Choosing the correct software

I have been investigating which software to use.
I definitely want to start with something that I can grow with. It appears clear that Fusion 360 is top notch but a learning curve, but if I am willing to put in the time I’m guessing its worth the pain? For modelling 3d parts this appears to be the best.

An for simple signs etc… I have heard people that use fusion 360 will use another program that is more simple just to make the signs. Like vcarve.

Any thoughts on which software to use in terms of scalability and ease of use.


So far… (computer not withstanding) Simple and easy has been inkscape and create an svg/dxf file then a post processor of your choice. I have used vectric aspire for the whole meal deal from picture to carving and been happy. My computer is an ancient POS tho. Doesn’t like the memory use of vectric and even less fusion. Some time soon I hope to be able to afford a better one lol

thanks. I assume you use the trial version of aspire as its expensive?
you get the full functionality in it?

Most these software have full version support for users that have hobbyist level or small business under $250k in sales. Some are $500k. Most are pretty good at support.

That being said Check out Camlabs its freeware that Chrismakes put together on this site. You may be surprised how powerful it is. Its way easier to learn and use for newer users and yet really powerful when you grow into it. Then Fusion 360 won’t be so intimidating. That is if it is at all right now.

Go to the home page and hit resources its at the bottom of the tab. You can load it there. Its Web Based but they are working on a resident version of it.

I bought an aspire package on Ebay and have full functionality. I dont have all the options that vectric pro has but very good none the less

Try Carbide Create. Free, fairly powerful, and designed to work with GRBL boards.

I’m completely new to cnc, but I’ve done some 3d printing and 3d modeling before, and I’ve been playing with various programs for a few months.

Ive landed on using onshape for 3d modeling. I would probably use fusion 360 instead, but onshape being web based allows me to use it when I have some free time at work. The two are just different enough to make it hard for me to use both. For 3d printing I’ve been using cura as a slicer, but I’m not sure yet what I’ll use for the cnc.

I wish I could use SketchUp, because I learned it first and it seems so much more intuitive to me. However, it seems sketchup files don’t play nice with other programs and you can’t use the plugins you need to make it useful without the pro version, which I don’t have.

For 2d, 2.5d and vcarving, vectric aspire absolutely blows away everything I’ve tried for simplicity and ease of use. It’s super easy to learn. They have a ton of tutorials with follow along projects. It had a bunch of clipart with it. I haven’t tried the full 3d functions yet, but the full aspire package has that too. The slicer is built in, and it seems super intuitive and easy to learn also.

It is prohibitively expensive though. And beware anyone selling it for less than retail price. You may end up with an unliscenced copy.

I’ve poked around in a bunch of other software, but they mostly feel pretty half baked in comparison. Some of them are serviceable. With time and patience, though, the free options can certainly work.

If you are looking for some software, I think this is a good listing of various free and commercial stuff hat would give you some good info. Its organized pretty well, and there is a lot there to read.

Hope this helps - I actually found some interesting things to check out myself!


Can somebody who is well verse in Fusion 360 legal issues, give me some enlightment:

I need to modify the LongMill solid for my scratch build… I’m used to SolidEdge, but my license is for academic purposes only.
Thinking about Fusion 360… I’m not selling routers, but I will be selling the items the router makes.
Fusion 360 limits hobbiest net income to $1000/year. See the *Note in the link…

Would I be able to use 360 for my router build, even though it will make >$1k later on?
Thanks for any advice

Their software is free for students and anyone under $100k not $1k. Don’t worry about it.
Your misreading it.

And you missed this part.

Qualification details

Fusion 360 is available for free personal use for individuals who are:

  • Using for personal projects outside of their primary employment.
  • Engaged in hobby businesses.*
  • Learning for personal use, outside of a company environment or commercial training.
  • Creating YouTube videos, blogs or other web content.**

Plus if you are making a $100k with your longmill Tell me the secret please? I would gladly buy every pro software package out there.

Ok, I just read the * note…

*Individuals with “hobby businesses,” generating less than $1,000 USD in annual revenue, are exempt from the non-commercial requirement, thus for the free, personal use of Fusion 360.

Ok, I’m not selling the router but will be helping a client with musical instruments.

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They will not know how much you make dont worry about it.
They also say anyone in a non commercial home business. Don’t take it too seriously.

Up until now I only tested a few things with Fusion 360.
Now I opened the whole LongMill file as STEP and away I went. I’m really happy with this package… Very intuitive, and a pretty short learning curve for someone who runs a different CAD package. Online help, points you to a few items that you can’t find right away… All in all, pretty impressed. Good stuff.
Interested how the CAM side will work when I’m that far :grin::grin:


at $450/year for a professional license, when you start making a few $$ youwill be happy to pay that :wink:

Also the cam side is pretty sweet, you can do everything from within 360 except actually send the code to the longmill.

The down side is that all the tooling is setup for metal so your speeds and feeds are all very low. That and it doesn’t do anything for you, there is a lot more time to setup your cuts but you have WAAAAY more options and much finer control that any of the point and click stuff I have seen so far…

Thanks Kimball, for the encouragement.
I’m using it pretty well offline, all the time. I don’t like the cloud, so I’m figuring out if I can do my entire workflow offline.
Model changes are done, just trying to generate some working drawings.
I really like the HUGE amount of tutorials out there for Fusion.

How did you get it to save anything offline??? I thought that was the whole F360 thing that you couldn’t work without internet? I did notice that when my trial expired I had the option of choosing the license type - choosing the individual/hobbyist suddenly allowed me to create more than one project (which was holding me back)

Yes their self paced learning is pretty good, some better than others but I’ve also been using a healthy dose of youtube learning … there are literally hundreds of people with channels devoted to F360 learning :slight_smile: I found F360 CAM lessons particularly helpful with the tooling…

Save and Save As are greyed out. Choose Export, then you have the choice to save it to your computer as .f3d.
When you Open File, you also have the option to look on your PC.
Now drawings, are technically only supposed to work by saving to cloud.
I’m experimenting if I can still somehow keep them locally by turning off the internet connection and seeing if they still abide in cache or somewhere on the HDD.

It’s kind of a pain to go through the export process everytime to save, but hey, it works.

Dusty, what did you pay for Aspire from Ebay? .

I see offers there for as low as US$8.00 or so.

I am a bit suspicious of these offers.



Ronboklein I don’t remember anymore but it wasnt that cheap. I think it was 30 or 50$. I haven’t done any real work with it but reading all the extras that come with the vcarve pro and such I think when I do go to a bigger system and start making some money that I will bite the bullet and get the pro version

Edit: my version works well and the person I bought from was really helpful. idk if it is pirated or if it is legitimate but it is a very intuitive system and I am not making money with it. For what I plan to do in the future I will need far more capacity than the version I bought on Ebay.

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