Depending on your CNC system, you will need three different software programs.
- CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing)
- Machine Control Software
The CAM software is the one that you will most likely need to purchase in addition to your CNC machine. Some CAM programs like Vectric V Carve or Cut 2D have a design component included in the software, so one program meets both 1 and 2 above.
Design programs like Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape, Corel Draw. CAD programs like AutoCAD, Fusion 360, Sketchup, Solidworks, etc. STEPCRAFT supports these and many more of the popular CAD/vector design software programs on the market. Depending on what you are looking to do will determine how much knowledge you will need to have on a CAD or design program
A CAM (computer aided manufacturing) program. A CAM program will take the vectors or 3D model that you have designed and allow you to tell the program which tools you intent to use as well as the material size and the speeds and feed rate that you wish to run for your project. The CAM program will output a G Code file, which is basically common machine language for CNC machines. Vectric programs like V Carve and Cut 2D make this process pretty easy. STEPCRAFT sells and supports the full line of Vectric programs as well as Deskproto Multi-Axis CAM software.
Most CNC machines will come with machine control software. STEPCRAFT, for example, comes with UCCNC when ordered from the USA office. They provide UCCNC as well as WinPC-NC in other parts of the world. Mach 3/4 is a very popular machine control software program which is used with many commercial machines as well as the DIY CNC world. There are also programs line Linux CNC for Linux platforms and come manufacturers will include their own proprietary programs.
You can expect that many commercial CNC machines will come with software, as the machine is useless without it. If you are making your own (DIY) CNC machine, then you will most definitely need to purchase software like UCCNC or Mach 3/4 for machine control.