Industry Blog: 3D Carving

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CNC machines have a vast variety of applications they can be used for since all of CanCam machines are simultaneously moving 3 axis machines. Due to this instinctive feature, three dimensional carving and relief cuts can be used and implemented when using CanCam CNC routers catering greatly to the mold-manufacturing market, cabinetry and furniture markets, hobbyist, etc. Below are the many ways a CNC machine can aid in your specific market requiring 3D carving as well as the limitations provided.

Increased Productivity

CNC machines are machines intended to increase the productivity of any business. It increases the productivity of any company using 3 dimensional cuts by reducing the time it takes to manufacture parts as well as reducing the number of people needed to complete the job. When doing 3 dimension cuts on a CNC machine you can simply run your program and work on other tasks needed to be done while monitoring the machine periodically. This provides a detailed cut while not having to do large amounts of rework in order to have a finished product. You can already have a finished product in one simple step.

Repeatable Details

CNC machines provide the freedom of having high repeatability accuracy when cutting. Doing 3 dimensional cutting with a CNC machine allows for production to occur without much variation between the finished products. This is important for companies wanting to replicate their designs.


Although there are many capabilities of CNC machines when performing 3D cuts, there are still many limitations that restrict it from being truly 3 dimensional. Firstly, you are only able to machine onto one face of whichever material you intend to cut. Only be using a 4th or 5th axis will you be able to machine multiple faces. Secondly, you are only able to go as deep as your gantry clearance allows you to go. Since there is only one face that you can machine, that parameter is restricted by the distance that the spindle can travel along the z-axis.

Things needed

To implement 3 dimensional cutting, there are a few things that are essential to ensuring the cut is done properly with ease.


Proper Software is needed to program tool paths with 3 dimensional cuts. There is a variety of different software to choose from that have the capabilities of 3 dimensional cutting. CanCam offers Artcam express with all of its machines and while being able to upgrade to Vectric aspire. Both have the ability to create 3 dimensional renderings from JPEG files, import STL files and implement roughing and finishing tool paths. Having reliable software to general your g-code form 3D cuts will greatly increase the ease of using a CNC machine.

Figure 1: Vectric Aspire


Choosing a proper tool is also important because there are many tools that are specifically designed for 3 dimensional cutting. Ball nose tools are essential to creating a cut with a smooth finish. The varying size of the ball nose will allow you to choose the level of detail you wish to have. Tapered ball nose tools have the yield the best results because they tend to break less easily with a larger shaft while having the precision of a smaller tool due to its graduate decrease in radius towards the tip of the tool.

Figure 2: Tapered ball nose