Which CNC Software?
This information is provided in response to some of the questions we are frequently asked by people considering CNC.
Generally, when buying a CNC machine, you will need Motion Control software or a combination of software, depending on your budget and what you want to do. Here are the simplified details:
CAD Software: This is used to design parts. We make no specific recommendations but there are plenty to choose from - from free to expensive - just Google “Free and Cheap CAD” for a selection.
CAM Software: Such as the VECTRIC software packages listed below. These allow you to import 2D and 3D and edit a 2D design (not 3D) from CAD, create a tool path and convert this information to G-code - the instructions required by the motion control software.
NOTE: Vectric software also has limited 2D and 2½D drawing capability so you may wish to try these features before investing in CAD software.
Motion Control Software: Such as MACH3 which is a Windows based package. This is used to control your machine.
Mach3 will run industry standard G-code files (from Vectric or other CAM software) and control up to 6 axes on a CNC machine.
You can also use the free and chargable MACH3 WIZARDS to generate G-Code for some simple operations such as bolt circle, gear cutting, surfacing etc. So, in essence you can use your machine to perform simple one off or multiple tasks in a short time, in addition to using it to process detailed G-Code files.
Mach3 will also allow you to use a CNC machine in Manual Mode using the keys on the keyboard to move the machine axes and control the spindle.
The software selections below are the ones we sell, and which we know to work. We do not provide any support for these products. So, it is important for potential buyers of these products to be aware that these programs are supported by the said manufacturers via their websites and forums. There are many other CAD, CAM and motion control packages available, but we are unable to provide any guidance on their suitability for use with the machines we sell.