Best CAD system for CNC machining?

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Forum topic by pbbelk posted 08-27-2020 01:50 PM 1029 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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7 posts in 527 days

08-27-2020 01:50 PM

Hey guys, I still don’t know what type of router I have. But I do know it fairly old. My next question is: what CAD systems work best with a fairly outdated router? Is fusion 360 an option?! Thanks!

7 replies so far

View Ryan_cao's profile


3 posts in 161 days

#1 posted 08-19-2021 09:41 AM

View JohnMcClure's profile


1458 posts in 1981 days

#2 posted 08-19-2021 11:18 AM

I use Vectric Vcarve. It can output code in a lot of different formats and one will probably suit your CNC. Their support line may help you identify what format you need.
If you want more help, post something about your machine, pics, label info, size, intended use, etc.

-- I'd rather be a hammer than a nail

View Woodnmetal's profile


201 posts in 186 days

#3 posted 08-19-2021 02:44 PM

I see this is an older thread, however, I will say this and hope it helps others if they happen to pull this dated thread back up.

The CAD system you choose has no effect on how old, make, model router you plan on using/retrofitting.

You may just need a basic level 1 – 2D Cad software designing in wire frame depending on what your producing.
If your doing 3D and want to design in solids then, look in that direction.
Just know, your CAD system does “NOT” communicate with your tool of choice.
That is on the cam side of things.
CAD- Computer Aided Design
CAM- Computer aided machining


-- I haven't changed... but I know I'm not the same.

View Lazyman's profile


8861 posts in 2728 days

#4 posted 12-03-2021 03:45 AM

It is going to depend upon what you are trying to do. If you are just cutting out parts in 2D and your machine uses g-code, most of the Vectric software can do that, depending upon what bells and whistles you want. If on the other hand, you want to design 3D or relief carvings, Vectric Aspire is the one that has the tools to design those. Vectric VCarve can import 3D models and clipart as long as they are in the right formats and carve them and has some good 2D and Vcarving design tools. Vectric offers a free trial period on all of their software so you can try before you buy. And if you later decide you want to upgrade to one of their more capable packages, their upgrade prices usually take take most of your original purchase price and apply it towards they new package, even new versions.

Fusion 360 can do both 2D and 3D design but the learning curve may be steeper for a CAD beginner and you may end up importing that into another CAM package for machining. F360 does have CAM capabilities too but that is probably even a steeper learning curve.

We will see if the OP is still around, since they haven’t posted anything since September of 2020.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View MartyFromKingston's profile


8 posts in 39 days

#5 posted 12-18-2021 12:18 PM

Help! I’m just getting into CNC routing (my Sienci Labs Longmill 30” X 30” unit will be arrinving next week!) and am looking to acquire the necessary CAD software to get going. I’m a bit reluctant to plunk down a lot of money (to me that means $500 Canadian), as I’ve heard that there’s a number of free programs out there that will do the trick.

To start off I’m planning to make simple 2D pieces, then as my experience grows, to branch into carving. I recognize that this may mean that I may have to get different software to take my second leap, but I’m okaiy with that… as long as it’s just the one time.

Would Vectric VCarve Desktop, with a pricetag of $499 Canadian, be a reasonable starting program for me, or should I just take the plunge and go for their much more expensive VCarve Pro ($999), which does much the same, but is not limited to the 24” X 24” machining surface of the less desktop version?

-- Instagram: @apexwoodworks

View Lazyman's profile


8861 posts in 2728 days

#6 posted 12-18-2021 01:59 PM

One nice thing about Vectric is that if you buy a lower version and decide you need to upgrade later, they only charge you an upgrade fee so you do not have to shell out the entire price of the higher version. So if you buy the Desktop version and later decide you need the Pro version, you don’t have to completely repurchase the new one. You just pay the difference. It might even be the same net price if you are upgrading to the same release version (V11 for example). If you truly are only planning to do 2D pieces, you might look at their Cut 2D software to see if it meets your needs and save a few bucks (do they call them bucks in Canada :-), though I think that you lose the v-carving capability which is nice for lettering and signs. Vcarving can even be used for inlay. If you want to eventually do 3D carving and signs, you could later upgrade from Cut 2D

Another nice thing about Vectric is that you can download a fully functional trial of any of their software so you can try before you buy to make sure that the version fits your needs. If Cut 2D gets you what you need, you can save a few bucks now and upgrade later.

Note that the the Desktop version of Vcarve can cut larger than 24×24 pieces using tiling. Basically it requires you to cut an area within the 24×24 limit and then move the pieces or at least the zero/zero point to complete it. This will also let you cut pieces that are larger than the bed of your CNC as well as long as they are not wider than what will fit between the rails (obviously). I’ve tried this on a really long piece and it works well.

For free software, you can look at Fusion 360. It is free for hobbyist use and has a CAM feature that may allow you to do the design and gcode generation. The learning curve will be much steeper so it might not be the best choice for a beginner. A few of the other CAD systems have CAM add-ons or extensions but either the cost or the learning curve may not be better than Vectric’s software options.

While I really like VCarve, I will say that sometimes it is easier to do the initial drawing in another software package like Sketchup, Fusion, OnShape or maybe even Blender because their CAD tools are a little easier to use in my opinion, though if you have never used them, that might not be true for you.

EDIT to add: Note that Vcarve (both desktop and pro) can import 3D clipart and some 3D drawn items from other CAD software and carve them but you cannot design 3D items in Vcarve. You would need to upgrade to Aspire to do that but again you would just have to pay an upgrade fee when you make that leap.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View MartyFromKingston's profile


8 posts in 39 days

#7 posted 01-01-2022 11:16 AM

Thanks for that detailed response, Nathan. I’m going to go with VCarve Pro.



-- Instagram: @apexwoodworks

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