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PixelCNC compared to Vcarve Pro

A topic by jackofalltrayds created 40 days ago Views: 61 Replies: 3
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I'm wondering if someone can give me a quick comparison of PixelCNC and Vcarve Pro.  I am looking at Bas Relief and sign making capabilities.  Also, VCP has all of these clip art files you can download for more money, of course.  Would you just use generic clip art files in PixelCNC and expect more or less the same results as with VCP?  I imagine there are some considerable difference between the two programs  given that one is mainstream and medium level and the other, PixelCNC is an innovative open source offering at a significantly lower price.  I've used the Demo VCP and I like it ok.  It seems to be a  means for getting you to buy more clip art pack/collections so they can keep an income stream.  Does PixelCNC provide the same thing or are you on your own to find the appropriate clip art files web sites?  

I particularly like the svg conversion that PCNC provides.  Is that similar to the capability in Aspire?  

Completely new at the software end of this.  I've been using Meshcam for years and am looking to move up to more capabilities.  Any help would be appreciated.




Thanks for your interest in PixelCNC, these are some great questions!

I'd like to clear up any confusion: PixelCNC is unfortuantely *not* open-source software. I'm proud of the fact that I can offer the value that PixelCNC provides and considering how quickly it can pay for itself I think it's only fair that I be compensated for its use. More personally, I'm not currently earning an income with my programming skills elsewhere and the 2+ years working nearly full time on PixelCNC also cost my family their time. I owe it to them to generate an income of some kind from PixelCNC, so for the interim PixelCNC's source code will not be open to the public. Sorry!

My mission with PixelCNC is to provide the most valuable functionality and capabilities of software like Aspire/V-Carve/Carveco at price that's more affordable to smaller operations and DIY hobbyists/artists. This comes with other features that can't really be had elsewhere, such as unique original toolpath types and much better support for using images as input. PixelCNC is currently available as "early-access" alpha version software, it's a work-in-progress. Nonetheless, it's very capable when it comes to compositing project designs, generating toolpaths, and producing G-code. With the addition of the newer canvas-layer system users can now composite images, models, vectors, and TrueType/OpenType text together on their project's "canvas" which they can then generate a variety of CNC cut-paths off of. PixelCNC is capable of creating just about anything one would wish to create on a 3-axis CNC mill or router: relief carvings, V-carvings/B-carvings, stipples, half-tones, terrace-carvings, etc.

As for your question about a clipart libary, PixelCNC does not (currently) come with any clipart or model libraries. There are tentative plans to build a public asset/clipart library into PixelCNC's interface. This would allow users to seamlessly share images/models/vectors and browse what others have shared for use in their own projects. In the meantime, users are on their own creating and/or collecting assets to use in their projects. Fortunately, there are plenty of online sources for 3D models and also great TrueType/OpenType fonts which contain really nice elements to use as decorative pieces of a project. Users who know their way around graphic design software can also create grayscale designs as images to use in their projects, which is originally what PixelCNC was built for - model and vector support came later. This was because it was easier for my wife and I to work with creating designs in Photoshop for filling custom sign orders on Etsy than it was to deal with creating 3D models (which neither of us really know how to do).

PixelCNC is also capable of generating several different 3D shapes from 2D path vector input - which can either be hand-drawn, loaded from SVG files (soon DXF too), or generated from raster/model/text layers (or the canvas as a whole) using the trace-to-paths function. Path-sweeping capabilities have also been added in the most recent version, which are currently accessible via the path-edit mode. This allows using paths as 2D "profiles" which are extruded along another path "rail" - or spanning between two path rails. Path-sweeps blend between different profiles placed along the rails and are capable of creating a wide range of interesting shapes and decorative features. These are powerful features that have typically only been found in more expensive software and I'm proud to be able to provide them to PixelCNC users, and more generative functions for raster/path/text layers like these are on the way!


There are still plenty of things left to do to improve usability and educate users how to achieve different things, and just what the extent of the things possible with PixelCNC even are. Right now there's a dearth in any kind of learning resources - just the included User Guide (which is more of a reference) and an outdated tutorial or two. This leaves a lot of people confused about what exactly can be done with PixelCNC.

