Would like help deciding which software to purchase / learn
for now CNC router with 12hp spindle and 4 axis ( 1 rotary on table )
but will probably purchase/build a 5 axis either truniong type of bridge with 2 axis head/spindle in the next 2-4 years so i need to plan carefully
[That sounds like a pretty capable machine to start out with.]
1- what is the best ART 2d/3d software ??
mainly using pictures and drawings to carve in wood, plastics and alum
also could be used to carve on 4th axis on cylinders or round parts
[There's a lot of 2D software that's inexpensive, if all you want is to trace a picture. This is best done manually - all the automatic conversion software I've tried tends to make vector curves that are way too complex. The best 3D tool is actually a hardware-software system, made by Sensable Technologies Sensable, that allows you to "feel" the model as you sculpt in real time. It also has good 2D-3d conversion capablities.]
2- we will be using solidworks extensively, would've like to use a software within solidworks for all milling type operation ( aluminum and plastic parts with ok to good tolerances..nothing crazy though )
[There's a version of VisualMill that works inside Solidworks, that would do what you're talking about. It works well and is less expensive than most alternatives.]
3- processing of aluminum composite panels, how do you guys do it?
( alubond type of panels ) need to route the groove, cut and drill holes
[I've never tried cutting those panels, but it sounds like a job for a drill-point endmill Melin Drill Point End Mills, if you want to do all that at once.]
as i see it,
Mastercam seems to be able to cover most of these, am i correct ?
how is the ART section in mastercam ? how is the solidworks integration software of it ? worth it ?
[Solidworks, while it's very powerful for mechanical assembly design, isn't really oriented towards creating the complex surfaces that art work requires. Mastercam is similar - great for straightforward machining tasks, but not very art-friendly either.]
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