DeskProto Software Review: Is it worth it?

DeskProto Software Review: Is it worth it?

DeskProto Software Review: Is it worth it?

DeskProto is a 3D CAM software developed by Delft Spline Systems, a brand based in the Netherlands.

CAM, short for Computer Aided Manufacturing, is the process of converting a design file into a part program.

The part program contains data on the machine's toolpath for performing the desired machining operation. It is fed to the CNC controller integrated into the machine.

Is DeskProto a good CAM software for your CNC application? Find out by reading this detailed review of the software.

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DeskProto Software: Full Review

User Interface

User interface of DeskProto
The user interface of DeskProto

DeskProto has a simple user interface with menu options, as typically seen in most CAM software.

Its screen layout has seven major elements, and you can turn these UI elements on/off from the view menu bar.

UI elementFunction
The title barShows project name, software icon, license info
Menu barShows some standard menus with pull-down options
ToolbarShows multiple buttons for performing different operations
View windowShows the part imported to the software and its applied operations
Project TreeShows the project structure
NC files windowShows the NC files created
Status barShows the selected machine, info on each button

UI elements and their functions

One unique feature DeskProto has on the view window is the thumb wheels. These are a set of control wheels that allow you to rotate, pan, and zoom the part along an axis at a time.

Operating System

DeskProto is compatible with computer systems running on Windows, Mac, or Linux operating systems.

For Windows users, DeskProto supports Windows 7 and above (32 and 64-bit versions). They also offer a version that runs on Windows XP.

The installation file for Mac OS and Linux OS is 64-bit. In the case of Mac, DeskProto supports version Sierra (10.12) and above. It also works on most Linux distributions (Ubuntu, Debian, etc.).

DeskProto is not memory-intensive software. It requires about 100MB of system space and a minimum of 1GB of space to store the project files.

Testing memory and graphics use of DeskProto with a complex 3D model.
Testing memory and graphics use of DeskProto with a complex 3D model.

However, it requires a decent 3D graphics card (integrated or standalone) that supports OpenGL version 2.1 and above.

Compatibility

DeskProto supports vector, geometry, and bitmap files. Following is the list of files it's compatible with.

Vector filesGeometry filesBitmap files
DXFSTLBMP
EPSDXFGIF
AIVRMLJPG
SVGPNG
TIFF

List of files supported by DeskProto

DeskProto is compatible with 2D, 2.5D, and 3D design files. In addition, it supports DPW, DPS, DPT, and DPJ files.

DPW is a wizard file, DPS is a script file, DPT has the toolpath information, and DPJ is the DeskProto project file.

Workflow

On DeskProto, you can work in two ways, either through the wizard interface or the dialog-based interface.

The wizard interface allows for a step-by-step workflow that guides you through the process. It is best suited for beginners.

The dialogue interface is much more independent, and you are free to switch between different menu elements and settings.

Once you are well familiar with the software settings, you can work using the dialogue interface.

Working with Vector Files Using the Wizard Interface

For using the wizard interface, go to the File drop-down menu and select the "start wizard" option.

Starting wizard interface on DeskProto
Starting wizard interface on DeskProto

It opens up the wizard window. Here you have to select the machine you plan to use and the type of milling operation. In this case, it's basic vector machining.

Vector machining wizard screen 1
Vector machining wizard screen 1

Then click "Next". It'll take you to the next window on the wizard.

Vector machining wizard screen 2
Vector machining wizard screen 2

On the second wizard screen, you'll have to select the vector file and set the dimensions and cutting depth depending on the workpiece you plan to use.

If you don't have a wasteboard below the workpiece, you have to set the machining depth a little lower than the workpiece thickness. If not, the cutter can damage the machine's workbed.

Free movement height is the Z-level at which the machine can move independently, meaning without colliding against the material or clamps.

You'll have to set these values depending on your machine's configuration. Once it's done, click "next," and the software will show the next wizard screen.

Vector machining wizard screen 3
Vector machining wizard screen 3

On the third wizard screen, you need to set the dimension of the workpiece.

By default, the software will set a standard dimension using the data analyzed from the imported vector file. The resulting workpiece size made from these dimensions is called the bounding box.

You can even set a custom value depending on the border you need. Remember, you have to consider the clamping area while setting these values.

Next, you have to set the "workpiece zero point." By default, DeskProto will set the front-left corner as the zero point.

You can change this zero point on all DeskProto versions except the Free and Entry edition.

If you modify any values, make sure to click "Apply," then only the changes will become effective. Once it's done, click "Next," and it will take you to the cut settings.

Vector machining wizard screen 4
Vector machining wizard screen 4

The fourth wizard screen provides options to select the type of cutter and set the speed, feed, toolpath type, pattern, etc.

Hovering the cursor over the yellow box with a question mark symbol will display a tooltip overlay that explains the particular function.

Wizar tooltip on DeskProto
Wizar tooltip on DeskProto

Once you adjust all the options, click on the "calculate" option. The computer will now process the data and show you the toolpath with the estimated machining time.

DeskProto showing toolpath
DeskProto showing toolpath

Go to the next wizard screen to see the simulation of the final cut and generate an NC program for your project.

Vector machining wizard screen 5
Vector machining wizard screen 5

Depending upon the type of machine selected in the software, the NC program can be saved in .iso, .NC, .tap, .gcode, etc. formats.

This NC program can then be sent to the control software connected to your machine to start the manufacturing process.

Likewise, you can also generate part programs for three-dimensional parts and bitmap files.

