View Full Version : New software- fusion, rhino, sketchup, desk proto???

Justin G
11-11-2015, 12:43 AM
I know this has been talked about before but I wanted to start a new thread to see take advantage of new updates, technologies, etc in late 2015.

Short version. Looking to model 3d, and cut 3d. What is best program or combination of programs for CAD and CAM? Specifically using an indexer, but also taking advantage of 3d slicing to do a layered assembly of larger 3d models, (think human sized) on machine bed.

I have been running aspire for quite some time, using it to model "3d" projects referenced from a flat plane. I've gotten to the point where I am very comfortable using the software and its advanced features, but I am ready for the next step in 3d design and wanted to hear the opinions of forum members on which program to go with for FULLY 3d work. As a point of reference, Vcarve and Aspire were my first CAD/CAM programs ever. I am not a designer, more of a guy who lifts heavy things. However I do learn quite quickly and just really want to start a dialogue to inspire some ideas on which program can take me to the next level.

From a CAD design perspective, sketch up seems pretty user friendly. I can draw full design models of simple furniture, etc. I have heard there are plug ins to port drawings over to aspire for nesting etc but it seems to fall short on modeling compared to Rhino?

I just downloaded the demo of rhino 5, and rhino cam. Although have no idea how to use either, I hear there are slicing functions built in to take apart an STL model? How is rhino cam running the bot? is it better to import STLs to aspire instead of using rhinocam?

I read a while back where Brady mentioned deskproto does fully 360˚ indexer work, is this still the only program, or the easiest program to utilize the indexer like this? There appears to be some cool toolpath options in DP that I have not seen in aspire. I know I can do turnings in aspire with the unwrapping stuff, but it seems pretty complicated to me, maybe I have not spent enough time practicing. I can make the heck out of a dowel though. Rhinocam appears to now have a rhino turn or something like that, anyone used it yet?

Every now and then I check the shopbot home website to see if they have updated anything. I noticed that the machines are now shipping utilizing this fusion software from autodesk. It is a cloud based thing, which is not appealing to me whatsoever. I know there is the option to label yourself as a "startup" to get access to the software for free, but I imagine this is a ploy and 5 years later when you are really invested is when they drop the hammer. For the record I am not opposed to paying good money for good software and do not ever expect or accept handouts. I think it kind of scares me to not really know what the cost will be of software that my business relies on to function. Plus do my designs get uploaded to china or some other stealyourdesignistan place?

The fusion videos I have watched showed parametric sizing for models, which is similar to ecabs resizing. Here though, you create tags, and then just type in the tag names and things adjust accordingly, this looks REALLY cool and is something I wish aspire did. Does anyone here have experience using both programs that can give a comparison?

This is probably enough questions for now. Please feel free to chime in, I love your guys' opinions.

11-11-2015, 02:46 AM
I am using DP with my Handibot and the rotary indexer, and it works great out of the box this way, but I have yet to get it to work right with the other cutting schemes. I need to spend more time with it but with 40+ hours at the salt mines....

As to the large 3d, have you looked at 123 Make? It is free and quite powerful, I have yet to cut anything with it but just playing around with it, it looks quite promising.

I've also been messing with Fusion 360; it has a large learning curve, but it is oh so powerful. Best 3d modeling SW I have used. I like Sketchup as well, but it just depends on what you want to do. Sketchup would be far better for designing a bookshelf for instance but a complex shape like the fan mount I just printed, fusion is the sh@t.

Brady Watson
11-11-2015, 07:21 AM
There isn't a one program fits all when it comes to CAD/CAM. I prefer to look at it as programs compliment each other depending on the task at hand. You'll get all kinds of answers, but I think that Rhino and DP are good affordable options to add to your arsenal. RhinoCAM/VisualMill are good CAM programs that will do what DP does (and a lot more), but the price point is triple that of DP Commercial Multiaxis by itself. If you have the coin, Mecsoft with 4th axis is good...but you will want to keep Aspire around for quick & easy bread & butter stuff.

Rhino will let you do real, precise work and transformations not possible in other programs. Sketchup to me is a toy, but others swear by it. I guess it is good for 'sketching' things out, but I've never been able to take it seriously. It seems like it is forced to do things it really wasn't designed to do. There is a learning curve with Rhino, but that can be shortened by drawing up your 2D in Aspire and importing it into Rhino & going from there.

