Since its introduction in the 60s, CNC plasma cutting has been used in various industries. CNC plasma cutting, or Computer Numerical Control plasma cutting, is a method of cutting metal using a computer program that allows for accurate cuts which can be repeated as many times as needed.
CNC plasma cutting has given industries such as automotive, manufacturing, and construction a revolutionary way to increase production and quality while lowering costs. It has forever changed the way cutting metal works, and to this day, it remains one of the best solutions.
Not just companies benefit from CNC plasma cutting, but craftsmen and artisans also use the technology to a great extent to create products and artwork.
Artisans use CNC plasma cutting to shape various applications, depending on their expertise and client demands. Artisans use it to produce metal art, custom auto designs, furniture, and signs.
In the article, you will discover the best CNC plasma design software and learn more about each software features.
How Does a CNC Plasma Cutter Work?
CNC plasma cutters use a directed ionized gas stream to make precise cuts through metals. The machine is controlled by a computer program containing the pattern the metal needs to be shaped into. The Computer Numerical Control reads that pattern and implements it onto the piece of metal by directing the plasma cutter.
The torch is the main tool for cutting metal. It produces a plasma arc that melts the metal into the desired pattern. Most commonly, the gas to produce the plasma is compressed air.
This is the component that controls the movement of the plasma torch and the other moving parts on the machine. The CNC controller reads and implements the program by sending commands to the machine’s motors.
The table is the surface upon which the cutting is performed. It’s most commonly made of steel and can either be stationary or moving.
This is a group of components like motors, gears, and belts responsible for moving the torch as well as the metal which is being cut. The CNC controller controls the whole drive system.
The power source is the electricity needed to ionize the plasma gas and produce the high-intensity arc.
To prevent overheating from the high temperature the torch produces, a cooling system is included, which involves either water or air cooling.
The program that is used to design the patterns. The software also controls the CNC controller.
Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: Maclane Parker
Best CNC Plasma Design Software
To operate a CNC plasma cutter, you need software that would be able to convert the digital designs into machine-readable code. This program controls the cutter’s head and the intensity and intensity of the plasma’s arc.
You can buy various software for your machine, and choosing the best one requires a lot of research and testing. If you’re a beginner, then it would be best to look for software with a beginner-friendly design. However, if you’re more experienced, you should look for software that would improve your craftsmanship.
It also depends on what type of machine is used, for what type of metal, and what type of product is being produced. There are many software solutions on the market, and we have gone through many of them to help you pick the right one.
The right software for your plasma cutter would be one that is compatible and rich in features that improve productivity and reduce time as well as waste.
Here are some of the best design software solutions for a CNC plasma cutter:
Newfangled Solutions’ Mach3 software turns a regular computer into a CNC machine controller. It has many features and provides great value to everyone who purchases the license for this software.
Mach3 is a popular and one of the best CNC plasma design software choices for individuals and businesses who work with CNC plasma cutters because of its convenience and simple, easy-to-use design, despite the wealth of features.
Hobbyists and small businesses are particularly fond of Mach3 because it’s easy to use and great for DIY projects.
Mach3 supports G-code programming language, while some of its features include multi-axis support, toolpath preview, and customizable hotkeys.
With customers like NASA, Nokia, Toshiba, and Google, CAMWorks has established itself on the market as a leading software manufacturer. It supports a range of operations for cutting metal, such as profiling, pocketing, drilling, and engraving.
CAMWorks also has many advanced features, such as collision detection, toolpath generation, support for 5-axis machining, and nesting optimization. It is fully integrated with SolidWorks, which is a popular CAD software package.
Overall, it is a great package because it allows an easy transition from design to programming without the need for file conversion. Its many features save time and minimize waste, making it a popular choice for industrial manufacturers and small businesses.
3. Hypertherm ProNest
This software was specifically designed to work with CNC plasma cutters. Its powerful and versatile software helps users get the most out of their cutters, increasing efficiency through its many features.
