Best CNC Lathe Programming Software

Best CNC Lathe Programming Software

Best CNC Lathe Programming Software

Advanced CNC lathes can have multiple axes, which include linear and rotational axes. Controlling all these axes is impossible without a powerful CNC software.

This article reviews the best software for programming CNC lathes and talks about CNC lathe programming by looking at some basic principles of their operation.

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Best CNC Lathe Programming Software

1.BobCAD-CAM LatheCAD, CAMPaid
3.Mastercam LatheCAM, CAD (add-on)Paid & Free
4.Fusion 360CAD, CAMPaid & Free
5.OneCNC XR8 LatheCAD, CAMPaid

1. BobCAD-CAM Lathe-Best Overall CNC Lathe Software

BobCAD-CAM software
BobCAD-CAM lathe software (Source: BobCAD-CAM)
BobCAD-CAM LatheWindowsOccasionallyPaid
Quick Summary of BobCAD-CAM lathe software

BobCAD-CAM is a generic CAD/CAM software that can design and generate G-code for various CNC machines, including lathes.

It also has a software module committed to working with CNC lathes. You can activate lathe coordinates and switch between radius or diameter mode from the part settings.

The software also allows you to work with intersection curves, a helpful feature for turning jobs.

On its project tree manager, you can set the stock size and list out various operations performed on the stock as a workflow.

BobCAD-CAM allows you to set up the material type in the stock settings, but it won't calculate the feeds and speeds based on the selected material. You'll have to feed in that data to the software manually.

The software allows you to set the following turning jobs.

  • Rough
  • Finish
  • Groove
  • Thread
  • Drill
  • Cut off
  • Stock feed

After selecting the job, you can set the geometry from the design where the job is applied.

For each job, you can opt for separate moves or canned cycles. If your machine supports canned cycles, it's better to work with that as it keeps the program short.

It has a system and machine compensation feature available. Machine compensation is recommended because you can still use the generated toolpath if you change the tools.

BobCAD-CAM also allows you to add extra lead-in and lead-out length to the part where the cycle starts, so you don't have to draw the added geometry.

You can simulate the job within the software to preview the process. It allows you to move either the tool or part.

BobCAD-CAM only runs on PCs having a 64-bit Windows operating system. It requires at least 8GB of RAM, a 1GB dedicated graphics card, and a 2GHz processor.

You can try the software for free by downloading the demo. The developers have put up tutorial videos on YouTube for you to understand the software better.

2. CAMWorks

CAMWorks Turning software
CAMWorks software (Source: Hawk Ridge Systems)
Quick Summary of CAMWorks software

CAMWorks is a CAM solution for CNC machines, including CNC lathes.

The software is developed by HCL Technologies and is owned by Hawk Ridge Systems, an engineering company based in the USA.

It is add-on software that integrates with SOLIDWORKS, helping it integrate CAD and CAM operations under a single software.

So to access the CAMWorks software, you need to have a license for SOLIDWORKS software. Both are paid software programs.

CAMWorks uses an automatic feature recognition technology that analyses the design and defines turning machinable features. This helps save some time.

You can use their interactive feature definition wizard if you prefer manual feature definition. You can set features such as the face, grooves, outer diameter (OD), inner diameter (ID), etc.

The software supports 2-axis and 4-axis turning operations. You can program the following jobs on CAMWorks.

  • Roughing
  • Finishing
  • Grooving
  • Threading
  • Cut-off
  • Drilling
  • Boring
  • Reaming
  • Tapping

CAMWorks uses a knowledge-based machining technology that is powered by a customizable database.

This helps the software identify parts and features that meet specific criteria to automatically apply your saved settings, like feeds, speeds, cutting tools, etc.

CAMWorks minimizes air cutting time by using the work in progress function to monitor the stock and only generate the required toolpaths.

The software supports front and rear turret configurations on the sub and main spindles.

You can also save various chuck configurations on the software and later be used for simulation.

In addition, the smooth interface of CAMWorks and its ability to process designs faster to generate toolpaths make it a good choice.

For queries, you can contact Hawk Ridge Systems through phone or email.