Fusion looks like it has potential, but I am not recommending it because I don't like the subscription scheme. I just can't agree to that pricing/licensing model, and won't...In this day & age, there really isn't anything new under the sun in terms of what CAD/CAM can do, so I doubt there will be much advantage, even if it does do parametric stuff. The reality is that few will ever have a job or task to even use those features anyway.

Demo as much as you can when you have the time to truly take it for a fair test run. If you like it, buy it...otherwise, keep testing.


Justin G
03-03-2016, 01:57 AM
Mark, thank you for your response. 123 make is not what I was looking for but I found a place working with fusion that seems to work nicely for me.

Brady, thanks man. Always solid experience based answers. Agree about sketch up completely on all accounts. I also agree about fusion's licensing/ subscription theme. I really really don't like that. However as my 30 day trials quickly ran out of rhino and desk Proto, I began tinkering with fusion and have come pretty far with it. I have made a few cabinets and storage options and spray gun cart. It took me probably 20 hours longer to design it in fusion and cut it on the bOt instead of just drawing by hand and using a dado blade on the table saw. As frustrating as it was to stumble through the design processes believing the program could do certain functions but not knowing how to do it and thereby postponed a couple orders longer than I should have, I definitely made progress. Long story short, the program is SLOW and very buggy. Those are the drawbacks in addition to the aforementioned business antics, but it is really a comprehensive program. It completely lacks to my knowledge the ability to incorporate the indexer but I definitely look forward to working on that when they sort it out. I certainly did not give rhino a fair shake but I see a lot of potential with fusion. I need to circle back around to desk Proto because I know folks are actively using it. Anyway thanks again for the good word.

03-03-2016, 08:13 AM
I have also been exploring the new software. I have always wanted to do more 3d, really bas reliefs. I was a long time owner of Aspire, and became very comfortable with it. But, it is not an artistic illustration program. I believe it is a very fine piece of software, but it's purpose is really in the realm of sign making. I think it does that work incredibly well with a reasonable learning curve. As I spent my entire career as a photographer, commercial advertising, I really wanted a way to use CNC to do pictorial illustrations. I discovered ZBrush, it is program designed for the 3d gaming and movie industry. Think ILM and Avatar, but the learning curve is about equal to organic chemistry, maybe worse. It does allow you to make amazing subtle changes to organic work that is described by hundreds of millions of polygons on a regular computer. It doesn't do type or precise 2d like Aspire or Vcarve pro, but what it allows you to do with a normal computer and a Wacom tablet is truly amazing. I am without a CNC at the moment, having sold my PRS alpha, and am about to order a Desktop Max, but I think the STL's are going to cut fine when I get the new machine. There is a free demo version available on Pixologics web site along with a huge batch of free training videos. This program isn't for everyone, it isn't CAD or for doing conventional CNC woodworking, but if someone wants to take a look at pure 3d illustration it is a new thing out there. If you want to see some really amazing talent go to Zbrushcentral.com and search for some examples. There is also the sibling program Sculptris, which is FREE and has a great new FREE tutorial at http://www.zbrushguides.com. I spent the $750 for Zbrush as it suits my purpose better, but there has been an amazing leap forward in 3d over the past few years and it is worth investigating if you want to produce CNC illustrations, or use them as part of your woodworking.
I am not associated with any of the companies above, and barely know how to use the programs. But they have been a great brain exercise

Justin G
05-03-2016, 03:26 AM
Thank you Bob, that program sounds very interesting. I will say that my main interest in cnc started because I was attempting to overcome my utter lack of artistic talent but still wanted to make things. I definitely have an engineering brain and a kindergarteners crayon/ hand. I was looking at those tablets a while back and like most things forgot about it amidst the hustle. I even saw in the Apple Store a few months back that they have these new Bluetooth pens that do not even require tablets. Either way, I completely rely on cad to bring my ideas to life and pay designers when the artistic touch is required. Sorry you had to sell your PRS, I would be terribly sad if I was without cnc. That max setup does look like a good ticket though. Perhaps it will be my second machine when the timing is right.

05-03-2016, 11:13 PM
"3d slicing to do a layered assembly of larger 3d model"
I use Aspire all the time and if you Google Vectric Aspire slicing tutorials there are a few using the software you already know.
"easiest program to utilize the indexer like this"
Same answer, Google Vectric Aspire rotary tutorials, there they are.

