Commercial Software

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Listed below are commercial software programs or those with significant license limitations despite being otherwise free.

Reddit: I'm thinking about learn some 3d modelling, what software should I use?

Reddit: What industry do you work in and which CAD software do you use the most for work?

Reddit: What 3D modeling software should I invest time into learning if price is of no concern? (self.Reprap)

Parametric modeling tutorial [1] Includes general overview as well as specific coverage for:

  • Pro Engineer
  • Autodesk Inventor
  • NX
  • Onshape
  • Solid Edge
  • SolidWorks
  • CATIA V5

A frequent need is to work up a vector drawing from a pixel image. Most CAD or Bezier curve drawing programs will allow this by hand (for those that don't a work-around is to make the window transparent and place the image as a desktop background), and others will include auto-scanning functionality. There are special-purpose tools for this:

The ShapeOko 3 (and Nomad 883) include a license for Carbide Create a CAD/CAM program developed by Carbide3D (currently in beta).

Educational - Only "free" for students and educators

Feeds and Speeds Calculator



Discussion of G-Wizard, and calculation of cost and time savings:

Note: GWizard requires Adobe Air, which doesn't have the best security history. Note: MeshCAM integration currently broken.[2]


Not quite a calculator, PicFRC will dynamically adjust cutting speeds for engraving work so that deeper portions are cut more slowly than thinner portions which are cut commensurately more quickly:

CAD integrated with custom parts ordering


Type Name/Link Description
2D CAD PowerCADD Macintosh CADD program.
2D CAD Cadintosh Macintosh 2D CAD program. Shareware.
2D CAD progeCAD 2013 Windows. "Professional, native DWG 2D/3D CAD, supplied with Applications, Libraries and Services." Notable for having a free (for non-commercial use) donation-ware version progeCAD 2009 Smart
2D CAD QCAD GPL CAD program available commercially. QCAD/CAM plugin also available:

See also DraftSight by Dassault Systemes: (available for Linux, Mac OS X and Windows) --- Mac OS X

DXF post-processor

3D previewing


Type Name/Link Description
3D modeling (Commercial/Free for personal use) MEDUSA4 Personal CAD Suite CAD software for hobby, DIY or home improvement projects.

3D modeling (Commercial/Free for personal use) Cloud-based software. Requires an account. Free personal usage options w/ limited parts and file counts.

Requires a fast internet connection but runs well on lower spec'ed machines. Prints creation still rudimentary but improving rapidly.[3]

Export to DXF may require some post-processing to import into certain CAM apps (such as Carbide Create).[4]

3D modeling (Educational, Windows) T-FLEX CAD Student Edition Parametric CAD with few limitations, allowing students to use the product, understand its benefits and features, and prepare for their career of design engineers.
3D modeling (Commercial/Free for personal use, object limited, Windows) PTC Creo Elements/Direct Modeling Express 6.0 cut-and paste, push-and-pull, and drag-and-drop techniques. Free version limited to 60 unique parts per assembly

PTC Creo Free Student Edition

3D modeling (Commercial) Moment of Inspiration 3D modeling for designers and artists for Windows and Mac OS X (dual license allows use on both platforms w/ one license).[5] Originally designed for use on pen computers.[6]
3D modeling (Commercial) Rhino 3D 3D modeling. CAM also available, w/ over 350 post-processors on their download page.[7] A TinyG prostprocessor is available here. Grbl (for SO3) Windows/Mac OS X. --- includes BoltGen, a tool for creating threaded fasteners --- a tool for laser cutting.[8] [9]

3D modeling (Commercial (Free version available)) 3DCrafter™ Real-time 3D modeling and animation tool that incorporates an intuitive drag-and-drop approach to 3D modeling.
3D modeling (Creative Commons Only) 3DTin Browser-based 3D modeling.
3D modeling (Commercial) Cheetah3D 3D modeling, rendering and animation software for Apple Mac OS X (10.6 or later, 1GB RAM, 16MByte VRAM).[10]
3D modeling (Commercial, license-limited freeware) Trimble SketchUp (Previously owned by Google, it has since been sold to Trimble Buildings (now Trimble Navigation, Ltd.)) You can build models from scratch, or you can download what you need. People all over the world share what they've made on the Trimble 3D Warehouse. In 2013, Trimble released two new versions, licensing SketchUp Pro 2013 requires one to have licensed the software for $495, and the payment of an annual $95 license maintenance fee[11] [12]; SketchUp Make 2013 (formerly the free version) now has a license which forbids any commercial use[13]. There are many tutorials available, some discussion in the forums, including a post with excellent usage tips and advice: Re: Sketchup 3d Models – Update 12th Jun 2012.