Some of the features of the Hypertherm ProNest include automatic nesting, common-line cutting, part-in-part nesting, and dynamic nesting. It also has customizable settings, which allows its users to fine-tune the cutting to their needs and preferences.
The product is backed by great technical support provided by the company’s experienced professionals.
SheetCAM is a more affordable option and represents a good value-for-money deal. A very advantageous option in its repertoire is that you get to preview the cuts through a simulation and decide whether the pattern is good or should be redrawn.
It has a very easy-to-use interface, making it ideal for beginners and convenient for experienced operators. Some of its other features include automatic cut ordering, oxy-fuel preheat time, pierce delay time, and optimal ramp piercing.
Overall, the product is very popular among users because of its price and its beginner-friendly interface, as well as the number of features.
5. Autodesk Fusion 360
Autodesk Fusion 360 is a powerful, cloud-based software that allows users to collaborate and share their designs with co-workers and clients anywhere around the world. Its many features make it a popular choice for engineers, designers, and manufacturers alike.
What sets this software apart is the modeling features like parametric modeling, T-spine modeling, and generative design, which help users design complex and unique patterns.
The rest of the features include CAM programming tools like 2D and 3D toolpath generation, adaptive clearing, and multi-axis machining, which can help users efficiently generate precise toolpaths for CNC machines that involve CNC plasma cutters.
This software offers some really powerful and fully associative machining strategies to create precise cuts with a CNC plasma cutter. With its wizard-driven interface, BobCAD-CAM makes machine programming quick and simple, even for new users.
Its trademark feature, the Dynamic Machining strategies, allows users to assign multiple machining strategies to a single feature, saving a vast amount of time in production.
Like with other advanced software solutions, BobCAD-CAMhttps://bobcad.com/ has a simulation feature that enables users to preview their work before cutting the metal, greatly reducing the risk of mistakes and waste of resources.
Backplot visibility is the latest feature added to the program. It is a graphic aid that helps you understand where the tool starts and what direction it’s cutting.
SolidCAM is cutting-edge software that is designed to work together with SolidWorks. Manufacturers and machinists widely use it in many industries, including those who work with plasma cutters.
It offers a wide range of features that enhance machining operations, like 2.5D and 3D milling, high-speed milling, and multi task machining. The software also offers multi-axis machining capabilities allowing operators to perform accurate cuts almost effortlessly.
SolidCAM LTD has patented its trademark feature called iMachining, which optimizes cutting conditions to greatly reduce production time and increase productivity.
Overall, SolidCAM is a very good product that brings a lot of value to the table with its many features and simple interface.
8. Torchmate CAD/CAM
Torchmate is another software that is designed to be beginner-friendly and relatively easy to learn, making it a good option if you’re a novice or switching from another software.
The key feature is its powerful drawing tools like lines, arcs, circles, rectangles, etc. It also has advanced tools for design, like Bezier curves, mirroring, and scaling. All of these options allow you to design more complex patterns.
In addition to the drawing tools, Torchmate CAD/CAM offers nesting, automatic kerf compensation, support for 5-axis machining, and toolpath optimization.
Torchmate supports a wide range of operations, such as profiling, pocketing, drilling, and engraving, while there are step-by-step instructions on how to use the technology on their website.
CutLeader is a CAM software designed for CNC plasma cutters for 2D cutting machines. Along with the basic features of advanced software like automatic nesting, kerf compensation, and toolpath optimization, CutLeader also has some impressive drawing and editing tools.
Still, the standout feature of this software is its capacity for simulating the cuts, giving a very accurate picture of what the end product would look like before cutting. The risk of bad cuts is reduced even more with its real-time process monitoring system.
CutLeader has great customer service and how-to videos to help make its product even more accessible for its users. You can also download a trial version from their website to see if their product works for you.
Although DraftSight doesn’t have specific features for plasma cutters, it can still be used for designing and cutting metal products. It is very popular among architects, designers, and engineers mostly for its accuracy, which allows waste minimization.
