MeshCAM Software Review and Guide [2022]

MeshCAM Software Review and Guide [2022]

MeshCAM Software Review and Guide [2022]

Developed by GRZ software, MeshCAM is a CAM software that's highly popular among hobbyists and non-machinists.

In the world of CAM software programs, MeshCAM is distinguished by its low learning curve and extensive compatibility with different CAD programs.

MeshCAM has features like its 'Automatic Toolpath Wizard' that takes away the need to input several settings each time you want to generate G-code.

In this guide, I walk you through the important features of MeshCAM and what makes it different from other CAM software programs.

MeshCAM Software Review

I evaluate MeshCAM on how it fares on important parameters like user interface (UI/UX), cost, features, compatibility, among others.

User Interface (UI/UX)

The user interface of MeshCAM has a minimalistic design and clear-to-read buttons helping with easy navigation.

MeshCAM shows all the parameters collectively on the left-hand side of the software window along with the design in the center.

Currently, MeshCAM is available only in English unlike other CAM software programs like MasterCAM and VCarve that are available in multiple languages.

User Interface of MeshCAM
User Interface of MeshCAM

Operating System

MeshCAM is compatible with both Windows and Mac operating systems.

For Windows OS, it is compatible with 64-bit versions of Windows 7, Windows 8, and, Windows 10.

You need a computer with a minimum of 4GB of RAM to run MeshCAM.

All the versions of MeshCAM are listed in the download tab of the official website. You can get the latest or older build depending on your requirement.

Important Features of MeshCAM

MeshCAM allows even a beginner with minimal knowledge of CAM software to take a CAD file and generate G-code for it.

It allows you to get quickly to the cutting stage instead of spending hours learning the CAM software like in Fusion 360 and MasterCAM.

However, this does not mean MeshCAM lacks advanced options for experienced machinists.

If you opt to manually set your parameters, MeshCAM does offer extensive control over the settings.

This makes MeshCAM software accessible for all categories of users including beginners and professionals.

MeshCAM is also one of the best CNC software for woodworking due to the number of features that it offers for woodworking.

Next, I discuss some important features of MeshCAM that you should know about.

CAD software support

MeshCAM is compatible with almost all 3D CAD programs available on the market.

If you already have a CAD software license then this will help as you do not need to think about the compatibility issues.

In general, if your CAD software can generate STL or DFX files then MeshCAM will work.

Converts 2D images to 3D surfaces

You can load JPEG, BPG, or PNG images in MeshCAM and it will convert them to a 3D surface that you can machine directly. (yes!)

This means, If you have a project that's very hard to design on a CAD program (like logos) then this feature will help you.

CNC machine compatibility

MeshCAM comes with built-in post-processors to transform the G-code to work with almost any CNC machine or router.

MeshCAM comes with a list of post-processors for controllers such as Mach 2, Mach 3, Mach 4, Linux CNC, GRBL, and more.

Also, if your machine is not listed then you can select a machine that's similar to yours.

MeshCAM allows you to override all of your toolpath settings if you need.

Additionally, if you find any issues with the built-in post processors then you can email them about it.

It's possible they might modify the post processor for you without any extra cost.

Automatic Toolpath Wizard

If you are a beginner to CAM software then it can be daunting when you see all the parameters you need to set for creating a toolpath in most CAM software programs.

Generally, you will need multiple trials before you can generate a useable toolpath.

With the automatic toolpath wizard in MeshCAM, you only need to set the desired quality level and the cutters (endmills/router bits) used.

MeshCAM will analyze the model and automatically pick the best values for the parameters required.

Automatic toolpath generation in MeshCAM
Automatic toolpath generation in MeshCAM

More toolpath options

Toolpath generation is a balancing act between the speed and accuracy of your CNC machine.

Every part requires a different approach to machine it efficiently and thus generating an optimal toolpath is critical.

MeshCAM will help you in this as it has a variety of toolpath options like parallel roughing (2D and 3D), parallel finishing, pencil finishing, chamfering, pocketing, and more.

You can use a combination of these toolpaths to machine almost any part that you might need to mill.

Toolpath Options in MeshCAM
Toolpath Options in MeshCAM

Eliminate complicated fixtures

Clamps and vises are commonly used to hold the material while machining.

Sometimes they get in the way while cutting and damage the cutting tool. MeshCAM has a neat workaround for this issue.

You can add support tabs on the edges of your designs on MeshCAM. What this does is it leaves a thin section of material uncut on the sides.

