A Brief Overview of CNC Software
CNC machines are becoming more and more popular with Cabinet and Closet Makers. This requires Cabinet and Closet shop owners to learn a few new terms and concepts before buying a CNC machine. Below is an image illustrating the flow of information starting with a design created in KCD and ending up at your CNC machine.
Design to DXF Files
The first step is to create a design in KCD. From there our Linker software will create DXF files. DXF files are 3 dimensional representations of each part needed to build your cabinets or closets. The DXF files have the width, depth, thickness of your parts as well as any drill holes, routs or other information for cutting the part.
DXF to G Code
Once the DXF Files are made, instructions must then be produced to tell your CNC Machine how to cut these parts. The instructions are called G Code and are created using a CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing) Software Package. Our One Button Machining Software will nest the DXF files and produce G Code. Nesting is taking all the pieces in your job and placing them on sheets of wood (Plywood, Melamine, etc). Then G Code is produced for each sheet and sent to the CNC Machine. There are many different CAM packages available with many different features. Our One Button Machining is designed to be easy to use and provides basic CAM functions; nesting DXF files created in KCD and G Code creation. Companies like Enroute and Mastercam provide full featured CAM packages. These will allow you to design one of a kind pieces directly on the screen. These could include intricate carving, scrolls and other details. If you already have one of the CAM Software Packages you would only need our Linker software and would not need the One Button Machining.
G Code to CNC Machine
The last piece of the puzzle is the CNC Machine itself. For Cabinet and Closet Makers there are two different kinds of machines available. Nested Based Routers and Point-to-Point machines.
Point to Point - A point to point machine takes precut pieces (typically side pieces) and drills holes and cuts routs into them. You must first cut out the piece and place it on the table to do the operations needed. Companies mass producing cabinets or closets usually choose Point-to-Point machines. Point-to-Point machines usually do not need a CAM package since the parts are not nested. They will take in individual DXF files and use this information to create the code to control the machine.
Nested Base Router - This is the most popular type of machine for small to medium custom cabinet and closet makers. You would lay a 4' x 8' sheet of plywood or melamine on the table and using the G Code the machine will cut out your parts with the appropriate routing and drill holes.
In summary, you start with a design in KCD.
Then DXF files are created using our Linker software.
From there our One Button Machine Software or other CAM Software, takes these files, nests them and creates G Code for your machine.
Our KCD Linker software will create DXF files. If you have a CAM package like Enroute, EZ G Code, Mastercam and others, you will not need any other software package. If you do not have a CAM Software Package (or are not happy with the one you have), our One Button Machine software will create DXF files, nest the parts and create the G Code necessary to run your CNC Machine.
This brief description should get you started with recognizing the requirements for software for a CNC machine. You should check out the Woodweb forum www.woodweb.com . There you will find other shop owners you can ask questions regarding CNC machines and software.