Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Recommendations on CAD/CAM Open Source Software?

The more I look at the 3D printers, the more it makes sense to invest about the same money in the Sherline CNC vertical mill.  I have read the details of how G-code turns into actions on a CNC mill, but the real solution is one of the programs that lets you layout a part, and then converts it into G-code.  I see many of these available that are open source, for both Linux and Windows, but I would love to hear preferences and recommendations from my readers.

What I don't need is something sophisticated and hard to use.  I will be likely using a CNC mill to perform repetitive motions on an object that is fixed in place, and with a single tool.  (I don't think the Sherline CNC mill gives you the ability to change cutting tools programatically.)  But even this would be a big win: there are some parts that if I could carve them out of a single aluminum block or cylinder, I would, simply because it would be more professional looking and reduce the labor for fasteners.  (And aluminum chips I would recycle.)


  1. Take a look at Freemill:


    I've used it. It's very simple, the machining strategy, as I recall, is just a simple raster cut, nothing fancy.

  2. for 2d cad software you can't go wrong with draftsight which is freeware and a fully functional autocad clone downloadable from Dassault Systemes/Solidworks. I'm unaware of a "free" 3d modelling program, but Alibre is probably about as close as you are going to get. you might check to see if Solidworks is available as a "student/teacher" edition. that is what I use and it is probably the best 3d modelling program out there. and there is a freeware addin that will generate G-code as well.

  3. http://solidsmack.com/cad-design-news/hsmxpress-first-fully-integrated-and-free-solidworks-cam-solution/


  4. Another possibility for Solidworks as well: http://www.softpedia.com/get/Science-CAD/BobCAM-for-SolidWorks.shtml

  5. If you're seriously going to get into CAD/CAM, I highly recommend this forum: http://cnczone.com/

    I've been planning to build a CNC router table for some time now, and there is more expertise there than anywhere else on the net.

  6. Take a look at the Solid Edge Design1 monthly lease program at Local Motors. Solid Edge is a direct modeling type (as opposed to history-based) 3D modeler. The lease program has packages at various levels of features and capabilities. You can lease what you need as you need it.


    You might be able to use Alibre Personal Edition, I think it is $299 now. It is very much like SolidWorks, but a fraction of the cost.