This ensures that the part you want to cut out remains connected to the stock material and at the same time, the tab is thin enough to be broken off with a little bit of pressure using your hands.

These supports also hold the part in place so that you can cut the top surface without worrying about the clamps getting in the way.

Generally, you can add tabs and supports in the CAD software but MeshCAM lets you do this while you are converting your file to G-code.

This is a nifty feature to have if you have multiple CNC routers.

Additionally, you can easily do 2-sided machining as the supports/tabs greatly help in holding down the part after it's flipped over for machining the other side.

Capability to handle huge parts

MeshCAM can process very large files which makes generating toolpaths for large projects (like a Canoe) possible.

In terms of numbers, it can effortlessly handle an STL file with a size of about 500 MB.

MeshCAM Compatibility

You can import a variety of file formats into MeshCAM like SVG, STL, DXF, BMP JPG, and more.

MeshCAMs ability to process STL files makes it compatible with almost all available CAD software.

After importing, you can rotate, reposition and scale the file in the workplace.

You can also select the CNC router that you are using and MeshCAM will process the G-code match your specific CNC router.

Another great point in favor of MeshCAM is that it works completely offline, and is not cloud-based.

You only need an internet connection while registering and installing the software.

Learning Curve

MeshCAM is a simple to understand CAM software program.

The software has one of the shortest learning curves among CAM programs that lets beginners make parts within a day.

The help tab on the software has links to the video tutorials that will help you to learn the software and flatten the learning curve.

Documentation

MeshCAM features a dedicated help tab that can assist you when you get stuck.

You can learn everything about MeshCAM from here.

The tab is well structured and if you are a beginner then I highly recommend you to go through the help tab before starting.

You can access the documentation from here. It offers a user manual that you can download and also some tutorial videos that you can watch on YouTube.

The manual is well structured and defines all the machining parameters in detail.

It explains everything in a simple way using illustrative images.

Carbide 3D's YouTube channel has some of the most useful tutorials for MeshCAM.

Help tab of MeshCAM
Help tab of MeshCAM

Community

GRZ software does not have a dedicated forum for MeshCAM users and the most active online community for MeshCAM is on cnczone.

Due to its popularity, MeshCAM users can be found on forums of most CNC brands such as Inventables, and Carbide 3D.

MeshCAM Pro Features

MeshCAM Pro is an upgrade to the standard version and offers some additional features like 3D toolpath simulation, 2D contour toolpath, and 2D pocket toolpath.

The 3D toolpath simulation shows where the tool will go while cutting. Along with this, it also shows how the finished part will look at the end.  

If you are a beginner then this is very helpful as you can see the changes in the part with different settings.

This can save a lot of time and material for you.

Overall, it is a great feature to have but it comes at an extra cost.

Alternatively, you can use a free CNC simulation software instead of choosing the pro version of MeshCAM.

Customer Support

If you are facing any issues or need any kind of assistance while using MeshCAM then you can contact the developer via email.

Updates to your purchased version of MeshCAM is free (within the same version).

However, updating your MeshCAM to a new version requires paying a fee.

If MeshCAM releases a new version within 3 months of your purchase then you get it for free.

Feature of simulation in Pro version

Cost

MeshCAM is sold in two versions, MeshCAM and MeshCAM Pro. You can purchase the license online from their website.

The standard version will cost you $250 while the Pro version will cost you $500 for a single license.

Thankfully, the license is perpetual and thus you only need to pay once.

GRZ software will give you a trial period of 15 days for both MeshCAM and MeshCAM pro.

If you are a beginner I recommend you use MeshCAM Pro during the trial period as you can use the simulation feature.

This will help you to understand the various toolpath settings of a CNC machine without physically cutting anything.

Option for selecting between standard and pro versions during the trial period

Final Thoughts

MeshCAM was first released in 2004. Since then, it has undergone a lot of development to get it to the level it is at today.

The perpetual licensing system of MeshCAM makes it much more affordable compared to other CAM software that require you to pay a yearly subscription fee.

Overall, MeshCAM is a convenient CAM software that offers a lot for beginners and professionals.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How much does MeshCAM cost?

MeshCAM is available in two versions, Standard and Pro. The standard version sells for $250 and the pro version is sold for $500 for a single license.

Does MeshCAM support simulation?

Yes, it supports simulation but you have to upgrade it to the Pro version for using the simulation feature.

Is MeshCAM free to download?

No, MeshCAM is a paid software program. However, it offers a combined trial period of 15 days for both the standard and pro versions.

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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