MeshCAM Day 2 - Image Machining

(NOTE: This tutorial is for MeshCAM V9, if you’re looking for V8, click here )

Yesterday you got a walkthough of the most common MeshCAM workflow, machining a 3D STL file. Today we’ll look at something a little non-traditional: machining an image file.

If you choose to follow along, you can download the PNG file or get it as a ZIP file.

1. Load the File

The 3D view now shows the image converted to a height map with the lighter parts of the image set at a higher Z level and the darker set to a lower Z level.

2. Create a Tool

MeshCAM needs to know what tool you plan on using to cut the geometry so it can properly calculate a toolpath.

3. Set Machine

MeshCAM has a number of machine configurations built-in to help calcualte starting values for speeds and feeds.

4. Global Settings

The global settings part of the toolpath dialog defines a few items that affect every toolpath that is generated.

MeshCAM will attempt to pick sensible speeds and feeds for your project based on the machine and material you pick. It’s fine to pick your machine or something closer to your machine and material instead of Shapeoko and hard wood. Just be aware that if you do so, you’ll end up with different values for speeds and feeds below.

5. Create a Toolpath

Since this project is a low-relief, without a great deal of material to be removed, we have the option to skip the roughing toolpath. To be complete, we’ll include it here but it’s not always necessary.

6. Calculate Toolpaths

On the left pane you’ll see your roughing and finishing toolpaths listed.

7. Preview the Toolpath

Once the toolpath apprears in the 3D window, you can shift the view to get a closer look at any part for the geometry.

8. Save the G-Code

MeshCAM comes with a bunch of post processors that tell it how to format the gcode for your machine controller. When saving the file, it’s important to pick the right post processor for your machine. If you have any doubts, pick Basic-Gcode or Mach3. Both are fairly generic and work with most machines.


You may have never considered using an image as the source for a CNC machining project but the feedback I’ve gotten over the years is that this is one of the most popular features in MeshCAM.

If you’re one of these people then you may want to open up your favorite image editor and see what you can come up with. As you play with it more you may think of projects that would take much longer to complete with a traditional CAD workflow.