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Getting Started: What Software Will I Need?


At a minimum you will need Mach3 or Mach4.  The Mach3 or Mach4 software interprets a G-Code file that you supply to it, and converts each G-Code movement into high-level commands, which are sent to the SmoothStepper. 


If you are just getting started with Mach, seriously consider using Mach4 and NOT Mach3.  Mach3 is essentially end of life, and not supported with any new development.  Mach4 has new features under development and has much more in terms of capabilities and flexibility - especially with lua scripts.  However, the number one reason in our book is diagnostics, in Mach3 it is hard to determine what went wrong when something doesn't work. In Mach4 the diagnostics log and the screen set messages make it much easier to understand what is going wrong.


However, if you want to create your own designs, you will need other software.  First you would typically use CAD (Computer Aided Design) programs that allow you to create specific designs and shapes in 2D, 2.5D or 3D. Then you would use a CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) program to convert the 2D and 3D CAD files, DXF files and graphics into the GCode that is used by Mach.  Alternately there are also programs which will convert photos into G-Code for you. 


While we don't want to recommend one software product or another, here are some of the programs we typically hear about and some relevant links for those programs.  Keep in mind, we are not endorsing, recommending or supporting any of these programs:


However, some of the names that keep popping up repeatedly are:

* Autodesk Fusion 360 (Should be free for hobbyists)

* Vectric V Carve or Aspire

* SheetCam


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ArtSoft Recommended CAM Programs

While Mach3 does come with LazyCam for very simple tasks, it is recommended to use a full CAM program. The CAM programs in this section are highly recommended products, and include Mach3 post-processors. If you have a requirement for CAM programs, we highly suggest you try these products.

  • Autodesk For 2-1/2 Axis milling projects try our Free CAM solutions; HSMXpress, Inventor HSM Express, and Fusion 360. Autodesk brings CAD and CAM together for a truly integrated experience, whether your design tool of choice is SolidWorks®, Inventor™, or Fusion 360™.
  • BobCAD/CAM The world leader in powerful and affordable CAD-CAM software.
  • CamBam A robust, inexpensive CAM package with many users worldwide, from CNC hobbyists to professional machinists and engineers.
  • D2NC An innovative drawing to GCode generator.
  • DeskProto DeskProto is aimed at designers for Rapid Prototyping, at jewelers for wax models, artists for sculptures, medics for prostheses, moldmakers, woodworkers, teachers, students, hobbyists, etc.
  • Dolphin An easy CAD/CAM system for 2.5 axis machining. Perfect for all budgets.
  • MeshCam A very nice GCode generator for 3D model files.
  • RhinoCAM Affordable Integrated CAM Software for Rhinoceros.
  • SheetCam One of the best Plasma CAM packages available, and also very good at general Milling work.
  • VCarvePro A collection of very professional, very easy to use 3D CAM programs, by Vectric, who also makes Aspire.
  • VisualMILL Easy to use, powerful and yet affordable, allowing customers utilize the software in a wide variety of industries.
  • MachCloud A free STL File creation utility to create models from point clouds for cutting in Meshcam, VCarve, and other 3D CAM programs. Download and unzip to the Mach3 folder. An example point cloud is included.


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CAM Post Processors

Downloadable Post Processors

It is the responsibility of the user to make sure these files generate code that is compliant with their machines. Artsoft USA does not guarantee these files are appropriate for any machine.

User Created Post Processors

These are user written post processors that have been made available to the community.


Other CAM Packages

These packages may or may not have a Mach-specific post included. If they do not, using a standard Fanuc post should work fine for most applications.


Finally one last  3D package, Onshape  (At the time of writing, it is 100% free subject to some conditions).


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