I’ve been testing several different low cost CAM packages with my MPCNC:
EstlCam – I found a number of issues that for me make it a non-starter, and unfortunately didn’t get responses to my questions to assist with moving forward with the purchase. It seems to work for others so some of it is probably just being new to the CNC world. For the STL of my test model Estlcam produced junk for the gcode. Didn’t matter if I used the automatic 3D functionality or the manual process, didn’t produce anything close to the model.
CamBam – I’ve produced some accurate pieces in foam and really like a lot about CamBam. I did an initial test using the exact same STL file that I used with Estlcam test. CamBam produced something that was looking good, but I didn’t have something configured correctly so I stopped the test before it completed and switched over to using a DXF file and specifying Pocket and Profile operations. CamBam supports side profile operations which is nice. For fun I did a chamfer on one of my test holes and it milled perfectly. CamBam has a version that runs on Linux using Mono, and it looks pretty good. A couple of minor GUI issues, but non critical. CamBam is high on my list. $150US I need to revisit the STL test now that I’ve gotten more experience with CamBam and seen how MeshCam works. With CamBam I used the LinuxCNC post processor and it is working well with GRBL v0.9
MeshCam – Did a test using the same STL as with Estlcam and CamBam. Took the default rough and finish settings with my end mill for the tool. Was going to take a long time to complete and I forgot to add support tabs, so I stopped it before the final finishing run. But MeshCam generated gcode that appears to be perfect directly from the STL. The slot and rectangle pockets were properly milled, and the 8mm hole with 2mm chamfer from the model milled OK. As did a hexagon hole. I’m running another test with settings tweaked to add the support tabs and cutting the milling time in half, so I’ll know more when it completes. MeshCam, if more STL model file tests are good then MeshCam will probably move to the top of my list. $250US. Note: MeshCam can import DXF files but there is no way to specify pocket operations from the DXF. All holes go all the way though if you are importing DXF. Unlike with CamBam or Estlcam where you can specify outlines and then set the depth for each. So you have to use the STL files for 3D milling for sure. DXF is for people who wanted to do simple plates with holes in them according to the MeshCam forum. I used the ShapeOko post processor since that is GRBL based and it works well with GRBL 0.9 as well
FreeCAD – daily build Path Workbench. This is a CAM workbench for FreeCAD. It is integrating some of HeeksCNC processing into FreeCAD and it is coming along pretty well, and is usable for simple jobs. $0 so that is nice. Depending on the state of the nightly build there may be bugs, and as things change sometimes the docs and notes are not catching up. If I can free up some time I may help with debugging and adding features.
I wish that MeshCAM and CamBam had the same feature set, but then don’t so I’ll have to choose one of them. MeshCAM is a bit easier since it is more automatic, but if there are issues with the STL file that could impact the resulting gcode. CamBam has a good UI, and gives you a good amount of control. I don’t know yet if I could say that the 3D processing is good enough, but will be testing is some more over the next few days.
Both MeshCAM and CamBam have very responsive forums so that is a BIG plus when you need answers to questions about the software, or CNC in general.
MeshCAM is supposed to run under Linux using Wine and they have a web page dedicated to setting it up under Wine. As mentioned CamBam has a version that using Mono on Linux, and I have run some simple tests using that installation and it appears to work fine. I’ll be testing MeshCAM on Linux shortly as well.
I was able to get Estlcam to run on Linux using PlayOnLinux and making sure to add the libraries that are mentioned in another post on this forum. But as I mentioned other than simple DXF or SVG Pocket and Profile operations Estlcam just wasn’t going it for me. I always had to fight scaling issues, and in many cases Estlcam appeared to ignore the size set in the drawing file.
CamBam had no problem when the same DXF file was brought in. It got the size exactly right, and it was easy to set up Pocket and Profile operations, including the side profile one.
Has anyone else used CamBam or MeshCam lately, and if so what was your experience?