Designing with MakerCAM


We're going to be using the website to design your phone stand, and to generate the gcode to cut it out. Makercam is a pretty awesome resource because it runs in your browser so you don't need to install anything. It's not a great design tool, but you can upload your own .svg if you want. Before long you are probably going to want something a little bit heftier, but makercam is a great place to start.


Begin by navigating to in your computer's web browser, it will look something like this:


Makercam will let you generate gcode right in your browser from any computer.

Gcode is the most common language used to control CNC equipment. Originally gcode was written by hand, but most gcode is generated by computer aided machining (CAM) software now.

All you really need to know about gcode right now is that it is the type of file which Ground Control opens. A gcode file typically has the file extension .nc or .ngc but it’s really just a text file.

The phone holder is made up of three pieces. The first piece you will be making will hold your phone.



Begin by inserting a rounded rectangle in MakerCAM. Do this by clicking “Insert” -> “Rounded Rectangle”.


This will open a popup window which will let you set the dimensions of the rectangle.



This first rectangle will be the slot which your phone will fit into, so it should be the same size as your phone. My phone is 2.57 inches so I am going to set the width of this rectangle to 2.6 inches. The thickness of my phone is .42 inches so I’m going to set the height of this rectangle to be .43 inches.



Depending on the shape of your phone you might want to change how tightly your phone will fit. The easiest way to get the fit right is to make your best guess, and then try it. You can always come back and change your design if it is too tight or too loose.

When you click “OK” a rectangle with rounded corners will appear on your drawing. Great job! You just did your first CAD design.



Next, we need to draw a second rounded rectangle which will be the outside of the piece. Make this rectangle exactly the same way as you made the first one, except this time make the dimensions of the rectangle ½ inch larger, so that it will fit around the first rectangle. For me, that looked like this.



When you click “OK” a second rounded rectangle will be added to the drawing, like this:



Now we need to move the smaller rectangle so that it is inside the larger one. To do this you use the cursor tool at the top of the page.



Click on the cursor tool, then click on the smaller rectangle and drag it inside the larger rectangle. The rectangle will turn red when you click on it to indicate that it is selected. Do your best to get it centered inside the larger rectangle.



Next, familiarize yourself with the pan tool. The pan tool lets you move the canvas around on your screen. The pan tool looks like a little hand and can be found next to the cursor tool in the top left of the screen.



Play around with the pan tool by clicking anywhere and dragging. The entire grid moves with you. You can zoom in and out using the scroll wheel or using the “+” and “-” buttons in the top right hand corner.



As you zoom in and out and move around on the canvas, you may have noticed that within the grid of squares, there are two lines which are darker than the rest. These lines define the origin. When you press “Run” in ground control, the tool will always begin at the intersection of these two lines. The intersection of these two lines marks the location (0,0).



You may also notice, that the piece we’ve just drawn is much too far away from this location. Where my part is now is fifteen inches from the origin which means that the part we want to cut won’t even be inside the CNC router.

To solve this problem, use the cursor tool again to move both of the parts we’ve drawn close to the origin. You can move both pieces at once by drawing a box around both to select them and then clicking one piece and dragging toward the origin.

Once both pieces are close to the origin, it will look like this:



Now you are ready to generate gcode and then cut this part out!

Click here to move on to generating gcode.