Laser engraving software is a crucial tool for controlling and managing laser engraving machines. It allows you to create, edit, and execute engraving or cutting jobs with precision.
When choosing laser engraving software, consider the compatibility with your laser machine’s controller, the ease of use, the range of features required for your projects, and whether you need specialized functions like image processing, vector drawing, or support for different file formats. Below, I’ll introduce some popular free laser engraving software options:
RDWorks is software designed for laser cutting and engraving operations. It enables users to create lines, shapes, Bezier curves, and text while supporting various vector formats (e.g., .dxf, .ai, .plt) and raster formats (e.g., .bmp, .jpg, .gif, .png).
- Format Compatibility
- Windows Compatibility
- Control Features
- Basic Design Functions
- Work Simulation
- Low Resource Usage
- Limited Advanced Features
- Dependence on Other Software
RDWorks is a user-friendly software primarily suited for basic laser cutting and engraving tasks. While it offers compatibility with various file formats and efficient resource usage, it may not meet the needs of users seeking advanced design features and functionality. Additionally, it is recommended for use in tandem with other graphic design software for more complex projects.
LaserGRBL is a free and user-friendly Windows software designed for controlling laser cutters, particularly aimed at consumer-level machines. It provides essential functionality for laser cutting and engraving tasks, making it an excellent choice for beginners.
- Free to Use
- File Format Support
- Essential Functionality
- Large Community Support
- Limited Advanced Features
- Less User-Friendly
LaserGRBL is a valuable choice, especially for beginners in laser cutting and engraving. It offers essential features, ease of use, and the advantage of being free. However, it may lack some advanced features found in more comprehensive software like LightBurn, and it might not be as user-friendly in certain aspects. Nevertheless, it is a viable alternative for many laser-cutting applications.
Inkscape is a versatile graphic design software known for its scalability as a vector-based tool. It’s compatible with various formats and is free, open-source, and user-friendly. While it excels in image creation and editing, it may have limitations with certain file formats and performance issues with large files.
- Native Scalable Vector Format
- Format Compatibility
- Free and Open Source
- Conversion Capabilities
- Performance Issues with Large Files
- Limited Compatibility with Some Formats
Inkscape is an excellent tool for creating and editing images, especially when used with the FABOLIFT laser engraver. Its strengths include speed, high-quality conversions, and graphic design capabilities. However, it falls short in compatibility with certain formats like PSD. If you seek an affordable option for creating professional laser-engraved pictures, Inkscape may not be the best choice due to its limitations in this regard.
OpenBuilds consists of two separate but complementary software programs, CAM and CONTROL, designed for CNC control and G-code generation. While using both is not mandatory, having both can be advantageous, especially if you lack a G-code generator.
Comparison to LightBurn:
In comparison to LightBurn, OpenBuilds offers a competitive feature set. It provides nearly all the features found in LightBurn, but the key distinction is that OpenBuilds is entirely free, with both official and community support.
- Offline Use
- Companion CAM Software
- Delayed Updates
OpenBuilds is a versatile CNC control and G-code generation software package consisting of CONTROL and CAM. It offers a competitive feature set similar to LightBurn but stands out for being completely free and open-source. Its cross-platform compatibility and offline capabilities make it a practical choice for CNC enthusiasts.
SolveSpace offers a unique blend of CAD software and controller capabilities. While it primarily functions as CAD software, it also serves as a machine controller, making it a versatile tool for users who require both functionalities. However, it lacks certain advanced features found in dedicated controller software like LightBurn.
Although not as feature-rich as some dedicated controller software, SolveSpace can create G-code toolpaths and assemble grids for laser cutters.
It doesn’t include advanced features like live jogging but serves well for essential CNC control tasks.
- CAD Integration
- Parametric CAD
- Platform Compatibility
- Learning Resources
- Limited Controller Features
- Not a Replacement for FreeCAD
- Missing Features
SolveSpace is a free, open-source parametric 3D CAD software with integrated CNC control capabilities. While it may not provide all the advanced features of dedicated CNC controllers, it offers a unique combination of CAD and CNC control in one package. It’s suitable for users who require both functionalities but may not be the best choice for those solely in need of CNC control.
The choice of laser engraving software largely depends on your specific needs, the type of laser engraving machine you have, and your familiarity with graphic design and CAD software. Some software options are more user-friendly, while others offer advanced features for professional and industrial applications. Be sure to check the compatibility of the software with your laser engraving machine before making a choice.