Software is the key to CNC. With so many choices it can be difficult to estimate the cost or even know what type of software to purchase when you first get started. Let's start by taking a look at the three major types of software commonly used for CNC.
CNC Control Software:
This is the operating software that actually controls your CNC machine. Normally when purchasing a CNC system this choice has already been made for you and comes installed on your CNC's computer.
Computer Aided Design software is used to draw the shape of a part or a tool path using vectors. Two of the more well know CAD programs are AutoCAD and TurboCAD. These programs do not create the programs that can be run on your CNC, they only draw the part.
Computer Aided Manufacturing software is used to create code for your CNC control software. A drawing or model created using CAD software can be opened with, or imported into CAM software to define the milling process and output the G Code to machine the part.
Many CNC programs combine CAD and CAM into one package eliminating the need to purchase separate programs.
This is a short list of the software that we recommend for Legacy's full line of hybrid CNC machines. You will only need to select one of the CAM software choices.
TurboCAD ($99.00) - turbocad.com
This software is optional as the other software packages are CAD/CAM and already have drawing capabilities built in; however, TurboCAD's drawing tools are more powerful making it very easy to create precise drawings that can be input into the other programs.
CCAM4 ($300.00) CCAM4
Legacy's new Conversational CAM 4 is designed to take advantage of the 5-axis turning capabilities of a Legacy hybrid CNC. The program is very simple to use; you simply answer a few questions to quickly generate the G Code to mill the stock round or square and add turning details including beads, coves, rope twist, barley twist, flutes and reeds. NO DRAWING REQUIRED. Follow this link to watch the CCAM4 Tutorial Videos.
VCarve Pro ($699.00) - Vectric.com
This is the basic CAD/CAM software that we recommend for a Legacy CNC. It includes 2D design and drawing tools (CAD), 2D machining, 3D VCarving and engraving, wrapped rotary tool paths and 3D tool path preview. The interface is easy to use and will quickly get you started using both the 3-axis and 4-axis capabilities of a Legacy CNC. It does not allow you to create your own 3D modeling and sculpting; however, you can import carving files from vectorart3D.com.
Aspire ($1,995.00) - Vectric.com
Uses the same interface as VCarve Pro resulting in a seamless transition when upgrading. This program includes the modeling tools for creating your own 2 1/2D carving. Designs can be wrapped around a cylinder.
ArtCAM Pro ($7,500 - $10,000) - artcam.com
An extremely powerful program that can model, wrap and preview in 3D. Recommended for advanced users. ArtCAM Express and ArtCAM Insignia are less expensive versions that use the same interface for a seamless transition when upgrading but not include the 3D modeling tools for creating your own carvings.
3D Machinist: ($0.00) - vectorart3d.com
This program allows you to size, scale and orient carving files downloaded from vectorart3d.com. You can create a rough cut pass and/or a finish cut pass. The files can be output as G Code files to run on your Legacy CNC or they can be imported into VCarve Pro to be incorporated into a part with other tool paths. Carving files typically range from $10.00 to $25.00. Free samples can be downloaded to try out.
Basic Software Package
A basic starting package for a Legacy CNC that would allow you to work on both flat stock and turn between centers would include the following:
Conversational CAM 4 ($300.00)
VCarve Pro ($699.00)
3D Machinist ($0.00)
Total = $999.00