CC, Alibre, Vetric and Others

I currently have a Pro license that will expire in March 2021. I have considered Vetric Desktop or Pro in the past. Will Adams had posted about the Alibre software from C3D for $400.00.

Can you please feed back to me which software you are using and why. The Alibre is completely unknown to me so if you are using it please chime in.

I had the free Fusion 360 license but after that expired and the limits to reapply for free license dont seem worth all the trouble. I know a lot of you use Fusion 360 but with the price, complexity and online software I dont think I want to go back to F360.

Keep it brief but why do you use what you use or wish you had. Thanks

I’ve only used Carbide Create Pro for a few things (mostly I just model in it for support purposes), but it seems the easiest and most straight-forward 3D option.

Alibre seems well-suited to mechanical designs, but there is a spline tool which allows free-form design — I was able to use it for one parametric design though:

Mostly I just program in Block/OpenSCAD and then draw in parallel in Carbide Create (or go to the effort to work up a way to export from OpenSCAD):

https://willadams.gitbook.io/design-into-3d/3d-project

I wish there was a scripting tool which would make Carbide Create files, or support for scripting inside Carbide Create.

I started with Carbide Create which worked well enough, but I knew I was going to upgrade at some point so I figured I might as well just start with the upgrade. I bought Vectric Vcarve Pro and I’m glad I did. It’s quite intuitive and there are TONS of tutorials on YouTube (I’m looking at you Mark Lindsay) and they made learning it very easy. In my opinion it’s well worth the price!

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I find myself using different software depending on the project at hand. I thought this would be temporary, but it turned out to be permanent and the best way for me to be productive.

I (still) use CC for 2D, especially when I’m out of time and/or will not bother to save the project, basically I use CC as a scratchpad/sandbox when experimenting.

I use CC Pro for 3D carving, especially when I have the 3D model already available: it does not get faster than using @fenrus’ tool to generate a grayscale heightmap, importing it in CC Pro, generating roughing and finishing toolpaths, boom, design completed in 10minutes.

I bought V-Carve (desktop) ~2 years ago and have zero regrets. I use it whenever v-carving is involved (obviously. This is where it shines) and for complex 2.5D designs, because the color/layer system is excellent to organize the vectors and keep the project manageable.

Still using F360, I would love to pay a one time fee in the $500 ballpark for something offline that has the capability to do parametric modelling (once you have had a taste of that, there is no turning back), a decent user interface, and the same level of configurability in the CAM part. I will be following this thread to see if that unicorn exists!

Some folks on the FB group seem to be using the Carveco products, but I never used that so I can’t comment. Seems very similar to VCarve products to me.

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I switched from Carbide Create to VCarve Desktop six months ago.

I found CC a great tool for learning the basics, but for me a little quirky, and I am not a fan of the UI elements changing or disappearing based on context - I like them to stay put and be disabled.

I found VCarve Desktop to be consistent and reliable and much easier to use.

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I am currently in the same position as you Guy, I also have a pro licence soon to expire and I am looking at the alternatives. F360 seems way too much of a learning curve, I am cutting wood, not going to the moon!

At the moment I cannot make my mind up between Carveco Maker and Vetric V carve desktop. I have been watching some of Carveco’s excellent tutorials and it seems a good progression from CC. Take a look at some of them if you have the time.

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I spent a lot of time in Fusion 360. Before the license changes, it was a great all-in-one package for mechanical components and it was super handy to be able to go from CAD to CAM and back in one piece of software without exporting, importing etc. as you might with separate packages.

After the license changes, with the crippled rapids, I’ve given up on it.

I’ve also done some engraving work with Vectric and it’s fantastic for that task but from what I’ve seen I’m not a fan of it for general mechanical CAD/CAM.

I’ve tried FreeCAM and it’s okay but there are too many cases where I hit a roadblock and can’t overcome it, which just doesn’t happen in Fusion.

I’ve also used OpenSCAD and it’s nice for very basic parametric designs but I’d hate to try to use it for something bigger.

Most recently I’ve been using Solidworks with HSMWorks and quite enjoying it but it’s expensive.

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My first use was with Vectric Vcarve trial versions at least three years before I bought a Shapeoko. Of course I didn’t have anything to cut with, but working with it felt right from the beginning. (I had used several CAD software packages (AutoCad & clones) in my work career.)

When I got my XXL, I tried very hard to use CC. It wasn’t at all intuitive to me and was very cranky to use. I didn’t get along with it at all, and as soon as I sold some items I bought Vcarve Desktop with their promise that I can upgrade to any of their other products for the cost difference. Vectric Desktop has allowed me to explore 3D carving without the pain of additional software.

However, except for small items like coasters, I usually develop them in Sketchup 2017 (the last of their offline packages.) Vcarve is a lot easier if you’ve already “built” something in Sketchup where things can be designed/assembled in 3D. I make use of layers and grouping in Vectric Desktop for the variation/customization that makes something unique for different folks.