It has many features for 2D and 3D CAD drafting and design software with a complete set of edit, design, and automation tools.
There may be a need to install some plugins to make DraftSight more compatible with plasma cutter machines.
You can request a demo for any of its products, and also you can get a free trial to get a feel of whether it would work for you or not. They have technical support and step-by-step guides to help you master their software.
This is a software designed to focus on material utilization, increasing productivity, and nesting efficiency. The product offers great scalability and is able to respond to various challenges.
SigmaNest evaluates cutting in real time and automatically adjusts its parameters to improve performance in time, consumable yield, and edge quality. Its many advanced features include BHQ technology, which helps with cutting precisely rounded holes.
You can request a demo on their website to test the product before buying it.
It is a Windows-based program with an intuitive interface and step-by-step guide on how to operate. Perhaps the key feature of CamBam is its easy importing and exporting of files and its capacity to use various formats like DXF, DWG, and STL files.
CamBam offers various machining operations like pocketing, drilling, engraving, etc. The program allows for these operations to be fine-tuned to the preference of the user.
CamBam generates G-code directly from the design, which saves time because there is no need for manual coding. This software offers a number of plugins that improve accuracy and effectiveness.
The main advantage of CamBam, however, is its low price. There is an option to try the product before buying, and unlike some of its competitors, the cost is different for private and company purchases. This makes it more accessible for hobbyists, craftsmen, and artists.
13. CNC Simulator Pro
CNC Simulator Pro allows for the simulation of CNC programs before running them on the plasma cutter. While the benefits of this were explained with a number of other products which offered a similar option, the CNC Simulator pro is a specialized program. It offers a more in-depth analysis of the design.
The system has many configuration options, and it’s capable of testing different plasma cutters and other CNC machines. It is compatible with G-code, DXF, and STL, allowing users to easily import and test their designs from other programs.
This tool is great for students and, in general, people who are eager to get involved in this particular field. All you need is a Windows-operated PC and an internet connection in order to take advantage of this useful software and perhaps take your design skills to a new level.
The CNC Simulator Pro has devoted customer support with years of experience, as well as comprehensive learning materials in order to master the software, which is not very difficult to use in the first place.
14. Vectric Cut 2D
You can tell immediately upon using it that the software was designed to be simple and user-friendly; however, its simplicity should not be mistaken for the sparsity of features.
The Vectric Cut 2D includes a set of drawing tools, such as lines, arcs, and rectangles, as well as the capacity to import designs from elsewhere.
Another important feature of this software is its ability to create toolpaths with variable depth, automatic corner smoothing, and automatic corner optimization. This gives the ability to users to create more intricate designs.
Simulating toolpaths and previewing cutting times are somewhat of a bonus to the wide range of options that the Vectric Cut 2D provides for its users.
The product’s biggest advantage is how simple it is to use it while performing complicated actions and creating complex designs. It is an affordable and powerful software solution for beginners and pros alike.
15. Metalix cncKad
In this module, CAD and CAM capabilities are integrated together; when you modify one option, the others get optimized automatically and accordingly. For example, if you modify the geometry, the program will automatically update the dimensions and cutting definitions.
Over 1300 machine types use CncKad from over 130 different manufacturers, and it’s a popular choice because of its simplicity. Using it, you can control common line cutting, part by part, cutting order, or any type of cutting you choose.
The software will always optimize the operator’s chosen cutting methods to minimize production time while considering the machine’s strong and weak points.
Other features include automatic cutting, collision avoidance, corner treatment, Z-axis control, and support for multi-head plasma. There is a range of instructional videos on the company’s youtube channel.
16. Flashcut CNC
Flashcut CNC has the capacity to convert any bitmap image or 2D drawing into a toolpath, or you can just import a picture from its shape library if you find it more convenient. It’s got advanced Boolean operations, such as welding multiple shapes into one.
Flashcut 2D and 3D CAM generates good toolpaths for plasma, and it’s got an automatic generation of fixture tabs, as well as an automatic kerf compensation.
