Software Download Links
This is a brief overview of some of the CAD, CAM, and related software and hardware that is available out there for use with the CNC machines described in these pages. Also, links to various forums and hardware suppliers are listed. Just click on a logo and you will be taken to their site. All of this software is free to download and use.
This is by no means an extensive list. Some Google searching will turn up literally hundreds of like programs. These are just some of my favorites.
CNC Tutorials and Information
Ben Heck’s CNC tutorial – very basic CNC tutorial for beginners
Instructables CNC course – another basic beginners turtorial
Intyroductio to CNC Part 1 – A Comprehensive 5 part series CNC tutorial
Introducton to CNC Part 2
Introducton to CNC Part 3
Introducton to CNC Part 4
Introducton to CNC Part 5
CNC Basic G-Code tutorial – The basics of G-code
G-Code Reference – Listing of G-codes and what they do
How to run your first G-code program – A short tutorial on running g-code
My Website Blog – A blog with lots of technical topics on the electronics aspect of CNC
My “Care and Feeding of your CNC Router” Document – lots of good info.
Machine Control Software
This is the software that actually controls your machine. It has features like position display, jog controls, and machine settings, as well as a G-code sender that loads g-code files and sends them to the machine for execution. Mostly available for Windows only, but there are some out there that run on Mac OSX and Linux. GRBL Panels is my preferred program, and is what I use for demo purposes, but you are free to choose any one that suits you better. This is only a very short list of popular programs, you can Google “GRBL G-Code Sender programs” to find more.
GRBL Panel – GRBL compatible G-code sender software by Gerrit Visser. This is the software I prefer. Pretty stable and works well, with a good feature set.
Universal G-Code Sender UGS – JAVA based GRBL compatible G-code sender software. This is another popular system for controlling machines. REQUIRES JAVA8 TO BE INSTALLED ON YOUR COMPUTER!
Candle – GRBL compatible G-code sender software.
OpenBuilds Control – GRBL compatible G-code sender software from OpenBuilds. New software, seems simple and intuitive.
CAD and Drawing Programs
CAD and drawing programs are the fist step in the workflow chain for CNC Machining. They allow you to draw and edit images to be later converted to CNC instructions via a CAM program. Some drawing programs have built in CAM functions or downloadable plugins that perform the CAM function. You don’t necessarily have to work in 3D to do CNC machining. You can do what is called 2.5D, where you draw a simple outline and add the third dimension when you do the CAM step.
Sketchup – Full function free 3D drawing program. Used extensively by woodworkers, artisans, and hobbyists. This program may be easier to learn for people who are not experienced CADD users. Free to use fully functional. Latest version is Web Based so no installation needed. Lots of Extensions (add on modules) and free 3D Models in the 3D Warehouse. Tutorials are available on Sketchup website and on Youtube. CAM addon is available.
Autodesk Fusion 360 – Full function free 3D drawing program with built in CAM and modelling and simulation software. Used extensively by engineers, artisans, and hobbyists. This program may be easier to learn for people who are experienced CADD users. Free to use fully functional, even for commercial use under $100,000 per year income. You can download the free trial, then license it for personal, educational, or business startup use. Lots of tutorials make it easy to learn. Very powerful for advanced users, but useable by beginners as well.
Carbide Create – Full function free 2D drawing program with built in CAM software. Free Download from Carbide 3D. Used extensively by woodworkers, artisans, and hobbyists. This program is relatively simple yet handles most tasks like v-carving, text, and importing SVG and DXF files You can download the free software from the link below. OSX version available to run on Apple platform. Lots of tutorials and videos on Youtube.
InkScape – Full function free vector drawing program. Free Download. Used extensively by artisans, and hobbyists. This program is a vector based drawing program, more for artists and people with art backgrounds. It allows you to create SVG and DXF files You can download the free software from the link below. Windows, Linux, and OSX version available to run on Apple platform. Lots of tutorials and videos on Youtube.
CAM programs (Computer Aided Manufacturing) are the second step in the workflow chain for CNC Machining. They allow you to convert images to G-Code for use with your machine. You don’t necessarily have to work in 3D to do CNC machining. You can do what is calle 2.5D, where you draw a simple outline and add the third dimension when you do the CAM step. It allows you to select lines and shapes, assign a bit to use to do the machining step, and define whether the object is a hole, outline, cutout, or island, and set the tool cutting depth.
