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Essential information about the DeskProto.

What does the DeskProto CAM software offer.

DeskProto has been created to offer CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) to users with a different (non-CAM) profession. Like a designer needing a prototype, a jeweler needing a wax-model, a medic needing a brace, etc. DeskProto will quickly calculate toolpaths to be sent to a CNC milling machine.
It's key feature is ease-of-use, even for the most complex geometry. Novice users follow the wizard interface, experienced users can also directly change any setting (dual user interface).

DeskProto offers a complete set of tools: 3D machining, 2D machining and bitmap machining,
all in one program, for a very low price ! DeskProto can be combined with any 3D design program (CAD) and with any CNC milling machine. The DeskProto Multi-Axis edition includes complete rotation axis support.


bottle wireframe image
bottle shaded image
This perfume bottle has been transferred from 3D CAD to DeskProto by STL file.
On the left DeskProto screen the triangles can be seen. On the right screen a rendering of the bottle is shown: the default visualization by DeskProto.

What can you use it for

Current users show a wide variety of applications:
  • Industrial designers use DeskProto for Subtractive Rapid Prototyping (RP). Stereolithography machines and other additive RP systems are far too expensive for in-house use, however a small NC milling machine combined with DeskProto is affordable: offering Desktop Prototyping.
  • Jewelers use DeskProto to machine detailed jewelry wax models. These are ready for casting immediately (very high surface quality) and are made much faster than on any 3D wax printer.
  • Woodworkers use DeskProto both for simple shapes and for intricate relief carvings in wood.
  • Medical professionals use DeskProto for products like prostheses, insoles and braces.
  • Schools use DesProto for all the above applications, but most of all to teach students about CNC technology within a time-limited curriculum.
  • Hobbyists use DeskProto for many applications, include scale models, lithophanes and wood-reliefs.
  • For great examples of these and other applications see the Gallery of example projects.
Three editions of DeskProto are available: Entry, Expert and Multi-Axis. The first offering a subset of DeskProto's functionality. The third adding support for rotation axes (four-axis and five-axis machine). You can compare the features of these three editions in the Comparison table.


Bottle toolpaths image
The toolpath that has been calculated by DeskProto.
These movements will be sent to the CNC milling machine in an NC program file.

How does it work

The starting point for DeskProto is a STL file. This file type has been created for Rapid Prototyping, and contains a geometry-description in the form of small triangles on the outside surface. Any current 3D CAD-system is able to write this type of file. Also DXF files containing "3D Faces" (like from 3D Studio Max) and VRML files can be processed.

DeskProto reads the 3D geometry and displays its contents. At this point it is possible to scale the geometry, translate, rotate etc. After entering some milling parameters (type of cutting tool, required accuracy, etc) DeskProto will automatically calculate the milling paths. No danger for damaging the model as the paths are gouge-free !
In addition DeskProto can import 2D contours in DXF files, in a 2D Operation. Here DeskProto can only do simple 2D jobs, as an addition to it's 3D functionality.
DeskProto can also import Bitmap images (jpg, gif, bmp files), and convert these to 3D reliefs using a Grey-value to Z-height conversion.

Run the toolpaths on the desktop NC milling machine in your own office, and you will have your prototype ready within a few hours !


Bottle being machined
bottle model
Left: the CNC milling machine is milling a bottle model in tooling board, which is a very easy material to machine. Right: two separate halves glued together make a complete model.

What DeskProto does NOT offer

In order to avoid misunderstandings it is also good to briefly state what DeskProto does NOT offer:
  • With DeskProto you cannot model your geometry: for modelling a CAD program is needed instead (see the list on our Links pages ).
  • With DeskProto you cannot create slices for a Stereolithography or other layer stacking RP machines.
  • DeskProto is no 2D or 2.5D CAM program. It is great for even the most complex freeformed 3D geometry, however not the most efficient for pure 2.5D objects as the 2D CAM options are limited.
  • DeskProto is not meant for high-tolerance mechanisms, like a piston in a cylinder or two mold-halves having a curved closing surface.
  • DeskProto does not output step and direction pulses to directly drive a milling machine: for that you need Control software instead (see the Introduction to CAM software ).

What hardware/software is needed

DeskProto is a MS Windows application: it needs Win XP (SP3), Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10 or newer.
Non-Windows platforms are not supported, though:
DeskProto runs OK on an Apple Mac under Mac OS X using the Parallels Desktop Windows emulation software. Note that using a virtual machine like this the 30 trial days are not available (as on a virtual machine these would never end).
On 64 bits Windows versions a 64 bits DeskProto will be installed, otherwise a 32 bits version.

Minimum required hardware is a Pentium PC with 1 GB RAM and 10 GB of free disk space (the Setup only installs ca 30 MB. of data, however you will need much more for your STL files and NC files).
In order to minimize waiting times a fast machine with more memory is recommended.
The 3D graphics card in your PC needs to support OpenGL : OpenGL logo
In many cases graphics problems can be solved by downloading and installing a more recent display driver. A powerful graphics card is recommended as that will speed up drawing.