Lightburn for CNC routing (a different approach)

I’m well aware that the topic has been raised multiple times, but as both a Laser/CNC user and a software developer I’d like to take a different approach.

As a dev, I understand the point being made: if Lightburn should support CNC milling/routing as that kind of cam software do, doing both laser and cnc would take away from the product its simplicity to use and easy operations.
I also understand that maybe a CNC version of Lightburn could be “a thing” but this doesn’t look to be on the table for the time being.

As a Laser user I can easily say that Lightburn is probably one (if not the) best software out there, especially for that price range. It’s well thought and well made. And easily used.

As a CNC user, I still struggle to find something that sits at the same level for that kind of job.

So, I think everybody that had the chance to play in both words, could easily say that Lightburn for CNC would be great.
But, sure, tools, materials, 3d engraving, detailed previews, handling movements when you have a bit that’s touching or “inside” the material… all of these things would require lot of time, effort and expertise to be implemented.

So… here is what I think:
I would look into not building a proper full-featured CNC support, but open to the chance to do that as an “hack” (at least to start with).

For a big part, what common CNC users would need (or at least what would be needed to do easily and quickly) are milling and pocket operations. If you need more, you’ll go for other tools.
But, to support these two basics operations (on a good portion of machines) Lightburn already has all the tools.
You could to cutting with a line path and a Z offset and Z offset per step. You also have Kerf.
You could do pockets with the fill tool, setting the proper resolution.

What would just be needed is the ability to control the Z descending speed.
In theory, adding that simple option to handle Z speed while descending in Z offsets, would allow CNC users that are willing to use lightburn to somewhat controling their machines with the software.
All of this without giving any official support to CNC machines.
But still… expanding the userbase.
In an hack fashion… but probably good for who is really willing to try.

Then, if I would the Lightburn team, I would give a real thought on opening to community development in a way or another.
It could happen allowing plugin development through an SDK, or giving the ability to include a custom GCODE postprocessor in the pipeline, scripting support or by any other mean.
This would give you the chance to overcome the somewhat limited team capacity not loosing the chance to extend the product and its market.

You have a great product and people appreciate it for a reason.
If a Lightburn CNC version could emerge - at some point in time - through community effort, that would be a win win.
And I’m convinced that a limited - essential - support for grbl machines, for simple works… is not that far.

My two cents.

Depending on what I’m working on, I’ll design in Lightburn, export to DXF, and then attach the machining operations in CAM.

It wouldn’t be hard to add Z-speed, so I’ll consider that. The next release adds offset pockets, which will get you even closer, but I’ll need to make pockets / fills actually respect the kerf offset, as they don’t yet.

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Vectric software has several products that cater to the serious hobbyist and semi-pro user. MeshCAM is a decent low-cost option if that;s your thing. It’s mainly marketed toward CNC mills but should work fine with a CNC router.

AFAIK MeshCam generate the GCode but then you need to go through a gcode streamer.
One of the thing I love about LightBurn is the ability to go from design, to cam, to gcode streaming in a single tool; rather than a fragmented tool chain as we are used in the cnc world.
Also the way Lightburn organizes toolpath in layer / per color - as design tool like AI or CorelDraw do - makes it fast to work with, fast to visualize and easy to understand and design for. And that’s what I’m looking for when it comes to routing/milling as well.

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