ESTLCam First Impressions

hello estlcam MDFESTLCam is a computer aided manufacturing program that is probably more well known in Germany than in the US.  You may recognize it from the original warrior knife holder which I shrunk down to make my warrior dart holder (Darticus?).  I’m not sure if you could consider this a full review, more of a “Hello world” for ESTLCAM.

I’ve listed my first impressions of the software, with some more screenshots after the “read more.”

Excellent Features

  • dxf-translation-correct-r12-estlcam

    Importation of DXFs works well if it’s in R12 format

    Cost – $25 in the US!  I haven’t found anything cheaper, although there are some free options out there.  You can try it out for free, but I’m not sure what restrictions there are on this.

  • Mach3 Compatibility – Of course not everyone runs Mach3 as their machine control software, but I do.  I’m not sure what it changes, but there are several options for what control software you are using.
  • Good Looking User Interface – This may be a small issue, and it’s quite subjective, but I really liked the feel of everything.
  • Excellent Support – As with other small companies that have given me stuff to try out (Zen Toolworks and pyMCU for example) Christian has been quite helpful.  As with the others, I’d assume he’d treat his customers well too!
  • Can Import DXFs or Draw Items Manually – You would expect this, but it’s there, so don’t sweat it.
  • 3D Preview Mode – check.  Need to explore how this can be used more, but it’s there.
  • List of Gcode Commands – nice to have this reference in the program.

I was able to go from install to producing Gcode for my router with it in about an hour.  I’d installed it before, so I’d seen the software, but I had some computer problems shortly thereafter and wasn’t able to take advantage of it.  Although it seems like a good piece of software, especially considering the price, there are a few drawbacks to it.

Limitations

  • Unit Conversion Not always Complete – Some of the menus will still use Metric units if you convert to English.  Not a deal-breaker, but definitely something to watch out for.  I would guess Christian has told me this, as well as a few other issues will be fixed as the software is updated.
  • DXFs need to be in the “R12″ format or it sometimes doesn’t read correctly.  I used Draftsight to convert everything (my review for Windows and Ubuntu Linux) and everything worked in my limited test using complicated geometry.
  • Gcode Does Not Use Circles, instead it interpolates everything into small lines.  The Gcode can be quite large because of this, but on the other hand you don’t have to worry about crazy crop circles (my experience and solution).  I’ve actually used this before quite successfully before I knew as much about CNC.  I don’t care that much myself, but “CNC purists” might have some issues with it.

Conclusion

If I was starting from scratch and had to buy a CAM package, at roughly 1/6th the price, my choice of what to buy would definitely be ESTLCam.   I’m currently more familiar with CAMBam, but for the price, you really can’t beat it.  On the other hand, most packages (including this one) you’re allowed to “try before you buy,” so that’s a good option with this or any other software you’re considering.

Although I hadn’t heard of ESTLCam at the time, I go through some of the other CAM options that you have for your hobby CNC router here.  Finally, check out the ESTLCam instructional video below to get a flavor for the software, in a pleasant German accent!


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