View Full Version : Help understanding the software side of cnc routing.

16-06-2011, 05:11 PM
Hi all

I have found out lots about the mechanical parts so to speak, but on contacting vendors they just send a list of software needed, but no explanation of what does what.

I have turbocad 15 pro which does both 2d and 3d design and saves in loads of file formats, so is this software ok to design the stuff I want to route out?

If I understand Mach 3 correctly, this is needed to run the machine, but I've kind of gathered you need software to convert the turbocad files to files to run the router, which is the bit that's unclear.

Also what runs the router as in can I just plug it into my spare laptop and run it from that, or does it need a dedicated something else to run it.

Many thanks for your help.

J Don

21-06-2011, 12:47 AM
The router needs a desktop pc dedicated to it. On mine I have windows and mach3, nothing else. I produce the code on my office pc and transfer the files on a usb stick. Laptops do not run cnc routers very well because of timing issues with the laptops power saving routines interfering with the parallel port. There are usb cards that will get around this if you have no other pc available.

Try downloading a copy of cambam. This is a piece of software that you can use to draw your part, program the toolpaths that you want to cut and produce the g-code that mach3 needs. Cambam is available as a basic version that is free. This can do 2d stuff or if you want to do 3d stuff, download the paid for version. You get 40 free evaluation uses before you have to pay. If you are the type of person that does not turn their pc off then the 40 uses can last for weeks.

22-06-2011, 11:17 AM
Hi m8

I downloaded a trial of cambam and artcam express and have to say I found the later far easier to use and understand, so will play with that for a while and see how I get on.

Many thanks

:) Don

22-06-2011, 03:38 PM
Laptops can be used BUT require set up to avoid problems with the power saving features. I have run a mill from a HP laptop with a PCMICA card for the parallel port control and it worked fine. CAMBAM and ArtCAM are both good programs. There are a few out there that are good and there is also some stinkers as well. Look at the forums here and a few of the other ones on the net and you will find out quickly which are which. Good luck and have fun, just to let you know that yes the learning curve is steep but worth it (I am biased).


22-06-2011, 06:29 PM
I did read there can be issues with laptops and power saving problems, but if I plug mine into the mains I can turn off all the power saving features and just run it like that so it will be trial and error. I do plan to use my current desktop to run it off, but that won't be till later in the year when the new intel chip comes out andI update my system.


23-06-2011, 01:13 PM

it took me a long time to figure the software side out. I have access to Autocad and Solidworks and use that for the design works.

2D: I save the design files as .DXF and then open the file in Vectric Cut2D. This is the software that generates the cut files for my copy of Mach3. (Just make sure you select the correct Post Processor - read export option for Mach3)

3D: I save the design files as .STL and open them in Vectric Cut3D. Once again, this generates the cut files for Mach3.

Have a look at www.vectric.com (http://www.vectric.com) as they allow you to download a demo/trial version of their software.