Over the years I have had just a few things I couldn't noodle out but an email to the boys across the pond and away I went. Russ

Tom Bachman
05-04-2016, 08:51 AM
I noticed that the machines are now shipping utilizing this fusion software from autodesk. It is a cloud based thing, which is not appealing to me whatsoever. I know there is the option to label yourself as a "startup" to get access to the software for free, but I imagine this is a ploy and 5 years later when you are really invested is when they drop the hammer. For the record I am not opposed to paying good money for good software and do not ever expect or accept handouts. I think it kind of scares me to not really know what the cost will be of software that my business relies on to function. Plus do my designs get uploaded to china or some other stealyourdesignistan place?

I agree with you 100% in these feelings. I just know that this is what will happen. Like you, I don't mind spending money on good software, but hate the idea of getting railroaded. I haven't even had time to hardly look at Fusion, and I am inundated with emails daily from them. Yesterday's email said they wanted me to make an appointment to talk to them, for about 15 minutes, about the software. Kind of wishing I had never signed up.

My CAD program is 3D (an older version of KeyCreator) but I haven't been able to figure out how to get them to work in Aspire. 3D hasn't been really pressing for me yet.

05-04-2016, 10:56 AM
Okay- had to chime in here. I'm at about 10 years into Sketchup. Began that way as I did not have cnc until 4 years ago. The adaptation/acrobatics to get things into Vectric for vectoring etc. was a bit of a curve, but accuracy of parts is impeccable. Still feels cumbersome and I wish for a streamlined process, but once you've made a commitment, very difficult to switch gears.

I would not recommend Sketchup if 3D sculpting is your goal. Just not worth the trouble from my experience - Brady's assessment there is correct. Then again, furniture and cabinetry is 99.8% 2.5D, if that's your primary function. While there are those combining and bridging Sketchup and Vectric into one process, we're back to the CAD/CAM program of the month club, which clearly none of us are fans of. Further, I'd still have to do all the work to generate a unique set of cabinets within that program. This means I'm doing all the work of drafting one of a kind pieces that I do now, but paying them $150+ to save an hour or two of conversion. Pretty much a wash, so I've elected to skip the inevitable learning curve and stubbornly cling to the processes I've already honed.

Process for me goes like this:
-Sketchup is used to model and draft in detail for client's visual proof. (see image)
- Many major appliances and lav products can simply be plucked and placed into the model from 3D Warehouse
-That very model is dissected and dxf's exported for CAM processing in VCPro
-Cut List Bridge allows me to export parts list to Cut List plus
-Cut List plus very quickly gives me a numbered list of plywoods and hardwoods bill of materials, allowing me to order materials, print a cut list for hardwood processing in the shop and print labels to attach to ply parts as they come off the machine.

All this is done for an elective annual fee of $120 for up to the minute updates and toll free help from Trimble/Sketchup, which I've not yet needed.

Sounds like you've received ample guidance for your specific needs. I just wanted to interject this for the benefit for readers who's business model may be similar to mine and could use some clarity on utilizing Sketchup to run a successful business.

Image attached is a Sketchup screen shot of a kitchen I just completed. Showing it without any special rendering plug ins applied, just light shadowing within the program. Though rendering/light-up programs can dramatically improve an image such as this, the vast majority of my clients are nothing but pleased to be able to preview their project as shown. X-ray view helps illustrate all details of joinery are there.


Marc F. Lupien
05-04-2016, 11:03 AM
I think that using parametric elements (speaking of Fusion 360) in a design is a very usefull feature. I use my CNC for making lutherie parts which take a lot of time to design through software. Being able to use the same basic 3d model for a guitar neck and adapting to different needs (thickness, roundness) for different clients just by changing a few parameters seems to me like a fantastic feature.

I think Fusion 360 is well worth learning (as opposed to sketchup for instance) because it's precise and powerfull and actually not that hard to use not to mention that it can generate shopbot toolpath files directly (have not tried that myself yet though).

As for Fusion licensing scheme - i think Autodesk have no intention of changing it in the future. They need poeple to be familiar with in order for companies to start using it in their designs. That will be valid for many many years. Other companies also provide free software like Microsoft with visual studio (software developpement environnement for Windows) - poeple were skeptical at first but they are not going to change that soon. Autodesk knows that some poeple use hacked copies of their software (like autocad) and they seem to choose not to take legal action unless the user use it in a production environment - more or less the same as offering free licensing for hobbyists...

Anyway, just my opinion.