Affordable 3D cam software for hobbyists

I’m a highschool engineering student and I can’t really afford to purchase something like meshcam. I’ve been extremely successful with 2D/ psuedo 2.5D machining using Inkscape, CC, and CM but I want to start moving on to more complex jobs. Anyone have any suggestions for a decent program?

Autodesk Fusion 360 is free for hobbyists.

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Does that generate gcode? And does it work with CM? I heard about it before but haven’t looked too deep into it.

Yes and yes. It includes a CAM section and will drive a Shapeoko/Nomad. I don’t think it interfaces directly with CM, but you can use other packages (bCNC, Universal-GCode-Sender, etc) to send the gcode to your Shapeoko/Nomad.

One of the Carbide 3D devs also sells MeshCAM (which is bundled w/ the Nomad).

Free/opensource stuff is listed at:

Commercial options:

I Really liked my meshcam trial but I really cant afford that kind of price tag without an actual job.Hopefully as I get more income I’ll be able to get it later, but until then I’ll try fusion 360 like he recommended. If that doesnt work I’ll look at that list of opensource ones you gave. I appreciate the help though.

Is meshacam still being updated?

As a student, most of the autodesk tools are available free in unrestricted form. Fusion360 is available to anyone, but it is less polished and has fewer features than some of the other products. This is not to say that is isn’t quite good as it is, but compared to some other products (Inventor, Solidworks) it is lacking. It does have really awesome toolpath generation.

I tend to prefer Inventor for a number of reasons, including some features that Fusion doesn’t have for developing complex surfaces, and also better performance, sometimes much better. As a student, you can get the CAM tools for free (HSM) as well, but, depending on how the system is arranged, it may require going to the HSM site. Last I was looking, HSM was not on the autodesk main site, but you use the same account.

Meshcam has as an advantage that it will produce a toolpath automatically with minimal guidance, but the drawback is that the toolpath may be rather inefficient. Paths produced by the CAD system can do better since there is more information about the intent, though more work on your part is needed.

Fusion360 and Inventor/HSM both have good postprocessor configs for the carbide machines. They ‘talk to’ CM directly, in the sense that, like Meshcam, they produce .nc files that CM reads and pumps to the machine without the need for much, if any, change.

Ooh that might be better for me. I learned how to model on inventor so I guess I’ll look up Hsm after class or something.

But sadly, not for Apple users…

Rob is Mr. MeshCAM, but also being one of the principals of C3D he’s understandably stretched very thin by the success of C3D. His latest updates are the betas of MC7 but only he can say how he’s setting his prioritites.


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I have a useless product at this point because I updated to Sierra. I was an early customer and just want the current version of Meshcam to work.

Whenever I’ve upgraded a machine to a new version of Mac OS X, I’ve always partitioned the drive, cloned my OS into the partition, then upgraded the clone to test — for some versions (10.6.8 comes to mind) I’ve done a clean install into a 3rd partition and gradually moved things over.

Yes, there is a beta available on the meshcam site for v7. I agree, it’s been a while since there has been an update, but then, it does what it does pretty well.

First, have you tried V7 beta? Second, it does work for at least some of us on Sierra, what have you tried?

Yes, I’ve tried the beta. None of the menus would respond. Meshcam was very useful, before I updated. Now it’s useless. As far as what I’ve tried, I’ve loaded simple models and have gotten the same results. I’ve sent a crash report to support.

I’m not a Mac person (though the first desktop computer I used was a Mac Plus) but Rob told me develops MeshCAM on a Mac. So I’m surprised to hear about Mac users having problems with MC…


As Rob has said, it runs fine on his system and he can’t reproduce the problem. He has also asked for someone to send him the error messages and crash report.

I’ve sent in several more crash reports.

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