Importing and Toolpathing 3D Models in VCarve / Aspire

Although VCarve doesn’t have 3D modeling capabilies, it can import 3D models created in other software or found online.

Importing the Model
Create a file as you typically would. Then click File > Import > Import Component / 3D Model and open a 3D file. VCarve accepts multiple 3D model file types. The most common is format is probably a stereolithography file (.STL).


VCarve will switch to a 3D preview of the model with orientation options to the left.  You may need to change the orientation of the model in the Initial Orientation panel, adjust the dimensions in the Model Size panel, and Alter the Zero Plane Position (often “Bottom” is preferable).

When you click Okay the model will be confirmed and added to your Component Tree (viewable in the Modeling Tab).

Note: The top of your model must be below the top of your stock.  Your stock size and model height can be adjusted after confirming, but it’s always better to think about this ahead of time.


Toolpathing operations include two steps.  First is the roughing operation which clears away excess material.  This is followed by a finishing operation that contours the model.  The roughing and finishing operations are the last two options in the Toolpath Operations panel.

As far as tool selection goes, a large flat-end tool is ideal for roughing and ball-end tools are typically used for finishing (the diameter of the finishing bit is determined by the level of detail required).  Stepover is a critical factor for speed and finish quality.  Roughing operations can have a large step-over, but finishing operations will need to be 5% to 20% of the bit diameter for the best results.  Lowering the step over percentage will drastically lengthen the machining time so optimizing this value for the required quality is important if machining time per unit is important for your project.  Stepover can be adjusted by editing the tool.

Note: If your part is relatively shallow you may be able to avoid the roughing operation altogether.  In order to avoid breaking the bit, it’s often best to choose parallel finishing at a 45 degree angle.

The selected vector can be very handy if you only need to perform 3D operations on a portion of the 3D model rather than the entire model.

Once you’ve calculated the roughing operation and finish operation you can post these out using the same post processor you use for 2.5D operations.