I figured it was worth putting down some notes on my experience so far with software as I struggled to find the right fit for quite a while. I’m cutting 2d ply with pockets, curves. Nothing too exciting. Short story is I’ve landed on onshape and EstlCam.
I played with shapr3d. Really easy to learn. Feels modern. Once I got into the CNC I realised I needed a dxf file. To export you need the paid version £1000 per year or something similar so this was dead in the water.
Next I worked with fusion 360. The learning curve for CAD was a bit worse but not too bad. I wanted to use ESDLCAM for CAM as I’m completed noob so figured that would give me the best support. Fusion does support export DXF. I had mixed success with this. Curves especially didn’t work. I think I have seen a post somewhere about resolving this but gave up at this point.
I got frustrated so started using Inkscape. This can export DXF. This is just a drawing tool so works but has huge limitations. I used it with spreadsheets to calculate where to put points. After a bit of learning curve I produced and successfully cut my first piece. My problem was I’m creating a unit which requires quite a few parts that all line up. I could do this with Inkscape but it would be very error prone due to not being able to visualise the pieces together.
Next came onshape. This was a similar feel to shapr3d. Learning curve was good. I really like the separation between parts and assembly’s. I’ve modelled my unit and have started to print out the parts. I’m really impressed with it. My concern is it being cloud based. I’ve put such an about of work in losing my designer would be tough. For now I’m going to stick with this.
3d printed parts I’m using fusion 360 still. I will revisit 360 and get the feeling if I can go all in and do CAD and CAM it will start to show its real value.
EstlCam despite it looking clunky it seems really pretty straight forward now. The only thing keeping me sticking to this long term is the risk of human error and getting depths / cuts incorrect. I’m hoping fusion automates a lot of this.
Last point is pricing. I have no issue with paying for software but the price of full versions for a hobbyist are insane. I get if you’re using the tools professionally the price could be reasonable. But for me it just makes full versions impossible to justify. I’m surprised they’ve not found a middle ground to get some cash out of the me. It’s nice that there are free versions but I’m fearful that the functionality will be slowly stripped from these version.