Fusion 360 and X-Carve

I am at the stage now where I would like to be able to do true three axis 3D carving with my x-carve. I have studied VCarve Pro and gone through the basics for that. It is a great program. I have loaded the sample software and played with it enough to see that I should be able to do what I want with it.
I have also loaded Fusion 360 as a hobbyist. Compared to VCarve it seems to have much more capability but is also significantly more complex to learn. Whereas the are some great YouTube series out there for beginners on VCarve I have had trouble finding anything comparable on Fusion 360. At least those related specifically to wood carving.
The attraction to Fusion 360 is the price, free, of course. What has been your experience? Can you recommend a video training series that focuses on wood carving? Which would you recommend?
I have looked through the forum topics and have some information from them but would be interested in current thinking.
Thank you for any time taken to respond.

If you haven’t already, check out Lars Christensen’s YouTube channel. He has a playlist for beginners which was very helpful to me. There is a little wood/CNC work there, but not much.

A YouTube search of “Fusion 360 woodworking” turned up quite a few hits.

Good luck!

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I worked in a maker-space that had both Vcarve and Fusion.

Fusion is nice for modeling the 3d shapes but has a steep learning curve. Also, getting it to produce the Gcode is difficult.

I found Vcarve to be easier to use. Of course Vcarve is not a 3D modeling package unless you buy all the way up into Aspire. I use other tools to create 3D models and I import those into Vcarve as .STLs. Of course Vcarve will let you design flatter things such as signs or trace SVGs or images into profiles.

I believe there used to be some free plugins that would convert sketchup designs to Gcode but I have never used them.

I agree that Vcarve has been a lot easier to understand than Fusion. One thing I am still not clear on is to what extent Vcarve can produce 3D G code that will work on X-Carve. I have run some samples that look like smooth rounded plains from Vcarve pro. Is it that I can import 3D and produce Gcode but cannot design any thing, or maybe manipulate anything in 3D with Pro?

As someone who operates VCarve, Aspire, and Fusion 360, I would agree with Harry as far as the ease of use. However, Fusion 360 is a far more advanced and capable software. Vcarve is really a 2.5D program. It’s limitations are generally v-carving, and some canned 3d clipart. Aspire is a very clunky limited 3D program. It can do 3d, and it’s designed for ease of use on CNC routers, but the 3d integration is pretty limited, you’re mostly limited to canned clipart again (albeit more) and a very clunky raster height map style of modeling. You can import STL’s for carving (assuming you design them somewhere else, like, Fusion 360) but again, it’s pretty limited. I do use Aspire and Vcarve for signs because it’s just a faster interface, but if it’s high volume or high accuracy/detail, I use Fusion 360. The cost of the licenses for Aspire is just absurd, the software just isn’t high enough quality for what they charge, in my opinion. My recommendation to someone just getting started is to put the time into Fusion 360. It’s free, and it’s more capable. Once you understand it, you can literally do anything.

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Maybe a stupid question but did you check here and here?
I started modeling in fusion with no CAD background at all and found their tutorials pretty good. However, I agree, that learning a software like fusion is time consuming.

Yes, Vcarve is not a path to designing 3D shapes. It will take .STL files and create the tool paths to carve them out. It’s lesser brother Cut 3D can do the same but you don’t get all of the things that let you work in 2D designs that VCarve brings. I do my 3D designs in other packages. For example you can use TinkerCad or 3D Builder and many other things to create your 3D shapes. You can also download over a million shapes from Thingiverse and other sources.

Yes, I did look at those. Thank you. They seemed to lean to more sophisticated modeling than what I was hoping for. I do not have any plans to design parts, do mechanical drawing, etc. I am only interested in creating 3D images on wood. I may have to go the process that these videos show but I was hoping to find a quicker way to doing some relatively basic 3D work for wood.

Thank you. I will look at Tinkercad and 3D Builder.

Doing the actual design work and just generating toolpaths for someone else’s designs are very different things. Most of the relief carvings you see were not created from scratch by users here.

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This. Depending on what you want to do there might be different approaches. When you say “I am only interested in creating 3D images on wood” do you mean existing designs or creating new ones?

If you want to design in 3d, you certainly can do that. Fusion 360 is more of a CAD/CAM program, but it does have modeling tools that would be adequate for just about anything. You can also use Meshmixer and a number of other freeware programs for modeling. But, as mentioned, understanding 3d modeling and design is a whole other hobby in itself. But, if you’re determined, there are plenty of tutorials out there to get you started, you just need to put in the time. I have a background in 3d modeling from the game design industry, and I usually use downloaded models myself, because it takes quite a while even when you know how to do it.

I think that initially I would want to use existing designs. I am not artistic in the sense that I cannot draw. I cannot look at something and create a good drawing of it. I would see myself using already create images and then turning them into carvings. This could mean using an existing 3D file of an image I want and then creating the Gcode to put into X-Carve. I would like to be able to also take a picture of a flower, scene, etc and be able to ultimately carve it on the X-Carve.

Then fusion would indeed be a bit over the top for your use case in my opinion.

Here is a video I made showing the bare minimum in regard to STL files (many readily avilable online) to carving in Fusion360.

While it is “bare minimum” one need to know the basics on how to properly setup Fusion360/CAM
F360 is very powerful and capable but along with that comes a knowledge requirement that is initially a little steep.

Thank you to everyone for all your helpful suggestions. You have certainly given me plenty of things to check out.
I was wondering if there is a relatively easy way to get a true 3D image into x-carve so that I can see how it performs. I would like something like a flower that would show contours and smoothing. Maybe there is a Gcode file that I could import or another format that I could run through a converter to get to Gcode.
I understand this may sound backwards but I want to see what the cnc can do before I head off and invest time learning one of the packages.
Thank you for any ideas

That’s what the CAM software does. (V-Carve, Fusion 360, etc)

This link is for Meshcam. You can convert your STL file into Gcode with this. I think it is now free for 15 days of unlimited use. I’ve used it for years and it works great. It is fairly intuitive too.


My normal workflow is:

  1. idea
  2. design in fusion
  3. create setup in fusion
  4. generate and export gcode from fusion
  5. import gcode to chillipeppr (the gcode sender I use)
  6. carve

As far as I understand you want to start at 5. My suggestion is, at least have a look at the following topics:

  • what is work zero? Whats the difference to machine zero?
  • what is retract height etc.
  • what is chip load?

You will find some absolute beginner tutorials in the forum, they will help you a lot.

I am making progress with F360. I have been able to find some OBJ files and upload them. I have yet to try to create the Gcode but I would guess I should be able to do that.
However, what I have found out is that the files I have located are really true 3D. That is it seems they would take more axis’ than what Xcarve has to create. This made me think that I may not have been stating my requirement clear enough, or in the proper way. What i am looking for is a way to carve what I call a 3D model but may not actually be one. I want to take a board, clamp it onto the Xcarve and have it carve what I am calling a 3D flower into it. The flower would have smooth contours. It will only be one sided. Am I really talking about 2.5D and not 3D? Are there any suggestions for files for this that I can upload into F360 to experiment with?