Before using a CNC machine to mill out a piece of artwork or a machine part, you’ll need to have a valid set of G-code instructions to feed your CNC machine. Many people use CNC machines to mill pieces of art that are generated with CAD packages such as Autodesk 3ds Max, or Maya. Unfortunately, these designs are usually so intricate that there is no possible way of manually writing G-code so a CNC machine can make the part. That’s where Cut3D comes in.
Its important for you to understand that Cut3D is not exactly a universal CAM package that will work for anything you’re trying to do. Instead, Cut3D is laser-focused on artwork, and artwork alone. If you are trying to make any sort of machine part where you need exact precision, Cut3D is not for you. But if you’re trying to make a piece of artwork, Cut3D is perfect.
To start with, Cut3D is an extremely simple program to use. If you don’t believe me, feel free to use their demo program. You can load in a 3D model if its in a standard form such as .3DS. You can easily align the piece, and scale any of the three dimensions. Afterwards, you simply enter the exact dimension of your material, how much material you want to cut with each pass, what milling bit you’re using, etc. You can add tabs to your design very easily, which are commonly needed to hold your object in place throughout the duration of the milling process.
Cut3D does NOT have a very sophisticated cutting algorithm. In fact, it’s basically a blindly naive X, Y, or 45-degree angle rasterization of your piece. So if you have an object that is, say, 1.23 inches wide, and you set Cut3D to have a step over of 0.05 inches your object will probably end up 1.25 inches wide! So you can NOT use Cut3D to cut precise object. Also, if you want a lot of detail, the toolpath Cut3D generates will likely take a very long time to execute on a machine. You may end up with paths that take several hours to run, for a medium sized piece.
2-sided and 4-sided machining
Cut3D is cool because it can generate toolpaths for 2-sided and 4-sided machining. This will be covered in a separate article, but I’ll say here that its convenient and easy to do. If you have an object which needs to be machines in on the top and the bottom, for example, Cut3D should work well for you.
Cut3D is a decent program in that it does generate G-code which can be used to create artwork. It works find for 1,2, or 4 sided machining which is nice. It is extremely easy to use, but the toolpaths it generates are often extremely inefficient, and can take a machine several hours to execute. If you don’t care so much about how much time it takes to cut your piece, then Cut3D may be the perfect software package for you. You can check out the official Cut 3D page here.