3. Mastercam Lathe

Mastercam Lathe
Mastercam Lathe software interface (Source: Cimquest Inc.)
Mastercam LatheWindowsYesPaid
Free (Demo/learning edition)
Quick Summary of Mastercam Lathe software

Mastercam Lathe is a CNC Lathe software developed by CNC Lathe Software LLC, a US-based software developing company.

It is paid software, but anyone can freely download and use the Home Learning Edition of the software.

You can program the following jobs on Mastercam Lathe software.

  • Roughing
  • Finishing
  • Grooving
  • Threading
  • Parting
  • Boring
  • Drilling

Combined with Mastercam mill, the software provides more C-axis programming tools such as face contour, cross contour, etc.

The latest 2022 version of Mastercam allows you to define reusable holder assemblies like adapters, extensions, holders, etc.

It will be saved as an accessory, and you can access it using the holder designer window.

Also, the B-axis contour turning is a new feature added to the software. It allows the B-axis to turn while the cutting tool actively cuts the stock.

With Mastercam Design, Mastercam Lathe can also deliver designing capabilities, eliminating the need to work with different software.

The user interface of Mastercam is well formulated. You can choose to display your favorite tools and hide the ones you rarely use.

Mastercam uses dynamic motion and tool inspection technology to boost the tool life by implementing unique toolpath strategies.

It can program for CNC lathes having live tooling and supports C- and Y-axis machining.

You can install Mastercam Lathe on Windows systems having a minimum of 8GB RAM, 2.4 GHz or faster processor, and 1 GB of graphics memory.

It is a memory-intensive software program that requires about 20 GB of storage space.

For queries, you can contact CNC Lathe Software LLC through an online form.

4. Fusion 360

Fusion 360 Lathe operation
Fusion 360 lathe operation (source: Autodesk)
Fusion 360Windows, MacYesPaid (Commercial use)
Free (Personal use)
Quick Summary of software

Autodesk Fusion 360 is a popular CNC programming software among machinists across all spectrums.

It is capable of performing CAD and CAM operations. It also has a massive online library loaded with various designs that you can import and use for your projects.

This helps you spend less time designing and more time making the parts. To access these files, you need to have an active internet connection.

Also, once every 14 days, it will verify and sync the license linked to the software that requires internet.

Fusion 360 has a built-in simulation engine. It allows you to test the program codes to discover possible errors.

Note that Fusion 360 is all-in-one software. It doesn't come in modules for separate machines like mills, lathes, EDMs, etc. It has options to work with various CNC machines.

You can access the lathe-specific options from the settings. For setting the operation type for turning, you'll have to choose "Turning or mill/Turn" from the dropdown option.

Fusion 360 has a large user base, including professionals, hobbyists, and small and large businesses.

The software works on Windows and Mac OS. It requires at least 4GB of RAM, 3GB of free storage, and a 3 GHz CPU.

If you want to use the team collaboration feature effectively, you'll need high-speed internet to transmit project files through the cloud.

You can use the software for personal use if your annual revenue doesn't cross $1,000. Otherwise, you'll have to get a paid license with a monthly or yearly subscription.

5. OneCNC XR8 Lathe

OneCNC XR8 Lathe
OneCNC XR8 Lathe (Source: OneCNC)
OneCNC XR8 LatheWindowsYesPaid
Quick Summary of OneCNC XR8 Lathe software

OneCNC is a CNC software development company based in Australia. OneCNC XR8 is their latest software package.

The software has different versions available, each for working with different machines like mills, lathes, mill-turn, EDMs, profilers, and multi-axis CNCs.

Though OneCNC XR8 Lathe is primarily a CAM program, it has a CAD engine incorporated. Allowing you to make wireframes and solid models within the software.

You also have the flexibility to import designs made from third-party software.

To keep up with the manufacturing industry's developments, OneCNC XR8 now handles the latest file types like IGES, SLDPRT, VARDFS, SAR, 3DM, and Parasolid.

It has a wizard-based workflow that allows you to set the job settings by following a step-by-step process. This lowers the learning curve, and even beginners can comprehend it with ease.

The smart boundary feature on XR8 allows it to reduce the possible air-cutting time by deriving part boundaries from the design.

CNC lathes now use advanced tool holdings to provide bi-directional rotations and high-speed turning operations. XR8 allows you to take advantage of these features using advanced toolpaths.

To simplify your programs, you can program the rotary axis on a flat plane and use the wrap axis feature on XR8 to wrap it around a stock.

