This post might be in the wrong place, but I think the general nature of it makes it applicable here. I figure most in this section are in the same siutation as I am, limited funding hobbyists. With that in mind, what are the good options for tool path creation software? I don't mind paying money for a solution, but just want to make sure it is a good value and I am not overspending for features I don't need. I plan to use this for 3D milling, 3D routing, and 2D plasma cutting.
I am in the middle of a CNC conversion on my RF31 mill and have a torchmate plasma table with powered Z-axis. I have the TorchCAD LT package for running the plasma table but it is only a 2.5D package. The machine driver software is pretty good and will create 3D G-code if you give it a 3D toolpath.
I would just like to hear opinions on other software combinations that others are using.
It's like air, it expands to fill whatever size your budget allows!
I have been doing mostly 2.5D stuff with my mill so I have had great luck with SolidEdge Drafting (Free) and CamBam ($140) / Vectric Cut2D ($150). CamBam is the more capable of the two and I use it most often but sometimes the simplicity of Cut2D is nice as well. I think SheetCam is also in this range of pricing.
Vectric also has a package called VCarve-Pro that is more full featured including some 3D and it's more in the $600 price area. BobCAD/CAM can also be had for few hundred if you are willing to endure their sales tactics. Seems to be a love/hate thing, people either like it or hate it. After that the price starts going up-up-up.
CamBam can do 3D machining and the program just keeps getting better. I think it is an excellent value for the price, but it's still a work in progress.
CNC: Making incorrect parts and breaking stuff, faster and with greater precision.