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I’m in the same situation as some others in trying to find the right combination of software to use with our machines. Carbide Create and Motion work well with the bit setter, do other software programs have the ability to output a single file with multiple toolpaths that prompts you to change tools between cuts?

Yes, it’s usually a matter of selecting the appropriate post-processor, though in Autodesk Fusion 360’s case it’s also a matter of licensing.

What works best for you will depend on your background and what you want to do with it. I am an electrical engineer with a little autocad experience 20 years ago in college and I have a shapeoko 3 standard. Graphical design is not something I have any experience in. I personally love vcarve desktop and very happy I spent $350 on it. I find it much more intuitive to use and the layout and vector tools are much better then CC. The bitmap tracing tools worked much better then any other program I have found.

I tried the inkscape to carbide create, but struggled with the vector tools in inkscape because they were too powerful while the vector tools in CC were too simple.
To me vcarve hits the sweet spot of complexity. If you have a graphical design background, the vector tools are probably second nature and doing your design in inkscape or illustrator (if you have access) then importing the final design to CC as an SVG would work great.

Both carbide create and vcarve are primarily 2.5d programs with some options to create toolpaths for 3d objects. Neither has great tools for modifying 3d design, just tools to incorporate 3d decorations that were designed in other programs into 2d projects. I haven’t researched vectric aspire since the cost is so prohibitive for home users (I believe it is $2000). I have the beta for carbide create pro, but haven’t made any projects with it yet. Possibly with more experience I could be more productive. Vcarve also doubles in price if you want to use the full area of the XL or XXL machine.

Lastly, carbide create pro does not have a price yet. It is still in beta, but the website implies that it will be a yearly fee vs one time payment. As a home user, I hate support contracts. I like to buy something once then have it always available to me. Vcarve does have a limit of 3 computer installed on and is only available for windows, but Vectric seems reasonable so far, so hopefully It will not be an issue when I upgrade my computer. (being an electrical engineer I have more computers then I care to admit, so without thought the 3 computer limit would be easy for me to hit)

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Pricing discussion for the “Pro” license (the base functionality will remain free):

I have the Alibre license, and Fusion360. Alibre seems more than capable, but the Fusion UI is quite nice. Just haven’t put enough time into Alibre to use it efficiently, and so, out of laziness, I open Fusion. The divide only grows. Ultimately, the fusion subscription, while generally distasteful to me, is pretty inexpensive.

A sizable portion of my work is instrument panels, basic flat work. Initially F360 seemed to be significant over complication. I have since tried to find another program for this, but as of yet, haven’t. There is plenty of software, inexpensive comparatively, geared towards avionics panels… but ultimately, I think most people would end up where I already do. Create a layout, then import into something like solidworks or fusion. I have the Vetric demo, and as of yet, I cannot seem to get comfortable with it. Can’t I just use dimension inputs to place a hole? Can’t I just constrain this pattern to this line, and dimension as the design develops? Ultimately, I don’t think I am smart enough to use it. Same applies to CC. Fusion, once you have a grasp of the constraints, seems infinitely “simpler”.

My investigation is still ongoing. But one area that seems to stand out in capable hands is the use of vector graphics software for basic 2D design aspects. Inkscape(free, and perfectly capable), illustrator, ect. These have tools that are powerful, dimension tools alone seems like an obvious tool? A neighbor, for the purpose of demonstration, whipped up one of my designs in a matter of minutes. I imported the DXF into fusion, and in a matter of a few more minutes had a complete 3D model to cam and machine.

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Please provide a specific example of something which is simple, but which you are having trouble with in Carbide Create — pretty much anything can be done in it, usually it just requires creating a couple of additional objects for spacing or dimensioning or Boolean operations.

Will, you’ve helped me considerably in the past, and demonstrated the possibilities/capabilities a tool like carbide create affords. But your abilities are seemingly beyond mine with respect to creative thinking and geometric problem solving. You’re a wizard.

You once helped me radius the corners of a trapezoid in Carbide Create. Your solution, once provided, made perfect sense. Add geometry, boolean this, cut that. But to do the same thing in Fusion, SolidWorks or similar, I can just select edge(s), any edge, and input a radius. A supremely simple example, but illustrative I think. Simple things, when combined, create time.

I guess my biggest disconnect with CC and Vetric is spatial. When I start a design in Fusion(or Alibre ect), I am given a seemingly infinite space. I do not have to preemptively define anything. From there, I can anchor my design to the origin in anyway I see fit(or not), and move it if I please. I can reference from anywhere with simple numerical inputs. Moving on from there, I can constrain objects in any manner I wish, and break the constraints at will. I can rearrange, resize, redistribute, and if designed appropriately, nothing breaks. I designed this panel for digital switch A at .5", but was provided digital switch B at .75", a double click and I am square. Object G can be no closer than x to object T, no problem, rearrange without consideration. Just seems more intuitive for my lizard brain.

