Top 6 CNC Programming Software for Different Skill Levels

CNC machines are referred to as computerized numerically controlled machines that operate with recommended CNC programming software. Mainly, CNC software is responsible for creating instructions and program codes that CNC machines or mills use to get the task done. Most CNC software can avoid human intervention while leaving the whole process perfectly automated, accurate, consistent, and efficient. Indeed, there is a wide range of CNC machine software available in the market, but it is yet to be answered which software should be chosen.

Before choosing CNC machine software, certain factors need to be assured, such as compatibility with the operating system, variety of features, availability of customization options, user-friendliness, and customer support. Additionally, another important factor that is necessary to consider is the price of the CNC programming software. In the market, there is a bunch of software that ranges from free to thousands of dollars. In between all these software, you need to find software that is worthwhile and suits your budget.

To make your choice easier for you, we have mentioned some free and paid CNC software in this article. These are the best CNC machine software available in the market. Still, it is always important to check whether the software is suitable for your task or not. Before we move to relate the software, let us look at the working of CNC programming software.

Working of CNC Programming Software

The first step belongs to the preparation of design using CAD software. There are multiple CAD software available, and you can prepare your design using any suitable CAD software. This step is referred to as a blueprint of your design. Later on, these blueprints are read by the CNC routers, and CNC machines are commanded to act according to the CAD design fed to the CNC software. Whether it is a simple or basic piece of woodwork or a complex one, the CNC machine will follow the fed design and make you the desired product at the end of the process.

Once you have blueprints of your design, you can use CAM software to create the G-code for further process. G-codes are usually perceived as the most widely used CNC programming language that provides CNC machines with work information. Some CAM software facilitates users to modify the G-code according to the requirement, known as manipulation of G-codes. In contrast, most of the CAM software does not present this option.

The CNC control software is connected to the CNC controller that uses a specific transfer protocol; it is probably done using a USB or parallel DB25 port. That is how the CNC controller gets connected with the central breakout board, which then transfers all instructions to the drivers, depending on the provided information. These drivers then provide the motor instructions that take the process to its end while controlling each axis and creating models.

Best Free CNC Machine Software

Here we discuss some free CNC programming software that is also hugely beneficial:

LinuxCNC – Best CNC Software

LinuxCNC is one of the best free, open-source CNC software serving the industry since 1993. By now, this software has been one of the most popular CNC software among professionals. LinuxCNC is fully compatible with 9-axis CNC machines, lathes, hexapods, laser cutters, plasma cutters, run mills, and 3D printers. The software is equipped with different graphical user interfaces for particular applications, such as a touch screen. Meanwhile, the software offers numerous customization options and features, including cutter compensation and rigid tapping.

It might be ideal if you had a computer with real-time computing capabilities to use this CNC machine software. It runs with the Linux Kernel with a real-time extension. Installing this software on Ubuntu or Debian is quite easy through multiple means such as Linux Live/Install or using USB/DVD images. Apart from being compatible with various machine control hardware interfaces, its active user community is another significant benefit of using this software. You can coordinate with different Linux users, ask questions, and give suggestions.

Due to its extensive range of advanced features, this software might not be suitable for beginners. However, after learning this software wholeheartedly, you can surely use it conveniently.

Easel – All in One CNC Programming Software

Easel is one of the best CNC programming software, free to use and offered by Inventables for CNC machinists. With Easel, using a single program, you can carve, import, and design, implying that you need not use any CAD and CAM software separately. Whether it is about working on simple or complex projects, Easel has the capability of dealing with all these things. Mainly, this is a web-based program that is massively user-friendly and versatile CNC milling software. Besides, one of the best features of this software is its facility of generating a shareable link. It can be shared with your community to find the answers to your queries.

On the other hand, Inventables also offers ‘Easel Classes’ for beginners who want to use this software. This feature refers to a community learning opportunity while focusing on developing your CNC skills. Despite offering a free version, there is an Easel pro version equipped with advanced business features. The pro version of this product costs you $12.99.

GRBL – Reliable CNC Programming Software

GRBL is one of the free CNC software that shows its compatibility with the best CNC machines. For instance, the software is fully compatible with Vevor CNC 2418 3-Axis and Sainsmart Genmitsu 3018 Pro. GRBL is a simple software, but it is reliable and yields quality results.

Typically, GRBL is an Arduino-based software and is compatible with most Arduino boards; however, Arduino Mega is not part of it. At the same time, the software is easy to set up and use, helping the CNC machine boost its impressive acceleration and deceleration control.

The advanced parameters of this software make it useable for experts. Having learned the basics of this software, you can start using it to improve your skill as a CNC operator. It empowers communication and is intended not to rely upon a computer with a parallel port. At the same time, several industrial and CNC controllers necessitate a parallel port. Another advantage is that it deals with all the timing, which means the machine controller can remain computer agnostic.

However, compared with other software, GRBL lags in some of the fields, such as it is confined to the 3-axis and does not support backlash compensation and rotation axis.

