View Full Version : Thinking about new CAD / CAM

10-09-2015, 02:55 PM
At the moment I am using AutoCAD 2007 with Dolphin PartMaster. It does what I need but not very fluidly. Every time I adjust my drawing in AutoCAD I need to re-import it to Dolphin CAD and assign names for each contour and then move that on to CAM again.

So, I'm thinking about moving to a new combination.

I mostly work in wood, but also a little metal and plastics.

It seems to me that AlphaCAM Router is a good option and very capable. I assume I could use the 'Router' to design parts for simple metal and plastic cutting too, even though they also sell 'AlphaCAM Metal'. SolidCAM seems geared toward metalwork and as I said my primary media is sheet wood.

So, if AlphaCAM is a good option then what is the better CAD package to go for? I figure I really have 4 options: 1) A Stick with AutoCAD, maybe upgrade to a more recent version. How does it integrate with AlphaCAM? 2) Use AlphaCAD as I'm not really doing very advanced stuff. 3) Go for SolidWorks. 4) AutoDesk Inventor (how much does a knowledge of AutoCAD help here?)

I'm inclined towards Inventor or SolidWorks as a long term solution and something worth having skills in. Which do you think suits best for woodwork and integration with AlphaCAM?

In fact how the hell do you make any of these programs integrate with AlphaCAM? One thing I'd like to do is name and group my contours in the CAD stage, rather than having to do it each time I import to CAM. I hate having a long list of 'Con 1, Con 2, Con 3...' and not knowing which is which.

10-09-2015, 03:12 PM
Now I'm a bit more confused, it seems like Inventor HSM is Inventor with built in CAM?

Lee Roberts
10-09-2015, 03:16 PM
Have a look at Fusion360, it's free for hobby.


10-09-2015, 03:23 PM
What's the difference between Fusion360 and Inventor? Other than price!

10-09-2015, 03:36 PM
Had a look and it does seem pretty good. Not sure I want all my work on the cloud. Still... how good a stepping stone do you think Fusion360 is if I decide to move to Inventor later? Rather than starting to learn Inventor and getting bogged down by all the advanced features it may make sense to start with Fusion360 then go to Inventor after a couple of years experiance.

10-09-2015, 03:36 PM
Try reading this thread:


Fusion 360 has been out and under active development for a few years now, autodesk seem committed to the 'free if you turn over less than $100k' model and are aiming to kill off sketchup. It is 100 times better than sketchup and has integrated cam.

A good review from a woodworkers perspective:

10-09-2015, 04:39 PM
That makes me feel better, because I do earn from my CNC work, but certainly not a large amount (yet!). $100k would cover me well.

I'll give it a shot I think!

Lee Roberts
10-09-2015, 05:38 PM
Good call, check out NYC CNC on youtube and his videos:



10-09-2015, 06:53 PM
Hi, Alphacam is a Cad/cCam program. You can design/draw, select cutter diameter, put on cutter paths, determine if you want to use alphacam offsets (I do) or let the G code do the offsets, select which side (or centre) of the lines to cut and which direction (climb or conventional), and alphacam will produce all the G codes. I am self taught and tried various progams, but think alphcam is far better than anything else I looked at. You can get alphacam for milling, but It is really more or less the same as the router program and I do in fact do some engraving drawings for a friend to produce the work on his mill. I am running an older version (v7) which luckily came with a machine that I bought, but it does everything that I ever need. I think the newer versions are probably more suited if you intend to do 3d work. If you wish to know more just phone or PM me. If you fancy a trip to lincolnshire you are welcome to come and play. G.

10-09-2015, 07:12 PM
Seems like I might need a new graphics card. (and possibly CPU!)

Currently I am running Intel Core2 Quad 2.66GHz and a Radeon HD4730.

Can I get some recommendations for a used graphics card around 100? Please note I hate noise from fans!

I gather some cards are better at OpenGL and some at DirectX etc.. I have been told for example to run SolidWorks you need a good OpenGL card but I note Fusion360 is running DirectX.

10-09-2015, 07:14 PM
Thanks Geoff, I will have a play with Fusion360 for now and see how it goes.

10-09-2015, 07:47 PM
Did a bit of Googling. Just ordered an ATI FirePro 4900 for 55. I'm sure it will run well enough for me.

10-09-2015, 08:32 PM
Please note I hate noise from fans!

Guess I'm too late for card recommendation but if you want to kill that fan noise two things:

Noctua fans are awesome.
Plonk a cpu cooler on your gpu. Like this --->


Perhaps a PC case build is in your future? ;)

10-09-2015, 08:50 PM

Just had a look on the Fusion360 site - make sure you have a 64bit machine (32bit not supported):

10-09-2015, 08:54 PM
Thanks for that, yes I am running Win7 64bit on a core2 quad.

Fusion 360 does run but seems to hang sometimes, I guess because of the graphics card.

Boyan Silyavski
11-09-2015, 06:23 PM
Thanks for that, yes I am running Win7 64bit on a core2 quad.

Fusion 360 does run but seems to hang sometimes, I guess because of the graphics card.

Its not so simple. I am running dual core 3.2Ghz with 6Gb ddr3 ram and 1gb Video card Ati GDR5 5780 , which when new , a couple of years ago was a beast PC.

Sketchup continues to freeze some times, one of the many reasons i went to real CAD. NX9 works flawlessly. So is not the PC or the card.

Make sure you have latest drivers of all and all updates installed. Maybe some little tweak of the program could avoid problems.

Fusion really seams interesting for the price of 20Euro per month after the first year. Though the CAM part should be investigated further, if there are not some serious limits there.

12-09-2015, 02:01 PM
Though the CAM part should be investigated further, if there are not some serious limits there.

These guys are doing 5-axis CAD/CAM with fusion 360:


12-09-2015, 02:23 PM
There is also a free course (25 videos about 4 hours total) for fusion 360 here:


Should help you get started.

13-09-2015, 10:18 PM
That's great, thanks! I am still doing the ones on the program and they sent me an email with more to follow.