Seems to be a matter of how you look at things and think, and to a lesser degree, what it is you’re making. Everything relating to the panels can be done on any of the most basic of platforms. And I think it often is. But for me, it ultimately feels easier when I can simply think in terms of dimensions and constraints. Required or not.

I often get instrument panels from customers, all CNC cut in some manner or other, typically from aluminum. When taking a set of calipers to the piece for redesign, its quite apparent to me that it wasn’t created with the same thought process or tools I employ. Despite assumedly using a CAD package of some kind, there is a lack of whole number(sounds silly, but I like to think and design in terms of recognizable dimensions when possible, this helps the next guy.), symmetry, profile alignment, ect. And when you might have a dizzying array of differing components, it is understandable. Its a lot of forethought and math. But with one of the parametric gimmicks, you don’t have to do either. It’s magic.

Also, to speak to renewing Fusion personal license - I don’t think there is anything difficult about it. Just go to the website, sign in, and request a new license. Couple clicks I think.

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That is exactly my problem with CC. Sure, if you want to wrestle with it, you can, given enough time and endurance, beat it into submission and design what you are looking for. As an electrical designer, I am used to using tools way outside my price range, and I have gotten spoiled by the abundance of built in tools. My biggest problem to date with both INKSCAPE and CC is the so very limited and difficult to use text options. For the life of me, I can’t figure out how neither has single line font libraries. Inkscape has some single line options, but they destroy the text style and any and all formatting that you’ve done. Which was a very hard lesson to learn the hard way. I’ve been thinking very hard about getting F360. Thanks for your feedback on it.

Not sure if you were referencing me or Lowbrowroyalty. An example of something that is easy in Vcarve, but I can’t figure out how to do it in carbide create is add fillets to text vectors. In the last contest, I was used the word Lego as a joint. In order to do that I needed to be able to make sure every corner had a radius that was greater then the radius of the bit I was using since I would be carving both inside and outside the letters.
In Vcarve I wrote the text with a blocky font, I right clicked on the text and selected convert to vector, I then used the fillet tool and clicked on each corner or curve.

This may be possible in carbide create, but it doesn’t seem trivial. My best guess would be create the text, create a offset path of the text and a bit diameter circle at each corner and then do a boolean operation for each corner.

The other example is making the array of lego nubs. I vectric I just made a circle with the desired diameter and used array copy with the 1.6mm offset required. Vcarve does not allow you to change multiple circle diameters at once, so when I wanted to try a different diameter (wood compresses differently then plastic and bit diameters have some tolerance) I had to delete all but one circle and redo the array copy. In fusion 360 this would have been even quicker since I could make the diameter a parameter. (I used vcarve still since the CAM portion of Fusion360 still confuses me). In carbide create, I have no idea how I could efficiently create the 600+ circles. I’m sure there is way to do this more efficiently then create each circle individually, but not sure how.

Please do not take my comments as attacks on carbide create. I think it is a great tool, but just not one that clicks with me. I start most of my designs by typing in the dimensions I want for the primitives I create. In carbide create when I go to create a rectangle it asks me to click the center then click to select a second point. I then can enter in the size and then select move to move the square where I actually want it. In vcarve it allows me to enter size and location in the initial box. vcarve fits my personality better. It is not necessarily a better tool, but just a better tool for me. If I was more artistic and less analytical I would probably find carbide creates tools to work better and not get bogged down in the details. If it is any consolation I prefer carbide create over easel and was one of the reasons I chose the Shapeoko over the X-carve. Carbide create is still the best free software I have used.

I suspect if I was mechanical engineer who did 3d modeling all day long my answer would be very different and I would lean heavily towards fusion360. The recommendation I should have put at the top of my post is download the demo’s and see if they work for you. Each person is going to be unique.

Inkscape does support single line fonts:

https://www.evilmadscientist.com/2019/hershey-text-v30/

using the Hershey fonts — single line fonts are monoweight and to be frank, boring — V carving is a far better option and far more expressive.

To get text with a given radius, if it’s large enough one would inset by the radius, then offset to the outside by that radius.

For most things - but the few things that “require” single line fonts, they can really make the design pop. But I believe that you may have been referring to single line fonts and 2.5D / V-carving, which would make them hard to justify.

What situation would warrant a single line font which is not directly related to economics/time?

A depth-limited V carve can cut out an arbitrary design w/in the limits of the machine’s movement capabilities using a suitably acute V endmill.

You’ll get a design which has outlines designed for aesthetic reasons, as opposed to imposed by the requirements of the size of a tool, and adjusted optically for legibility and readability, as opposed to monotonously and confusingly the same. There is a lot of literature on this.