prior CAD experience or formal training. Not impossible, but not intuitive.

Most CAD packages have "demo" or 30 trial versions you can try. Take advantage of them.

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post #9 of 164 (permalink) Old 06-01-2011, 06:33 PM
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With all the discussion on which programs people favor nothing has been mentioned about pricing which may be a big factor for a beginner. Ease of use is great unless the software is priced out of your budget. Since we are world wide pricing will vary greatly from one country to another but I think it would be helpful to have a general idea of costs as well as features. I have no knowledge of using any of the design software; my CNC knowledge is based on repairing stuff. A friend is an instructor for Catia and he let me play with V5 R15 a bit, an amazing program.

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post #10 of 164 (permalink) Old 06-02-2011, 08:00 AM
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There are many solutions that are low cost for cnc routing. The big thing is knowing what you want to do. Cut2 and Cut 3 V carve pro and Aspire offer great wood working tools for routing and craving. These systems offer an upgrade path and either will be included with your machine sale or would cost your $150 to start and up to $1500 or so on the top end.

Now I do work for BobCAD and feel our solutions is very good too. It's CAD CAM all in one system. Now it is more mechanical in design but with the ART package it give you tool to create awesome parts.

If you look in the shark forum you'll see a post I made that walks through a project I recently did. I would post it here but I can't post web links for the videos until I have 10 posts.

So in the end any software you get will work, what will be the best for you is really what you like the most and what you can afford.

I hope this helps.

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