Programs 101

Can someone explain the basics of each program and why you would use it? I’m reading through the forums and I don’t understand why someone would use V Carve, F Engrave, Fusion, etc.?


here are some basics of why

  1. money some of this software cost as much of more than the cnc machines they are used on
    easel, fengrave, fusion free. Rhino cam standard $1,500 mastercam lvl 3 mill $12,500
  2. Some people learned how to use a certain program and stuck with it.
  3. options some people only use the machine to perform certain task and use a program that was meant for say vcarving so they get fengrave or vcarve these programs that perform specific task are pretty straight foreword.
    The list goes on and on. I use easel for quick design and ease of use. I will use fengrave for vcarving signs and engravings. And then I use fusion for 3d design. Fusion can do pretty much anything a hobbyist would want including vcarving and engraving but i find the other 2 programs quicker for me to use. There are some pretty good tutorials for learning these programs on youtube just search for the program with the word tutorial.
    If you are the type to be self taught you will gain thousands of $$$$ worth of knowledge. basic course round here for learning cad/cam starts at $9,000.

I understand and that’s not particularly helpful. I gave example programs for a reason. My question is kind of similar to “what language should I learn to computer program / code in?” I’m not looking for the advanced nuanced answers that are only relevant to expert machinists; I’m looking for why one would use Ruby on Rails vs Python, or in our case Fusion vs. VCarve.

You would use F-Engrave rather than V-Carve because one either believes in opensource (my reason), or one can’t afford V-Carve Pro, or one chooses not to or is unable to use it for some reason, which is pretty much what ShaneBell said. F-Engrave and V-Carve Pro are both image /text engraving programs using specialty bits such as V-bits.

Fusion 360 vs. v-Carve is different — Fusion 360 is a free-form 3D CAD tool w/ integrated CAM, while, V-Carve Pro, as implied above, is a program more suited to sign-making and similar flat or 2.5D projects.


Evaluating programs might be easier if comparing w/in categories. Here are two lists, one free/opensource, the other commercial/license-restricted which divide things into categories:

Any additions, corrections, or suggestions would be welcome.

Easel is free and very simple, yet reasonably powerful for working with the X Carve. It can import shapes from other drawing programs like Inkscape or Illustrator and generate toolpaths. It can also import g-code from other CAM programs to carve. It works natively and gracefully with the X-Carve and it was made by Inventables. It’s free and runs in a web browser so it works on Mac or PC.

Fusion360 is a very powerful CAD/CAM package from Autodesk. It’s popular because it’s free for hobbyists to use, and inexpensive for small paid crafters as well. It can create enormously complex 3D shapes and then also create the g-code to carve them. There is a very steep learning curve to this program and it seems perhaps a bit overpowered for most of the things we use the X-Carve for. This is also available cross-platform.

V Carve pro, Pic Engrave and Aspire are sort of in the middle. They aren’t as flexible or powerful as Fusion but are much easier to learn and use. They also cost money. V-Carve is the tool of choice for making signs with that signature beveled text. Many of these programs are PC/Windows only.

F Engrave is a free alternative to V-Carve for doing the beveled text cuts. It’s not very user friendly but it’s free and runs on any platform.