For years, the woodworking industry has been venturing into newly advanced technology in construction methods, materials and, most of all, manufacturing with CNC equipment. From hidden, tool-less fastening, to HDF doors, to bringing 3D designs to reality with CNC technology, at the heart of these advancements is the symbiotic balance of CNC machining technology and manufacturing software. Today, woodworking manufacturing means having a CNC. Ultimately, the CNC must be able to accept the G-code to bring concept to reality. We will explore some of the best in class software in these categories: 1) Creating woodworking designs; 2) Converting the design to cut-ready CNC code; or 3) Both.
WHEN COMPARING WOODWORKING SOFTWARE, HERE ARE SIX POINTS TO CONSIDER: 1: How is it priced? Is there a monthly fee or a yearly licensing charge? How much is it? 2: What is the expected learning curve? Can you expect to use it the same day you get it, or is there hours, days (weeks) of training required? 3: Does the software offer a library of pre-designed products? Most software packages offer some pre-engineered products that can be customized to how you build them. 4: How much support is offered? Is the company easily accessible for questions in case you get stuck? Is support an additional charge? 5: Can you create completely new designs in the software? If so, can you get the design into cut-ready code for your CNC? 6: Is the software scalable? Is it scalable in technology? CNC technology and ability is quickly advancing. Will the software adapt in an ever-evolving environment of new methods and materials? Will it assist you with new business demands as your company grows? We’ll assess these woodworking software packages: KCD Software, Microvellum, vCarve, Cabinet Vision, CabinetPro, CabWriter and Router-CIM. Want to know why these companies are included in this article? Read on.
KCD Software: (kcdsoftware.com)
WHY? Because they have an easy to understand pricing structure, an amazingly short learning curve, and are pre-programmed into progressive 5th generation CNC technology machines. KCD Software offers excellent customer support. Library Comes loaded into 5G CNC equipment free for six months. PRICE: CNC level pricing is $295 a month after $1,995 set up charge which covers the first three months of service. LEARNING CURVE: Short/same day. LIBRARY OF PRODUCTS: 300+ SUPPORT OFFERED: Tech support M-F/8:30-5 pm. TUTORIALS: KCDSoftware.com/video-tutorials. New cabinet designs are vast, in that there are so many ways to customize the library. SCALABILITY: Scalable in technology. Committed to staying current in all cabinet designs and methods of construction includes woodworking business tasks.
WHY? Microvellum has become a household name in woodworking software, and offers an abundance of scalability in woodworking business tasks. They have very a loyal following in that the software integrates seamlessly with AutoCAD. PRICE: Was unable to get a straight answer regarding pricing. You must email a rep to get the free trail and a quote. (Even then they chose not to give me a quote). LEARNING CURVE: Medium/30 days to integrate. LIBRARY OF PRODUCTS: 300+ TRAINING: Help/ support is scheduled from the website and charged hourly. Comes with industry-driven help forum. New designs implemented easily. SCALABILITY: Offers a variety of scalable functions including cabinet design and business tasks.
WHY? This Vector product offers an incredibly reasonable pricing structure. The software allows completely original creations and designs other than cabinets and rectangles. It offers scalable technology, and is pre-programmed into the latest generation (5th generation) CNC machines. PRICE: vCarve Pro: $699 one-time charge. LIBRARY OF PRODUCTS: Complete set of 2D designs and layout tools; 150+ designs included, 400 ways to customize each. TECH SUPPORT: Training videos; firstname.lastname@example.org. LEARNING CURVE: Short/90 hours free training—no experience necessary. Ideal for new and very intricate designs. SCALABILITY: Technology is scalable.
WHY? A Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence product, CabinetVision stays current in technology to continually streamline the business of woodworking. They offer stellar customer service and expertise. PRICE: Your choice of a customizable CNC solution; monthly subscriptions starting at $275; permanent licenses starting at $10,000. LIBRARY OF PRODUCTS: 300+ LEARNING CURVE: 30 days to implement. TECH SUPPORT: Great support for an additional monthly fee. New Cabinet and furniture Designs. SCALABILITY: continuous upgrades to technology. Software includes all cabinet business tasks.
Photo Credit: KCD Software
WHY? CabinetPro offers a super flexible, easy-to-digest, pricing structure. This software can scale to almost any cabinet maker’s need. PRICE: $2,974 – $8,974 (one time charge). Does not include product libraries. LEARNING CURVE: One-two days to learn. Two hours of training included (lots of tutorial videos); additional support/training may be purchased. Capable of creating original cabinet designs SCALABILITY: Scalable in software capability—many choices of functions and cabinet.
WHY? CabWriter offers total room design. It is incredibly affordable for anyone that wants to be in the industry. This company offers a 50% discount to schools and was created four years ago by the woodworking instructor, Greg Larson of the New England School of Architecture. SCALABILITY: Scalable in cabinet designing technology.
WHY? For the true designer or woodworking inventor, Router-CIM allows complex designs created in Autodesk Inventor, SOLIDWORKS or AutoCAD to be cut on any CNC machine. PRICE: Starting at $7,500 (one time price). Library includes a 40 parametric MDF doors, infinite customization of any AutoCAD drawing. LEARNING CURVE: One-two days to implement. One year of support included. SCALABILITY: Offers a variety of scalable features for CNC optimization.
Some woodworking software companies are not included in this comparison list. This list includes a huge variety of price, support and design needs and will get the woodworker to CNC cut-ready status, even if other software partners are needed to be employed to get there. Most importantly, as CNC technology advances, even to 5th generation and beyond, find software that scales that technology with you. The next advancements are already in the works in CNC abilities and software abilities. The two must meet for woodworkers to reap the benefits.