CNC (computer numerical control) machinery is steadily evolving as the technology that supports it does – becoming better and more accessible. With this in mind, we thought we’d have a look at four pieces of software that support CAD (computer-aided design) and can be used with a sheet metal machine that supports CAM (computer-aided manufacturing).

1.     AutoCAD

Easily the most recognisable and widely used CAD software, AutoCAD was first released in 1982 and is now available on Mac OSX, Windows and even on both Android and iOS devices. Several specialised, industry-specific toolsets are available to beef up the user’s repertoire – making it easier to work within their parameters.

AutoCAD boasts cloud collaboration and storage capabilities, quick measurement displays and enhanced speeds in addition to simplified comparisons of current models with older designs and external references. The ability to work on your project anywhere also gives AutoCAD a portable edge – whether it be on your smart device or through the browser on a computer that doesn’t have the software installed. 

2.     Rhinoceros

Rhinoceros is a full suite CAD software that allows you to create any 3D shape you can imagine with the only limits coming from your hardware. With that in mind, this intuitive and easy to use software is based on a command-line system (much like early AutoCAD software) which means you can hypothetically control it all with just your keyboard.

This core element is combined with an easily navigable layout and features that include wide compatibly with other software and file formats as well as a long list of compatible third-party plugins – making it highly versatile and desirable. Another attractive feature of Rhinoceros is the fact that the licenses are linked to an account and not a machine – meaning you don’t need to update licenses if you use multiple machines – simply log in and you’ll have the full software at your disposal.


Used by several different industries, SOLIDWORKS is a highly regarded piece of CAD software – just like Rhinoceros and AutoCAD. So, what makes SOLIDWORKS different? It’s parametric software (compared to AutoCAD which is non-parametric) which means the user can define classes of shapes. This definition can then be applied to all future models. 

For example, in a non-parametric setting if you’d want to change the dimensions of a triangle then you’d have to change all three sides – but parametric software will automatically adjust the other two sides to compensate. SOLIDWORKS is also part of the 3DEXPERIENCE cloud package which was created by the parent company, Dassault Systèmes. The new version of SOLIDWORKS also boasts almost instantaneous loading times when it comes to opening files from older versions.

4.     cncKAD

cncKAD is a specialised piece of CAD/CAM software that actually integrates both the elements into one module – meaning that once you’ve designed a product you can instantly push it through into production without using separate CAM software. This is opposed to the other three pieces of software we looked at which are purely design-based. cncKAD is capable of punching, cutting, drilling, milling and tube cutting amongst other specialties. 

This CAD/CAM integration makes it highly desirable for CNC sheet metal machine operators. It also imports a variety of formats from designs made on other software for easy and quick manufacturing processes. The 2D drafting feature allows you to easily conjure up geometric shapes and specific sheet metal parts – a bonus of software being made specifically for metal fabrication solutions. Onboard QA features also check all parameters and adjust any contours where necessary so it’s ready for processing.

Are you looking for the right sheet metal machine?

ACRA Machinery is home to a plethora of sheet metal machines including several CNC options like Durma’s brilliant CNC panel bending centre. We stock both new and used machines that cover a variety of categories. Not sure which machine will suit you best? Have a chat to one of our friendly and knowledgeable staff members.

We also offer on-site machine repair and maintenance services so your machine is kept in tip-top condition. We can schedule regular check-up sessions to ensure it runs efficiently and to further prolong its operational life.

If you’d like to know more about our metal fabrication services, then you can contact us via the enquiry form on our website or by giving us a call on 03 9794 6675.