CAM Options for SketchUp:

See also the plugins BezierSpline and Guitarlist: Convert Sketchup SKP files to DXF or STL

STL export: and

3D modeling (Commercial) AutoCAD One of the world’s leading 2D and 3D CAD design tools. There are a number of clones which are less expensive (and often have free versions) or are simply free. For free (including opensource), see 10 useful Free alternative to AutoCAD. See also REALIZE for AutoCAD] an AutoLISP script to generate G-Code from lines, circles, polylines, and points in a CAD file. Another similar tool is GCode Programming for AutoCAD by Steve J. Lindsay. See also a similar tool for engraving.

AutoCAD 2 G-Code VBA macro that exports Mach3 compatible G-Code directly from AutoCAD from selected Polylines and Circles. It works with AutoCAD 2002 and newer with VBA support. Free for anyone to use as desired. [14] [15]

Entry level:

Autodesk Inventor:

3D modeling with integrated CAM (Commercial) AutoDesk Fusion 360 Available under an annual license w/ pricing ranging from zero to $300 to $1200 annually.[16] Knowledgebase article on activating startup or educational licensing[17]

CAM tutorial[18]

There is now a Carbide3D post-processor: [19] Notes on post-processor for associated CAM: [20] [21]

shapeoko post[22]

  • [23] --- free / opensource / documented Post-Processor which translates RPM values into dial-settings for Dewalt and Makita trim routers, and will alert you and recommend solutions for some errors in a design. [24]

Note that some users have found it necessary to increase the precision for metric files so as to avoid Invalid Gcode Error 33:

Free license available to hobbyists and startups making less than $100,000 annually (must be renewed each year, details: ):

Engrave/V-carving added as a feature.[25][26]

Adding tabs when cutting 2D feature:

Job setup

Step and repeat is termed a "Pattern".[27]

Notes on scaling of SVG files:

Discussion of limitations:

Has problems when model is defined in Imperial and CAM is done in metric.[28] Metric should be used to avoid Grbl Invald G-code #33 error.[29]

Criticism on Reddit:

FEA and interference analysis (complex FEA can be performed via AutoDesk's servers for an additional cost). Uses a joint based system to limit degrees of freedom and a top down (as opposed to bottom up) assembly system.[30]

Cribbage board:

Useful plugins [31][32]:

3D modeling (freely available) 123D Make Available for Windows, Mac OS X and iPad. Allows creation of solid models.
3D modeling (Commercial) Cubify Invent "appears to be a reskinned version of Alibre, possibly with some features removed"[33]. Forum discussion

3Dconnexion SpaceMouse or equivalent is recommended.[34]

3D modeling (Commercial) Solidworks Notable for the student version (not usable for commercial or professional purposes) being offered for $20 (per year) to Canadian and U.S. Veterans: [35] Note that processing the application takes 1--2 business days, then after paying (credit card or PayPal) it will ship in 1--2 business via USPS. Also available for EAA members: [36]

Matching CAM: Manual: CNC Handbook discussion of options:

Use w/ MeshCAM: [37]

Basic Modeling and Analysis Using SolidWorks: An Instructional Manual for Basic Modeling and Analysis[38]

Scribd: Introduction to SolidWorks

3D modeling (Commercial) VariCAD available in English, German, Portuguese, Japanese and Chinese versions. Windows or Linux, free 30-day trial.[39]
3D modeling with integrated CAM (Commercial) Dassault Systèmes CATIA High end 3D CAD/engineering program. Version 5 of CATIA is stand alone. Version 6 is part of an integrated client/server suite (now called 3DEXPERIENCE). Both versions are still developed and sold by Dassault Systèmes, as some customers can't/won't move from V5 to the integrated suite version.

Integrated CAD/CAM: Siemens NX: --- post-processors

Note that 3D modeling software may also export in useful formats:


Type Name/Link Description
PCB (Commercial) Cadsoft Eagle EAGLE (Easily Applicable Graphical Layout Editor) software for PCB design, including Schematic Capture, Board Layout and Autorouter. User Language Programs enable features such as simulation and 3D-visualization. See PCB-Gcode for a G-Code export tool for this app.
PCB (Commercial, Windows) CopperCAM Application for managing isolation engraving, drilling and cutting printed-circuit board prototypes.

