Software I’m using in my shop.
Vectric’s software is awesome. This is my favorite software tool in the shop. It’s the perfect tool for the CNC router, my Puck carving machine, and for much of the work I do on the CNC milling machine. Vectric produces V-Carve Pro and Aspire, as well as some other tools. Vectric’s software allows you to easily lay out 2D and 2.5D designs, create CAM toolpaths, and simulate the resulting cuts with high accuracy. The CAM portion of the tools supports many varieties of CNC machines, and is easily customizable. Vectric’s software is excellent.
Autodesk’s Fusion 360 is an extremely capable parametric modelling CAD tool, with an excellent CAM package. Fusion 360 is under active development, with new releases coming out often, every few weeks. They are ardent supporters of the Maker community, as well as startup companies. You can get a very capable package for a very reasonable price. There are tons of videos and training lessons available online, for free. Highly recommended.
This is the software I use to run my larger CNC Router. It’s a rock. Mach4 is solid as well. My larger CNC Router uses a lot of Avid/CNCRouterParts.com components, and the config files for Avid routers are a good place for me to start configuring the router.
We use SheetCam to create projects for the Plasma Cutter. The toolpath for most projects is: Vectric -> Export as SVG -> Import into sheetCAM, Cut on the Langmuir plasma cutter.
Rhino was the first CAD software I used, and it’s still a favorite, though I tend to use Vectric and Fusion 360 more these days. But, if I want to design something, I’ll often use Rhino first. The latest version is nice, including their Grasshopper tool as an integral component. This allows you to program in complex shapes and designs using a graphical programming language. I used to use RhinoCAM as well, which is an extremely capable CAM package that runs within RhinoCAD. RhinoCAM is quite complex, and I feel it has not kept up with the times. For instance, you can’t even buy it online. It’s user interface it horrible, and you spend a lot of time debugging and being frustrated, trying to get a simple CAM setup to function. Update: I don’t use this much any more.
Sketchup is a very simple to use CAD tool, with a very intuitive user interface. It’s a fun CAD tool. I tend to use it to create quick and simple sketch-like designs for my projects. You can get extensions for Sketchup which allow you to export STL files for 3D printing. Update: I don’t use this much.
Dropbox is a great online tool for backing up your files, as well as synchronizing files between computers. For instance, if I create a toolpath on my design computer, and save it, it is synched to my CNC control computer by the time I walk the 20 feet over to it.
I recommend you simply use Dropbox as your “My Documents” drive, and store ALL your files there.
My Full Spectrum laser seems to work best with Corel Draw as the design tool for creating laser designs. Thankfully, Corel Draw is quite capable and easy to use. The Full Spectrum laser is a bit finicky, but works well.
For some of my CNC machines I use the PlanetCNC hardware, and it’s companion software tool to run the CNC machine. The hardware is quite good, and the software is also very capable. It is created by a small company (1 guy I think) who has definite ideas about how CNC machines should work. I have found the tools to be great, but have switched back to Mach3 for my latest CNC machine.
Adobe Creative Cloud
Adobe’s tools are the industry standard. I use them for graphic design and I use Premier for editing videos. Update: I’m now using Davinci Resolve for video editing.
Software I’ve evaluated, but don’t use much.
Gearotic is a great tool for designing gears.
Alibre is a good CAD tool. Facing stiff competition from Fusion 360.
CamBam is a quirky tool for creating CAM toolpaths.
Cut Viewer is a nice tool for visualizing CAM toolpaths.
RhinoCAM is a CAM toolpath generator that runs within RhinoCAD. It is a complicated and expensive tool to use. It feels like software from 2 decades ago.
I started out with this CAD tool, but quickly graduated to Rhino, Fusion 360, and Vectric.
Design a box for laser or CNC http://www.makercase.com/
Stuff I haven’t written up yet…
Arduino Uno R3 and the Arduino IDE