MeshCAM Day 1 - STL Machining

(NOTE: This tutorial is for MeshCAM V8, if you’re looking for V6, click here )

This is the first of a several tutorials to introduce you to MeshCAM. Feel free to print this for later use or follow along now. If you choose to follow along, you can download the STL file or get it as a ZIP file

1. Load the File

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. 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.

4. Create a Toolpath

For a project like this, we’ll create both a roughing toolpath and a finishing toolpath. Roughing has the task of removing material as quickly as possible while finishing has the task of making the machined surface match your model.

MeshCAM will pick approximate speeds and feeds based on your cutter, the machine, and the material you picked. Feel free to override these values anytime you need to.

5. Calculate Toolpaths

Your two toolapths should be shown in the left pane.

6. Preview the Toolpath

Once the toolpath apprears in the 3D window, you move the view to get a closer look at any parts you want to see in more detail. If you would like to disable either the roughing or finishing then you can uncheck them in the Inspect Toolpath dialog box. Be sure to recheck both roughing and finishing them before moving on or they will not be saved in the gcode file.

8. Simulate Toolpath (MeshCAM Pro Only)

If you’re running MeshCAM Pro you have the option to show a full 3D simulation of the toolpath

9. Save the Gcode

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


Hopefully you will found it easy to generate a toolpath for a complex geometry. If you would like to try running this part on your own machine then you may want to change the feedrates to something more suitable for your particular machine.

If you’re new to CNC machining then the best advice I can give is that you take the time to experiment with the values entered above and see how the toolpaths vary. A little experimentation will get you up the learning curve very quickly.