Alternative to Estlcam (Yes that question again)

Hey all
Been playing around today, reasonable success and certainly still on the learning curve.

But, I am finding Estlcam a bit of a pain in the bottom to work with. No undo function… .really?
The times I have just clicked a few times, made a mess and ended up totally re-starting the programming process.

It just seems to be lacking some basic functions like clear. I can’t seem to be able to select multiple items at once either (but that might be user error).

But… I have Googled, and have not found an alternative.

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Short answer is probably not, but here is a bunch of food for thought:

  • Other Post: You probably have read this thread (Alternate to Estle Cam? what would you use? or do?). I am not sure it changes anything, but I ranted a little in the middle of the thread.
  • Undo: I originally complained about this, but have partially “got over it”. There is probably two reasons for this: A) I do simple signs so far. There is really no toolpath I create that I cannot just re-created rather than undo. B) It may not be clear, but the semi work around is draw the toolpath you want. If it wrong SWITCH to the select tool, select that path, then delete it. Not perfect but you get used to it.
  • Multiple select: I can both SHIFT-CLICK and draw a box around multiple drawn toolpaths. I think you can then group them and/or assign properties all all of them at once.
  • Status: Although I complained, I did buy it cause for 60 bucks it still does amazing things.
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Thanks James. It’s not so much as a rant, as a ‘are there other options’. But I don’t think there are.
I am finding it really easy to mess up work with silly mistakes. But that is clearly operator error!

I will stick with is and see how we go

There are some UI things that keep tripping me up. Undo is sorely missed. That I can’t auto-populate some of the parameters of an operation is tedious, but that some are auto-populated is appreciated.

It does the basic 2.5D work as desired and it isn’t expensive. I know there are some features in v-carve pro that I’d love to have, but that is another level of cost. I am not prepared to invest the time and resources to get into a Fusion360 workflow. Maybe someday.

And there should be future improvements. But with only the one developer, that’s certainly an issue for the future to be concerned about.

As a software engineer, this is part of the appeal of open source software. We can just add in features if we want them :). Estlcam isn’t open source though.

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I guess his business model is doing well, but I think of Gina with Octoprint and the amazing development that just flies along. She manages with the patrons. I give my monthly share. I wonder if the MPCNC base here could make it worth his while to open source it.

She also has done a great job making the software extensible. Many of the best features are plugins, so other people can manage them, including commercial companies. Octopi is managed by Guy, so she doesn’t have to manage that either, even though 90+% of the installs are from that image.

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yeah, ESTLcam. This hurdle was a big one for me, and it didn’t have to be.

I’m a mac user, and was a complete newbie at this. ESTLcam won’t run on macs and I felt Fusion was too much of a steep learning curve, along with everything else I had to learn to make this machine cut.

I pulled out an old laptop and installed ESTLcam.

The program is indeed frustrating. Glad to know I’m not the only one doing what you went through. But I got through it.

If you make a mistake, learn how to select your mistake and delete it. An extra step to have an undo.

The creator basically says ‘trial and error’. And it’s true. Learning about selecting multiple objects with ‘shift’ and using ‘groups’, helped.

Once you ‘get’ the creators logic for this program, it becomes easy. And powerful.

I like it so much I installed Parallels on my Mac to run ESTLcam flawlessly.

I won’t be tackling Fusion for a couple of years now. Inkscape + ESTLcam work great.

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As some of the above replies indicate, there ARE alternatives.

Fusion 360 does both CAD and CAM, and is probably the second most popular option among forum users. It reputedly has a much steeper learning curve than EstleCAM.

I use FreeCAD for both CAD and CAM. I really like it, but I may be a minority of one. 8^)

I’m aware of a few web based CAM options.

Easel is very easy to learn, but limited (at least in the free version, I haven’t tried the “Pro”)

Two other browser based options are JScut and Kiri:Moto

I’ve also been using F-Engrave for V-carved images and text, and really like it. It also supports V-Carved Inlays, but I haven’t tried that myself yet. I will soon…

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Literally ALL of my successful cuts have come from using Fusion. I have tried multiple times with Estlcam, but it just doesn’t click with me. Granted, I have spent many more hours watching Fusion tutorials on youtube. (This guy is great https://www.youtube.com/user/cadcamstuff)

If you try Fusion remember you can get a free hobby license and you’ll need to add the post processor for mpcnc.

Jake

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I’ve had the opposite experience from @JakeB. I was already fluent with Fusion, and when I started with the CNC I used it. For the most part I love it but it is so buggy. I love how much control it gives you, but with even a moderately complex SVG or DXF import it just hangs; and even on some simple models I’ve had it crash when I try to post-process.

I poked at FreeCAD, and while I think there is something there, the learning curve was too steep, so I decided to come back to it another time.

There were a couple of other ones that I tried that had the same issue as Fusion in that it couldn’t handle logos etc that had a lot of features.

