Introduction to CAD vs CAM
With CAD programs (computer-aided designing) you design two- and three-dimensional models, and with CAM programs (computer-aided manufacturing/machining) you operate machines that build the model out of a variety of materials via additive or subtractive tools.
CAM programs will use your CAD model as the input and based on the used machine calculate the movement (toolpath) and operation of the tool head which is together is called G-Code.
These G-Codes can be loaded into the controller of the machine to operate it.
CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) machines are capable of cutting 2D shapes (laser cutter, 2.5D axis router) and milling 3D forms (3+ axis router) or printing (3D printer).
Modern CAM software can - before sending the G-Code to the CNC machine - simulate the additive or subtractive machining process. This helps to identify possible machining problems and can save machining time, material and reduce tool wear.
Shapr3D is a CAD program and doesn’t have CAM features.
Most 3D printers and CNC milling routers come with their own software that can load models exported from Shapr3D and generate the G-Code.
The most common formats for CNC machining
Every CNC setup is different, but there are general file formats that most machines support.
The commonly accepted CAD formats for CNC machines:
- AI, PDF, DXF, DWG (for 2D files)
- STL, OBJ, DXF, STEP, IGES, DWG, 3DM (for 3D files)
Shapr3D exports into STL, STEP, and IGES
How to use a CAD and CAM together for CNC machines
It’s a general misconception that CNC milling machine can simply import a complete 2D or 3D model and it automatically cuts out the desired part. It’s more complicated than 3D printing.
The general steps of CNC machining are the following:
- Create a model in CAD
- Turn the model into a G-Code using CAM (define machining parameters)
- Edit the toolpath (parameters) - if necessary
- Run the machining sequence through a post processor (optimizes the generic G-Code to meet requirements of the used CNC machine)
- Use the post-processed G-Code with a CNC machine controller
If you want to CNC a 3D model created in Shapr3D, you should follow these steps:
- Create your model in Shapr3D
- Export your model to high-quality STL or export as STEP
- Import the STL or STEP file into a CAM software
- Use CAM to translate the STL/STEP/IGES model into to G-Code
- Use the G-Code with the CNC machine controller
You can use your Shapr3D models exported as STL/STEP/IGES in Fusion 360 to operate a 3D axis CNC mill or load it into CURA to 3D print the model.
You can export the design into the needed format (STL/STEP/IGES) and then use CNC milling or 3D printing to make a physical model.
What's the Best Way to turn Shapr3D files into G-Code?
For turning STL files to G-Code files (.gcode) you can use free and paid software. Many of these GCode editors are included in certain apps. Fusion has CAM built in, and all 3D printers have their own software for making the Gcode and so on. If you are looking for a specific program, MeshCam is a very popular solution, which is free for 15 days and costs $250. It runs on both Mac and Windows.