Can I CNC STL files?

Is it possible to convert a basic 2D STL file in a way that I can CNC it? I am working on a flight panel for a flight simulator, cutting from acrylic is so much better than 3D printing it.

If you use VCarve desktop or Pro, you can import the STL file as 3D component. I am not sure if this can be done in Carbide Create.

And if you are not willing to shell out the cost for VCarve, @fenrus developped two tools to build G-code from STL:

  • this tool generates G-code directly from a STL file. Magic!
  • this tool generates a grayscale heighmap from a STL file. That grayscale map can then be imported in Carbide Create Pro, to create 3D toolpaths and generate the Gcode

fwiw the second tool can do both grayscale bitmaps as well as direct to STL

the process is mostly the same between the two, you just pick endmills you want to use and you get both a bitmap as well as gcode directly


I’m impressed, I’ve got a bit (to say the least) of learning to do but this looks amazing! Thanks for the links and I will definitely do some experiments with it!



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A commercial alternative, which would afford a bit more control is MeshCAM:

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so 2D STL file… eh… I’d go for grayscale using my tool and then trace it ?

3D STL files need lot of processing. but 2D you can just go to grayscale, trace it and you have a nice 2D vector you can use in normal carbide 3D or whatever other tool you want to use to make gcode


spent the last few hours reading through fenrus’ posts. Amazing work, I look forward to experimenting with some of this stuff and seeing what I can make. Thanks!


For 2D, I’d stay away from a 3D toolpath. Do you just need the outline?
I agree with @fenrus. Convert it to a vector.

Yep, this is just for electronics and flight-simulator panels, nothing too difficult.

I’ve been developing CAM software for signs/art/engravings that handles STL models pretty solidly, especially big ones! Originally I started programming PixelCNC for handling my wife’s image designs to cut them out for our Etsy shop, her having a background in graphic design, but quickly added in support for STL and OBJ model files as well. Now it has a full blown compositing system - you can load multiple images, models, vectors, and even use the TrueType/OpenType fonts on your computer to create text too. I went a little crazy and added in functions for generating shapes from 2D vector paths, pretty much all the popular functionality found in other pricey software that people seem to use.

It’s a work in progress but users have made some great suggestions for features and new functionality that I’ve been able to incorporate. They’ve also been a big help with reporting bugs that needed fixing. We’re gearing for our first beta release soon though there are still a few more features that are planned for addition, like a public library where users can upload and browse content for projects that’s built into the interface.

If anyone checks PixelCNC out please feel free to report any feedback you have, the more the merrier! Don’t be shy :slight_smile:


At $220 (or more) US it seems kinda spendy for a first beta release.


Oh no, it’s not it’s first release - it’s had dozens of releases during the alpha phase of development (planned features aren’t all added yet). The first actual public release was at the beginning of 2018.

Here’s a screenshot from the v1.00a days:

Here’s a screenshot from the current public build, v1.53a:

The goal is a program that competes with and outdoes the likes of V-Carve, ArtCAM/CarveCo, etc… without their price tag (or subscriptions).


I bought Your software over a year ago, but I have not used it alot due to moving shop and other renovations.

I can attest to that there has been released 12 or 13 updates since I bought PixelCNC.

It is shaping up to be a great software and I look forward to start using it more extensively.


Fusion 360 will be your best friend in the long run.

Oh I got F360 too, don’t you worry :wink:
Been using a lot of Autodesk products since ACAD12 days.

Just going by your comment, which was a little confusing after Google found references to it going back several years. Thanks for the clarification


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