In order to create toolpath for 3D geometry files, you have to fiddle around with many different parameters and cross seven wizard screens to set various parameters and generate the NC file.

Learning Curve

DeskProto has a simple user interface and is very easy to learn. You can find detailed documentation and tutorial videos on the Deskproto website.

To easily get to know the workflow of the machine and get in sync with the process, I recommend you use the wizard window at the starting phase.

Once you are comfortable with the process, you can directly import the design files onto the software and adjust the project, part, and operation parameters to your liking.

Features

Some of the notable features of DeskProto are its capability to work with vector, geometric, and bitmap files. This itself covers most of the design files used in manufacturing applications.

Its wizard-based workflow, part-by-part simulation, advanced feed rate control, contour machining, 3Dconnexion support, etc., are other notable features.

Support Tabs

DeskProto allows you to set support tabs on the toolpath, to prevent the cut element to separate from the workpiece.

You can customize the tabs depending on the material thickness and cutter diameter.

Roughing

Roughening operation comes in handy while working on thicker materials.

It restructures the toolpath to cut the workpiece into separate layers and minimize the material load on the cutter.

Tool Path Preview and Simulation

DeskProto shows the toolpath and simulation of the machined part. You can use this as a reference to adjust the clamping and other machining parameters.

Custom Library

Adding new cutter on DeskProto library
Adding new cutter on DeskProto library

DeskProto has a preloaded library of tools, machines, and postprocessors.

If your machine's setup doesn't match any preset from the library, you can add custom data for your machine, tools, and post processors.

Project Tree

Project tree of a DeskProto project
Project tree of a DeskProto project

The project tree, available on the left of the view window, displays the structure of your project. Under it, you can assign different operations to each part.

For example, you can set it as to perform a roughing operation first, then a finishing operation. In addition, you can also set profiling, pocketing, drilling, etc.

Even for each branch operation, you can customize independent values and toolpath patterns.

Advanced Geometry

DeskProto has an advanced geometry feature. It allows you to create a toolpath for complex parts with similar opposite sides and complete rotary axis-based machining.

A step-by-step workflow tutorial is provided on DeskProto's manual page.

Documentation

DeskProto has well-documented PDFs of tutorials and reference manuals to get you started.

The manual covers every aspect of the software. It is recommended to start with the tutorial documentation and refer to the manual to clear any doubts.

They also have some interesting articles and downloadable product brochures on their website.

Community

DeskProto forum
A screenshot of the DeskProto forum

DeskProto has an active forum hosted on their website.

They also have Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube channels that you can follow. Their youtube channel has many helpful video tutorials.

Customer Support

DeskProto has a dedicated support tab on its website. It has links for a quick start guide, setup tips, manuals, video guides, tips & tricks, etc.

Delft Spline Systems is the maker of DeskProto software. For queries, you can reach them via phone or email.

All contact details are available on the contact page of their website.

Licenses and Price

DeskProto has three types of licenses available: Commercial, Hobby/Educational, and Upgrades.

Comparatively, upgrades and updates are priced less, but you should have a license to an older version of DeskProto to get such a license.

DeskProto also has a free version of their commercial and hobby/educational versions, which anyone can download and use.

Excluding the free edition of DeskProto, under the commercial license, it has three editions: entry, expert, and multi-axis.

Hobby licenses are for the multi-axis version of DeskProto software and are available for private use only.

Unfortunately, if you get a hobby license, you won't get any support via phone or email. You'll have to rely on their forum to resolve your issues.

The educational license of the DeskProto multi-axis edition is priced similar to a hobby license and is intended for schools, teachers, and students.

For schools, they also offer DeskProto's entry and multi-axis editions. These come as a bundle of 25 licenses that you can install on 25 different computers.

The entry edition is provided as a "class pack" that's priced higher than a hobby license. The multi-axis edition is provided as a "lab license" and is comparatively the most costly license of DeskProto software.

For more details on price, distributors, terms, etc., check out the buy tab on their website.

Final Thoughts

DeskProto is a reliable software that can be used by anyone with basic knowledge of CAM software.

Its wizard-based workflow is a unique feature that makes it inviting for new users.

DeskProto can be a great solution for hobbyists and small or medium-sized companies that want to save time, money, and effort put into their manufacturing process.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can I use the hobby version of DeskProto for commercial purposes?

You can only use the hobby version of DeskProto for commercial purposes if the annual revenue made from such commercial activities is less than €3,000 (~$3,072).

Is DeskProto free?

DeskProto has a free edition that anyone can freely download and use. However, their regular license can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to around $1,100.

What's new in DeskProto V7?

DeskProto V7 is the latest release of DeskProto's CAM software. It comes with a host of new features and improvements that make it easier to use, more efficient, and more accurate than its predecessor. Also, V7 has a free version that anyone can use. Before that, it was fully paid software.

About John

Hey I'm John. I talk about CNCs and Power Tools at Mellowpine. I'm a CNC hobbyist who has been making CNCs and writing about CNCs for a while. I currently also work as a consultant for business owners and hobbyists setting up their own CNCs. If you have any questions related to CNC, I'd be happy to answer them. Reach me at john@mellowpine.com

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John

Hey I'm John. I talk about CNCs and Power Tools at Mellowpine. I'm a CNC hobbyist who has been making CNCs and writing about CNCs for a while. I currently also work as a consultant for business owners and hobbyists setting up their own CNCs. If you have any questions related to CNC, I'd be happy to answer them. Reach me at john@mellowpine.com

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