Originally Posted by Mel Duval
What I want to cut is primarily 2D stuff like ribs/formers and basic signs. Some day I may branch out to full 3D but it is not the first priority. I am roughly familiar with CAD and have both ACAD R14 and TurboCAD available to me. I also have a couple of buddies that know ACAD well. So the question is, what other programs I will need? I assume a program like MACH3 and something like CUT2D or CUT3D. I have a budget of about $800 to buy what software I need.
FWIW, here is what I use.
Mach3 to drive the machine.
Drawing/CAM I use 2 solutions for this.
For planes with not too complicated shapes, and where I don't need printed plans (foamies, slab sided, jigged balsa/ply construction, etc) I use SketchUp to draw. For the CAM piece I use a plug in called SketchuCAM, also known as PhlatScript. You can get it here: http://www.phlatforum.com/viewforum.php?f=98
It is a nice free solution and works well for what I use it for. The CAM plugin is VERY easy to use, and works well. Keep in mind when using this the Z zero is at the top of the work piece.
Another plug in I use is for dog boning corners so tab and slots fit with no issue. It basically takes away the radius left by the bit in corners. The plug in for the most part works well, but it sometimes does not allow a dogboned corner even though it is 90 degrees.
SU will import DXF files, but you will need another plug in or use version 7 if you can still find it. It is also rather sloppy and requires a fair amount of cleanup depending on the objects. I really don't import with SU.
For more complicated shapes and when I need a printed set of plans, I use DevCAD.
The CAD piece is a lot like TurboCAD. It can import from AutoCAD. I've done that and it works VERY well.
The CAM pieces is also very nice. It works different than SketchUcam, but once I saw how it wanted to do things it is very easy to use, and works well.
For this the Z zero is at the bottom of the piece.
The new version has the dogboning but they call it Concave corners... I don't have that version, but I'm guessing it will work as well as everything else.
Well that's what I use and has served me well
Mach3 + DevCAD will come in well under your budget. You can even throw in Profili for wing ribs and still be well under budget