When we hear about CNC software for hobbyists, we get excited.
CNC machining, which is largely a large-scale production process, seldom caters to hobbyists and small-scale machinists.
We are here to change that.
The term ‘CNC software’ sounds like something out of a science fiction movie. Nevertheless, this word pops up every now and then in the field of CNC machining.
If you are starting out in CNC machining, chances are you are not quite familiar with CNC software and how it works.
And if you want to be a master machinist, you have to learn to operate the software that most CNC machines come with.
What is CNC Software?
A CNC software is a set of codes and instructions that control the physical movement of the machines.
CNC software is used to control a number of CNC machines including mills, lathes, routers, drill machines, plasma cutters, and electric discharge machines.
A CNC software not only eliminates the need for manual labor, it also makes the machining process more accurate, efficient, and fast.
Moreover, it is easier and more convenient to produce complicated shapes using CNC software.
CNC machines use two types of software: CAD and CAM.
CAD stands or Computer Aided Design and CAM stands for Computer Aided Manufacturing.
How Does CNC Software Work?
You use CAM to create 2D drawings of 3D models of the part that you want to create.
After finalizing the design or model, you transfer it to CAM software.
In turn, CAM generates a tool path through which the tip of the cutting tool will travel and converts the path into a set of simple programming language instructions.
The most common programming language used in CNC machining is G-Code
CNC software interprets the G-Code and sets a series of numbered, sequential instructions for the machine to follow.
The machine then follows the instructions and produces an accurate physical representation of the drawing or model.
CNC software also allows you to bring your imaginations to life. Anything you can design on CAD, you can create using the right CNC software and machine.
Now that we have understood what CNC software is and how it works, let’s take a look at the best CNC software available in the market:
The Best CNC Software and Which One Should You Choose
CNC machining involves four main types of software. These include:
Computer-Aided Designing (CAD) software for creating 2D, 2.5D and 3D designs.
Computer-Aided Machining (CAM) software for converting the design into G-Code.
Control Software to read the G-Code and create signals to control the stepper motors.
Stimulation Software to read the G-Code and predict errors that might come up during the machining process.
However, these software programs are not limited to the above-mentioned tasks. Many of these software programs can perform more than one function.
You can dedicate software for each of these functions or you can get a comprehensive package that comes with all the software in one.
Some of the CNC software available in the market is also free of cost.
However, should you get free software to run your CNC machine? That’s a topic for another time.
Let’s first take a look at some of the best CNC software for hobbyists:
The Easel software from Inventables is a truly all-in-one CNC software that lets you run CAD, CAM, and Control all in one place.
Using Easel, you can create designs, convert them to G-Codes, and have your machine bring the designs to life without ever resorting to another software.
You can simply run Easel on Windows and MacOS as it does not require you to install any additional software.
Easel is easy to understand and does not require any prior CAD/CAM experience on your side.
Easel is currently priced at $20 a month. However, if you are getting the yearly subscription, you can get it for as low as $13 a month.
Easel has a wide user base and an active community so you know you will get the support at Inventables community support.
Moreover, there are thousands of YouTube videos, blogs, and free tutorials available that you can get back to if you feel stuck.
Fusion 360 is another all-in-one CNC software that unifies design, engineering, electronics, and manufacturing in one platform.
It is a cloud-based CAD, CAM, 3D modelling, CAE, and PCB software that can help you design and manufacture products with ease.
Fusion 360 is one of the best CNC software for hobbyists as it is both powerful and easy to use.
It comes with a huge resource of information and tutorials to get you started with the software.
It approaches the product design with a mechanical engineering perspective instead of an artistic or sculpting perspective, which makes it one of the most efficient and technically sound options available.
Fusion 360 subscription starts at $40 per month. You can also get a one month trial period so you can learn the software and see if it goes well with your machining process.
Not unlike Easel, you can find a rich and resourceful community with Fusion 360.
You can find extensive support for Fusion 360 through YouTube tutorials and through official and unofficial forums.
Fusion 360 runs on both Windows and MacOS platforms.
Carbide Create is another great CNC software for hobbyists.
It offers CAM, CAD, G-Code sender, and Stimulation program in one platform.
Carbide 3D is the parent company of Carbide Create. They also made the famous Shapeoko CNC machine, which means the Carbide 3D was created around the needs of hobbyists.
It is also an extremely convenient software. You can get started with it without any previous CAD/CAM experiences.
Carbide Create is also free and runs on both Windows and MacOS platforms, making it one of the most obvious choices for CNC software.
If there is one drawback with Carbide Create, it is that it is not cloud-based.
According to the developers of the software, cloud-based software can be insecure and unavailable. They don’t want the users to feel locked-in into a vendor.
That’s why Carbide Create is a fully downloaded software that is for you to keep and run as you please, once you have downloaded it on your PC.
There are a lot of CNC software for hobbyists out there. If you research properly you might find the one specially suited for your unique requirements.
These software programs help you streamline the machining process and fasten the productivity.
Moreover, these programs are also built to cater to the hobbyists, which means they offer simple and easy to follow UI that does not require any learning curve.
The three software programs we mentioned here are the best-in-class, all-inclusive programs.
You can use these programs to create unique designs, convert them into G-Codes, and send the data to your machine to bring your designs to life.
If you want separate software for designing, converting into G-Codes, controlling the stepper motors, and predicting potential errors, you can do so too.
However, keep in mind that separate software programs cost a fortune and might not work in sync with each other. Some software programs need some kind of tweaking to work with other programs.
We have carefully selected two paid and one unpaid programs to help you narrow down your choices.
So, check them out and see if these programs will work with you or not.
In the meantime, if you are in need of high-quality CNC conversion kits to transform your old mills, lathes, routers into modern, efficient machines, you can reach out to us.
CNC Conversion Plus has been designing and automating machines for the last 40 years.
We have the expertise in converting manual machines into CNC as well as preparing modified CNC machines on demand.
We also build a turn-key CNC machine for you from scratch.
What are turn-key machines?
Turn-key machines are ready to use CNC machines that we build according to your choice.
We pick the machine of your choice, convert it into CNC, and deliver it to your doorstep so you don’t have to do any legwork.
Hope this article helped you make the right decision.
If you have any questions, you can reach out to us and we will provide you sufficient solution as soon as possible.