MasterCAM and Meshcam as alternatives to Fusion

Not to start a new CAM thread, and apologies if this is redundant, but I couldn’t find a good answer for the conclusion I’ve come to.

Recently, I’ve done a fair bit of hunting for F360 alternatives. F360 is fantastically capable as a CAM resource, but I don’t care for it Fusion360 for a variety of reasons. I’m not much fond of its modeling (especially as I can use SolidWorks for that) and am fundamentally opposed to the cloud-only model. I would prefer to have all my software and files as a local resource and, if possible, with a license rather than a subscription.

That out of the way, when investigating F360 alternatives I’ve looked at:

  • BlenderCAM (likely buggy and limited, doesn’t have much documentation)
  • FreeMill (similarly limited)
  • SolidWorks CAM (far too expensive for my current use)
  • MasterCAM (probably too expensive, I’ll get to this below)
  • Meshcam (most plausible, but unclear on capability limitations)

Based on that list, MasterCAM or Meshcam are the best options I’ve found so far.

MasterCAM would be too expensive, but as I have less than $1,500 in revenue a year, I’ve seen a Titans of CNC and MasterCAM offer that is $160 a year which is plausible. I’m sure MasterCAM is capable of any advanced machining I might want to do (single-point threading, undercuts, etc.), but I have no experience in MasterCAM. I also appears that it integrates with SolidWorks, which would be a bonus for me. This is a subscription, but might be worth it.

Meshcam, by comparison, is nice an simple, but I’m afraid the limits would become a problem making the $250-$500 perpetual license sunk cost. Specifically, if I’m looking to mill using under-cut bits or single pointing threads, I don’t know if it can do that. So far I’ve only done a little experimenting with the trial license, though, so perhaps someone with more experience can chime in?

This has been my hunt. Any opinions out there from people with experience on the Meshcam or MasterCAM front? Any alternatives to F360 that you use that work well that you’d recommend? SolidWorks only works in Windows, so that’s my OS.

Thanks all,


I’ve looked at a ton of CAM packages. I basically went through the CNCCookbook survey and tried a bunch of the top ones:

  • SolidWorks CAM: If you’re in the US, Australia, or a good chunk of the EU and you’re not a business, you can get it included with the rest of SolidWorks for $10/month. The CAM works okay but getting it tuned for a Nomad or Shapeoko is a little bit of a pain because it likes to do a lot of magic that works for a rigid VMC but not so much for a wobbly little desktop CNC. Once you get it dialed in, it works well though.
  • MasterCAM: Waaaaaaaay too complicated. I’m sure there’s a way to make it do literally anything you want but this is software that’s clearly intended for professionals operating very large, very capable, very expensive machines and for whom it isn’t a problem to contract someone to write a post-processor. This isn’t software for a hobbyist. Even the training and documentation is a pain to access.
  • Autodesk Powermill: Basically the same story as MasterCAM, though not quite as bad.
  • Autodesk Inventor and Inventor CAM (not InventorCAM, which is made by the folks who make SolidCAM): This is really close to an offline Fusion 360 but it costs an arm and a leg and has fewer features than Fusion 360.
  • SolidCAM, InventorCAM: Buggy as all hell. I couldn’t get it to work well at all.
  • Siemens NX: Works okay but the CAM actually seemed pretty limited to me, it didn’t have a lot of the fancy newer toolpaths you see in other software.
  • ZW3D: I found it kinda hard to understand.

Can go into more detail on any of them but that’s the summary.

In the end, Fusion 360 was the best fit for me.

I also don’t like the cloud model and I also don’t like the subscription but after trying all these other packages, I found that the effort put into not using Fusion 360 was more valuable than the money it costs to use Fusion 360.

1 Like

You know how it is when you keep asking the same question hoping someone will give you a different answer?

I talked to MasterCAM, and as I’m more interested in inventing and prototyping than opening a machine shop, it’s probably not the best avenue. I agree, the training looked like it would be a pain just for access.

I still dislike the cloud-only model, but with using other CAD, if Fusion had an option to buy/subscribe to only CAM, that would be more appealing, too. In addition, a privacy concern also comes up for me with Fusion. With storing your design files on their servers, it feels less secure and private than when I work from my own workshop sandbox.

In your list, you left out Meshcam. Is there a reason to didn’t evaluate or evaluated and dismissed it?


With a paid subscription of Fusion 360, you get HSM for Solidworks.
Meshcam is fine as long as you are working with stl files, and I have used it over Fusion 360 at times, depending on the project.

1 Like

I was after a more complete CAD environment. I wanted a comprehensive set of toolpaths, options and features.

I also really wanted integrated CAD/CAM. It’s a pain to have to switch between different software.

That’s a really good point. I’ve used that too and it’s pretty good, very similar to Fusion 360’s CAM. There are some limitations compared to standalone Fusion 360 though. I can’t remember well off the top of my head but I remember there were features that were really hard for them to implement as a SolidWorks addon. IIRC Fusion 360 has some extra toolpaths too.

It really might be the perfect solution for @ads though, aside from the subscription cost.

You can get the subscription at a pretty sharp discount if you wait for a sale and get an annual plan though.

The HSMworks add-on for Solidworks is news to me. I’m checking on the trial.

At the same time, 1 year of Fusion is a perpetual license of Meshcam, so I could always switch horses next year and not be out any money while still having a perpetual meshcam license…


FYI, we offer Alibre Atom3D w/ Workshop (which is MeshCAM):

This topic was automatically closed after 30 days. New replies are no longer allowed.