HSMXpress vs. Mastercam?

I’m looking into learning a CAM program mostly for my own education, but also so that, if necessary, my team can fabricate parts on a CNC at a nearby hackerspace. I’ve spent some time watching tutorials for HSMXpress and practicing using it, but I have been unable to actually test any of my programs, so I don’t know how well it actually works or any problems it may have. A community college is offering Mastercam classes this summer, and I was wondering whether it would be worthwhile to take these classes and learn Mastercam or if it would be better to stick with HSMXpress. Or is it useful to know both?

What are the advantages of Mastercam over HSMXpress or visa versa? I know that HSMXpress is free while Mastercam is pretty expensive (although I read that you can get a student discount?), and my understanding is that Mastercam allows you to do 3D milling and lathe work, while HSMXpress only allows for 2D milling, but I’m sure there are other differences. If anyone has experience with either that they’d be willing to share, it would be much appreciated.

I find MasterCAM to be more powerful and allow more user control, but both of those things can hurt novice users. I use it because it’s what I learned to use when I took some CNC classes and I’ve been using it for 8 years, so it doesn’t make sense to switch to something else.

You will certainly hit the ground running and make parts faster with HSMExpress. It will likely be easier to teach to other students as well.

90% of the time you won’t need 3D machining for FIRST purposes. We make maybe one part every few years that uses it.

MasterCAM doesn’t allow for lathe out of the box. There’s modules you have to add to get that. If you want full 3D machining capabilities plus lathe, you need Mill level III and Lathe level I. I don’t know what that costs with an educational discount, but it’s probably in the $7,000-10,000 range full price.

Also, assuming you pay for the router package, intelligent nesting is a very powerful feature Mastercam has that hsm. This is very useful for a lot of gussets, etc…

You can get the 3D milling/turning version of HSMexpress, HSMworks for free for your FIRST team here.

Our team uses the HSM suite simply because it is the only accessible CAM software that we were able to learn without training/mentorship. I’ve never used MasterCam personally but HSMworks is plenty powerful enough for our applications at an unbeatable price point.

Thanks for the information and suggestions! I had no idea that HSMWorks was offered to FIRST teams for free, and I’ll definitely talk to my team about that.

The short version is that both programs will take your CAD file and generate G-Code to operate your machine. HSMexpress is like WordPad, while MasterCAM is like full MS Word: they both do the same thing, but one is a LOT more controllable than the other.

HSMexpress has a short learning curve, I could show you in an hour.

With any CAM program, the real trick is knowing your machine and setting the feed and speed of your tools properly. If you don’t know what that means, look it up, it’ll serve you well.