"One Perfect Part at a Time"

A View on CAD, CAM, CNC Software Upgrades

The Vectric (software) company has just released version 3 of their Aspire CNC software. Nothing too earth shattering as far as major changes that I can see, but some very nice-to-have upgrades in performance and design ease. The update from version 2 is $400.00 USD. Hmmm… a lot?

A new outright full edition Aspire purchase is $1995.00 USD. It is Vectric’s highest priced do-it-all CNC package. So the $400 update cost doesn’t sound too bad. I also got to thinking that a single skilled programmer writing updates and improvements just for me would probably bill out at over $100 per hour and actually earn maybe $40 per hour ($80,000/yr) That is certainly very naïve thinking but don’t kill the message here. So at best $400 buys 10 hours of program changes, or only 4 hours at retail.

So is the upgrade worth it? You bet. I haven’t made the move but it will be coming.

At first look, Aspire and the other CNC packages offered by Vectric seem to be highly centered on CNC overhead routers and to a smaller extent, CNC mills. Many if not most of the projects shown on the web site as examples are executed in wood. That is far from the many real abilities of the software. Aspire is designed to take a block of any sort of machinable material and turn it into a 2D or 3D item of beauty or value. Wrapped 4th axis machining designs can also be executed.

I don’t think Aspire or Cut3D (another Vectric 3D package) can totally replace the function of my Rhinoceros Modeling and design tool which is used to design highly detailed fully multi sided objects such as full size cars, boats, motorcycles and even buildings. Rhino can also be used to design jewelry as small as a wedding ring.

Vectric software isn’t intended to do any of that. Both programs complement each other. Rhino 3D drawings can be imported into Aspire (and other Vectric programs). Vectric does (what it can do) on simple designs and lettering a whole lot easier than the same effect in Rhino. I actually haven’t pushed Vectric to its drawing ability limits as my current edition (now fixed in the upgrade) has a very non-intuitive process where it kept two version of a drawing object that sometimes (for me) would add or subtract from each other. It was very messy and confusing in creating a detailed design. Several times I have switched to Rhino because of that problem. That difficulty is now reported to be gone.

One thing Rhino needs is a second program to create the CNC tool path code that is already built into Vectric. So I use another software package called RhinoCAD to produce the CNC code directly from Rhino which is rather pricy addition to the software. That makes CNC from Rhino much more expensive than the total Aspire package.

The wisdom is not to buy (at additional cost) features you do not need. Even if your needs do change, it is likely your expensive program will be out of date by the time you want to use them.

I am blessed to have them both for my personal use but I admit I have made more things using Vectric software, especially with HB2. Rhino is still a definite keeper though…

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