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Established Member
4 Feb 2014
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Hi All,

What software are you using for the design of items to print\machine?

I have mostly been using TinkerCAD and looking into Fusion 360 but they seem to limit some of the CAM functionality.

I'm mostly happy with Tinkercad; however I have just designed a stop block and flag for 2040 extrusion. It's fine when 3D printed but may want to get it made out of aluminum of some sort. From an initial look it seems that .STL cannot be used for CAM so am looking for CAD Software that will ideally let me export .STL but also the file format for CAM.

Any suggestions?


Onshape is free but they own all your drawings unless you pay them, Free cad is good and powerful but I personally find it awkward and unintuitive.
There is a Hobby version of solidworks which is quite cheap.
Blender is free, very powerful and has Blendercam as well, I have never spent enough time to get really good at it but it can do incredible stuff.
Z brush have a free version which is fun for sculpting things.

The business model of free starter versions with commercial upgrade is the most common now in the industry, one of the reasons I really like vectric software is that you actually own it.

I find Fusion 360 to be superior to almost everything I have tried. However, I do not use the cam functions as they have cut it down a lot in the free version. In the paid version it is very comprehensive as it used to be in the free version.
I use Vcarve pro for the Cam but there are other cam only options out there.

STL. files can certainly be imported/expoted in most software and used for calculating the cam toolpaths.
The main thing is just pick one and learn it, this stuff has a steep learning curve, so try out loads of options pick one and get practicing.

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Fusion360 is excellent, even the free version.

It's annoying when they change things to be paid-only which they flip-flop on periodically but the functionality is worth it.

I use the design and cam features for my home built CNC mill and it's rare i find limitations.
Solid edge community is good, designspark not bad. Both free. I use alibre atom which I bought as I found it faster.
I use Designspark Mechanical too. It's available in three versions only one of which is free but I find that sufficient for all my needs.
I use Freecad because it lives up to it's name.It will do 2D drafting if that is all you need.More usefully,it is a 3D parametric modeller with built in CAM workbench,so I can generate code for my CNC router.There are many other things it can do and add on workbenches to do them with at zero cost.3D printing,FEM, wing design,surface modelling and much more and the file format doesn't change on a whim so that the same file can be ready by a Windows machine an Apple device or a Linux box.Documentation tends to lag new features but youtube has lots of helpful videos.
Hello @Skeety

If you need CAD software for business and don't mind paying a subscription, then Fusion 360 is pretty decent and reasonably priced.

For hobby use, I would stay away from Fusion 360 or anything Autodesk. They keep changing what is and is not included in the free version.

For hobbies, consider FreeCAD or maybe even Blender. Blender seems to be becoming popular with the 3D printing crowd.

Both FreeCAD and Blender are nowhere near in their discoverability and ease of use compared to Fusion 360. But consider this - after investing a lot of time learning Fusion 360, are you prepared to become a paid subscriber when Autodesk (inevitably) moves a feature you use all the time into a paid tier?

I used to be a long time Fusion 360 user (since the days when Lars Christensen was the only person on youtube doing Fusion 360 tutorials).
These days I am a happy FreeCAD user. Switched away from Fusion 360 when they removed one of the features I used from Free tier, can't even remember what it was now).
There are some unexpected issues in FreeCAD (solved years ago in commercial CADs), the most famous one is probably Topological Naming related - ignore the subject of that post - FreeCAD team are getting closer to solve Topological Naming issue completely. For now however - this is something you have to be aware of to avoid wasting time when you inevitably come across this issue.

FYI - FreeCAD CNC: CAD and CAM workflow example: FreeCAD CNC: CAD and CAM workflow - Way of Wood
Thanks all!

Looks like Fusion wins out. I will try that again.
@Skeety I've used computers since the early 80s and CAD since the early 90s so I consider myself computer literate but I found Fusion 360 very confusing when I tried it even utilising YouTube videos. Probably just me as plenty of people here like and recommend it. I reverted back to Designspark Mechanical for 3D and LibreCAD for 2D. Just saying.
I have to agree with those comments about Fusion as I spent a frustrating few days fumbling with it after reading the considerable praise for it.Even with the TNP situation in Freecad,I'm happier using it.I did use a much earlier version of Qcad a little and it wasn't terrible,I believe now parts of it feature in the Librecad element of Libre Office,which is a very useful suite of software.I believe we need to distinguish between applications that use a computer as an electronic drawing board and those which permit 3D modelling and creating assemblies,or even animations of assemblies.We don't all need the same things and it isn't particularly common knowledge that more can be done than just putting lines on a piece of per that comes out of our printers.With a material library we can get weight,surface area and location of centre of gravity.
Onshape is free but they own all your drawings unless you pay them,

I was under the impression that drawings made on free onshape were public for anyone to use.

I'm just getting started and chose onshape because of the wealth of tutorials on utube and the price.
I was under the impression that drawings made on free onshape were public for anyone to use.

That's right: OnShape don't own your drawings, they're just not private.

I'm just getting started and chose onshape because of the wealth of tutorials on utube and the price.

Good choice: it's much better than Fusion.

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