Special Purpose CAD


Type Name/Link Description

2D CAM --- Gears (Commercial) Gear template generator program Windows program to design gears, runs in "wobbly mode" until paid for. Free on-line Flash version and other links listed on the CAM page in the Gears section.
2D CAM --- Gears (Commercial) Gearify Non-circular Gear Creation Software for Windows, allows design of gear mechanisms of nearly any shape.
2D CAM --- Gears (Commercial) Gear-Wheel Designer with GCode Generator Windows program to design simple spur gears using either involute or cycloidal tooth form.
3D CAM --- Gears (Commercial) Gearotic Motion Gear Template Generator. Creates dxf's for further processing by various CAD/CAM programs.

Other --- browser version freely available [40]

Type Name/Link Description
3D CAM --- Model Airplanes (Commercial) DevFus Specialty program for model airplane fuselages.[41]



One common need for many CAM applications is a post-processor to convert from and internal G-code representation to a particular variant. Effort to collect them here: [42]

2.5D CAM

Type Name/Link Description
2.5D CAM (Commercial demo) SheetCAM Windows and Linux versions available. English, German, Spanish, Swedish available. Company is a Mach2/3 reseller and can be purchased bundled for a savings. Has drag knife support.[43] Unlicensed mode will output a limited number (currently 180) lines of G-code for testing.
2.5D CAM (Commercial demo) diyCAM First in a planned suite of CAM programs targeting DIY CNC Router users. Carve allows you to quickly convert a heightmap to G-Code for 3D Carvings and Lithopanes.
2.5D CAM (Commercial demo) VCarve Pro Software for 2D design and calculation of 2D and 2.5D toolpaths for cutting parts on a CNC Router. They also have Aspire, which is "built on the same platform" as well as the hobby-oriented Cut2D 1.5. A set of Post Processors is available at the following forum post Vectric Aspire Post Processor. Alternately use the 'g-code (inch) (*.tap)' post processor --- put the code G20 at the beginning for inches.[44][45]

Nomad post-processors by Mark Bellon (mbellon on the Carbide3D forums[46]):

installation instructions

Vectric Aspire Post Processor for SO3

v8.5 and later include a Shapeoko pre-processor.[47]

Further discussion at:

Drag Knife Support.

Vectric Aspire Post processor for Laser engraving

Reddit: ShapeOko3 ordered. Question about Aspire

Paul Rowntree: Gadgets for Vectric's Aspire 4 and V-Carve Pro 7

2.5D CAM (Shareware) Image to G-Code Shareware for Windows
Engraving PicEngrave Converts your images into standard gcode to raster engrave your images. New Pro 5 version upgraded to include Grbl 0.9 compatibility and other improvements.[48]

Photoshop Action for doing Image Engraving: The Gold Method: The Gold (may require Sawmill Creek Forum membership)[53]

Inlay --- plug-in for Adobe Illustrator

4th axis CAM [54]

Note that some 3D CAM programs such as MeshCAM will do an indexed 4th axis.


Note that some of the 3D CAD programs above have built-in CAM.

Type Name/Link Description
3D modeling (commercial demo) MeshCAM Imports STL and DXFs, can extrude R12 DXFs into a 3D part. Will also convert pixel images into 3D shapes. 15 day demo available. How to write gcode to surface wasteboard? Supported on Mac OS X:







  • 40% of tool diameter standard stepover for roughing, 15% for fine[57]
  • Pencil cleanup federate 2x finish feedrate or less[58]
3D modeling (commercial demo) CamBam Application to create CAM files (gcode) from CAD source files or its own internal geometry editor. Requires .NET 2 or later. Older beta version is still available for free [59]. A plug-in for engraving is available on their forums: --- discussion of limitations in Re: VCarve Bar Sign.

TrueType fonts which approximate single line fonts are available here: Single Line Stick Type TTF Fonts For CNC Engraving[60], along with instructions for preventing the cutter from doubling back.

Special features:

  • drag knife plug-in [61]
  • gear widget[62]

Please note that the default feed rate is much too high[63].

