7 of the best CAD/CAM software programs for CNC in 2021
When it comes to developing your CNC capabilities, knowing which CAD/CAM software to use and how to use it can have a serious impact on your versatility and on the quality of your production. Considering aspects like user experience, variety of features, and affordability can all help guide you toward the right platform that can deliver the best results.
Here is a closer look at what CAD/CAM software is and several options that can work well for everyone from a weekend hobbyist to a full-time CNC professional.
What is CAD/CAM software?
CAD/CAM software is a software package that combines computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) to produce 2D and 3D parts.
While CAD is used to create and modify designs on a computer, CAM software is used to facilitate the manufacturing of the workpieces by computer-controlled machines like CNC routers and plasmas. CAM software converts the design files into g-code before sending them to the machine that will then perform the cuts.
Rather than utilizing two separate software platforms to perform both phases of the work, CAD/CAM packages allow operators to leverage both ends of the spectrum with the same tool, handling everything from concept to creation in one place.
Here is a breakdown of some of the most popular CAD/CAM software packages available on the market today.
VCarve Pro is a powerful but intuitive platform that allows operators to produce complex 2D patterns with profile, pocket, drill, and inlay toolpaths. It enables the creation of designs with v-carving textures and also allows for unlimited job and toolpath sizes and true shape nesting.
Beyond its complete set of 2D design and layout tools, VCarve Pro also allows you to create 2.5D toolpaths, from prism carving and mouldings to textures and fluting. It also enables the import and machining of single 3D models. In all, VCarve Pro is one of the easiest-to-use and most versatile options for v-carving in the industry today, and is a trusted option for pros and beginners.
Available for both Windows and MacOS, Fusion 360 serves as a unified CAD, CAM, and PCB software that is free for personal and hobby use, with an option to upgrade to the full package for $60 per month to unlock more advanced features.
The free version is fairly robust on its own and can be used for 2- and 3-axis milling, turning, adaptive clearing, and more, in addition to being compatible with waterjets, laser cutters, and plasma cutters. Fusion 360 supports a wide range of 3D file types, including 3MF, STL, and DXF. It can be used for modeling and rendering, with the ability to leverage local or cloud rendering to create photorealistic images of models much more quickly than with other software options.
EnRoute provides both 2D and 3D design and toolpath capabilities for everything from routers and plasmas to lasers and waterjets. It is particularly suited for everyday cutting, nested-based production, and creative design projects, with sign-making, textured panels, woodworking, and metal machining all serving as ideal applications.
Known for its user-friendliness, EnRoute makes designing simple for beginners thanks to features like perspective view, which allows you to easily select and move objects during design. You can even draw freehand using a stylus or mouse while also taking advantage of a variety of precision editing tools for modifying texts and shapes. EnRoute comes with ready-to-use texture templates, a customizable material library, and realistic simulation that allows you to test models which can help reveal errors before getting to the manufacturing phase.
Specifically tailored for woodworking, KCD features a visual interface that allows you to go directly from design to CNC while quickly setting tools, measurements, and sizes. Its touchscreen usability also makes design, price, and build much more mobile.
KCD’s CNC Manager tool allows shops to run multiple jobs and individual parts from other jobs together for optimal efficiency. It also integrates with Cabinotch for simplified outsourcing and includes hundreds of MDF cabinet door stiles most libraries only offer in solid wood. With the Doors Plus feature, users can leverage easy and accurate scaling, sizing, and modifying, with the ability to go directly to the manufacturing phase at the push of a button.
Mozaik is one of the most popular and widely trusted PC-based software platforms for cabinets, closets, and casework, with packages capable of tackling everything from jobsite planning to design and manufacturing.
As mentioned, Mozaik’s focus is firmly on custom cabinetry, with applications for labeling, cutting, and assembling. It’s a fairly easy-to-use and easy-to-learn platform that’s available on a monthly subscription basis that includes all software updates and online support services.
Cabinet Pro is an all-in-one solution for both small cabinet shops and larger manufacturers, capable of creating detailed and finished drawings, floorplans, elevations, and 3D perspectives. It is an industry leader in terms of its formatting choices, accuracy, and the completeness of its cutlist reports.
Cabinet Pro is also designed to sync across devices, so you can work on your laptop at home or in the field and then easily transfer files and information to your office or shop desktop. The platform supports CNC routers by generating g-code directly without a CAD software package.
RhinoCAM is a CAM software plugin that combines the power of Rhino’s freeform modeling with the elite CAM functionality of VisualCAM. It offers full parametric modeling out of the box, built-in version control and cloud backups, and easy-to-use file format translators.
Rhino also comes with support from Autodesk and features a web interface for part drawing, reviewing, markup, and approval from customers. It is free for hobbyists to take advantage of to hone their skills without having to invest in a high-cost platform.
ProNest LT, formerly known as TurboNest, is a preferred software solution for conventional plasma and oxyfuel cutting machines. It allows you to import CAD files, artwork, and signs, in addition to creating your own designs using powerful built-in tools.
With ProNest LT, operators can nest jobs quickly and efficiently using the platform’s intelligent auto-nesting capability. Modules like Common Line Cutting and Chain and Bridge Cutting can also increase efficiency and reduce cutting time and consumable wear.
Ramp up production and precision with ShopSabre CNC
ShopSabre’s industry-best CNC routers and plasmas are designed to help shop owners grow their production through unmatched precision, repeatability, and automation – all at an affordable price.
Our machines are easy to get up and running and to learn how to operate, even without any formal training. Our team of dedicated experts offers one-on-one support to help find the right machine for you and to make sure it works the way you and your business need it to.
Here are a few of the reasons ShopSabre is able to develop and produce such revolutionary CNC technology:
- Experienced in-house engineering talent
- The ability to totally fabricate and test designs onsite
- The ability to place the designs into production in-house