I made a conscious decision to focus almost exclusively on developing the best software that I possibly can, first-and-foremost, because it occurred to me that I'd otherwise be spreading myself too thin. I would be compromising PixelCNC's quality (and extending development time) if I were both developing and promoting it - which includes making tutorial/videos. This was especially the case because too much of PixelCNC's interface and features were still up in the air and I would end up having to update tutorials or re-do them entirely just so that they match with newer versions as things are moved around and changed. After PixelCNC is mostly complete and there are no more major changes to be made will I then transition into the "beta" phase of development, which means spending most of my time producing learning resources and promotional materials, such as tutorials, demonstration videos, and example project blog posts. In the meantime, I also cannot develop PixelCNC in a bubble - which is why it's available as early-access alpha version software, just so I can get *some* feedback about usability, bugs, feature requests, etc...

I would recommend that someone not comfortable using incomplete/unfinished software or figuring out how to use software on their own should wait a few more months until PixelCNC is at least in beta, when I'm actively providing learning resources and making demonstrations/tutorials/videos. The caveat is the higher price PixelCNC will have upon reaching beta status, due to incremental price increases that have accompanied (and will continue to accompany) the addition of new features and functionality. Existing paid-users receive additional features and functionality as they're rolled out at no extra charge. So, there *is* some incentive for users to get in early at the lower price (and hopefully provide feedback to help improve PixelCNC). Gaining more traffic and sales isn't yet the priority though, not until we reach beta and go into full PR mode.

At the end of the day, PixelCNC will likely never have all of the features or functionality of more expensive software, but it will certainly give them a run for their money and prove to be an extremely valuable tool for many. I suggest that at the very least everyone keep an eye out for when PixelCNC reaches beta this year ;)

Let me know if you have any other questions/comments/concerns and thanks again!


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Actually this project it gives me hopes that I will see innovation in the field of CAM software for hobbyist CNC makers and alike. Nothing really interesting came out in this field for so many years now. Vectric stoped to innovate some ten years ago. From then they are just reinventing the wheel, any "major update" it is just a mere bunch of bug-fixes and tiny improvements and nothing more. ArtCAM it is just changing the owner every few years, adding nothing to the table but only price increases on licensing side. FreeCAD path it is still far away for real work, Fusion360 it is only subscription/cloud based, Autodesk being recognised as one of the worst and the most untrusty software company in the planet, and the other CAM projects are or overpriced or not very competitive, like CamBam struggling to take the version 1.0 for a few years now, etc. DeskProto seems to be the only software who is improving, they are preparing a MAC and Linux version, testing myself  the beta right now, but their 5axis capabilities are limited to "trunion" machines, and the toolpath-simulation it is the worst I ever seen.

Deftware, please take into account that all the hobby CNC softwares are offering a lot of options for cabinet makers, because this is how the market is. Majority of the CNC "hobby" and "semi-pro" owners are do making furniture and cabinets, so it is logic that all this CAM softwares to offer tools to easily take the design to CNC machine. The "artistic" part is only a fraction of the whole market, and any CNC owner wants a single software tool to do all the job. Your software seems good on the artistic side, but right now offers nothing for furniture production, which is a pity.


I totally understand where you're coming from but unfortunately it's just not in the cards this time around. If it were something I could pull off in a week then I'd be up to considering it as a possibility. As it stands, due to the inherent limitations of PixelCNC's core systems any given XY point on the canvas can have only one corresponding Z coordinate. As as a result there is no way to cleanly or easily add any kind of functionality for designing or calculating toolpaths for any kind of overhangs. This applies to the simulation system and cutter geometry as well. Everything is built around a simple 2D representation where each point can have a single Z coordinate tied to it.

The best I can do is add a new entry-cut mode to the profiling operation which instead approaches cuts from the side, rather than from above, but you'll still be defining your router bits as one of the existing tool types and simulating it without being able to see what the final result will actually look like in the simulation, but the resulting toolpath should be perfectly usable with a router bit (assuming that your toolpath parameters are correct and it doesn't try to approach the toolpath wrong or move too far into the material).

As for actually giving the user the ability to model cutters or features on their project's canvas that cannot be represented using a 2D heightfield function it's just not going to happen without spending months of time gutting tons of code and re-writing it to work with a new canvas representation - including all the toolpath generation algorithms. That's time I just don't have, unless you'd be willing to start paying me a full time salary to work on it. I've already set my sights on getting PixelCNC to beta this summer for over a year now (and it's already going to be really tight as-is) so that I can finally switch to PR/marketing mode and begin generating an income for my wife and kids.

In the meantime, I still have at least half a dozen new toolpath types I plan to incorporate which will allow for some cool new stuff, and a bunch of canvas layer editing functions, along with built-in tutorial/walkthrough modes and a system for orienting new users with the interface.