F-Engrave – Full function free V-Carving and engraving CAM program. Simple to use, but powerful, allows you to import BMP and DXF files, and set them up for engraving or V-carving. Can also be used to do cutouts and other forms. Used extensively by woodworkers, artisans, and hobbyists. Extremely good for doing signs, logos, simple carvings and embossings. Limited to monochrome images, and images with high contrast and low resolution, like cartoons, text, and logos and black and white art like Tribal tattoos, etc. Download links are at the bottom of the page, make sure to download the latest version with the highest number. Windows, although there is a link for OSX applications as well. Manual and Tutorials available on the same page.
JSCut – A Browser based operating system independent CAM program that allos you to convert SVG files to G-code. Full function free CAM program. Simple to use, but powerful, allows you to import BMP and DXF files, and set them up for engraving or V-carving. Can also be used to do cutouts and other forms. Used extensively by woodworkers, artisans, and hobbyists. Online help is embedded in the program, some extra tutorials available.
ESTLCam – A powerful and well written CAM program that is relatively easy to use and very powerful. It is not free, however it is very reasonably priced at about $75.00 CDN. Free trial download is available with 30 day evaluation. Simple to use, but powerful, allows you to import JPG, GIF, and PNG image files, as well as DXF and PLT files, and STL and NC files, and set them up for milling, engraving or V-carving. Used extensively by woodworkers, artisans, and hobbyists. Full online video tutorials available. Highly recommended.
DXF2Gcode – A powerful g-code generator that is able to load DXF, PDF, and PS 2D drawing files and convert them to g-code. This is a pretty advanced program and requires advanced computer skills, but it is very powerful. Online Wiki has tutorials and user guides for all functions. It is free and and well written. It has an extensive Wiki and online User Forum if you have questions. Definitely not for beginners.
OpenBuilds CAM – A Browser based operating system independent CAM program that allos you to convert DXF/SVG/PNG/BMP/JPG files to G-code. Full function free CAM program. Simple to use, but powerful, allows you to import BMP and DXF files, and set them up for engraving or V-carving. Can also be used to do cutouts and other forms. Used extensively by woodworkers, artisans, and hobbyists.
G-Code Previewers are used to view your g-code and simulate the g-code run before actually trying it on the machine. They allow you to load up your code, check the zero point, and run the code through at various speeds to make sure it is doing what you think it is. Very handy to check your code without the risk of breaking bits or destroying expensive wood blanks.
NC Corrector – This is a useful program that both previews your code and checks it for invalid g-codes. Simple and useful.
Camotics – This is another useful program that previews your g-code You can run the g-code at various speeds, and view it from various angles. Simple and useful. Simply drag and drop your .NC file onto the Camotics icon to start.
Although you can use the standard machine control software to run your Laser attachment, it is sometimes a bit more difficult and requires some editing of g-code files for use with the Laser. There are lots of Laser oriented software packages which work with GRBL and make laser operation easier.
Some examples are shown below:
Laser GRBL – Laser front end program developed specifically for GRBL motion controllers. LaserGRBL is one of the best Windows GCode streamers for DIY Laser Engravers. LaserGRBL is able to load and stream GCode to arduino, as well engrave images, pictures and logos with internal conversion tool.
LaserWeb – LaserWeb / CNCWeb 4.0 is an application for generating GCODE from DXF, SVG, BITMAP, JPG, PNG files for Lasers and CNC Mills controlling a connected CNC / Laser machine (running either Grbl 1.1f or Smoothieware firmware-cnc.bin). It is a browser based software which is built for Chrome Browser only!
T2Laser – T2Laser is a simple and effective laser front end for GRBL based CNC platforms. It supports grey scale images, vector graphics and also has basic sketch features. You can add text to images, contour cut-out images or convert raster to vector and output it to the laser all in a single G-Code file. Advanced algorithms for photo engraving and clipart / logos, as well as multi-pass vector cutting capabilities. Resolution, speed and power are user defined so you can maximize quality while reducing the engraving time.