PlanetCNC –Facility of G-Code Manipulation

PlanetCNC seems one of the best CNC router software, which comes with its personalized hardware too. The specialty of this software is its capability to focus on the manipulation of G-codes. For example, this software allows users to introduce changes into the G-code and search and bookmark lines in the pre-existing code. Meanwhile, it also supports the copy and pasting of G-codes, which is a unique feature in terms of flexibility.

Amid several features of this software, its flexible configuration (fully-configurable tool change procedure) and simulation options make it perfect for getting used with many CNC machines. It offers spindle synchronization, measuring, probing, canned cycles, relay controls, and other CNC machine applications. All these options make it a stable and robust CNC machine software.

Although the software is free to use, you need a controller with a valid license. It is viable with Windows, Linux, Macintosh, and Raspberry Pi operating systems while importing various file types such as Gerber, NC, DXF, and PLT/HPGL. Other than transferring files using parallel ports, users can transfer files using USB too. Simultaneously, PlanetCNC has an active user community for the great support that allows you to pose inquiries and answer the inquiries posed by other individuals. In the interim, it offers its users an API that enables them to develop applications.

Universal G-code Sender – Facility of G-code Manipulation
Universal G-code Sender (UGS) is also one of the free software available in the market. Despite being free, this CNC programming software possesses almost all the advanced features required to get the advanced tasks accomplished, alongside being easy to use. Likewise, being user-friendly and easy to use, this software has become the priority of most beginners. The following are some of the most significant and salient features of this software:

  1. This software includes an executable all-in-one JAR file.
  2. Real-time tool position feedback.
  3. Estimation of the duration of the process.
  4. 3000 lines of unit test code, along with 1000 lines of comments that document the test.
  5. 3D G-code visualizer with coded line segments.
  6. Web pendant interface.

The software also allows its users to manipulate the G-code to remove the comments, convert arcs to line segments, remove whitespaces, etc. While making it easier for the users, the software is written in JavaScript and fully compatible with Windows, Linux, Mac, and Raspberry Pi. But when using this software, it is inevitable to use it with firmware accepting G-codes for the board.

Best Paid CNC Programming Software

Along with various types of free CNC machine software available on the lookout, paid CNC software provides users with their desired features. Accordingly, the following are some of the best-paid software that CNC individuals are widely using:

Mach 4 – Best for Beginners

The Newfangled Solutions have developed the software. Consequently, the Mach series is the best CNC software that shows its compatibility with most conventional and advanced CNC machines. The latest addition is Mach4, a successor and even more powerful CNC software than Mach3 streamlined for simple machines in the Mach series. However, Mach4 is equipped with many advanced options, improved quality, and better speed.

As far as Mach4 CNC software is concerned, there are currently two versions: an industrial version and a hobby version. For the record, the industrial version costs more than the hobby version. The industrial version possesses a wide range of advanced features such as tool life management, Macro B G-code programming, advanced GUI editing tool, and screw mapping.

Mach4 is an advanced CNC machine software with quick and easy GUI (graphical user interface) customization options. The developers of this software explicitly claim that Mach4 has been mainstreamed to show flexibility and responsiveness for very large files. Compared with Mach3, Mach4 software comprises modular architecture. It can process files promptly and record them on the output. While talking about the advanced features of this machine, the following are some of the most attractive features of Mach4 CNC programming software.

  1. Mach 4 is equipped with ‘Motion Control’ that accelerates software responsiveness by 100 times, from button click to machine operation.
  2. It has a much better and controlled backlash mechanism.
  3. Improved anti-gouging ability and robotic loaders.
  4. Asynchronous movement to deal with uncoordinated motion.
  5. The software can be utilized to control the CNC machine that works for 6 Axis.
  6. Mach4 works perfectly for drills, lathes, run mills, plasma, and 3D printers.
  7. It is fully compatible with Windows PCs due to being a Windows-based software.

Pricing of Mach 4
It has already been discussed that there are two versions of this software: the hobby version and the industrial version. The hobby version is cheaper and costs $200, while the industrial version is expensive and costs $1400. Nevertheless, you can enjoy a free demo version of the software with up to 500 lines of G-code so you can evaluate the product.

TurboCNC – Cheap but Reliable Software

Similar to the LinuxCNC, TurboCNC has also been serving CNC enthusiasts for years. Up till now, the active user community of TurboCNC software has expanded a lot. Surprisingly, if you want to use TurboCNC, you need MS-DOS since the software runs on that operating system. However, it facilitates the software to have very precise timing, just like LinuxCNC.

The machine’s best feature is its capability to work with the 8-axis CNC machines by running step-servos and stepper motors. The option for configuration or edition of code adds an incredible value to the software. Using this option, you can stop and restart anywhere within a program. Other than that, the software has a fully configurable IO to control the speed of spindles, along with helping in fully parametric programming, backlash compensation, and the multi-axis threading capability.

Pricing of TurboCNC

Although TurboCNC is a paid software, it will not be difficult for CNC enthusiasts to spend $60 to buy this incredible CNC machine software. In addition, it accompanies free support.