Possible CNC purchase in the future, software questions

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Forum topic by Grant Davis posted 11-03-2014 03:32 PM 9673 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Grant Davis

770 posts in 3905 days

11-03-2014 03:32 PM

I have been tossing the idea around about a small CNC for a while. I finally got the OK from SWMBO to pursue it a little further.

I have no CNC programming experience at all. The two machines I am looking at are the General CNC 40-913 and the Rockler CNC Piranha. Yes these are the basic of the basic but for me it is a place to start.

I guess my questions revolve around the software at this point in time. The General uses the I-Picture software and the Rockler uses the Vectric software.

1. Which is the better software?
2. Learning curve for both softwares?
3. Anything else that you would like to share about either?

Thanks in advance,

-- Grant...."GO BUCKEYES"

11 replies so far

View DIYaholic's profile


19620 posts in 2672 days

#1 posted 11-03-2014 11:23 PM

I have found the best answers, for ANYTHING CNC, at

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View CharlesA's profile


3320 posts in 1794 days

#2 posted 11-03-2014 11:40 PM

I have found the best answers, for ANYTHING CNC, at

- DIYaholic

My word! The only thing that site needs is a few more sub-forums.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View PRGDesigns's profile


237 posts in 2310 days

#3 posted 11-04-2014 03:45 AM

The website mentioned is one of my favorites, but will only serve to confuse you more until you have some CNC experience on your own. My local Rockler has a monthly CNC Anonymous meeting, which offers a lot of sharing of ideas.

1. Vectric by far
2. Long and arduous
3. Figuring out how to secure your piece, feed rate, and depth of cut, are critical first steps.

DON’T follow the advice on depth and feed rates from the person who sells you the machine. They typically have a lot of experience that you need to gain on your own. You need to go very lightly at first and very slowly, which is the antithesis of what you are trying to accomplish, but the learning curve will be reduced if you start slowly, lightly and securely.

-- They call me Mr. Silly

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Grant Davis

770 posts in 3905 days

#4 posted 11-04-2014 11:59 AM

Thanks for the advice guys.

-- Grant...."GO BUCKEYES"

View chippewafalls's profile


64 posts in 1312 days

#5 posted 11-06-2014 03:01 AM

I purchased an older CNC about a year ago. After a complete upgrading of the electronics and software I’m still very much on the learning curve. Using both Vector 3D and Art Cam Express I found Art Cam Express (ACE) 2013 very reasonable entry cost and very user friendly as well as being well supported by the company.

One suggestion is your need to become very familiar with some type of CAD program and learn how to use it. A CNC will only do what is coded to do.

I’m glad I ventured into the CNC world but plan on spending hours of computer time as well as run time. I ran a simple moose relief last week and start to finish it took 8.5 hours. It came out beautiful but it took a while. Also cnc zone is very useful.

Good luck

If you need additional advice just ask I’m no expert but I might be able to help you through some rough spots.

View Ger21's profile


1074 posts in 3128 days

#6 posted 11-08-2014 05:30 PM

The Piranha appears to be a smaller version of the Shark.
From the looks of them, it would appear that the General is a sturdier machine. However, I haven’t heard many things about General CNC machines.

Both machines use proprietary controls that are much moire limiting than a control like Mach3. So, if you do move on to a bigger, more capable machine later, you’ll probably still have a lot to learn in regards to the control software.

I don’t have any personal experience with either machine, or the I-Picture software, but I’ll try to answer based on what I saw on their websites.

1 & 2) From what I see, I picture and Vectric’s Cut2D are very different software packages, and actually do very different things. This is very much an apples and oranges comparison.

I-Picture appears to have one basic function. It imports images, and converts them to g-code for carving. Because of this limited functionality, I’d imagine that the software is very easy to use, typically only requiring just a few mouse clicks. The downside is that the functionality of the machine would be very limited, due to the software limitations. Other than carving pictures, I’m not sure what else you could do with this software, without some creative outside the box thinking. (or jumping through hoops)

Cut 2D works by cutting along vectors, or lines. This allows you to actually design things in CAD and drawing programs, and cut your designs. This is typically a much more efficient machining process, resulting in much faster cut times than the I-Picture method of back and forth (raster) carving.
It appears that the Piranha also comes with Vectric’s free 3D machinist (limited version of Cut3D), which allows you to carve 3D models purchased from Vector Art 3D.

Note that Vectric’s products are thought to be the easiest CAM programs to use, hands down.

The Pirahna will NOT be able to carve images like I-Picture can, unless you add additional software like Photo V-Carve, or Microcarve, which is about $30.

I would expect that the basic learning curve for I-Picture would be about an hour.
The learning curve for Cut2D could run from an hour, to several days. It all depends on your computer skills, as well as how knowledgeable you are with CAD or drawing programs, as you’ll want to learn those too. I always recommend downloading demos and learning the software before you even get a machine, as it’ll make the learning curve much shorter. You don’t really need a CNC to learn how to use one.

3) just keep in mind that these are very lightweight hobby machines, that imo are little more than toys to be used for learning. Don’t be surprised if you want to move on to a bigger, better machine very quickly.
For round $1000 more than the General, you can get a far more capable machine like the XZero Raptor 24.
Just be aware that the Raptor is not a complete turnkey system, but it’s a lot more bang for the buck.