This will be helpful if your machine has live tools, as you can easily program live turning jobs.

Unfortunately, OneCNC only offers the OneCNC XR8 Lathe software for Windows OS. You'll at least need 3GB of internal memory to install the software.

You can get the software license through a CD key or serial number. You can download the setup file online, or you can ask OneCNC for a CD or dongle having setup files.

For more details, you can visit OneCNC's website. They even offer in-person and online demonstrations of their software.

CNC Lathe Programming for Turning

In CNC lathe programming software, the machinist formats a program different from traditional CNC programs. This is to match the unique configuration of CNC lathes. The rotary axis on CNC lathes separates them from other CNC machines and hence requires a unique piece of code having lathe-specific functions.

CNC lathes primarily come in two layouts, horizontal and vertical.

Horizontal lathes are the most common type of lathe, and they generally have a 2-axis or 3-axis setup.

On these lathes, the Z-axis governs the left-right, and the X-axis governs the front-back movement of the cutting tool.

Horizontal lathe (left), vertical turning center (right)
Horizontal lathe (left), vertical turning center (right)

On a vertical lathe, the Z-axis runs up-down, and the X-axis guides the left-right movement of the tool.

These machines require part programs different than other CNC machines, like routers, mills, etc., to machine the same part because of their difference in axis configuration.

Following is a list of lathe-specific functions used in G-code for programming CNC lathe.

G-CodeLathe-specific Function
X0Center of the part
Z0The face of the part
Anything you reduce from the part will be Z- (negative)
G50Used to limit spindle speed
G83Z-axis peck drilling cycle
G84Z-axis tapping cycle
G87X-axis peck drilling cycle
G88X-axis tapping cycle
G96Automated speed adjustment depending on stock size
G97Turns at a constant speed set by the operator
G71Rough turning canned cycle
G70Finish turning canned cycle
G72Facing cycle
G73Pattern repeating cycle
G75Peck grooving cycle
G76Screw thread cycle (single and double line)
G190Radius mode
G191Diameter mode
UIncremental for X
WIncremental for Z
Lathe-specific programming functions in G-code

A CNC machinist program the CNC lathe with these codes to perform different operations like roughing, facing, threading, tapping, reaming, finishing, etc.

You can program a CNC lathe with generic CNC software compatible with lathes or use dedicated software designed to work with lathes.

Final Thoughts

CNC lathe programming software saves you a lot of time by automating the machining process and helping you increase productivity.

Lathe-specific CNC software is available for CAD/CAM and control stages of running a CNC lathe.

These software programs let you import and work with designs made from other software.

Some of the things to consider while getting a CNC lathe programming software are as follows.

  • If it can perform both CAD and CAM operations, you can save money as you don't have to buy multiple software packages.
  • Check whether it shows a simulation of the generated toolpath. If it does, it helps you verify the toolpath for potential collisions.
  • Some lathe control software doesn't have multi-tool support, so if you have a lathe with live tools (e.g., VMC), it won't be compatible with the software.
  • Sometimes CNC software requires post-processors to work with different lathes. Check whether the software supports your machine. If not, ask the developers for a post-processor built for your machine. Most software comes with post processors for popular machines.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which software is best for CNC programming?

Some of the best software programs for CNC programming are DeskProto, VCarve Pro, Autodesk Fusion 360, Mesh CAM, CamBam, Estlcam, etc. These are CAM-compatible software that allows you to generate and edit part program codes.

Who writes CNC lathe programs?

Generally, CNC machinist writes the program for lathe machines. In a professional setup like a business, they are either engineers or trained professionals.

What is CNC lathe programming software?

A CNC lathe programming software is a CAM software that generates toolpaths from part design files. This software analyses the geometric data from the design and draws out the cutter location for making the exact part with reference to a given stock.

About John

Hey I'm John. I write about Manufacturing, Metalworking, CNCs and Lasers at Mellowpine. If you have any questions related to CNCs or Lasers, I'd be happy to answer them. Reach me at mail@mellowpine.com

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Hey I'm John. I write about Manufacturing, Metalworking, CNCs and Lasers at Mellowpine. If you have any questions related to CNCs or Lasers, I'd be happy to answer them. Reach me at mail@mellowpine.com


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