Other features include sheet management for multiple sheets per job, advanced true shape nesting of multiple CAD or DSF files, and corner looping strategies for reducing dross in corners.
The software comes in standard and professional versions with an option to add features for an additional fee. Standard CAD/CAM/CNC is primarily for individuals who work with plasma cutters or machines supported by this software.
The Pro CAD/CAM/CNC version has everything from the standard one with the addition of multi-layer management and shading, true-shape nesting, advanced lead-in management, and auto lead-in on restart.
The a-la-carte features include Smart 36 Hole Cutting technology, dynamic vent zones, and others.
17. SwiftCAM CNC
Swift-Cut’s SwiftCAM CNC software is easy to use, and anyone with a basic knowledge of computers can use it for designing patterns and later implementing them on the plasma table.
The product has four versions: Swifty, Swift-Cut Pro, Swift-Cut XP, and Swift-Jet, with Swifty being the simplest and Swift-Jet being the most advanced version of the software.
This company’s software is compatible with most machines, and it’s suitable for the production of furniture and the automotive industry. Their product is optimal for large and medium-sized companies.
Some of the features include support for two independent cutting heads, static and conveyor belt, communication via LAN, RS-232, or LPT, as well as export of nested markers to PLT, DXF, AAMA, HPGL, and ISO.
19. CAD/CAM with Fusion360
Langmuir’s Fusion360 is free-to-use software for companies that are making less than $100k in revenue per year. The software is downloadable from the website, and you can use it to design 2D or 3D parts. You can also import your designs from elsewhere, and the software will support the file.
The software is appropriate for beginners because it’s easy to use and comes with step-by-step instructions. In addition, the company has a great resource library which would likely answer any question you may have.
Overall it’s a great way for a newbie to get involved with minimum cost.
Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: vvoe
How to Choose the Best Software
The criteria for picking the best software for your business will depend on your needs. A business with more complex daily tasks will require more advanced software. A simpler business could do with simpler software with the basic features included.
In contrast, a DIY or hobby enthusiast’s perfect choice for software will depend greatly on how much they are ready to spend.
If you’re looking to find out how to make money with CNC plasma cutter, then you will need to know the expenses associated with it. You would need to buy a machine, purchase software for it, and finally, there are running costs associated with operating the machine as well as its maintenance.
Purchase of CNC plasma cutter
The price of plasma cutters varies depending on their size, power, and capacity for performing complex operations. The price for a regular plasma cutter is between $1,000 and $5,000, while for more advanced machines, it can go up to $100.000.
Operating cost of a CNC plasma cutter
CNC plasma cutters generally have a low operating cost of about $15 an hour. Compared to other means of cutting metal, it is a good value for money because, with other machines, the cost can double or triple, and the production quality and quantity may increase only a little.
The cost of software will depend on the amount and quality of features. For more basic purposes, the software can cost as little as $100, or you can even find it for free, but more complex production demands will require more expensive software that can be thousands of dollars.
The cheaper software is usually for simple 2D cutting, and it’s more suitable for hobbyists and small businesses whose needs for cutting metal are basic.
You can expect the more expensive software to be packed with features like 3D cutting, compatibility with different types of files, precision enhancing, waste-reducing features, etc.
It is very important to determine the needs and demands in order to avoid making unnecessary expenses, and a consultation with an expert would be recommended. It’s also worth noting that more expensive software can have a feature that saves money and time and reduces the risk of mistakes.
Investing in an expensive machine and backing it up with weak software will prevent you from getting the best out of your investment.
While many good options were covered in the article, it is still best to further explore the CNC plasma design software market and see what other options there are. In general, every software must include basic features like 2D and 3D cutting, which can import files of various formats.
More complex plasma cutters will require more advanced software with additional features like toolpath generation, customizable functions, nesting features, or maybe a trademark feature specific to the brand.
By evaluating the options in the article, the users can make an informed decision about what the best software would be for their CNC plasma cutter in order to know how to make money with CNC plasma cutter in the best way!