Does anyone use solidworks?

As a Veteran Solidworks offers the student edition for $20.00. I have heard people useing it for cnc router work, although I think it might be more suited to machining? Am I off base with this?
Is there other software or hardware needed to interface with X-Carve?

If you go with Solidworks then you would need CAM software like HSMXpress (2.5D). Also you might check into Fusion360 and see if they have an offer like the Solidworks one as the CAM in fusion 360 is the full featured HSMWorks (3D) CAM software package. Even if there is not a deal, they offer a full featured CAD/CAM software package for around $300 a year which is far cry from the $7K+ of HSMWorks alone for Solidworks. The Solidworks and Fusion360 CAD software are extremely full featured and will allow you to design just about anything. Overall I prefer Solidworks and am lucky to have access to it. But the Fusion360 HSMWorks being included in their $300 a year street price is just too good to pass up so I will be switching at some point down the road. But for 95% of folks the HSMXpress plugin for CAM in Solidworks which is free, will do everything and so much more than they will need for CAM. I will say however though that HSMXpress is not a program that does the CAM for you. You have to have a good grip on CAM software and toolpathing to use it well, but the learning curve is not too back and you pick it up fast. There is a ton of info out there about how to get started and a few of us around here are very happy to offer what help we can to get you p and going.

I started out with SolidWorks/Easel when I first got my X-Carve. Eventually I moved over to fulltime SolidWorks, and now I’m on Fusion 360 thanks to a Student License. The CAM in F360 is just great, and you like @Travelphotog said, it features the full HSMWorks package that you would have to pay out the nose for for SolidWorks.

Although SolidWorks/F360 may in fact be more for “machining”, it doesn’t really matter since at the end of the day it just spits out gcode that eventually gets sent via UGS or chilipeppr (currently). I have made productioni run CAD/CAM/Gcode models that work a full 12x12 sheet of aluminum packing in the parts as closely as possible with no issues (other than my own dumb mistakes of course).

If you already have SolidWorks, go for it and grab HSMXpress for free while you’re at it. If you are looking for a solution still, I’d suggest Fusion 360.

Just my 2c.

I’m a Vet and have solidworks but I don’t use it very much. If you are a hobby user then Fusion360 is free. I don’t use 360 much also. I have been an alibre/Geomagic user from day 1 when they launched. This is the CAD program I do 99% of my work in.
All three programs are used to make mechanical parts for machinery but you are free to design any thing with them. You can design a sign for your house numbers or a steam engine for you model boat it does not matter.
CAM programs come in several packages that can cost thousands down to free. If you are designing complex 3D parts that need to be machined on all sides to a tolerance of .0005" then a high end CAM shines. If you are making a sign for you house numbers then a low end program will work just fine.
As noted earlier in the thread Fusion360 includes a CAM package that will do both 2.5D and 3D CAM programming. A good low cost 2.5D CAM program is CamBam that you can make signs for the house all day long. You can try CamBam for free for 40 Gcode files before you need to buy it if you want to continue to use it. I have it and love it.

Hope this helps


There’s no charge for Fusion 360 if you’re under $100k/year revenue.

This is true but a careful read of the terms does point this one item out “” You may use the service if You are (i) a company generating less than $100,000 (or equivalent in other currency) per year working on a project or product that is not yet commercially available” Not sure how sticky they are on this but it might knock out a few folks out of considering this. While I gross less than $100K on milling items. I sell items commercially so some of us fall in the grey area between the two things they mention there. Might be worth checking out though.

I wonder if this is a good faith contract. I would think it would be hard for them to check on every user and how they are using it.


I suspect they don’t really care all that much unless you are a job shop or something. And even if you are making $100k+ a year using F360, the subscription cost pales in comparison. F360 really is the best bang for your buck in terms of high end CAD/CAM programs. I’m a huge fan in case that wasn’t obvious :wink:

I would be too if I did not already have such a background in SW and if their GUI was different. Just looking at their GUI makes me think of some cheap feeling CAD program… I know it is not and it is REALLY good… But old habits die hard and it will take some getting used too. My other big issue is the “cloud” based nature of it. I dislike that for two reasons, I have found that cloud based programs like Chilipeppr and the link are great, as long as the connection is good when you need it. If not you are out of luck. I also travel weekly for my sports assignments and I spend a TON of time on planes each week and in hotels, where a connection to the cloud for working in CAM is not always an option. I do a great deal of design work and CAM on cross country flights so I can mill as much as I can during the week when I am home. So that I think is really the biggest thing holding me back from really falling in love with Fusion360. Which is really something that only someone who is away from home much would have as a concern.

I might just be forced to use Fusion360 at home and MAYBE in the hotels but stick with my SW CAD/CAM for traveling and such. Oh joy!

The cloud part of fusion has actually been a god-send for me. I usually use my desktop pc at home to do my CAD/CAM but every now and then, like when I’m on the train or have a break at work, I’ll open up F360 on my laptop and all my files are synced up and I can edit them. It can be inconvenient if you don’t have internet, but F360 does allow an offline mode that uses local files instead. So as long as I open F360 every now and then to sync the files while I have internet I’m golden.

If you do end up using F360 at home and SW when traveling, you might have some issues transfering files between the programs. I know F360 can import .SLDPRT files (which is AWESOME btw), but I’m not sure how to go from F360 to SW other than exporting as a DXF. Maybe you can export as .IGES or .STEP or something…

I agree, I use Inventor just about every day professionally and even I don’t really like Fusion. I’ve tried to use it a bit, I might just need to hunker down and learn it as its even a different kind of modeling than Inventor!

I too had the same feelings about the interface when I first started using Fusion 360. Had to sit down and watch a bunch of tutorial videos and get a few projects under my belt before I gained a little more confidence in the UI.

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