Choice of design software-

My So3 arrives shortly but I have a steep learning curve with software ahead of me. My main use in the beginning will be boxes and signs with and without engraving. No doubt I will move on to other items as I gain experience.

I plan on using Carbide Create initially and have Inkscape installed but have no real familiarity with it.I did plan on using Inkscape together with CC as my needs dictated. I have access to Solidworks and Aspire but have never used either and I believe both of those have quite a steep learning curve.

I have seen in a couple of posts that Fusion 360 is “Free for Hobbyists” however when I look at the Fusion site it says that it is “free for students and educators.” Does the fact that I am learning Fusion as a hobbyist and not in a commercial environment qualify me as a student?:smirk:

Given that I have to learn any CAD package I decide on I thought I might start in to Fusion 360…if it is truly free. Perhaps someone could confirm it is free and if so how /where do I get it.

If you think I should skip Fusion and use one of the other packages feel free to put me straight

Noob here as well. I’m expecting my machine soon and like you will start with Carbide Create. Overall I like it so far.

Using Carbide Create and Carbide Motion, what would be the purpose of using Inkscape?

I’m pretty excited about the learning curve…sort of. LOL

Fusion 360 is free.

You need to pay if you are using it commercially and your company’s revenue is above something like $100k/yr.

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Fusion 360 is available on an annual license for startups and hobbyists making less than $100,000/yr.

It’s a powerful, but complex package — if you need that sort of 3D work it works well.

Inkscape is a great front-end for Carbide Create. It will also make files which can be loaded into Aspire and Aspire will also accept 3D files.

Which CAD / CAM stack you use is more dependent on what project you’re doing — lots of folks switch back and forth.


This should help provide some clarification. . .

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People who use Aspire love it but it’s crazy pricey. If you have access to it I’d probably start there.

Thanks guys…I’ll get Fusion360 today and probably go with that. Inkscape appears to be a good front end to get images, alter them and prepare them as a vector for import to CC.
While I have access to Aspire it’s not on my machine so would be more of a hassle to use.
Wet day here and my wife is off to a funeral so I have most of today to play😉

I’d recommend starting with CC and using that until you run out of capability there. It’s super easy to use, and there’s enough to learn with getting up and running with the machine. Fusion360 is awesome, especially for the price if you’re in the right category of user, but it does have a fairly steep learning curve, and the CAM inside it has that much more of an uplift.

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Well thanks to the guys here I downloaded Fusion360 and ran through a couple of tutorials on the Autodesk site and also You Tube. So far it looks great but is going to be a long haul🤔.

I’ll be starting out with CC and use that for as long as can. I’ll also need Inkscape I think so that I can import images and modify them…unless I find that F360 can do that.

Its “Persisting” down here today…another Tasman Tempest so I get to stay inside and study more👍.

Can’t wait until the SO3 arrives but hopefully when it does I will have a couple of my own projects to run in addition to those available online.

If you haven’t run across them yet, look at the Lars Christensen tutorials on Fusion 360. Absolutely the best Fusion 360 tutorial guy out there!


Hi Jim,
Spent a couple of hours watching them today…great educational stuff and IMHO better than the Autodesk tutorials. I am really enjoying getting in to this stuff.

I just heard that my SO3 is now in NZ😁 but the friend who had it in his luggage (saving over $us 400 in freight) had a problem with us customs. They x-rayed his bag and then proceeded to unpack it to see what all the strange bits were. Hopefully no damage done but it’s another bottle of Pinot Noir I owe him👍
Delivery this weekend…then I have to see about a new wasteboard. I just heard that my mate has a friend with a commercial CNC Factory and specialises in metal fabrication. Might be an aluminum waste board on the list🙄 if nothing else I should be able to get some professional guidance

I use InkScape and CC
So far it’s done everything I’ve needed.
With ease. CC does lock up on me allot especially when trying to view the simulation after your toolpaths are done.
Pain as sometimes it closed out cause it stopped responding.

I will soon be going with VETRIC V- Carve Pro…

Tried to samples and the tool paths seem way more logical when they run and take far less cutting time!


I’ll start out that way too and only move to F360 when I think it is necessary and Inkscape/CC does not do what I need (if ever). However I am enjoying the F36o tutorials of Lars Christensen so I will carry on with them at my own pace.

Only a few more days until my SO3 arrives- it is in NZ now.

I am about 1-1/2 years into CNC as a hobby and my impression after sampling various things on and off is:

  • Autodesk – its free but it has a very heavy learning curve. If I was going to be a professional in the industry I might learn to use it by I am retired and this is a hobby so I’d rather not spend my time struggling with this (I own the whole Adobe suite and have lots of experience with bloated / over complicated software).

  • Vcarve – really good focus on hobbyist needs. Lots of good tutorials and the support is very good. Yes its big bucks but those humans answering email in the UK are worth it.

  • Create – sorry but never had much luck with this. Very limited functionality and I ran into a fair number of bugs. For long time it was tied to Motion which won’t run on my CNC box so I had to find an alternative

  • Easel – if I was starting over I would start with this. From my limited experience with it this is a good start at a quality CNC program. Also the Inventables folks have a lot of interesting projects, project materials (and even replacment parts for your Shapeoko ;-))

  • Open Source – I always try open source first but in this case I didn’t find anything that I liked. Too often I had to run a couple of throw away projects to get things working the way I wanted. Plus the support was not there and this newbie needed help

Just my 2 cents

For opensource, I will note that I was pretty successful with:

  • Inkscape
  • MakerCAM
  • F-Engrave
  • OpenSCAD
  • pyCAM

If those tools suit your needs, then they’re well worth considering — I’d really like to see a replacement for MakerCAM though — just porting it out of Flash would be a huge improvement.

One thing I have found so far with F360 tutorials is that they are good for designing but it would be nice to have some that take a newbie through a project from design to setup to cut. There seem to be a few for vcarve that are better in that regard but then $$ come in to consideration.

Things might fall in to place once I have my SO3 up and running meanwhile I am enjoying the challenge of trying F360.

Vectric definitely has a price to consider, but be sure to check out all the versions that they offer. If you have the base size SO3, you only need the “Desktop” version of V-Carve, not the Pro (bed size limitations of Desktop don’t factor in on the base SO3). And you only need Aspire if you are going to do true 3D carvings, which you can probably use F360 for.

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There are a bunch by NYC-CNC specifically with CAM, and a lot of miscellaneous fusion360 as well.

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I learned Fusion 360 with tutorial and by trying/testing stuff in it. It’s more complicated than other CAD software (Rhinoceros is way easier in my opinion) but it has CAM and it’s free. And it’s powerful.
I’m glad I insisted because now I can do a lot of stuff in it in no time! Check all the NYC CNC videos, really instructive.

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I’ll have a look at those and persevere. I also got the free trial of Vcarve pro and will have try with that. I have to say initial impressions are good (except for price for full version). I hope it will also be sufficiently similar to help with using Aspire as I have access to that but have never used it.

On a more positive note my SO3 has arrived👍. I have to cut a new MDF base as my “courier”… A mate who saved me a bundle on freight and import taxes, took the wasteboard out to lighten his load.

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