Software Choices? - I know, old topic

This group has been a great support for my start of CNC’ing. Thanks. Here is another question.

I purchased my XL about 1.5 months ago and everything has been going along a normal learning curve. Setup a waste board, made some clamps, tool tray, simple stuff. The ultimate goal is to be able to make signs, some inlay pieces and maybe some topographical carvings. I am very familiar with Fusion 360 (personal) from my 3D printing (and some from my job). I’ve been using Carbide Create and Carbide Motion. Create is not bad for starting out but I have hit the limit. To move to the next phase I will have to move up a level.

I’ve looked at CC pro, V-Carve, inkscape, etc. in addition to Fusion. I am totally confused. There are so many features, limitations and options. I not don’t even know what most of these things are. I don’t mind paying a modest price for software but $700 for V-Carve Pro is too high but free (Fusion) has limits (no multi-too l and speed limits). I am not looking to make a living at this just hobby making gifts and such.

Given my modest goals and budget can anyone give me some advice at which one they would would recommend?

Thanks in advance.


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Hobbyist with modest goals and budget here. 4 years into this and I ended-up:

  • purchasing VCarve Desktop ($349 is not cheap but still within my psychologically-acceptable price range) and using it for …vcarving where it excels, for complex 2.5D projects where the layering system is quite useful, and for double-sided projects (which are natively supported). I would buy it again, and I’m happy I did not go for the more expensive options (Pro, Aspire) as personally I would not have used their extra features much, I think.
  • still using Fusion360 for anything 3D, and anything that lends itself well to adaptive clearing/trochoidal milling (barbarian word for “nice toolpaths that optimize the cutting load”, e.g. cutting metals. Adobe tried to ruin the mood by removing rapids in the generated G-code, but there are ways around that.
  • still using CC for simple projects, and CC Pro for all my 3D projets that involve heightmaps (import a greyscale heightmap and…done)

For 3D, Alibre+MeshCam is another possible option (among others)

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Even though you have an XL, how often do you really expect to make stuff bigger than 24”x24” ? Especially considering the cost of large pieces of wood these days? Vcarve Desktop is a lot less money and more than adequate. I suspect it would be very unusual to do a really large topographic or 3D carving - the cost of the material and the enormously long carve times would be daunting. You most likely will still be happy to use Carbide Create for any very large signs.

Just a thought…

With an XL you are limited to 14" X 32" so paying for a bigger than t he 24" x 24" of Vetric Pro would like buying a big block engine for your car and putting a 35 MPH governor on it. Yea you can can get to 35MPH very fast but you cannot go any faster.

Vetric is very proud of their products. The one good thing I can say about Vetric is if you buy a lower level product you can move up by only paying the difference and not having to pay again for a higher level product. So if you buy Vetric start with Desktop and if you outgrow that then move up to the next level only then.

It seems that every product fills a niche. I do not think you can have one all encompassing software package to do everything well. All do something well but not everything. Fusion seems to be good for adaptive machining and design. Vetric is good for wood but not for metal. Carbide Create is a good 2.5 D software but if you want to get too complicated it cannot go there. I think you have a choice to make but it is not a cheap choice. So if you choose wrong there is a cost to that bad choice. I am not a Vetric user but in my personal research if I need to move up to more robust software I will most likely pick Vetric Desktop for my XXL. I will still review the other choices before I pull the trigger but to me for wood carving Vetric is hard to beat. As Patric Swayze said in the movie Roadhouse “Opinions Vary”

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Inkscape works well as a front-end to pretty much any of the other options.

Fusion 360 will work well for 3D mechanical designs, but isn’t as apt at decorative work.

Carbide Create Pro adds the sort of 3D modeling which Vectric Aspire has.

V-Carve and the base Carbide Create have a lot of feature overlap, and the Vectric programs adds for example direct support for inlays.

Vectric Aspire and Fusion360 here. going on about 5 years of Timber signmaking, a lot of the etsy-style boxes and valets, Aluminium and plastic parts for motorcycles.

Vectric software excels at efficient V-carving toolpaths with good finishes, it has a lot of powerful features and a lot of little things that make it really friendly to use. I use it for anything that isn’t a mechanical part, all boxes, valets, signs, jigs, its very simple yet powerful and though Aspire is expensive, it has paid itself off many times over.

I have heard good things about carveco, but not used it

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