3D Potential

What do you recommend as the best 3D design tool and file types for xcarve?
Thank you

I use Rhino as it was pretty much affordable DIY standard 10 or so years ago. I convert the drawing into G code using MeshCam. I bought it with the Educators Discount.


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That depends upon how far into 3D design you want to go.

Many users of the X-carve do V carving (carving along straight or curved paths with a pointed router bit). Many also do 2.5D designs (carving across whole areas at specific depths). These methods are common for doing 3D signs on flat boards and Easel is very capable of handling these designs.

Some of us take it to the next level which is carving out complex 3D shapes from thicker stock. For this, you typically need more than Easel. In my case I use Vectric VCarve Desktop. Vectric VCarve is not meant for creating 3D designs, but it is capable of taking existing 3D designs in .STL format and creating the G-Code tool paths to make your CNC cut out a finished 3D object.

I have a 3D printer and 3D design experience ( https://www.thingiverse.com/OpenScadDad/designs ) so I often do a 3D print to check my 3D design before I ever move it into VCarve. I work almost exclusively in the .STL format, but there are other 3D formats that Vectric VCarve can use. You can download .STL files from Thingiverse.com or you can design your own 3D objects with simple 3D software such as 3D Builder, Tinkercad, Sketchup, https://stephaneginier.com/sculptgl/ or even blender.

If you are serious about going full-on 3D with a CNC machine, I recommend first doing some 3D printing. There are some low cost 3D printers that can get you started without breaking the bank.


Fusion 360 is free, and it can do full 3d carving, just know it has a steeper learning curve. Vcarve can do limited 3d carving, and Aspire can do full 3d carving. I have all three, and would suggest you start with Fusion 360. Aspire is useful because it’s quicker for some things, but complicated 3d work is definitely not one of them. I find Aspire’s 3d carving interface to be rather clunky. Vcarve is a castrated version of Aspire, but it’s still a great tool for 2d/2.5D work and of course v carving. Fusion 360 can do everything Aspire and Vcarve do.

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Thank you. I’ll check it out

Excellent and informative Harry. Much appreciated

Thank you.

For 3D design what you use depends on what you want to make — one nice 3D CAM tool option is MeshCAM which Inventables sells at: https://www.inventables.com/technologies/meshcam or you can get directly from http://www.grzsoftware.com/ — sometimes it’s on sale from the CNC Cookbook folks.

I’m a meshcam user from way back. It does a nice job and is straight forward to use. As mentioned above, I use Rhino to design. I take that STL file and convert to Gcode in Meshcam. Here’s my Xcarve using Meshcam with a Rhino neck model. It is shown step by step as requested by a TDPRI forum member. The only problem I ever encounter is when I try to make the machining margin too narrow to save time. That sometimes backfires.

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