Documentation on post-processors: [64] Suggestion to use Mach 3 post-processor:

Problems w/ Grbl and a solution:

Discussion of polyline vs. splines in processing time:

Interesting technique for redrawing from a pixel image:

V-Engrave plug-in:

CNCZone: CAMBAM - 10Bulls crazy CAD/CAM software project --- forum thread covering the project from announcement until the present. Notable for having been used for the SO1 “hello world” file.

“ you a lot (of) control over plunging, ramping...”[65]

Copy-paste with G-wizard broken.[66]

3D modeling (commercial demo) DeskProto[67] Imports STL files from any 3D CAD program, calculates CNC toolpaths and writes NC program files (3-axis, 4-axis and 5-axis). Aimed at designers for Rapid Prototyping, at jewelers for wax models, artists for sculptures, medics for prostheses, moldmakers, woodworkers, teachers, students, hobbyists.

2D/3D CAD/CAM (Commercial) BobCAD Windows CAD/CAM. Post-processor available here.[68]
3D modeling (commercial) Simplify 3D Creator Import and manipulate geometry, repair models, generate G-Code instructions, verify toolpaths, manually control your machine, and print parts.
3D modeling (free plug-in for commercial program) HSMXpress Free CAM Solution for SolidWorks. Working post-processors: tinyg.cps - Generic TinyG[69], generic GRBL.cps post processor[70]
3D/2.5D CAM (Commercial demo) Estlcam Windows .NET program. STL and DXF to G-code program, able to import (R12) DXFs, or draw manually. Includes 3D preview mode. Has G2/G3 arc support. Review. (commercial / $25)

Includes comm/control functionality to interact w/ a custom firmware, see G-Code Interpreters below.

Supports trochoidal milling.[71]

3D/2.5D CAM (Commercial demo) Offers CNC Programming capabilities for 2 and 3 Axis Milling, 2 Axis Lathe and 2 and 4 Axis Wire EDM part making.
3D/2.5D CAM (Commercial demo) full-featured machining program with 2.5D and 3D functionality[72]

VisualMILL Xpress 2016 Overview:

Special Purpose CAM

Lasercutting --- also suitable for use w/ a rotary tool/roter/spindle[75] --- Tool for Laser Engraving Photographs[76] [77]



Previewing G-Code

Type Name/Link Description
Verify / Edit (Commercial/Demo) Cutviewer Full 3D Simulation. Shows you a full 3D simulation of the finished part based on the toolpath, the stock you define, and the cutters you're using. Collision detection. Versions for mills and lathes. Compare source .stl to previewed file.
Verify / Edit (Commercial/Demo) NCPlot Verify tool path and view and edit G-code. Older versions (1.1 and 1.2) were freely available, but are no longer available for download.
Verify (Free for non-commercial use) NCSim Yet another CNC 3-axis simulator.
G-Code Editor tkCNC Text editor, specially designed for CNC code (G-code) editing for CNC machines.
G-Code Editor Discriminator CNC editor Allows viewing the code in a variety of fonts and colors. Multi viewport viewer.
G-Code Editor G-Wizard G-Code Editor Text editor, verify, simulate, analyze, transform, integration w/ calculator. 3D mode implemented using Away3D. Includes conversational CNC.

Many G-code editors will include previewing (back-plotting) capabilities:

  • HSMWorks Edit [78]
  • Brackets --- this is the default editor for G-code from w/in Autodesk Fusion 360.[79]
  • Cimcut[80]

Communication/Control/G-Code Interpreter

Type Name/Link Description

G-code Interpreter and machine controller Mach3 Mach3 is the flagship of the ArtSoft products. See Adding XBOX 360 Controller to control ShapeOko for an affordable pendant option.

TB6600 HY-DIV268N-5A with Mach3

Includes LazyCAM, which is no longer developed.[81]

Communication/Control program IntelliG-Code CNC controller software for GRBL based CNC Machines. Supports Grbl 1.1.[82]
Communication/Control program (laser) supports Grbl 1.1
G-code Interpreter and/or machine controller Support trochoidal milling.[83]


CNC Bluetooth Commander


App Stores

Microsoft App Store


Apple App Store



Additional programs to consider

Bézier Drawing Programs

Cross-platform (Mac OS X and Windows)

Mac OS X


  • Corel
    • Draw
    • Designer (formerly Micrografx Designer)
  • Serif Drawplus
  • Canvas
  • Xara Xtreme (a Linux version is also available)


Comparison Discussions