-- Gerry,

View Cweatherl's profile


62 posts in 1445 days

#7 posted 01-31-2015 12:38 AM

I just purchased my first CNC. Laguna IQ HHC with a 2’ X 3’ work area. I got Vectric Aspire 3D software and am loving it! You can Watch how to make it work, You can download a free copy of their software, They Have a lot of great info on their website.

-- If you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will. Abraham Lincoln (1809 - 1865)

View Gshepherd's profile


1727 posts in 2198 days

#8 posted 01-31-2015 02:54 AM

I also took the plunge and by the time I paid for my cnc and it getting to my door and dealing with a few issues finallly got it up and running in just a little over 5 months. Trust me its a sore subject. But During that time I was able to get onto the Vetric site and watch a lot of helpfull videos but watching and doing as you know is 2 diffrent creatures. If just by watching a video you learn everything heck we all be Doctors or Brain Surgeons. So I am only 3 weeks ito actual CNC time and find the Vetric 4.5 software as top notch for what I plan on doing. Great carving packages and files you can download from many diffrent sites is overwealmng. Vetric Photo V carve is pretty simple program you can download for free to test as a lot of them are to play with some.

The comments already made on feed rates, router speed ect are very good points. You pretty much get what you pay for. Also keep in mind cost of bits and all the other fun stuff that jumps out at you. Good news is as you get more into actual CNC machine time the more you willl learn and when you get into some of the other more complicated stuff you will be better prepared and already have some knowledge which does make the next step a much quicker learning curve. Sometimes these machines willl do things that no one can explain with 100% certanity. Cause when they tell you it could be quite a number of things or its gremlins or CNC Voodoo does not give you that nice warm and fuzzy feeling.

Once you get into the CNC game and enjoy it you will only be limited by your software and machine capabilities. Then you might get caught with needing to upgrade your software or your cnc or both. It is a big investment weather your getting a tabletop model or the monster I got which is a 5×12 ATC with lathe attachment. As always your budget will determine your available options you will have. Customer support is a huge factor to consider and more times than not the so called Orientation is mainly for them to make sure your machine is running as it should not for you to learn much cause they do throw a lot at you 110 mph and you wll forget 90% of it. More info than you asked for but maybe it is a good thing…. I look at it as kinda like riding a bike, you see all the kids doing it but when you actually do it yourself your going to get a few cuts a bruises along the way. I will get off my soap box now…. Good Luck…

-- What we do in life will Echo through Eternity........

View SG6578's profile


42 posts in 1208 days

#9 posted 02-07-2015 03:18 PM

Art Cam Express is good. I’m going to get crucified for this but Bobcad has a decent turning/milling software for the price. Just prepare for a few bugs.

View eTodd's profile


7 posts in 1054 days

#10 posted 11-30-2015 11:48 PM

I recently purchased the CNC Piranha from Woodcraft. Rockler’s exclusive with Nextwave is ended, and you can buy the machine, even the FX model with laser and 3d printer heads from either franchise. Woodcraft is closer to me.

With respect to software, the Piranha comes with Vectric’s VCarve Desktop. VCarve is in my opinion the best CAD/CAM combo package around for the beginner. I say CAD/CAM because you can do your complete design, generate and preview your tool-paths all within the same package. As mentioned above, Vectric provides lots of video tutorials to speed your learning curve. Once you’ve done your design and are satisfied with the tool-path preview, I’ve not experienced any difficulties with the actual cutting on the machine. Cut2D mentioned above has lesser capability, as it cannot import 3D carving designs and generate tool paths for such.

I’ve not any experience with I-Picture, but it is totally different in capability to VCarve. Vectric’s competing product is called PhotoVCarve. Either package takes the gray-scale of a photo and converts it into Z height motion as the XY moves in a raster operation (raster like the scan lines on the old TV sets). The affect on translucent material is rather stunning, as you look through the material, thicker regions are darker, thinner regions are lighter, and the affect is like looking at a black and white photograph. If you are looking to design and cut signs, or cut irregular shapes and gears like me, I-Picture won’t do that, and you’ll either resort to VCarve or the other CAD and CAM packages mentioned above. Similarly, if you are wanting to do what I-Picture or PhotoVCarve does, VCarve Desktop won’t do that work.

The Piranha’s a great little machine to start with. It is well put together, and so far, it has been reliable in short bursts of use. I’ve had difficulties when leaving the machine powered over night, but a simple power off then back on clears any issues. I’ve also had a little difficulty with the touch-screen interface when I let it get real dusty. Simply cleaning the display resolves any issues. My only real complaint is the noise from using a router, spindles are much quieter, a possible advantage for the General CNC.

As far as using a CNC my advice is:
1) pay attention to your datum
2) use a spoiler board, especially if you are doing through cuts
3) make sure your piece is well secured to the table
4) start with way slow feeds until you get more comfortable
5) get the touch plate for zeroing your Z axis.

My hats off to Cweatherl and his purchase of the Laguna IQ CNC. It is an awesome machine that I have yet to justify the cost. It or the Axiom Precision (in the 2’x4’ configuration) will be my next store-bought machine.

-- eTodd

View JAAune's profile


1798 posts in 2313 days

#11 posted 12-01-2015 04:49 AM

Vetric VCarve Pro is very easy to learn and quick to use. Never used or even heard about the I-Picture software.

You can download free trials of the Vetric software. The trials are full-featured with the exception of saving G-Code output to the machine. Everything can be tested beforehand except for actually running a CNC.

-- See my work at and

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