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Designing 3D figures -- Aspire vs. Fusion 360

6750 Views 9 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  garymkrieg
I'm totally new to the CNC world and just bought a CNC from ShopSabre a couple of months ago, which came with VCarve Pro. I discovered to my chagrin that I can't actually design new 3D models in VCarve, and they only let you import one external 3D model in any given layout. So for $700 they still handicap you quite a bit. I'm debating whether to upgrade to Aspire for an additional $1,300 or switch to Fusion 360 ($495/year, I think). We got this machine to expand my wife's woodcrafting business, which includes a lot of animal and human figurines, plus some educational toys and materials, which we've always painstakingly made by hand. The figurines are fully two-sided and sometimes fairly life-like. Which of the two softwares is better suited to creating the figurines? I'd greatly appreciate any advice.
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I'd say neither.
Fusion 360 is really best suited for mechanical design.
While Aspire can do double sided, it's really best at one side reliefs, and was never intended to be a true 3D modeler.

Something like Z Brush is used extensively for modeling figures.
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You can also use Blender if you like free software. It competes with Z Brush and probably has everything you'll need.

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I use both blender and Zbrush for my pattern creation. Blender is free and Zbrush is $900 currently.

Blender is an all in one 3d package. You can model, digitally sculpt, digitally paint, animate, has several physics engines for simulations, and does video and sound editing. In other words its a very complex program. If you have not used 3d programs before it has a steep learning curve...but it is free. And you can ignore everything else and just learn the modeling and sculpting parts and call it good. That's what I did the first few years and I'm just now learning the other parts (slowly).

Zbrush is a digital sculpting program. It is amazing but it is also fairly complex. You can do limited animation and painting with it. You can build incredibly complex and large models with the program. It is the industry standard for digital sculpting in the 3d world.

If you can master either of these (or both) there will be nothing you can't model and create.

There are other 3d modeling software you can also use. Sculptris, 3d Coat, ..etc. based on your modeling needs, time and budget. If you are looking for more CAD like modeling then fusion 360 or Aspire are great routes to go with. Even traditional CAD programs are viable. (List of 3D modeling software - Wikipedia)

Personally, blender is my go to modeler with Zbrush for detailing and organic sculpting, though blender is getting better and better and competes really well with pretty much everything out there. Not necessarily the best at any one thing but good enough for pretty much everything.

P.S. There is a free add on in blender that lets you create base meshes (geometry) of people: MBLabs (
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There's also the Z Brush Core version for $180, or $10/month for subscription. Kind of a Z Brush lite.
As to your statement "they only let you import one external 3D model in any given layout. ", that is not completely true. There is a method you can use to to import more than one. Go over to the Vectric forum at Index page and look there or ask the question there.

Fusion 360 works, but not very good for “artsy” type work (text, signs, 3D STLs, Vcarving) which are the most common types of work done on CNC routers. Fusion 360 works best for designs completely created in fusion, importing large DXF, SVG or STL files seems to really slow it down (often to the point of being unusable). You also have to model everything as a solid to toolpath it, where most of the programs can create 2d and 2.5d toolpaths based on 2d vectors. It also defaults to working and saving files online. Completely different workflow than VCarve Pro or Aspire, and a much more difficult learning curve. Carveco Maker+ can create 3D models, is $50/month or $1200 for a perpetual license, similar features to Aspire. Carveco Maker, is only $15/month, similar feature set to VCarve Pro, but can import multiple STL files into a single model without tricks that make files very difficult to edit (unlike the VCarve Pro workaround alluded to above). If you do choose to learn to do the modeling in something like Zbrush or blender, you will have much better experience importing to VCarve Pro or one of the Carveco products than Fusion 360 . It chokes on any STL file with more than 50K facets, and many files you can buy have far higher facet counts (millions are not uncommon). It is likely that files you create will exceed the 50K facets as well.
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You also have to model everything as a solid to toolpath it, where most of the programs can create 2d and 2.5d toolpaths based on 2d vectors
You can create toolpaths from 2D sketches in Fusion 360.
But it's not nearly as easy as Vectric software. I've been a paying Fusion subscriber for 4-5 years now and have never used the CAM, as I find normal 2D CAD and CAM much faster and easier. But I've been doing it for almost 25 years.
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I really appreciate everyone's comments, I'm going to explore all of the options.
Here is a link to the video where they demonstrate how to import more than one 3rd party 3D model
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