View Full Version : Best software set for a small cnc mill ?

10-06-2010, 02:44 PM

Building a small CNC mill and was wondering what is the best software for it ?

I want to cut acurate 3d shapes ( model motorcycle crankcases mostly ), and cut 2D shapes and engrave name plates.

I thought MACH 3 as the basic controller with MESHCAM for the 3d path generation and CURVECUT for the 2D stuff from Routout CNC.

However , what is your opion on this lads/ lasses. Could I do better with alternative software?

I'm not loaded with tons of cash so whatever it is will have to be roughly meshcam / curvecut sort of price, ( 40 to 100 a throw ...ish )but might stretch to somthing more expensive if its significantly better ! ( However if I win the lottery :rofl: I'll let you know !! )

The machine is using stepper motors by the way, and I'll be generating solid models for output in DXF format from DESIGNCAD 3D MAX V13. (Unless anyone knows of a DXF to STL format converter for free !! )

By the way can Mach3 and Meshcam be bought anywhere cheaper or is it the same price wherever you get it ?

Any help much appreciated.

Cheers Nick.

11-06-2010, 07:58 PM
Hi Nick,

I've been CNC machining for about 2 years, so still a beginner in many ways, but here are my thoughts.

3D: I don't cut anything 3D so can't comment on Meshcam etc.

GCODE: For 2D I highly rate Vectric Cut2D to import your dxf files and create toolpaths and gcode. This is 95+VAT, and I would recommend it to others. There is a free trial download which you can use to cut out a few examples on your machine to see if you get on with it. There is a nice visual representation at the end of the process which shows what the part will look like before cutting.
I did use CAMBAM briefly (free trial period), which is also good, but went with the more visual Vectric Cut2D in the end.

MACHINE CONTROL: I use Mach3 (under windows xp) get on well with it. The 'trial' version limited to about 500 lines of code is free, and the full unrestricted version is about 115. Other popular options included loading Ubuntu (Linux) and EMC2, which are both free. There are, as I have learnt via this forum, potential timing issues under windows and in principle Linux is better, but there are alot of Mach3 users drawn like sheep (me included - baa!) to the windows xp OS. End the end I think either option would be good, and the decision may depend on how convenient it is to run under xp or linux.

Mach3 seems to be the same price everywhere .. .

Good luck,

12-06-2010, 10:05 PM
Thanks for the reply Barry !

Your help is much appreciated and very informative I'm most grateful.

How does the Vectric software cope with engraving ? I only need simple name plates.

Do you have any experience of this ?

Many thanks Nick.

John S
12-06-2010, 11:20 PM
This was done in V Carve


Sorry about the poor camera phone pic.

This is a video of a spiral bevel gear being cut, actually it's the cleanup path being done at 90 degrees to the first pass. I know the teeth are rough but that could be cured by reducing the step over but I just wanted to prove the concept, cut with Cut 3D from Vectric


Here's preview of Cut 3D doing a model engine crankcase from a solid block using just two tools.