Easel is cute and handy for a few letters or a simple 2D cut. I found it most limiting in that it could not ramp into a pocket, it just plunges in, which only works with some bits.

A couple of weeks ago I finally tried ESTLcam, and I bought it the next day. The undo thing is annoying, but not a deal breaker. I have noticed that some of the algorithms simply don’t work. For example I cut something yesterday that had islands, and it worked fine in linear and parallel modes but missed major sections in peel mode. It also seems to have some cool features in its “CNC Controller” subprogram but for that you need to hook it up right to your PC, which isn’t Marlin friendly. Most importantly, it imports complex SVG files like a champ, and doesn’t slow down much with them.

I’ve written some pretty advanced graphics software in my day, and if I were retired I’d probably take a stab at it, but that’s 10 years away.

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I will add this to the list because I have seen it listed in similar threads. If you are using Onshape.com there is a plugin called Kiri (or something like that). it can be used as a CAM or laser engraver. I played with an early version of it and had some trouble getting it to work but that was about 2 or 3 years ago. I know it has been actively worked on since. I plan to give it another try as a potential program of choice after I am done building my new laser engraver.

Well I am glad I am not the only one.
Had a few more tries today. Mixed results. Several ‘Now why did it do that’ moments.

When you use carve, it says you must use a ‘V’ bit. But, I am trying to ‘mill’ out a square area, so the bit wants to be flat ended.

Should I be using engrave instead for that?

I have had a few attempts that have resulted in my hitting the emergency stop button. One downside to that is that my rig drops under it’s own weight when the power is removed.
This then promptly bores a hole in your work anyway as the router spools down.

Think I may design a ‘power off’ brake for the Z rail.

I have only used EstlCAM for 2D cuts so far. Fusion seems very complicated with so many options that it scares me away.

My experience with 3D (2.5D) cuts EstlCAM is not that great. Somehow it takes an unreasonable amount of time to mill something. It doesn’t give you many options, and it’s hard to understand what those options mean. I tried some variations, and put the gcode in my handy little tool to visualize the result of a cut. The result was not really what I expected though… so I didn’t dare to run the gcode on my machine.

I thought to myself, how hard can it be to generate some gcode for milling a 2.5D design? It’s basically milling pockets at different heights. My plan was to use OpenSCAD projection and offsets etc to easily generate SVG at different heights in the model, and to convert that to gcode. Turns out that OpenSCAD projection is very buggy, so I went a little deeper into the rabbit hole. So far I’ve got a Python script computes all contours to mill and generates gcode. It has some issues I want to fix before I make anything public, but it looks promising. Maybe something useful will come out of it.

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Speaking of Estlcam, I’m just starting to read the tutorial on it and noticed a discrepancy. When setting up the 1/8" tool there’s a setting that’s not listed in the V1 tutorial. It asks for an "a(z+) setting and the tutorial doesn’t mention that one. Also the tutorial has settings referencing 45% and 180* entries but the Tool screen doesn’t have a spot for those entries. Suggestions?

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You can customize what fields are shown in the tool list. I suggest for beginners that you hide the ones that are not explained and show the ones that are in the tutorial.

Most of the extra fields are for advanced cuts in hard materials.

Yeah Steve the carve tool is intended for use with a V bit. It will raise and lower the bit to carve wider and narrower cuts in the wood. Great for letters with fonts like times new Roman.

Awesome, thanks for the info.

Kiri:Moto is the plugin for Onshape. It is also a stand alone browser based app that you can use with an SVG or an STL of your own. You can also download it and install it locally. I have played with it in CAM mode. Mostly I use it to make SVGs of the models I make in OnShape. It is absolutely the best resource for making OnShape laser friendly. I haven’t quite gotten to making it useful for CNC work though. Not quite sure about it. I use EstlCAM and I am very pleased with what it does. Takes some time to get familiar with it.

Here is a good explanation of it.

https://sienci.com/2016/08/24/the-story-of-kirimoto/

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Just get over it and use Fusion. I know…very options, much scary. But it is worth it.

Tutorials are on YT, they show you how to set up basic parameters and give you a nice overview on what you really need of all those unticked boxes (Spoiler: not much). Learn how to set up your tools, your workpiece and simple toolpaths. Simulate. Simulate. Simulate.

“But the tutorials are not for an MPCNC”…so the f*** what? Its a CNC after all, it moves a spindle that spins some spinny thing at its bottom end. A 2D toolpath is still a 2D toolpath, just adjust you DOC and Feedrate to more hobby-ish values (Fusion wants to go pretty ham per default).

First thing i did was to create a part with a flat surface, an outer countour and a pocket in the center. 3 Operations. 3 Toolpaths. Try to geht that working in the simluation. Once it does and your workpiece is set up according to its real life properties it will run that toolpath on your machine once the gcode is loaded. Run it in thin air if you are scared.

It really is not that big of a deal…

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