Beginner software for CNC

With some of the low end CNC machines I seen on Amazon, which free or low cost software should one get? I only been using mostly TinkerCAD and occasionally alittle Fusion360.

You might consider Kiri:Moto. Runs entirely in your browser, open source, supports mills/routers as well as laser cutters and 3d printers. Handled a really complex shape better than anything else I tried.

Community forum is a Discourse (like Maker Forums):

Active, real-time community is hosted on discord

FreeCAD also has substantial CAM abilities. The learning curve is getting better, and there are a lot of recently-produced videos to help get started. One of the active FreeCAD developers is particularly involved in writing the Path module that does CAM. I use FreeCAD for parts that I design in FreeCAD.

What kinds of things would you like to make?


Is this for business or hobby use? If just for hobby, then if you’re already used to TinkerCAD or Fusion360, then that might be OK. Personally, I use FreeCAD because I don’t want Fusion360 holding my designs hostage if/when I turn my hobby into a business that violates their licensing.

FreeCAD’s path workbench will generate g-code for CNC machines. It might be a little daunting at first, but having your cutting instructions in the same file is nice.

I would also recommend using Camotics for visualizing your resultant g-code before actually running it on your CNC machine. Kiri and FreeCAD both have this built-in, but I still like to have an “objective 3rd party” simulate my g-code.


Oh, and while I’d give a +1 for Kiri:Moto, has less features but is super simple.


@SirGeekALot But jscut is only 2.5D and has only SVG input, right?

This would be hobby use. As to what I would like to make, it would be reliefs. Hope I spelled that right.

For bas relief pattern designs there is also Blender 3d. A free 3d modeling program suite and one of the programs I use. It is honestly overkill (could be called beginner software since its free) and the learning curve is a straight wall compared to some other programs, but if you master the basics it really opens up an entirely new level of models. Digital sculpting along with classic polygonal model.

It can generate STL, OBJ, FBX files which then have to be converted to gcode.

There is a blender build (BlenderCAM) for generating gcode but I have never used it.

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Kiri:moto has strong support for reliefs, including both from 3D models and from depthmaps (images where the value of each pixel says how deep to cut). I’d personally start there for reliefs.

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So out of machines offered on Amazon, for around $400.00, which would be a decent choice?

In using Kirimoto, when you start putting in the operations, does the program do a pause when the tool for the next operation is different?

Kirimoto is the CAM not the sender. So it codes a tool change. It’s also pretty configurable.

Since I use Candle, will that sender do the “pause” for tool change?

I can’t check now; my recollection was that grbl threw an error on the M6 and I manually changed the tool, set Z zero, then unlocked it and let it continue. I think I did this with both Candle and UGS. I am confident that I’ve also run them as separate jobs, where each tool is a new job file, and I keep my home position from one job file to the next.

On gcode I get from Carbide Create, it sends a “pause” code, if I remember right it’s M05. Then I have to click on the pause button in Candle for it to continue. Wonder if you can edit a gcode file and insert the code.

gcode files are plain text files, and you can edit them with any normal text editor.

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